Friday, August 8, 2008

One push up a day?

We need to start working out. Look at us. Yeah, well, if it were easy, we'd already be doing it. How hard could it be? I mean, what if we just did one push up a day? Can you do one push right now? Sure. Great. You're done working out for today. Sweeeet! And then next week we'll do two push ups a day. And three a day the week after that. How hard could it be?

Turns out, three weeks is hard. One colleauge bailed after three weeks. The other one continued for two years! Read my lips, 104 push ups a day. He said somewhere around half a year into it (26 a day) it hit him that they never said it had to be done in a row. He found a way to get it done. After that, he backed down to about 30 a day, and nine years later, he's still at it.

In addition to the commitment to do a push up a day for a week, with a weekly increase of one more per day than the week before, he decided to start running. Except for one major problem, when he tried to run that first morning, he had pain so bad in his leg that walking was all he could do for the first two years. Are you kdding me? Nope! I speak the truth. When he did finally recover (two years later) he decided to use the tactic he used with push ups. He committed to run to his neighbor's mailbox each morning. It was only 100 meters away. He said he jogged so slow that a turtle actually passed him and smirked.

Lo and behold, he made it through the first week, and became the turtle's jogging partner.

Guess what he did the second week? Nope. He ran past his neighbors mailbox and kept going until he made it to the second house with a mailbox (200 meters). He did that each day for the rest of the week.

Pretty easy, right?

Well, the third week he netted three mailboxes per day. Still turtle-slow. A brisk walk by nearly any person was faster than his pace. But like Martin Luther King, he had a dream.

Slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady wins the race.

Moment of truth: Week number four. Guess what. Success was becoming a habit, slowy and steadily.

Pretty soon (five mail boxes), he had to turn around and come back in order to reach a sixth mailbox (small neighborhood, but big yards).

When he got to a distane equivalent to about one mile, he began to add 400 meters extra each week -so about one mile per month. After half a year, he was running 4-5 miles per day, still slow.

My friend was dedicated and fairly disciplined. He had a big goal in mind. Low cholesterol.

One of the funny things is that in order to make all of this work, he had to figure out how to squeeze it into his daily routine. He worked as many hours as me (60+ per week), traveled, had a wife, child, and big dog.

And like many, he got bored easily. To stay motivated, he entered a 5k race near his son's school. That meant he'd been running consistently for four years but was about to succumb to excuses on why staying in bed longer was looking like a "vacation", mentally and physically.

He ran the race and said he was surprised at the results, for a variety of reasons. One being that out of 500 women, only three ran faster than him. He said it was a weird feeling to feel a sense of accomplishment from that. He also discovered a concept called age-groups. While his only goal was to finish, he found that in his age-group he wasn't last. Another ackward sense of accomplishment.

He was bitten!

The competitive bug had laid hands on him and wasn't about to let go for another two years.

Six years into it now (two walking and four running), he was feeling the temptation to loose focus, again.

That same day, in his mailbox, was a weekly newspaper (small neighborhood, small town) and an article about how the guy who built his house, Dave, had run in a track meet and won the event. he told me he remembers his first instinctive words were, "Dave? I can run faster than Dave"! Dave was an incredible builder and friend of a dozen years. But really, he felt deep down he could woop him.

Thank goodness for the internet. He googled "central Florida track meets" and discovered information that would turn his motivation back on high and change his destiny forever.

The very first track meet he ran the 400 meters, with an 11-year old on the inside lane and a 70-year old on his outside. He destroyed those two fine athletic specimens, and was hooked again.

One month later, he over did it and ripped his hamstring. No more competing. No more fun. Motivation pretty well crushed. How could he have been so stupid, he told me.

One year later, he's back on the track. Stronger and faster, but not smarter, than ever. Same event, same meet, same result - pulled hamstring. At least it was on the other leg.

National Championships are held every year in Master's Track and Field. His eyes were as big as the moon. Could he recover in enough time to go? What was the risk, even if he could recover? He was going to find out.

We'll see how his story ends tomorrow....