I knew I was in serious trouble when my manager called me into his office and asked which type of punishment I’d like: “Biblical or Corporal?” . I did break my pushup record yesterday. I did 1,111 just to have a memorable number. Today’s forecast: ain’t gonna be no rematch. I’m glad I did it but the obsessive component of it is exhausting. . I learned several things yesterday. The problem with learning is that it forces you into cognitive dissonance when you’ve learned but don’t apply it to your life. . Life Tip # 46: If you ensure that you’ve always kept a jar of moonshine nearby, you’ve got both anesthesia and antiseptic. . Edit: I weigh 150 lbs again. I’m eating a lot more; I ate an entire thin crust cheeseless pizza Monday. I’d be happy with 170. Just in case someone tells me they’re worried about me. All my afflictions are mental and I’m keeping a close, albeit crazy, eye on those.
The Law of Increments is such a revelation. A couple Fridays ago I did a thousand push-ups. I used anxiety as a trigger to do each set. It occurred to me Saturday that I could also try to pace myself, using an incremental response. I got up at 3:30 today. If I stay up 18 hours, I only have to do 55 push-ups an hour to hit a thousand. Since I know I can easily do that, I can trick my mind into doing twice that per hour. 110 an hour seems stupid to me now after 10 weeks of pushups. So I’m using today as a test. I’ve got nine hours of incremental sets of push-ups to reach a thousand. 12:30. And If you’re reading this, keep in mind that craziness is contagious. The takeaway is that we can accomplish a hell of a lot if we don’t let our goal wear us out before we even start. I don’t have to do a thousand push-ups. Just 110 an hour.
When I humblebrag about starting pushups on June 1st, eight weeks ago, a lot of people ask the inevitable question: “How many do you do?” I’ve carefully avoided saying even a ballpark number. As my daily record has risen, I’ve not lost my surprise at beating what I thought was a ridiculously impossible goal.
Yesterday, I broke my previous record by 11:15. Today, by 10. I left work, happy, tired, and surprised. Needless to say…
I’ve passed the remainder of the afternoon writing, cleaning, cooking, and painting, projects both practical and creative.
Each time I had negative or fearful thoughts, I would do another set of pushups.
I reached 1,000 just now. It’s a testament to the consistency of effort and also an admission that I find myself doubtful more than I expect to.
I’ve been preaching at a co-worker to do the hard work and get to 280 just once so that he tastes that indescribable feeling of knowing he did it. He’s a big man. 280 is trim as hell for someone with his physique. Truth be told, I want everyone to figure these things out and give whatever is in their heads an attempt. Succeed or fail, all of us are going to be dead more quickly than we realize.
Given the other things I committed to doing, I decided that maybe I needed to know what it would feel like to be able to say, “I did 1,000 pushups when I was 54 years old.”
This afternoon’s occupied loneliness granted me the ability.
I took a Friday and turned it to my advantage.
I hope you forgive me for sounding like I’m a vain bastard.
“If you’re going to worry, put a saddle on it and ride it out of the barn and into the sunlight. Most worry melts away with activity and exposure. If you’re not riding worry, it’s certainly riding you.” – X
I can’t thrive in the present moment and think about the past or worry about the future. Each of us has a finite amount of time, a limited amount of focus, and each of us probably suffers from the illusion that somehow we’re differently immune to negative thinking. I learned the hard way that intelligence in no way affects these things, other than perhaps to add window dressing to the rationalizations and justifications that people always use to excuse away what they’re thinking or what they’re doing.
Intelligence is both a kaleidoscope and magnifier to our excuses. Creativity grants us further ability to pull the wool over our own eyes. Worse, we push people around us into becoming co-conspirators to our unhelpful thinking.
