Tag Archives: pull-ups

Challenging Myself

As a dad I face many challenges every day. Most of them involve living up to the expectations of my kids, my wife, and God.

Son, not making a fool of himself on the field.

For instance, this evening it’s off to the ballpark where I get the pleasure of serving as assistant coach to my son’s baseball team. The challenge here: until a few weeks ago neither he nor I had ever played baseball. He’s 9. I’m almost 40. The challenge lies in rising above myself and not worrying about the fool I will make of myself on the field. Because you see, this one is all for my little boy.  The reward is great though. He’s getting super good super fast and I’m learning quite a bit about a game I’ve never played. Somewhere in the recesses of both of our minds are visions of the two of us being drafted by the New York Mets. And we’re having lots of fun in the process.

Me, making a fool of myself (and demonstrating what a friend politely called “a natural tennis swing”) at the batting cages.

On the marriage front, I am always faced with the challenge of becoming a better husband. Daily I look around my house and my world and ask myself what I can do to make my wife’s life even marginally better. In the past year alone I have found myself tinkering with my homes electrical system, building props for the play, finally advancing in my career (ūüėČ), and shopping for produce at a farmers market at five in the morning on a Saturday. Every time I’m given a task I’ve never done before I find myself rising above my own fears and coming to realize that because she trusts in me I can do anything for my wife. And we’re having a whole lot of fun in the process.

So this afternoon when I got home from work I decided to challenge myself. Remember the pull-up bar? This one is a challenge to which only I am answerable. After hearing that friend of mine toss out the figure of 25 to 50 pull-ups a day, I decided to reach for the stars. I don’t expect to be as good as him ‚Äď certainly not right away ‚Äď but one cannot hope to achieve great heights without starting somewhere. The challenge is to complete 25 pull-ups within five minutes every day of every week. And of course, as I notice myself gaining strength, I will have to increase that number. A short while ago I just barely beat the clock. Five sets of five pull-ups with a little more rest between sets than I would’ve liked; but I did it. The reward, I hope, will be great.

And I’m having tons of fun.

Raising the Bar

Getting back to writing about my fitness goals…

I had intentionally stopped writing about these particular goals for a long while. ¬†In fact, my plan was not to mention the subject again. ¬†There’s only so much one can write about when it comes to a lifetime of trying to get in shape. ¬†And failing.

I have had the benefit over the years of a number of resources yet never felt confident that any of the information I received was either worthwhile or accurate (in other words, it wouldn’t deliver the results I wanted to see). ¬†In particular, the past four years I’ve been leeching off the training advice of a coworker who generously tried to help whenever he could. ¬†The problem, it turns out, was me. ¬†I always had some kind of excuse. ¬†Sometimes it was valid and oftentimes it was not.

About three months ago, having completed the¬†Insanity Max:30 program from BeachBody and having taken a subsequent Christmas break and some time off for the death of my father I committed to BeachBody’s¬†BodyBeast program.

The program started out great. ¬†I spent three weeks using fairly light dumbbells in what the program’s trainer calls the “Build Phase”. ¬†That is, you build yourself up to the next phase by learning the movements and proper form. ¬†In my case, even though it had been many years, I was re-acclimating¬†myself to these movements. ¬†Not entirely unfamiliar with weightlifting technique, I discovered that I more or less remembered proper form.

When I finished building I moved into the “Bulk Phase”. ¬†The goal of the whole program is to build solid muscle, something I have lacked. ¬†I started seeing results, especially after another friend who had injured his shoulder graciously loaned me some considerably heavier dumbbells. ¬†I’d buy my own but a full set runs around $500 and I don’t feel like dropping that kind of cash on something I wasn’t sure would benefit me.

Then came the callback… ¬†Two weeks ago today the guy with the bum shoulder called his weights back. ¬†He was recovered and ready to lift again. ¬†To my surprise (and not entirely unsure of whether he was just trying to be polite) he called that night and asked if we could workout together. ¬†His weights. ¬†His garage. ¬†In my ¬†mind I balked at the idea because I just didn’t love the idea of making a fool of myself. ¬†Don’t forget, I’m probably the most insecure person you’ll ever meet. ¬†Seems to me that most guys my age are not only either current or former champion athletes but also far more adept than me in a gym. ¬†This guy was going to kick my ass and then laugh about it. ¬†Or worse yet, he’d patronize me by telling me “good effort!”


