The Easy Peasy Way To Do 50 Pushups: And Just About Anything Else
Over the past month I set the goal of doing 50 pushups first thing in the morning. You may be asking: why subject yourself to this torture at such an early hour?
I asked myself the same question when I started. And I’m embarrassed to admit during the first week I missed my mark of 50 pushups on most days. That was until I discovered an easy process for completing the pushups.
The weird thing about this process is it is completely psychological. It has little to do with getting stronger, or even how I felt in the morning… I actually did the best on days I was groggy and hungover.
And it definitely works if you can’t do 50 pushups… or if you can do way more than 50 pushups. The number of pushups can be adjusted to your fitness level so long as the amount is just below your point of failure (ie you can complete the repetitions; but just barely)
The number of pushups is unimportant because while this 3 step process will help you do more pushups, it’s not really about pushups…
It is about breaking seemingly difficult tasks into manageable steps, and getting over the mental hurdles that prevent you from completing them. It can be applied to anything from a tough workout, to learning a new skill, to completing a demanding project. Check it out:
Phase 1: The Beginners Rush
It’s About The Pushups: This is the rapid fire phase I call “The Beginners Rush”. For pushups this applies to the first 20 to 30 reps. Because your muscles are fresh these are the easiest to do. So I recommend doing around half of the reps as fast as you can. The more the better!
The goal is to do as many pushups as you can before your muscles get tired. And more importantly, before your mind starts coming up with excuses to stop.
I find if I do this first wave of push ups slowly, my “inner quitter” starts blabbering and coming up with excuses for why I should stop. And it is much easier to listen to this voice when you have 40 pushups remaining.
It’s Not Really About The Pushups: At the beginning of a new activity or project you will naturally have more energy and enthusiasm. Your task is fresh at hand and you have yet to run into the difficulties and fatigue that will creep in during later phases.
Use this momentum to get as much done in the shortest time possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you just have to take as many steps as you can in the right direction. This way when doubt and fatigue kick in you can look back and see that you have already done a good chunk of the work.
Phase 2: The Pain Period
It’s About The Pushups: When I hit 20–30 pushups my muscles begin to show the first signs of weakness. Suddenly pushing myself on and off the floor is not as easy as it once was. This is when my mind starts saying things like: “My arms hurt; why am I doing this”. “It’s much too early to be doing so many pushups.” “Breakfast sounds nice about now”?
The reason we rushed through half the pushups in the first phase is because when the pain starts to set in you can look forward and know that you are over half way there. You may be aching, but there is an end in sight.
For the “pain period” I divide my next 10–20 pushups in sets of 5. I power through a set of 5 and then allow myself a brief reprieve in the upright position. While I’m resting I mentally count to 5 and prime my mind for the next 5 pushups. I usually do this until I have 5–10 pushups left.
It’s Not About The Pushups: After the initial wave of excitement wears off you will go through a plateau or pain period. This is when you start realizing that what you want to achieve is harder than you think. The seeds of doubt have been planted. This is usually the time when people either quit or think about quitting.
This is the most psychologically taxing part of the process. That’s why it’s important to finish a good chunk of the work before this pain period begins.
Like with the pushups, it helps to break tasks down into more manageable chunks. Consistency is key. Even if you’re working less, the work will seem more demanding. To counter this set small but achievable milestones. It allows you to trudge along when you least want to.
Phase 3: Stumble To The Finish
It’s About The Pushups: In this phase your muscles are really worn out and you are reaching your point of failure (ie when you simply can’t do another pushup). Because there are only 5–10 reps left, this is the only part of the process where I focus on the individual pushup.
Your goal here is completion. You’ve done the most difficult work in Phases 1 and 2. Right now you are merely using your remaining energy to complete the task. Your mind should be saying “almost there, one more rep, one more rep.”
Because you are so close to the end it is easy to stop. Your mind can rationalize your failure with excuses like: “46 pushups is good enough.”
Don’t do it! Focus your power on each individual rep. You’re almost done. Will your way to 50.
It’s Not About The Pushups: When you’re completing any task or project you will reach a final hurdle of fatigue and resistance. You’re near the end, but the tail end of the work seems to go on forever. That is why you need to focus on completing the smallest unit.
If you’ve followed the previous two phases there should not be much work left. This final “stumble to the finish” is you pinpointing the last few items that need to be done, and laser focusing on them. It may be a messy stumble, but with this last bit of effort you will cross the finish line.