(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
I established a goal: I wanted to graduate from doing girly pushups on my knees, to being able to do real pushups from my toes. I’m happy to report I have now accomplished this goal. (It had become somewhat of an obsession. I was constantly talking about it, because I knew I was close.)
Right now I can only do one real pushup before my arms give out (if I wait a few minutes, I can usually pull off another). And for some strange reason, whenever I do them my shoulders pop and crack like a little old lady — it’s quite disturbing. A friend told me it’s because my shoulders aren’t used to the motion and the sounds will dissipate over time.
Is the ability to do a real pushup a big deal or not? I think it depends on who you ask. Since I’ve never been able to do a real pushup in my life until last week, I would say HELL YES, it’s a big deal. Then again, there are tons of women who can do many more real pushups than I can — indeed, they can even do multiple pushups, and from all sorts of crazy-difficult positions.
Here’s the thing. I have more upper-body strength right now than I’ve ever had before in my LIFE, and that is a huge deal for me. I’ve always been a weakling. As a kid, I could never propel myself across the monkey bars at a playground, or pull myself up a rope. I’ve had to fight for every bit of strength I’ve obtained, and I’m damn proud of that.
Now that I can do one real pushup, of course I’d like to get to the point where I can do more than one in a row, without having to wait a few minutes before my arms decide they’re capable of trying again. But I’m not worrying about it, because I know if I’ve gotten to the point where I can do one, the ability to do more is sure to come. And I can’t help it — every time I complete another pushup, a voice inside my head shouts, “YES!” I know that I look physically different in the mirror since I started strength-training last summer, but aiming for a particular goal, and having realized it, is a really good feeling.
I’d already started this Pushup Quest before I read the article about pushups in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The author, Tara Parker-Pope, says there aren’t as many people who can do them anymore; that we put more emphasis on cardiovascular fitness instead of building muscle, and people are heavier in general than they used to be. But here’s why pushups are important:
The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit.
How many real pushups can you do? If you can’t, are you trying?