A more solid pull up bar there never was.

But it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. ¬†For the past two weeks, almost every night around 9:30, he and I have been lifting heavy weights in his garage. ¬†I’m noticing tremendous gains. ¬†Even if I’m the only one who sees it, the muscle is there and getting bigger. ¬†What’s more important is that an increase in raw strength – something I had almost overlooked as a goal – is also improving. ¬†This past Sunday my friend called me as I was on my way home from graduation. ¬†He told me to swing by his house. ¬†He had a present for me. ¬†He had heard me make one of my trademark excuses. ¬†“I¬†could do pull up’s… if I had the proper bar with the right clearance.” ¬†So he made me a bar out of a length of pipe he’d picked up from Lowe’s. ¬†He completed the bar with mounting brackets and told me to stick it onto the cross timber of my kids’ playset in the yard.

And so for the past four days, with no¬†actual excuse in sight, I’ve been doing pull up’s. ¬†I heard a statistic about a year ago that said only 1% of grown men can properly do a single pull up. ¬†That sounds high to me; but then again I’m talking about real, solid, proper-form pull up’s – the kind where you dead-hang from the bar before lifting yourself completely up to chest height. ¬†I certainly had a hard time for the longest time. ¬†Callouses, gripping the bar right, what muscles to engage, etc… ¬†But when you shed those excuses – or rather, when someone takes them away from you – it all comes down to how committed you are. ¬†I WANT to do pull ups. ¬†Another friend told me today that he knocks out 25-50 a day every 2-4 days. ¬†That’s impressive. ¬†No comparisons here. ¬†That would be insane. ¬†But man, I’d love to get to that level.

Toward that end I gripped the bar this past Sunday. ¬†Remember that strength I mentioned? ¬†It must be growing, especially in my forearms and upper back. ¬†I nailed 5 of them. ¬†And as if to knock me back down I tried a sixth and struggled hard. ¬†I’ve been experimenting and discovered that I can knock out five at a time, take about three minutes, and knock out another five. ¬†Can I do more than that? ¬†I’d probably need more of a break between the later sets. ¬†Should I try? ¬†I see no reason not to. ¬†Just a short while ago I hit fifteen in three sets of five over about five minutes.

But without a friend like the guy who threw this bar together for me I wouldn’t be able to try. ¬†And if he’s reading this (which he probably isn’t) I want him to know how much I really appreciate that¬†and the time he’s investing¬†and the camaraderie. ¬†I’m certainly having fun. ¬†I’ve had a few personal goals in the past few years. ¬†One of them was to move into school administration before I turn 40. ¬†Another was to get shredded before 40. ¬†In both cases I’ve been motivated by a desire to prove myself. ¬†Very few people have any measure of real respect for teachers. ¬†It’s sad but true. ¬†Even those with the best of intentions generally let on that, in their minds, teaching is something you do when you can’t do anything else. ¬†I know my fellow teachers know what I’m talking about.¬†¬†Likewise, very few men have any measure of real respect for a man who is weak. ¬†They may be polite and tell you athletic ability, broad shoulders, and curling prowess are overrated but deep down we all know differently. ¬†It’s man’s nature to respect power and achievement.

I got the admin job. ¬†I’m excited to finally show my family and friends I’m actually a really talented guy who is competent in¬†the formation of youth. ¬†So what if some of them needed to see a title attached to my name in order to believe it. ¬†I’ve always considered myself mentally strong. ¬†Maybe those same people will finally see that strength in me too. ¬†So what if some of them need to see a strong body to believe it. ¬†Who knows? ¬†Maybe I’ll get jacked before I’m 40 after all.

One Badass Workout

I promised to keep you, my two loyal readers (Mom got bored), up to date on my progress with my new bulking/shredding program called BodyBeast which is designed to get me huge and ripped.  Previously I would have thought those were two things I wanted to avoid.

Last week I finished week 1.  True, I had spent the two previous weeks messing around with it.  It usually takes me a week or two to get things like a new diet under control (especially when that diet has me jump from about 1700 calories a day to 3400).  I had done some of the workouts using limited equipment I borrowed from a friend and a stability ball I picked up at Walmart.

Last week, though, I was set and committed. ¬†It’s either going to happen or it’s not. ¬†What motivated me was the knowledge that if I had been so committed in the first two weeks I’d be approaching the end of the first phase right now. ¬†OK, just get it done.


