Tuesday, January 04, 2022

100 pushups a day, every day, done in 2021 - what I learned

 I am going to do my best of only mentioning Covid, the pandemic, quarantine, and the new normal minimally in this short read.  

When the pandemic hit in January of 2020, and Covid was raging, we were all figuring out our new nom while quarantining.  F$&k.  This is harder than I thought…  

Anyways, stuck home, I wanted to take on a new challenge that was motivating, yet didn’t put so much pressure on me (from a time perspective) that I became overly obsessive with it (like Ironman training).  I train, for the most part, everyday, so I needed to think of something I wasn’t really doing, with the idea of making me more well rounded, balanced, stronger.  So I began doing pull-ups daily.  Initially it was 40 pull-ups each day, every day.  Some days I’d do 4 sets of 10, some days 8 sets of 5, some days I’d max out the first set and break up the remaining reps into smaller sets.  By February I was doing 60 pull-ups per day, and by March I was doing 100.  My personality is typically to attack everything and many of my athletes now know that I advise them to do as I say, not as I do.  I do tend to use myself as a guinea pig for many of my training ideas.  Well, by mid to late May, I was experiencing some joint pain in my elbows and shoulders.  Atypical for me, I actually listened to these signs and backed off (a bit).  I began doing my pull-ups, still 100 reps on the given day, three days per week instead of seven.  However, I wanted something to fill that daily void of a “simple” new challenge.  

When I say simple, I’m not undermining the difficulty of doing 100 LEGITIMATE pushups everyday.  The simplicity is that you can do pushups anywhere.  You don’t need any equipment, like you do with pull-ups (I’ve gotten quite creative at finding places to do pull-ups when traveling and not having a pull-up bar), and they don’t take that long to do.  

We live our daily, weekly, yearly routine based off of habits that we’ve established.  Hopefully most are good habits, however there are typically some not so good habits that we have established.  Nevertheless, habits are habits.  The cool thing is that we can change these at any time.  Sure, it’s not as easy as it sounds, to establish new “good” habits, and rid old “bad” habits.  But the point is that we all have the power in us to do this.  Now, I believe that certain habits that we establish can organically lead to other productive or solid habits.  Some of the advice I preach to my kids often, especially when beginning their next year of college, is to establish good, productive habits right from the start and do them daily.  Study each day and find a way to study that’s optimal, set solid nutrition habits, set daily exercise habits, set social habits or put yourself out there.  Similar to the first day of a new year,  the first day of a new school year feels like starting from a clean slate.  Often people have great intentions and set big goals, but often they are too big and become too stressful and overwhelming.  

I don’t remember where I read this, but I read something years ago written by a highly ranked military person where his first daily rule was to make your bed.  I’m paraphrasing here, but he mentions that by just doing the simple routine of making your bed, you have started the day right, showing discipline and respect for yourself.  This lesson sums up how I feel about doing 100 pushups each day for a year.  The simple act of making the short time and getting these pushups in each day puts me in a more positive space with everything else I do in that given day.  There are the physical benefits, which I’ll get to later, but the discipline to get these done and the sense of completion each day is surprisingly empowering.  There are days when I was pressed for time, like a few travel days with very early flights, where’d I’d roll right out of bed at 3:30am and start doing them.  Lisa, my wife, already thinks I’m nuts so no harm no foul there.  And there were certain days where I may not have felt like doing them.  But the fact that I could get them done in less than five minutes kept me on track.  With most of the training that I do, the minimum session is 30 minutes.  It’s easy to talk yourself out of a hard 90 minute run session when you are pressed for time or just tired.  But I viewed these pushups as a session where there really is no legitimate excuse to skip them, barring an injury.  Some days, I’d add them into other strength sessions.  For example, I’ll always do pushups in between my sets of pull-ups.  Sometimes, I’d add them into run sessions.  After a couple of miles, I’ll drop and do 25, then run a couple more miles, do another 25…  Somedays I’d do one max set, rest a bit then do another smaller set to reach 100.  Other times I’ll break them into sets of 25.  My minimum number to complete each day was 100, however I often did more.  In fact, after my first vaccination, which took place on a Sunday, I spent that afternoon watching TV and doing pushups during every commercial.  I did 1000 that day.  The rules I set upon myself though were that every single pushup had to be proper form.  No half-assing it just to get them in.  Proper form to me is chest almost grazing or lightly touching the ground, then extending all the way up. Not the head drooped down, stopping six inches from the ground then pushing slightly up stopping at the top with a lot of bend in the elbows bs form that I see so often.  I also vary my position often; I’ll do them with my feet elevated on a bench or steps, I’ll do diamond pushups, with my hands close together under my chest, or sometimes one hand elevated on a dumbbell or step placing more weight on one side, and some where I push up with explosive power jumping my hands up onto a step.  

Physically, sure, I got stronger.  I’d guess there’s more definition in my chest, shoulders and triceps.  One area where I noticed a lot more strength was my core, as a push-up is a plank variation.  As an endurance athlete, I’ve always paid attention to keeping my strength and keeping strength work in year round.  So physically I may not notice as much as others may.  For example, I work with a lot of endurance athletes who hate doing strength work and often ignore it.  These athletes will certainly notice a lot of positive gains by giving something like this challenge a shot.  I would recommend though to start out conservatively if you don’t have a deep strength base.  I’d recommend aiming for 20 a day, and each week, add 2 to 5 more per day (i.e. week two is 22/day, week three is 24/day, …).  I do notice some days my shoulders are very fatigued.  On these days, I may do 10 sets of 10.  Many that jump right to 100 a) won’t stick with it because they will be overly sore the first few weeks and it’s hard to recover from this broken down state when you are back at it every day, and b) can develop an overuse injury or tear.  Finally, I make sure to do rhomboid supermans or high resistance band rhomboid pulls each day as well to balance out.  Pushing exercises like pushups develop primarily your chest and shoulders and can pull your shoulders forward, resulting in bad posture and imbalance.  Adding in a pulling exercise that works the rhomboid region will balance this.  

So to sum things up, I’ve created a habit that keeps me more disciplined and focused, and offers up no excuse or reason not to do them.  And now, my day would feel incomplete if I were to miss doing them - they hold me accountable, and that’s something I like.  And that is also why I will keep this streak going through 2022.



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