Every couple of weeks, I find myself able to break my previous pushup record. I started doing them on June 1st, a few at a time, as many times a day I could manage. I’ve experimented with different triggers to do another set: bathroom trips, specific words, times. Friday, I incorporated something I learned in counseling. I started doing a set every time I found myself in a loop of fearful or negative thinking. Though it may reflect poorly on me, I beat my previous record so badly that I know there is no way I will ever do that many again in a single day. I did a lot again Saturday, a normal amount, whatever that is. But for Friday, I committed myself to no excuses. I knew already that I’m like most people and succumb to fearful and negative thinking, probably more than I usually realize. Doing pushups every time I realized I was in a thought loop was an excessive and forceful way to remind myself that I need to continue to do the work to stop fearful thinking sooner. Thinking of the worst possible outcome or scenario is a guaranteed way to rob yourself of happiness.
By taking control and action each time I realized I was doing it, I also learned that my pushup “limit” was as imaginary as a “safe life” is.
And so, despite writing the above yesterday morning, I eclipsed Friday’s record later yesterday. Someone commented to me, “You don’t seem to have done your usual number of pushups today.” I laughed. “I did two hundred just while walking this morning.” Those happened while I trudged through a massive rainstorm and flooded streets. I do hope people saw me and wondered, “What in tarnation is he doing pushups in the thunderstorm for?” Had anyone asked me, I would have jokingly replied, “To demonstrate that nothing will stop you if you’re either motivated. Or crazy.” I doubt saying, “I do pushups for exercise – and I do a set each time I find myself thinking negatively as a means to control my mind” would fall easily into people’s ears.
Likewise, when I finished the day Sunday, I laughed. Goals and records exist to be broken. (Just like the heads of obstinate people who won’t try a different way of thinking to see if it results in a better life for themselves.)
Every time I think I’ve reached my limit, I should assume it’s vanity and simply beat it.
Even though work today was strenuous, I got intrigued by the question, “Can I do this again today and break yesterday’s record?” The answer is yes. And I did.
Friday, I did an unbeatable number of pushups. I did it again Sunday. I woke up with no idea that I’d do it again today. But I did—a Monday.
Friday will stick with me because I channeled unhealthy thinking into a positive outcome. I haven’t mentioned a specific number. It isn’t 1,000. But I realized today that it could be if I wanted to. Now it’s stuck in my head that my pushup curve is congruent with the exact angle of my weight loss.
If you see me doing pushups, you didn’t catch me doing them any more than me putting on my shirt inside out by accident or wearing mismatched shoes. If people can stand outside and do crazy things such as smoke, dip, and ride recumbent bicycles, watching someone exercise shouldn’t be a shock to the delicate eyes of people observing me.
P.S. Not related to the above… today’s prank was that I used a roll of yellow CAUTION tape to make a massive X across someone’s doorway and prevent entry into same without ripping the tape down. No one has mentioned it on social media or to me. I can’t imagine they went inside through the back door. I think not knowing how the prank was received is most of the fun. You can blame the Fayetteville Walmart for reminding me that I needed to do this prank.
I’ll start this post by commenting on the picture. This woman is beautiful, no matter what age she might be. She reminds me of one of my aunts, had she had the chance to live an entire life. “Everything’s eventual,” old age included. If we are lucky. A bit of advice? If someone timelessly admires you, take a minute to nod in their direction.
One of the sublime emotions that is hard to pin down is the let-down one feels when others fail to take advantage of the knowledge of someone right there who has been there and done that. At 54, after many failures, I bite my tongue quite often. If someone asks me, I tell them my story and do whatever I can to motivate them. I’ve learned that preaching entrenches people.
My healthier eating journey seemed like a miracle to some; to me, it was inevitable. I’m not saying I have all the answers and certainly not that I’m doing things correctly. But if that’s the case, very few are. No matter what else I’ve mismanaged, I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, as well incorporated a staggering amount of better choices into my diet. I did all this without feeling hungry. That’s a success.
And because I did it, I know other people can do it too.
And a certain percentage can do it as easily as I did, without upending their life or putting themselves on a literal treadmill to do it.
I see people struggling and unhappy with their weight and some of the consequences it brings.
It’s needless for most of them. Not all, because some people have circumstances or medical issues that prevent them from accepting their body how it is and learning to be happy about it – OR, taking steps now, from where they are. If a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is what they would rather do, then get with it!