That’s what I’m talking about! ¬†A nice looking set of dubmbbells and plates right there.

On Friday I went to the trainer’s house. ¬†Yes, the point of this workout is that you don’t need a trainer and you do it all at home. ¬†But, I like the guy. ¬†He’s given me great advice and stuck by me while I wallowed in the many failures I’ve endured trying to get into his shape. ¬†Most of the time, he hasn’t even laughed too hard at me. ¬†He and I ran through a 45 minute workout on the pavement of the driveway behind his house. ¬†We each had sufficient weights, each had a stability ball. ¬†He has an awesome pull-up bar rigged up over his 8 foot fence and that came in handy. ¬†At the end of the routine I was pleased to discover that he judged my form to be great and he was impressed at my ability to complete a pretty tough workout. ¬†Did he have a drop of sweat on him? ¬†What do you think? ¬†Nonetheless, I felt confident that I was doing something good. ¬†If this guy, who is a training god, came very near to expressing pride in his wannabe-protege, then I can’t be too off.


A closer look. ¬†These range from 10’s on the left to 40’s on the right with a set of interchanging weights in the middle and some plates for the bar.

Today, it was back to chest and tri’s. ¬†This time, though, I’ve expanded my arsenal. ¬†From yet another friend I managed to borrow even heavier weights. ¬†For many movements lighter weights aren’t a bad thing. ¬†I’m thinking of shoulders. ¬†At the end of a workout, you try lifting more than 15-pounders in a military press over your head. ¬†It’s hard! ¬†But for chest workouts, I can definitely go higher than the 20’s I had maxed out with.

A note on all these friends who have weights to spare… ¬†It seems a universal truth to me that in America when a young man enters his 20’s and has a trifle bit of spare change he invests it in weights. ¬†He uses the weights religiously for a short while, then trails off. ¬†Evermore the weights remain in his possession until his wife, who long ago gave up caring what he looked like naked, puts them on eBay for extra Christmas money. ¬†Either that or he repurposes them into a coffee table in his pseudo man-cave.

Anyway, I’m definitely feeling this. ¬†It’s going great and I feel great too. ¬†I also was one of those who had weights once. ¬†My excuse was the two spinal fusion surgeries I had so I’m going to stick with that. ¬†It’s been years since I lifted anything and it’s taking some time to get back into it but I feel it coming back to me. ¬†Drop a prayer now and then, if you would, that I don’t injure myself and that I complete these twelve weeks so I can be “beastly”.

The Backhanded Compliment

Do you know what “trainer” said to me today?

During a conversation about what qualifies as a “real” pull up – yes he and I have these kinds of convos at work – we were comparing the two standard varieties. There’s the US Army standard of pulling up from a bent arm position and the US Marine Corps standard of pulling from a complete dead hang.

Guess which kind he does. That’s right.

Hey, I’m working on it.

“The dead hang,” he said, is the only way to get it done.”

He’s transforming…”

Then he went on to regale me with his prowess at how he had once done 170+ of these in a single day. OK you already knew I was impressed. Thing is, he wasn’t. He went on to speak at length about how weak he felt and how he wished he could have done more.

For the record I can do like three of these.

Here’s the kicker…

pull ups

Neither Army nor Marine Corps; these are the REAL deal here.

He continued, “One time in college my suite-mate saw me doing the Army kind. He told me those weren’t real pull ups. ¬†We had seen each other shirtless before and here’s the thing. He really didn’t have room to talk. I mean I looked – well, I always¬†look good. He was, well,” he said “He was transforming.”

This is when he went on to say that the guy was basically a fatty who was “trying to get in shape. “Eventually,” he added, “he got to looking somewhat decent.”

The implication is, of course, that us lower beings have no business addressing the genetically superior.

Why didn’t I think of that?!

Here’s why. I’m just transforming¬†or is it transfiguring? Maybe I’m just transitioning¬†as in from fat to not quite as fat but never be on the same level. Perhaps one day I’ll be in the ranks of the “somewhat decent”. I’ve poured my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this effort for almost a year now. I’ve gone from not running to running several miles at a stretch; from one push up to dozens; from a carefree diet to a rigorous regimen loaded with veggies – the bane of my existence. But I wonder if that’s ever going to be good enough.

