The Six Pack and the Pull-Up

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The Six Pack and the Pull-Up

“The only thing that stands between a person and what they want from life is often the will to try it and the faith to believe it’s possible.” – Rich DeVos

I don’t want to deceive anyone, so when I say I have no upper body strength, I really mean I have NO upper body strength. As an aging lady, this can be expected. However, just to be crystal clear, there has been no point in my life when I’ve ever had even a shred of ability to use my arms to do much more then heave food to my mouth.

Yes, I was that girl in gym class who never ever managed to get any higher than lowest knot when climbing the rope. While I passed the Presidential Physical Fitness test, it was only because after being placed on a bar by my PE teacher I was able to hang there, as if for dear life, until enough time had passed to earn my certificate.

O.K. I can hold a plank in yoga and lower and raise myself as needed, but I don’t like it.  When it comes to push-ups and pull-ups and lifting heavy objects, I’m just not your girl.

Recently, Joel Runyon, a writer who does the impossible and likes to push his physical limits decided to diet and work his way to the six pack of his dreams. He did it in eight weeks with no gym equipment. I don’t covet a six pack, but the idea of being leaner and stronger appealed to me. Listen, I’ve been trying to loose the same ten pounds for sixteen years and who among us doesn’t want a little more muscle tone.

Figuring I had nothing to loose, I decided to follow Joel’s workout and diet plan that Vic Margary put together for him. This meant that in addition to my daily walk/run and some stretching I was going to add three sets of pushups, burpees, squats, lunges, jumping lunges, pull-ups, body rows, plyometric pushups, sprint intervals, and jumprope intervals. Oh, and eat Paleo which is code for no sugar, no dairy, no grains, and no processed foods.

The first day was pretty sad. I did a grand total of seven half pushups. I promise the three burpees I struggled to do did not come close to resembling an actual burpee. The jumping lunges proved too hard on my knees and were replaced later in the week with kettle-bell swings. I did three of the most pitiful and laughable half plyometric pushups ever done by anyone anytime in the entire history of the world. And since, I couldn’t do an actual pull-up, I did three sad little let downs. Pitiful, but I was off.

Ten days in, as I was preparing to hang from the pull-up bar for a few seconds before slowly letting myself down, I decided, on a whim, to try to do a actual pull-up. To my utter shock and complete amazement, the impossible occurred. I was able to pull myself up raising my chin completely over the bar. Excited but thinking it was a fluke, I gave my arms time to recover and was shocked  for the second time when I was able to do another one. Later that day I eeked out one more. Boom!

Seriously, while I hoped that maybe one day I could do one little partial pull-up, my plan was just to increase my hang time on the pull-up bar. I really never believed that at forty-seven years old I could do an actual pull-up and that I’d be able to do it with just ten days of working out. I’m a bit giddy and I’m feeling kind of proud. The weak girl that always got picked last, the woman who always bowed out, can actually do an actual pull-up. I’m living proof that with persistence, the impossible can be accomplished.

So, with a tip of my hat to Joel for the inspiration, I will just keep trying to up the ante. I’m going for two pull-ups in a row and will keep building. I think it would be cool to be able to do ten. I’m also thinking a lot about all the other things I’ve thought were impossible, and I’m wondering just how many I could accomplish if I just started. I’m thinking there are some things I just need to try. What about you? What things do you think you can’t do? What impossible things would you like to try?

12 Comments

  1. Totally gives me inspiration to work toward my goals. Going to start running {or at least trying to run} again. I have a goal in mind that will happen about 80 days from now. I think I can… I think I can…
    You can do pull ups. That is sooooo awesome!

    • Thanks…now’s a great time to ease back into the running. I’ve gone easy this summer too. Looking forward to a few more miles.

  2. I just love your writing! Congrats – and thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  3. That’s awesome Denise!

  4. I love this, Denise. I have a slightly different approach but I applaud your success and your willingness to give it a whirl. And I also love that quote!

    • Right now I’m simplifying and building routines. I needed a little discipline and will work that into a nice easy flow. You are my role model. ; )

  5. Denise! You’re AWESOME!!!

  6. This was very inspiring, Denise, and I’m proud of you for doing something about it! Hmmmm… 10 days? You’ve made the prospect of upper body strength a tad less elusive!

    • I promise it was only 10 and I was only doing 6-9 “let downs per day with Sunday off. It was nice to see that with focused effort you can get some awesome results.

  7. I love this. A couple of years back I insanely joined a CrossFit Gym (at 47 and not my leanest!). When I actually managed a pull-up I cried. I had been a gymnast many many years ago, and had a chin up bar in my doorway as a teenager. It is sad to think how many chin ups I did, that are a distant memory, So that first pull-up came with an emotional tie. I LOVED feeling strong, invincible really. However, my back could not take the intensity of the workout, Your post inspires me to find a middle ground!

    • It’s all about pushing ourselves to our limits and not allowing ourselves to compare ourselves to others. I think that’s where that middle ground is. I’m impressed you did CrossFit. I’ve heard it’s intense. I’m just going to stick with my doorway bar. ; )

  8. I love your sense of humor, Denise! You’re very entertaining!! 🙂

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