People aren’t going to change their habits unless they want to or are forced to by external forces. Wouldn’t it be simpler to listen to a dork like me now instead of waiting for a harsher force to intercede?
We don’t need complicated formulas, expensive supplements, a gym membership, or much of anything, not really, to lose a lot of weight. BUT if you do need those things to get you there, I’m not pointing a finger. If it gets you to your goal, for heaven’s sake, do whatever you need to, even country music. If you do it to prove me wrong, I’ll be happy for you. Success is a beautiful thing. People who’ve achieved a goal radiate in a way that others don’t. We all gravitate toward them.
If you don’t want to, that’s great. Stop paying homage to the diet rat race and stop focusing on external programs you honestly aren’t interested in. I’m here to tell you that you can do it in incremental steps OR with sweeping, immersive life changes. Something will work for you. Please keep trying! My penultimate post was titled, “You Fail Until you Don’t.” Whether it’s weight, work, or any other change you would like, staying where you are is the bigger problem.
But if you are interested, take a moment and pretend that I might know what I’m talking about. I can undoubtedly uncomplicate it in your head, which is ALL the battle, anyway. Once you commit yourself, the road becomes more apparent.
Here’s the first step: tell yourself that you’re going to make changes. Stop focusing on the things you perceive as failures. If you’re smart enough to love yourself for who you are, one of these days, tomorrow or 2026, you will succeed. If you have a fan in your corner, give that flame of admiration some encouragement.
On June 1st, I started doing pushups due to my cousin. She’s been going to the gym and building muscles. While I wasn’t willing to start going to the gym for several reasons, I decided that pushups would be the ideal experimental exercise for me to incorporate into my daily routine. They are free, don’t require equipment, and can be done anywhere. I’ve proven that the “anywhere” part can be interesting too. It’s led to many anecdotes, most positive, a few awkward, and all of them interesting. Being able to do pushups in all manner of places is also excellent training to reinforce the idea that I shouldn’t be worried about what people think. People do all sorts of weird things that we accept as normal – even though many of these things are harmful or idiotic when taken logically.
Initially, I promised myself I’d do them for six weeks, allegedly the habit-forming mark. After reaching that point, I decided to do six more weeks. So far, I’ve made it seven weeks. Likewise, in early October, when I had my epiphany, I promised to stay on guard for an entire year. It’s incredible that I’m in my tenth month and have maintained all my goals. Whether true or not, I feel like if I can stay the course for a year, my chances at keeping my oath never to get fat again might become my permanent reality.
Friday, despite being tired from work, I decided to go all-in and do more in a day than I’d ever done previously. Oof! And I succeeded. So I then broke Friday’s record on Saturday. I’m not going to say how many, other than it was a lot for a fifty-four-year-old man. Truthfully, it is a lot for anyone who isn’t in boot camp. Ha! Today, I’ve done 1/3 of my record yesterday. I’m not committing to beating yesterday’s mark.
Even though it’s vanity for me to have been pleased by someone’s comment the other day, a coworker who was enthusiastic about my weight drop since October stopped me; he hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. He asked if I had started boxing. I looked at him quizzically, expecting a joke or jab. He told me that he could tell I was doing something physical, as my shoulders and arms had changed shape. Since he is a decent boxer, I took it as high praise. While I didn’t tell him what I had been doing, he told me to keep it up, and whatever it was, it was working. A couple of days later and another coworker, someone who works out often, told me that I had somehow avoided the curse of looking ill when I lost so much weight. Someone we both knew had lost a lot, but she looked gaunt and frail. In the last few months, I did have a couple of people tell me that they thought I looked ill. I remind myself that two out of five hundred is a great track record.
A few weeks ago, when I saw my favorite cousin for the first time in a while, it was notable how much her arms and shoulders had progressed. The gym is working for her. Seeing people succeed is such a blessing and seeing her do something for herself is a blessing twice over.
