Amy Wight Chapman was working about 8 1/2 years ago at a Headstart program with Community Concepts at Paris Elementary Schools when her employers introduced an eight-week workplace fitness challenge.
“The deal was 30 minutes of exercise on as many days as you can,” Chapman said. “We had a little calendar to fill out.”
She completed the eight-week challenge.
“After that,” she said, “I just kept going.”
Chapman has continued to do some sort of exercise for 3,166 days, without missing a day.
Exercise fanaticism is not something that comes naturally to Chapman.
“I’ve had spells when I’ve exercised, but I’ve been overweight my entire adult life,” she said. “Four years into this challenge, I was still 60 pounds overweight, but I felt a hell of a lot better. I felt a lot younger.”
After four years of doing a 30-minute workout every day, her lousy knee started to act up.
Still, she wanted to improve her results.
She started using a Fitbit and paid a little more attention to what she ate.
“I’m not obsessive about what I eat,” Chapman said, “but I did just buy kale at the farmers’ market.”
And her knee improved.
She said she expects she will eventually need knee-replacement surgery, but hopes to delay it for several more years.
“I want to make sure that when I get it done, I’ll still be able to hike,” Chapman said.
A few weeks ago, she climbed Old Spec Mountain, the third-highest mountain in Maine.
“I had done it two or three times in my 20s, and hadn’t done it for 40 years,” Chapman said.
It was a big deal for her, and it had her up the night before worrying. But it went off without a hitch.
“It’s my first 4,000-footer in 40 years,” she said. “I’ll probably do another one next summer.”
She now works part time at the Bethel Historical Society as an administrative assistant, where her son and “granddog” also work.
“I’m forbidden from stopping by my son’s office unless I’m going to take Eli the Wonderdog with me,” she said. “He gets so wound up about seeing grandma and going for a hike.”
Chapman and her husband have a camp on North Pond in Greenwood that allows her to get a workout right outside her door.
“The canoe and the kayak are in our front yard. I can swim,” she said. “Bucks Ledge is literally in our backyard. And almost two years ago, my kids gave me a paddleboard for my 60th birthday.”
She said she thinks a lot about how to avoid breaking her streak.
“I worry about COVID for all kinds of reasons,” she said. “I’m 61, my husband’s 73. We do not want to get this disease. I worry that if I get it, I will have a long-term heart or lung thing that will cramp my style.”
There have been two times in the past 8 1/2 years that were close calls.
“I was down on the treadmill at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, not enjoying it at all, but getting my 30 minutes, dammit,” Chapman said.
And there was one really, really rainy bike ride she was determined to complete.
Several years ago, she cut her toe and needed stitches. She could not walk. She could not swim.
“So I paddled a kayak or canoed every day,” Chapman said.
Exercise for Chapman is a profound commitment of energy and time. Her average has crept up to more than 90 minutes a day.
“My house could be a whole lot cleaner,” Chapman said. “I’m just pretty amazed at myself. My whole life I have not been good at finishing things.
“The workouts went from being a thing I have to do to a thing I don’t want anything to interfere with. It’s a big priority now. I look forward to it.”