At the beginning of January, I happened upon a video you may have seen: A young woman doing push-ups for 100 days. She starts out “scrawny”, but gets stronger. I wanted to do that. So I did, and you can too.
Right before this, I’d only been exercising occasionally — life gets busy with three kids — so I felt pretty scrawny myself to start with. The push-ups were tough at first, but they got easier. I definitely got stronger. Here is what I learned along the way.
Soreness Doesn’t Have to Stop You
At the beginning, I could do full push-ups, but they were hard. I tend to avoid them in my exercise routines because if I do more than a set or two, I’ll be seriously sore the next day. So if I was going to do push-ups every day, I had to tread carefully.
Fortunately I knew how to work out despite soreness. You don’t skip workouts; you just do them as easy and gentle as you need to. On my second day I only did a few sets at a time, and likewise on the third day. It took more than a week to totally shake the soreness, but I kept my workload light and just focused on working out consistently. I knew if I skipped a day early on, I would have a hard time convincing myself to continue.
Consistency Pays Off
As tempting as it was, I never skipped a day. I also pared down my goal to the single most important thing: Doing at least one push-up every day (and taking video of it).
Since I already had trouble finding time to go to the gym, I knew I didn’t have much hope of doing a lengthy workout every day. I hesitated to sign on to any specific plan, even the One Hundred Push-ups routine, since I would have to modify it anyway in the beginning because of soreness.
Some days I did the push-ups as part of a bodyweight workout, but most of the time I just did them during the work day, whenever I felt like I could use a break. I set up Nagbot to text me every day so I couldn’t forget (unfortunately the service isn’t available in Australia).
You Improve More Quickly Than You Think
I figured my first milestone would be doing more reps at a time. That’s not exactly what happened, though. The first accomplishment I saw: My form improved.
At the beginning, I showed fellow Lifehacker writer Stephanie Lee some of my push-up videos, and asked for a form critique. She pointed out that my elbows flared out and my hand position was wide, and predicted that I’d probably fix that automatically as I got stronger.
That’s exactly what happened. Even a week later, while I was still working through the soreness, I noticed I could put my hands directly under my shoulders. I could also go all the way down to the ground, instead of sort of cheating halfway like I used to.
I wasn’t doing more reps, I was doing better ones. So to keep that momentum, I started trying new things. I did push-ups with my feet on a chair, for example, and have recently moved up to putting my feet at table height. I also asked my kid to sit on my back, and if I push with every ounce of my strength, I can lift him up.
When I started, I had no idea I would improve this much. I’m excited to build on this momentum and see where I’ll be at the end of the next month, or even in a full 100 days.