I take his words for what they are – the advice of a friend and he’s been really helpful too. If not for him I’d be nowhere near as healthy as I am now. So no offense taken.

One day, though, he’ll be somewhat decent at lifting people up. And I’ll be somewhat gracious (and possibly an inch closer to somewhat shredded).

Getting Really Real

I noticed something after my 15 minutes of planking last night.

Planks suck.

But, I also learned something else. ¬†A few something else’s, actually.

The first thing is that planks, though sucking the big one, must actually be really effective.  My core was on fire today.  It was a good kind of burn; not sore just really engaged.

Another thing I learned was that my trainer is not the cruel psychopath I had begun to think he was. ¬†At work we discussed my plank. ¬†And if you didn’t know I was writing about a workout plan that sentence would be positively dirty. ¬†As I mentioned, I had been feeling quite confused about the training plan he set me on this time out. ¬†It seemed like he was all over the map. ¬†He had me do tabatas one day, a kettle bell workout the next, then run, then more tabatas, then that plank thing.

This all seemed very different than the workout routine from last summer where he stressed short workouts and consistency — like six weeks of the same thing — before switching it up.

Then he dropped that automated trainer on me and I seriously thought he was saying “I’m done with you.” ¬†It felt for a minute like he was telling me that he didn’t trust my level of commitment enough to continue training me personally, like it wasn’t worth his effort anymore.

So I moved past that assumption pretty fast and realized he was just adding something into the mix with the pre-planned workouts from Spartan.

Today at work he showed me another workout. ¬†“This one’s crazy,” he said. ¬†That sounded encouraging. ¬†He opened up his inbox to reveal somewhere around 1400 emails from Spartan and searched for one in particular. ¬†“It’s one I did that time that I told you about.” ¬†He had, in fact, told me a few months ago about a particularly grueling workout. ¬†Funny thing is I didn’t know he had been using these workouts himself for a long while.

“Try to do five sets,” he said. ¬†Then he let out a maniacal laugh before restating that it was all about consistency and having the desire to just do it.

I came home and took care of a few things like dinner and getting the kids to bed. ¬†And then I got changed for this “crazy” workout.

Looking over the plan in my email I started with the warm-up.

75 jumping jacks and a 5 minute run. ¬†What was cool was that I had discovered that I still had some fight in me. ¬†After my 5 minute run I wasn’t in the least winded. ¬†Just a few months ago I couldn’t go more than a minute without breaking down. ¬†Now it seemed I could do this with ease.

The workout proper was every bit as crazy as he had suggested.

But I did it.  OK, I only did three sets but I did them with good form and to exhaustion.

The truth is that this was the best workout I’ve ever had.

I finished up and grabbed some water before heading to the shower.

As I did I was overcome with the need to say a prayer thanking God for my trainer. ¬†He seemed to know this time exactly what I needed to do. ¬†I have never felt this good after working out. ¬†More importantly, he’s given me the right routine at this time to quickly boost my ego. ¬†After this workout, in fact after this week of workouts, I’ve noticed quite a few changes. ¬†I’ve actually put on 3-5 lbs. of muscle and my clothes are fitting better. ¬†Maybe he’s been reading my blog and realizing I’m desperate to reach my goal and that my goal is to look like him. ¬†At least I’m grateful that he’s taking me seriously (not that he hasn’t before) but there’s something different this time.

I think it’s getting really real now.

I still need help with a few things. ¬†OK, I need lots of help. ¬†When he reads this maybe he’ll take pity on me. ¬†I mentioned form. ¬†I’m big on using and keeping proper form. ¬†I’m of a mindset that 1 burpee with the proper form is better than 100 crappy burpees. ¬†So I’m focusing on little things like that. ¬†My burpee itself could still use improvement. ¬†But where I really need help is with my pull ups. ¬†I need to find a way to rig up a decent pull up station at home so I can just do them. ¬†It may take a long time but if I commit to doing at least 3 a day than I know Ill get better at them. ¬†He bangs out ten at a time and that inspires me. ¬†So if he reads this or if anyone reads this, say a prayer I get better at this one.

On that note, I think I’ve earned a little rest.

Getting Pumped

Lest you think Langan’s plan fell by the wayside, check out my numbers from tonight’s trip to the gym.

May not seem like much but it’s better than it was and it’s better than doing nothing!

Just Say Your Prayers

Getting tired of seeing this place in my blog? I think I am too.

