Every now and then, I’ll be sitting at my desk when I’ll get an email from a stranger asking me a question I dread: How’s the Single Pushup of Death coming?
First I sigh. Then comes the humiliation. Then I suck it up and tell the truth.
I still can’t do a pushup. Not a proper one, anyway.
It’s been seven months since I launched my quest to do a single pushup. For years, my lack of upper body strength has bothered me. My paltry efforts to change that were, indeed, paltry and a lack of immediate results bred immediate frustration. So I quit.
This May, inspired by the exercise and healthy eating program that helped my husband lose 35 pounds, I felt compelled to try again. And this time I went public with my efforts because if there’s anything that will keep you on track, it’s the threat of public shame.
After consulting with Ron Perry, associate executive director of the Northwest Family YMCA, I kicked off a regular workout program. I started by doing pushups against the wall. Nothing says upper body strength than needing a load-bearing wall to keep you from falling down.
Once I stopped knocking my head into the wall, I moved on to kitchen counter to challenge myself by lowering myself at a steeper angle. If you value your teeth, do not — I repeat, DO NOT — do this only wearing socks. I slipped a couple of times before I got the hint.
Meanwhile, I was lifting weights to add to the workout.
By the time I could do a “girl pushup,” which is essentially a pushup with your knees on the floor, muscles (true, visible muscles!) had appeared on my biceps and triceps. And after a while, I could lower myself a little bit in the “real” pushup position. It was a modern day miracle, at least in my mind.
And now we come to the part where I messed up. I stopped pushing myself. I kept using the same 4-pound weights (stop mocking me), kept doing the same routine and stopped forcing myself to take on more difficult exercises. It definitely didn’t help that I failed to even try to strengthen the muscles in my core.
Don’t get me wrong. I have made major progress over the last seven months and lifting groceries out of the car is certainly easier. It’s been a fun journey. Seriously, though. Seven months? Come on.
“You have to always challenge yourself,” Perry told me when I met with him last week at the TownLake YMCA.
There’s not a lot of dignity standing next to buff women while you struggle to lift 8-pound weights or barely stay standing during glute exercises. But this is a lesson in perseverance. I refuse to give up. Not just for myself, but for the people who wrote to cheer me on and admitted that they, too, have the upper body strength of a rag doll.
If I can do this, anyone can. Next time you hear from me, I’ll have it down. See you in seven months.