Sunday, December 2, 2012

Die ganze Hundert

I did two things that I am very proud of today.

For one, I've finished with the final coursework deadline for the remainder of December. It was nice to finally be able to put away the piles of drafts, notes, scribbled print-outs, and books that had prevented me from seeing the surface of my desk for weeks. Being in possession of a newly found inner peace, I took the time to organize the lecture handouts in chronological order, punch holes into them and bind them in separate folders. Hell, I even wiped the dust off the bookshelves! I've always been fascinated with the amount of patience and tranquility that takes over me when I've finally finished some piece of work that I am happy with.

My cleaning spree didn't last very long though,... mainly because there's only so much dust you can wipe in one room. I contemplated taking the vacuum cleaner out of the pantry for a moment, and inflicting my OCD on the carpet, but a quick look at my phone confirmed that maybe this wouldn't be the appropriate thing to do at, you know... 6:25am. Apparently, crashing Luana's after-party at Churchill for a beer with the guys and a round of a board games last night was still no match for an episode of my insomnia. I went to sleep at 2:00 and subsequently woke up at 4:00, and that was it.

Lacking any further ideas, I put on some chill-out music and turned to the calendar to see what my day would look like. For the first time in two months, there was next to nothing on it (in my calendar's defense, it was Sunday after all; the rest of the week is still packed). However, I did burst into a smile when I saw the "Final Test - 100" title of the day's single event, staring back at me from the screen in bold typeface. I rolled up my sleeves, got on the floor, and let out to myself:

"OK, Adrian... this is it. Let's do this!"

Today, for the first time in my life, and after nine weeks of training, I did one hundred consecutive, correct push-ups :-).

I'm guessing by now, my average reader will have said something along the lines of "I think I can do about N." Who knows, perhaps some of you will even try to see how many you can do. And then, perhaps you will wonder why this is worth a blog post, and how much of a self-confident prick I must be for wanting to show off. Where am I getting at, anyway?

I'm not saying I did 100 push-ups because I want to show off. I'm saying it because I want to tell you that you can do it, too.

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The first time this challenge came up in a conversation that I had with Marek at work this summer, I asked myself the one thing that I always ask myself when people tell me that something is hard: Well, yeah, I believe you that it's hard, but just how hard can it be?

Others have obviously done it before, so what's to stop me from following in their footsteps? I don't mean without proper training, of course, but there's nothing eventually unattainable for the average person in 100 push-ups. Say one push-up takes 2 seconds, then the whole thing should take about three to four minutes. Can it really be that hard to exert yourself for four minutes?!

The first time I tried I could barely do 30. And I was expecting that. So then I thought... well, if I followed a training schedule, and every week I tested (and forced) myself to do 5 more than the week before, then I'm bound to hit 100 at some point, right? I looked online and within 20 minutes, I found myself this training schedule. The only thing you need to do is set aside half an hour, three times a week. Anyone can follow some instructions on a training plan, they've broken it down for you to the point where it's brain-dead! So why doesn't everyone?

There's one more thing separating the "can"s and the "do"s in this world: commitment. You will get to 100, if you stick to the schedule, because numbers do not lie. But that's only if you stick to the schedule. If you really want to do it, you can, but there have to be no excuses, and no exceptions. You train three times a week, period.

In my case, pushing my physical limits never had anything to do with setting records. Many people can do way better than I ever have done at these things. What I'm really doing is enforcing discipline, and reaffirming that my brain controls my body, rather than the other way around. Your chest may burn, your elbows may shake, you may feel like you're about to die, but you must never forget that your muscles have no mind of their own. If you are willing to ignore all that, and if your brain is determined to send the signal down your spine, then your muscles will contract, and you will do another push-up. It is in that position that you finally get to know yourself. It is the addiction of needing to prove yourself to yourself that keeps the people in this video doing what they do.

To me, straining myself is simply a journey of self-discovery, and a source of self-respect. When I first started running 10Ks in 8th grade, a friend of mine who was very good at running told me something that I believe really sums it up:

"When you've just done your 15th lap and you feel like you can't run any further... that's when the track actually begins, and when you make the decision of whether you're going to finish or quit. Everything up to that point was just... warm-up."

So I guess, it's up to you now... :-).

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