Whatever your goals are, I hope you are figuring out a way to fail until you succeed. That’s all any of this is. You fail. Until you don’t. At that point, it seems inevitable. Eating better can be incremental. Exercise can be cumulative. Take small steps, literally, until you see progress. Any progress you make, celebrate and appreciate it. When you find that people aren’t celebrating with you, you’ve at least identified people that probably shouldn’t be squandering your time or attention.
PS The picture is from a couple of Sundays ago, on a hot afternoon. People do tease me about my preference for old school headphones. And that’s okay. I walked that afternoon to time how quickly I could walk to work from my starting point. That kind of consideration is going to be more common as I transition to another kind of life.
“You show up for work every single day regardless of whether you’re motivated or not. You do that because you’re a responsible adult, but when it comes to your training or nutrition, you allow your consistency to rely on your motivation. You have to get to the point where you realize your health and confidence are just as much your responsibility as something like your finances would be as well. When you finally make that mental switch, your actions will no longer be dictated by your emotions, and you’ll start making real progress.” – Chaz Spackman . I’m 38 days into my pushup challenge. (And NINE months into my year-long eating commitment!) When I started, my right shoulder was hurting like a rejected suitor on prom night. Because I’m not too fond of the idea of ritual workouts (and gyms), I opted for pushups, even though my job robs me of most of my physicality. I do them in increments, no matter where I am and no matter who might be watching. (It’s more natural than standing there with a cellphone.) Some days, I stop counting. My friend Joe says none of them count until it hurts, anyway. I promised myself I’d do at least six weeks of this craziness. My shoulder feels much better, and I know something positive is coming from doing this, even if it’s to lose more self-consciousness. Whenever you make significant changes, you’re always going to draw scrutiny.
It’s transformational to make a goal, any goal, and just do it. I wish I’d had my epiphany twenty years ago; that time is gone. No matter who you are, surely there is some change you’d like to see in your life.
I’ve been accused by a couple of people of being suddenly vain. That’s not it at all. I’m a 54-year-old man who has acquired a renewed sense of confidence thanks to luck and a commitment to consistency. I want everyone to experience what it feels like not to recognize themselves and realize that so much of what stops us is between our ears.
Pick a goal. Walk. Run. Bike. Learn Spanish. Be kinder. Eat better. Write your story. Read more. Stop voting like an idiot (no matter which camp you vote for).
Acquire consistency in whatever it is you aspire to.
Almost all consistency is a decision.
PS No matter how successful you are or you become, remember that life is going to hit you with a hammer anyway. You can’t avoid the hammer but you can avoid wasting all the opportunities you have in front of you.
A bit of truth to start, followed by a bit of goofy…
I’m not actively trying to lose weight. 160 lbs. was low enough to suit me and almost certainly not sustainable long-term. I felt that strange sensation that something had changed when I put on my pants and belt again after a day of shorts. Getting on the scale, there it was: 156. I’ve been walking a lot and probably eating less. The eating less part is mostly because I’m not hungry, have been occupied with other things, and when I do eat, I’ve been inclined to eat less quantity and simpler food choices. I ate great lunches at restaurants Sunday and Monday, so I’m not starving myself. (Not to mention I ate at Mr. Taco Loco today for lunch.)
Someone I love very much gave me a lovely gift over the weekend: a thank you card she forgot to mail 24 years ago, one in response to a wedding gift from me and my deceased wife, Deanne. I told my family member, “Not all tears are sad tears.” It touched me deeply, and I saw no reason to conceal or push away the tears. This is one of those instances where being a packrat led to a moment of remembrance and emotion – and a much-needed one, too.
Since life often jumps on you all at once, another moment that happened last weekend was that I felt forced to let someone down severely. I’m never proud of doing it. I won’t justify it or explain it. Of course, I have a list of valid reasons. Valid though it was, I know my response runs against the universe’s karma rules.
