A few years ago I was training a woman who started training to lose some weight, feel good, and be able to garden without pain, plus deal with some small nagging sorenesses. She would come in once a week regularly, and put forth a good effort in each session, but every week she would say the same thing.
“I’m not strong.”
It wasn’t a complaint as much as a general statement. Something akin to “those pants are blue,” or “there are clouds in the sky today.” She had identified as not being strong for her entire life, and that was just the way it was for her. She did what I asked during the session, said she was sore from the last one for 2 days, and only rarely ever did the homework I gave her that would help her get better results or see faster progress, or even just be less sore from each workout.
One day she commented on how while she wasn’t strong, she always wanted to be able to do things like a pushup or a pullup. They just looked like so much fun.
So I decided to issue her a challenge. Every session after the warm up, we’d try one all-out effort pushup. If she hit it, great! If not, we could gauge progress on a week to week basis. It would have to be a proper pushup though, chest to the floor without letting her face, hips or thighs touch, then press up to straight elbows without arching her back to get there.
It was like a switch flipped in her brain. She had a goal to shoot for, and she was all in. Every session she would come in all excited and go through the warm up with more intensity than previously, and then when the pushup came, she was laser focused. The first 2-3 months of the challenge didn’t produce a completed pushup, but every session she would collapse with a max effort, and then breathlessly say “I’ll get it next time.” She even started doing them at home off her couch or chair to work on improving faster.
Then one day after about 3 months of trying, she came within a hair of doing the proper pushup. She got down to the floor, but then lost her shoulder positioning, faltered, shook, and collapsed. She wasn’t defeated, but angry. She knew she could do it. I said” next week it’s yours.” To which she responded
“Im not moving on until I do one today.”
So she got back up into the starting position, fire in her eyes, breathing purposefully, and then lowered down, touched the floor, and
She smoked it. As she got to the top she let out a conqueror’s roar, stood up and jump with joy for about 5 minutes. I couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. Really, why would I want to do such a thing? I’d be a pretty terrible person to wipe a smile off someone’s face.
From then on, it was goal after goal after goal. She crushed a single pushup, then it was on to 5 in a row. Then it was on to a bodyweight pullup. Then it was on to running. THen on to a 5km fun run with her friends. She set goals, hit them, and got into the best shape of her life. And all because she found a spark that motivated her, drove her forward and was really meaningful to her.
One day in the gym, she was hitting her third set of 3 pullups, and when done another member walked by and said “I’ve watched you train for months now and just want to say you’re really strong!”
That did it. She was a blubbering mess for a few minutes. The woman who always identified as “not strong” had random strangers telling her how strong she was.
I know this seems like such a cool story to tell of success and overcoming obstacles, and to be honest, it is, but it’s by no means rare. This kind of progress happens all the time, once people find a way to find their own spark, and set on a path to achieving their goals. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it when you can do something you never used to be able to do, and when you can see visible improvements in performance, strength, work output, or body composition.
Finding your spark is one of the harder parts of training, but once it’s there, it’s hard to get rid of it until you conquer your own Quixotic windmills. Something as simple as doing a single pushup, and giving it your all to get that one small thing, can set off a tsunami that can change everything for you.
If you want to try to get your own first pushup, or maybe find a spark for some more advanced versions of pushup enjoyment, you should check out Meghan Callaways new resource, The Ultimate Pushup Program.
In it she outlines how to start training for your first pushup, how to get better at doing more if you’re already able to crush full bodyweight ones, plus some absolutely insane advanced options if you want to up your ante even more.
Want to conquer a pullup along the way? There’s a combo pack with both her Ultimate Pushup Program as well as her Ultimate Pullup Program for one low cost.
Both options are on sale until May 3rd at midnight, so pick up yours now and hopefully it will help you find your own spark.