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2020 was the year I learned to do push-ups

How changing a false belief I had about my own strength became a stress relieving habit

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The first time I learned about the push-up challenge was when I began sheltering in place, and I got tagged on Instagram by a friend to do ten push-ups and share it to my stories. Ten? I couldn’t even do one proper push-up! I filmed a very embarrassing video of me doing some bending of my arms while in planking position, called it a set of push-ups, and uploaded the video online. We laughed about it.

After that day, I started thinking, why did I believe that I was not capable of doing push-ups? Where did I learn that belief? A couple of phrases I said included “because I don’t have strong muscles” and “I have not ever done a proper push-up” and “push-ups really hurt”. As I thought about it, I realized that my belief about push-ups did not have a basis in reality, and I could prove it wrong! At that time, I felt overwhelmed about how little control I had over 2020, I was very stressed out as a first time mother, and I needed a way to get over this stress.

I gave myself a baby goal to start

At first I told myself that I would commit to five push-ups of some form each day. I started with doing them against a vertical wall! It was super easy and did not hurt. A baby goal like this made me more likely to set bigger goals because I could feel accomplished at the end of the day.

I sought advice from people who had push-up expertise

I looked up multiple YouTube videos to identify where my push-up form may be incorrect. I also filmed myself doing push-ups and sent them to friends who knew how to do push-ups, to get their feedback. They helped me correct the angle of my arms, gave advice on my drooping head, and told me to progress to knee push-ups and then elevated push-ups.

My push-up challenge was public so I could get accountability

I had over 30,000 followers on Instagram at this time and I decided, why not share this goal with them? It’s an area where I am not perfect, and it’s a goal that I tend to skip when I am not feeling great. By sharing my imperfect journey, I got a lot of encouragement from my community, which helped me feel not so alone. Apparently, I’m not the only person who can’t do a good push-up!

I tied the goal to a habit that I could easily remember

“Five at five” was the trigger phrase I used to remember to commit to my push-up progress every day by attempting five push-ups at 5PM. There were days I skipped doing my push-ups, but this was a very easy phrase for me to remember, and by making an easy trigger phrase meant that I had a greater chance of sticking to my habit every day.

So where am I now with my push-ups? I’m very proud to report that I do feel like after six months of this, I can do a proper full-body push-up without feeling completely winded. On days I feel really stressed or unhappy, I do a few push-ups to feel better. Are there still areas I would like to improve? Of course, but I am giving myself a lot of grace! I feel proud and strong that I achieved something I have never been able to do before, in an area where I initially felt very weak. This push-up challenge, that started on a whim on Instagram, has given me renewed hope that I can do great things with my body, no matter what I look like, how old I am, or how stressed I might feel.

Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

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