Even the speed trap advisory signs at the library are sending me a very clear message. I can’t run as fast as Michael Scott, obviously!. PS Standing next to the sign dressed like I am with a work badge, and holding a cell phone facing the road… a LOT more people suddenly slow down, as if anyone would ever trust me to be a part of anything with so much tomfoolery potential. Also: even the police who are randomly driving by suddenly realize they can’t very well speed past it like that, not with an idiot standing there with a phone. I propose that a bunch of us meet down here and have some fun with this. Anyone who can beat Michael Scott’s speed (12 -31 mph, depending on whether you count the car run or not) will win a free toaster, or a lunch date with me.
I’m getting contradictory signals about my index cards, the ones I use for all sorts of tomfoolery <○○> and practical note-taking. My cousin gave me two packs over the weekend and today someone gave me a pack, winked, and told me to engage in an endless series of index card creativity and/or pranks. I feel like this might be a test with no right or wrong answer. . Update: a coworker saw this post while I was still at work and gave me TWO more pads of usable note-craziness! In his defense, he is retiring soon, so he can cause as much mayhem as he would like.
Thanks to the Blue Dress Project, I’ve been doing pushups since the beginning of the month. Not continuously, though. The world record for most pushups in a day is 46,001, while the record for non-stop is over 10,000. Keeping that in mind, don’t admonish me too angrily for doing this at my age. The record holder for most in a year was 45 when he completed over 1.5 million in one year. I’ll let you know if I decide to break his record. You can start holding your breath now.
I do them in increments or sets, whether I’m on the way to the bathroom, waiting by an elevator, walking, or going to the kitchen to get a bag of PopChips. I’ve had a few surprises while doing them in unusual places. While I might not drop and do twenty next to the open casket, for example, I don’t see what’s so weird about doing pushups while listening to someone complain about how much they are being overworked. What amuses me most is the idea of having someone in great shape do them continuously near the vending machine area to determine if their subtle presence decreases junk food sales.
I have to be cautious with my shoulder, of course. Technically speaking, the medical term for what I have is “Old & Busted.” I’ve noted that a couple of surgeons seem to be following me around at work while holding scalpels. It could be my imagination. I’ve been told mine is overactive.
There are days when I reach a surprisingly high number of repetitions.
I’m not promising I’ll do them long-term, but I will do them for six weeks, until they become a new habit that I can keep if I wish to. I made a deal with myself that pushups are an exercise I like, cost nothing, and require only time, of which I have an abundance. It’s stupid NOT to experiment. That’s pretty much my take on a lot of things anymore. Including mushrooms. The la-la land variety, not the kind one finds on pizzas. I’ll report back when I’ve tried mushrooms, assuming I’ll still be able to write English or speak in complete sentences at that point.
I don’t have a goal. Other than continuing to not drop dead, of course. It is a great goal, despite all the mortuary owners secretly hoping that a lot of people might have particularly bad days. It’s nothing personal. The odds are in their favor, though. Keep that in mind as you continue to not make changes you’d like to see in your health and life. No matter what you choose, keep it in mind – and not in a superficial way. Every important thing you put off, challenges included, could forever elude you based on today’s choices. It’s nuts, isn’t it? We trick ourselves into thinking we’re making small decisions or foregoing things of no consequence only to discover that we’ve sacrificed an opportunity that is gone forever.
Many days I just stop counting as I do the pushups. If I need to practice counting, I can count the years of my life remaining. For small numbers, I can count the remaining hair on my head.
A friend at work quotes one of his many ridiculous sports heroes by saying, “It doesn’t matter how many you do. You don’t start counting until it hurts.”
My response to him is this: “You’re only as old as the woman you feel.”
I can feel a difference already. Not in my friend. He’s a musclehead.
If I had a sedentary job, I’d do 500 every day. Pushups, I mean. I’m not Wilt Chamberlain if that joke doesn’t fly over.
It’s true that a couple of people have mocked me for doing pushups. That kind of asshole is going to always find something to complain about. It doesn’t matter how I manage my life or what I do – there will be people who roll their eyes or want me to fail. Luckily, most people are great, and even if they don’t understand what the hell my point is, they play along, if only so that we can reciprocally overlook each other’s craziness.