I came home from the gym this evening. ¬†My arms are dead. ¬†I’ve been following Langan’s masterful plan. ¬†This is the first full week, thanks to bronchitis and other general malaise, that I have followed through. ¬†I’m glad I took my time getting to this point, though, because the fits and starts just provided a way to ease myself into this hellish torture. ¬†More than once at the gym tonight, while on the floor doing my 200+ push-ups or the ten sets of pull-ups, I found myself muttering “Why, God, why?” ¬†This greatly amused my new gym friend, Jule, an older black woman who comes to ride the bike and lift “light weights”. ¬†If they were any lighter I could probably inhale them with a drinking straw. ¬†She and I have taken to playfully staring each other down for use of “the good bike” — the one out of three that sits higher and doesn’t feel like it’s about to break the hips of the rider. ¬†We actually made an agreement to claim her (the bike’s a chick) on alternating nights. ¬†She (Jule, not the bike) reads her fiction novel while I watch Fox News and the History Channel. ¬†It’s a working relationship.

The cool thing is that I actually do feel myself getting stronger. ¬†I can’t say I’ve seen too much in the line of physical results yet. ¬†Hopefully that will come soon — you know, the waist generally losing dimension with the chest and arms generally gaining. ¬†But I leave the gym feeling good. ¬†I feel good about myself for accomplishing something and I feel physically good, free of pain. ¬†The stretching and pulling and pushing seems to be ideal for my spine. ¬†The strengthening is definitely good for my spine. ¬†And best of all, I’ve been keeping a log of my sets and I can see that I must be making strides. ¬†On my first try a few weeks ago I managed to squeeze out 199 push-ups and 19 pull-ups. ¬†At the start of this week I did 215 and 37 respectively. ¬†Tonight I was at 230 and 37 and I kind of cheated. ¬†Did I mention that my arms were dead? ¬†Yeah, I hadn’t eaten much today. ¬†That’s a no-no. ¬†I could not bring myself to do the last two sets. ¬†If I had, my numbers would have been huge. ¬†Then again, my arms might have become huge as well. ¬†Oh well, I prayed for God’s help and the grace of perseverance.

The signature steel beams of the Twin Towers can be seen beyond the freakish looking dancers.

When I arrived at home my wife and kids were finishing up movie night. ¬†Tonight we were fanciful and found¬†The Wiz on Netflix. ¬†I like the music, my daughter likes the dancing, my son is fascinated with the weirdness of it all, and my wife liked that my kids were happy and not hurting each other. ¬†I came in just the four principle characters had arrived at Emerald City. ¬†I had forgotten that these scenes were filmed in New York using the World Trade Center as a stand-in for the wizard’s abode. ¬†I got a little sentimental. ¬†“Son, those buildings were in New York and Daddy used to go there all the time. ¬†They were the tallest buildings in the city.” ¬†He looked up at me. ¬†“Can you take me there the next time we go to New York Jersey?” ¬†He still hasn’t figured out that they’re actually two states and I don’t have the heart to tell him. ¬†And I surely don’t have the heart to tell him I already have taken him there when we visited the Memorial this summer. ¬†He would ask where the buildings were and I don’t want to tell him — not because he couldn’t handle it; but because I still can’t. ¬†So I said a little prayer to myself. ¬†“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord…”

Finally it came time to put the kittens down for bed. ¬†We’ve taken to praying the rosary with them as they drift off. ¬†The gain exposure to spending some meaningful time in prayer, learn our faith, and the rhythm of the repetitive Hail Mary’s knock them out cold. ¬†It knocks them out, that is, unless the little boy lying next to you, nodding off into snooze-land, is observant and curious and questions everything that does not make the least bit of sense to him. ¬†I started in with the Fatima Prayer, the one that separates the decades.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. ¬†Save us from the fires of hell. ¬†Lead all souls to heaven especially –

Here I was interrupted by my darling boy. ¬†“Um, Daddy? ¬†You know our house won’t be on fire, right?”

-Especially those in most –


-Most in need of thy merc-



“Daddy, our house can’t be on fire because it’s made of brick.”

And so while saying my prayers (really saying my kids’ prayers for them) I stopped and said a little prayer for my self.

“Thank you, Jesus, for such beautiful children and such an amazing life!”

No say your prayers and go to sleep!

Blog. Rosary. Cool.