February 19, 2021

My path to 100 Pushups per Day

Pushups over time

Planting the seed

When I was around 10 years old, I used to go over to my friend Hyung-Il's house. He was like an older brother figure, probably in high school at that time. Other than the great memories of playing Starcraft and Warcraft there, I remember something that put me in awe.

"I do 100 pushups a day" said Hyung-il.

I couldn't even fathom 100 pushups because at that age, 1 proper pushup, was hard enough. I had safely stored it away in my memory, that is until last year during the COVID pandemic. When I started taking this habit seriously, I could only do about 12 pushups with proper form.

What is my 'why' for this habit?

One hundred. It's a nice round number, the minimum required for 3 digits. All numerology aside, I wanted to be able to do 100 because I knew sticking to that number would compound over time and give me results. What results? I wanted a larger chest, stronger arms and core, and moreover confidence that I could set an arbitrary goal and stick to it day in, day out.

The method

Without much thought I started using pen on square sticky notes to tally my progress each day. I wrote the date, time, and how many I did. In my opinion, this tactile act was my reward in the habit loop. Seeing the numbers, ripping out the sticky notes, crossing out and circling the final number. Although apps are less messy, have better data visualization, and are more portable, I don't think anything beats paper and pen for tracking something simple like this habit. In the beginning I did them in increments of 10 reps, which meant 10 sets to reach 100. Getting on all fours this frequently proved to be more annoying than I initially thought and so after a couple months I slacked.

Perseverance is continuous restarting

Then I picked it back up towards the end of the year with newfound vigor. I also started doing more each set - 15, 20, even 25 at one point. This batching meant fewer times I had to think about doing them. Having a set location in my basement has helped greatly. It's not always in the same direction, and actually sometimes I do them in the living room before a meal or on the bathroom floor before a shower. Squeezing in a quick set before other fixed rituals throughout your day is another amazing hack. As you get stronger, caring more about the form and perfecting it can make you appreciate the art of the pushup more. Flywheeling into greater results.

Find your ceiling (max out)

One day I shared via Instagram stories my goal to try and max out the number of pushups in a day. I started early, and ended up with 500! This proved to me the upper limit of how many pushups were possible, and dulled in comparison the 100 I had been doing. Once you know your upper limit, you become thankful and underestimate your daily average.

Social Accountability

Sharing the habit with friends and family has also provided additional external validation. Especially when your girlfriend starts feeling your chest. It is hard to say when I began seeing results, but eventually I started flexing in front of my bathroom mirror before a shower and saw real pecs. Remember to let people close to you know the mission you're on. They will serve as a constant external reminder to continue on.

Don't try to do too much on flimsy foundations

I tried and failed to include other exercises to vary it up. I tried a fitness app for 18 minutes of core exercises. I also tried including golf exercise regiment based on research I found online. I even tried to include kettlebell exercises like squats, but those all ultimately proved too complex. I would be wary of trying to add too many different things in the beginning, keep it simple and prove to yourself for a minimum of 100 days that this first foundational brick is set and dry. Don't switch up the technique, especially if its working. I have the bad habit of adjusting a new habit too early in the process and thus losing all progress, because I confuse myself whether it was the base habit or the new adjustments I added that made me cease.

Show yourself self-compassion

Don't be so hard on yourself if and when you fail to uphold your habit. Don't beat yourself over this, it is not a failure so long as you get back on the horse. Even if you got down on all fours but didn't do a single pushup, at least you showed up. But oftentimes, we don't even get into the correct position. Because I'm betting that if you did, the additional energy required to do the actual pushups wouldn't be that much. The activation energy required to convince yourself to take action on the habit is the hardest part. You can go back and forth and converse with yourself all you want. But until you can get yourself up and down, you aren't doing pushups.

Quantifying as a motivator

This is kind of meta, but while thinking about sharing this post and reflecting back on this journey has only served to increase my motivation. It has renewed my sense of dedication to this simple habit.

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