This brings me back to the idea of incrementalism. You might not be able to do a pushup. But if you start slow and with a hint of enthusiasm, you can reach just about any goal you want to. You can learn a language by learning one word a day, walk a mile by focusing on reaching a little farther as your energy permits, or read a book a month by translating your interest into doing so into a plan that’s broken into bite-size increments. (No pun on the bite-size, by the way.)
Likewise, and just as important, if you’re happy with yourself, your life, or things about yourself, don’t get tricked into adapting because you think you should. You should be happy, and anyone who finds satisfaction in themselves has magical power.
PS: I’m rooting for Blue Dress Project to make the weight. I’ve found a renewed enthusiasm for people doing things that they’ve put off, or for finding success, no matter how large or small. If I can do it, anyone can.
I left the bright sun behind me as I entered Mr. Taco Loco on Emma. A wall of scents and smells assaulted me. Because I can easily go without eating all day, I forget hunger sometimes. I risk admitting that because people have their filters and triggers that make such a statement sound like psychosis. It’s not. It’s just a fact. And it is an extraordinarily good thing for me and my life. I still love food, but I’m not food-centric anymore. Mr. Taco Loco is one of the places that let me healthily eat delicious food. Eating less grants me peace in moments that would have otherwise been consumed by wanting to eat, or worse, being too full.
I walked through the dark table and bar area. Ahead of me were two younger men, both avidly looking at the menu and comparing comments. After a minute, one of them turned and said, “Go ahead.” I hesitated. “Are you having trouble deciding?” They both grinned and nodded. “What do you recommend?” I laughed. “Well…” I started and then mapped out two alternate ways to decide. The cashiers stood and listened to my sales pitch. When I was done, I said, “If you are not eating with cost being your primary factor, pick something with the type of meat you’d most likely be satisfied with.” Though it’s bragging to say so, they were impressed.
I went ahead of them and ordered—five chicken tacos for me, with lots of added pico de gallo. I’m not a barbarian, after all. The gentleman who started last week stood there, confident and smiling after just a week of training. “Are you still here?” I asked him, laughing. The other worker, a younger female, asked me if the order was for here or to go. I angrily pretended to ask, “It’s like that, is it? Am I not allowed to eat here.” It took a few seconds to realize I was joking. The new guy’s smile probably gave it away. I also confused them by not wanting a drink, which is now a common habit of mine when eating. When I returned to the counter to order a bowl of salsa, he told me that his female co-worker pointedly asked him if something was up, given my unexpected comment.
I threw out my tortillas and spread out the chicken and pico de gallo across the platter, adding onions, cilantro, lime juice, and Tajin. Since I brought three bags of PopChips with me, I opened those and used them as scoops. After a few minutes, I returned to get a bowl of salsa. It threw them off that I didn’t want any chips to go with it. I tipped them for the second time, which distracted them from further questions.
I sat a table away from the first-time visitors. They’d decided on my second course of ordering, choosing riskier and fuller selections. They were delighted. Once they had their food, I walked over and held up my large bottle of Tajin. “Since y’all are young, I’m going to save you some trouble. You can have a lot more flavor and eat a lot more variety if you find a seasoning you like.” I explained what Tajin was, then poured a condiment cup of it out. They thanked me as I went back to my table. After a moment, the younger man closest to me turned and said, “Hell, the difference with the Tajin-stuff is amazing!” His eyes lit up. “You can buy it at Walmart, too,” I told him, to ensure he would become addicted. Because I forgot to mention it, I also said, “Taco Tuesday, all the tacos are a dollar. You’ll love it!” I also made a mental note for myself to write Tajin Corporation and ask about commissions.
I ate my platter of minimalist craziness and considered eating the soggy paper left there too. As I left, the new customers said, “Hey, thanks!” again and gave me the thumbs up.
Though it’s hard for this to be true most of the time, it was true today: everyone was happy for even a brief moment.
PS I wore one of my rip shirts to work today. It turned out to be a wise choice.