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How I Did 200 Push-ups

August 23, 2011 — By Dr. Pete

bored viewerThere's a serious problem with this blog. When I started 30GO30, I resolved to drop my habit of [disastrous] extreme challenges and [failed] life-altering mega-plans and just start doing the work, day after day. The bad news is that it's not always very interesting, at least not in a way people want to hear.

Persistence is boring.

I've been back on track with exercise for almost a year now (a couple of months after my daughter was born). I went back to the basics, and one of those basics was push-ups. I decided when I started that I wanted to do 200 push-ups in 5 sets, however long that happened to take. Long story short – I did it.

So, what was my secret? Is it so fantastic that you won't believe it, and you'll beg to pay me $79.95 for a signed e-book? No. It's so mundane that you might fall asleep halfway through this post.

Here's my boring plan.

About 9 months ago, after a solid chunk of pre-baby excuses, I did some push-ups. I got out about 8 in a row before I decided I'd had enough. So, I started there. Then, this happened:

  • 1 set of 8 = 8
  • 2 sets of 8 = 16
  • 3 sets of 8 = 24
  • 4 sets of 8 = 32
  • 5 sets of 8 = 40
  • 5 sets of 9 = 45
  • 5 sets of 10 = 50
  • ...
  • 5 sets of 20 = 100
  • ...
  • 5 sets of 30 = 150
  • ...
  • 5 sets of 40 = 200
I mercifully skipped about 27 steps for you, but you can probably do the math. I did push-ups 3 days/week, and every day I tried to do a bit more. In about 9 months, I was doing 200 push-ups.

But, that's so boring!

What's that you say? – 9 months?! A take-on-the-world superstar like you doesn't have 9 months to get back into shape! Yeah, that's what I used to think too. Thirty years of failed exercise plans later (starting when I was about 10 and sick of being skinny), my shortcuts didn't look so appealing anymore. What good is it to follow some extreme plan for a month, if you're just going to burn out and spend the next 6 months collapsed in front of Jersey Shore reruns?

Failure is boring, too.

The painful truth is that just about any program would've produced results for me over the last 20+ years, if I'd just stuck with it. For example, I tried the hundred pushup program a few times, and it's a perfectly good program. Problem is, I started strong and then quit when it got tough.

I'm not saying tactics don't matter, but that execution is 90% of the game. I have friends doing CrossFit, P90X, and The 4-Hour Body, and they all seem like decent programs. Here's the truth, though - there were fit people before any of those programs. Trying things out to find what's right for you is great. Constantly shopping for the perfect program every time you hit a snag is a recipe for failure.