Painful was the only way I can describe the start of this habit. Fuelled with all the pent up restless energy, I went at it with 50 sets of two and ended up with useless arms for the rest of the day. That’s a lesson in itself people, build habits bit by bit – not in a single shot.
Let’s take a step back. I started on this habit with the oddest of circumstances. When my team got reorged in early April at the start of this quarantine, I converted my weekly check-in with my manager into once in three weeks. In the first one, he told me how his three sons are back at home after a long time and are restless due to the pandemic. He decided to give them a challenge and a sense of accomplishment. So thus the 100 push up challenge was born.
When I heard this, I was intrigued. My favorite workout routine (5 A.M. OTF class) was shot. I thought it would be something to do every day. My manager even shared a nifty app that would help me track this. After I took a day off to recover from my disastrous start, I started of with 4 sets x 25. I cobbled up a streak of 10+ and found that I became sore and started feeling resentful for doing it.
Then I decided to use one of the laws from Atomic Habits, the book I was reading at that time. “Make it EASY“. So I decided to first move each set a to different part of the day. That way, I can do it without any pain or effort. It felt like cheating. I thought it would negate the benefits. Then I decided that it’s better than discontinuing the habit. I started bookending my days with a set of 25. And did the other two at random parts of the day. It was smooth sailing for till the end of may.
I made another change to this habit in first week of June. I picked up the habit of leaving my chair and walking around without reason. And would be distracted for 10 minutes after I returned. So I used another Atomic Habits law “Make It Difficult” to modify my push up habit to break this new bad habit. I decided that I would do a set of 25 every time I left my chair. The exception was during my lunch hour. I ended up following 400 push ups every day in the first week. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I dropped my habit of fidgeting.
By the time I went took some time off for a road trip, my streak was at 88 And I didn’t want to stop it. I mean, come on, there is no way. Never in my dreams did I think I would actually do 100 push ups a day. And do it for 88 continuous days. Once I decided that, I tried to figure out where I can do 100 push ups in a day with 12+ hours of driving/hiking/trekking. I went back to bookending my days with a set of 25. This led me to doing the remaining two sets in the most ridiculuos of places. The parking lot at Crater Lake visitor Center. Rest areas in Montana and Idaho. A trail head in Glacier National park. Viewpoint in Going-to-the-Sun Road. West gate of Yellowstone. I’ve never imagined that I would be doing 25 push-ups in these places. It feels awesome now that I look back at them.
In all these months, I have regularly regretted starting this habit. I regretted it every time I finished my set. I regretted it at end of every day I had done those 400 push ups. The rest of the time, I feel pretty awesome. In the wider context of my fitness, it feels pretty insignificant. But consistently following this habit had the same effect gave me the confidence that I can inculcate other habits. Everytime I look back at my journey, I feel that I have achieved something. Perhaps this is what US Navy Admiral McRaven spoke about in his famous commencement speech, that ended up being the basis for his book “Make Your Bed”. I hope solidifying this habit will form the basis to start and sustain many more habits!
P.S: As I finished writing this, I have completed 14,200 push ups !!! I never assumed I’d do so many push ups. Fingers crossed for 14,200 more!!