30-day Challenge

Day 7 of 30 – Building a Daily Push-up Habit

“Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.” – Brian Tracy

Around October last year, I was meeting with a bodybuilder/athlete for A-Game and we got to talking about often the biggest hurdle for most people who want to get in shape or even just start a tiny habit for their health is the first step, deciding to start. Starting a new habit can be daunting usually because the goal we attach to it seems so lofty or out of reach that sometimes not even bothering to start is just easier. The quote above from Brian Tracy is so true yet there are hacks that can help trick our lazy brains at the start so that we just start.

You may have heard about this concept coined by Nautilus Fitness founder Arthur Jones and popularised by Tim Ferriss called the “minimum effective dose”. In short, the MED is the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome. I thought about this when I mentioned to him that I have also found it hard to get back to being active and athletic. In fact, if I’m being honest, the last time I was in athletic shape was was in college before I tore my ACL and pretty much chilled on working out and playing basketball regularly. He said even just setting a simple goal of doing 10 push-ups a day is enough to get things started. I said yeah that makes sense and that I’ll try it out.

So I set a goal of doing 1,000 push-ups before the year ends, which was roughly 10-12 a day. Doesn’t seem like much in reality but for someone who has barely exercised for the previous 10 years apart from thrice working out for 3-5 months straight and playing basketball very very occasionally, 1,000 push-ups was a challenge. I used Evernote to track my daily progress, which I’ve pasted below:

Total: 1370 / 1000
  • Oct 12, 2016 – 10
  • Oct 13, 2016 – 10
  • Oct 14, 2016 – 10
  • Oct 15, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 16, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 17, 2016 – 20
  • Oct 18, 2016 – 10
  • Oct 19, 2016 – 20
  • Oct 20, 2016 – 20
  • Oct 21, 2016 – 30
  • Oct 22, 2016 – 20
  • Oct 23, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 24, 2016 – 20
  • Oct 25, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 26, 2016 – 20
  • Oct 27, 2016 – 10
  • Oct 28, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 29, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 30, 2016 – 0
  • Oct 31, 2016 – 20 (220 for the month)
  • Nov 1, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 2, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 3, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 4, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 5, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 6, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 7, 2016 – 30
  • Nov 8, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 9, 2016 – 30
  • Nov 10, 2016 – 30
  • Nov 11, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 12, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 13, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 14, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 15, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 16, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 17, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 18, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 19, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 20, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 21, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 22, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 23, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 24, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 25, 2016 – 20
  • Nov 26, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 27, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 28, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 29, 2016 – 0
  • Nov 30, 2016 – 10 (300 for the month)
  • Dec 1, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 2, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 3, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 4, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 5, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 6, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 7, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 8, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 9, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 10, 2016 – 20
  • Dec 11, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 12, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 13, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 14, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 15, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 16, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 17, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 18, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 19, 2016 – 30 (over 1,000)
  • Dec 20, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 21, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 22, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 23, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 24, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 25, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 26, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 27, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 28, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 29, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 30, 2016 – 30
  • Dec 31, 2016 – 30  (850 for the month)

Some notes on the chart above:

  1. I underestimated how out of shape I was at the start not just in strength but also how heavy I was. Doing 10 push-ups in my mind was easy but the first few days was a reality check on how far I’ve let myself slide into inactivity. The 20s and 30s I did in October was done in 2-3 sets so my strength was obviously still low then.
  2. Consistency was very hard for the first two months as I was not used to the habit so I tend to forget to do it, sometimes remembering to do it at night. Totally would forget about it also when we travelled or even during staycations. Also some days especially early on, my arms were sore (or I was feeling lazy to do it haha).
  3. My motivations for doing this were: to prove I can start and keep a habit for my health, to build on that and do more the following year, and on a practical note, to get stronger as Elian was growing bigger and heavier approaching his first birthday. And since we had two trips later in November and December, I felt I needed to keep up with his growth so I can carry him without throwing my back lol.
  4. As you can see after Oct and Nov, I was at 520 push-ups and just halfway done with only 31 days left in the year. What really helped was recording the habit daily even on the days I missed doing it. Even if no one saw it, I made a commitment to myself to achieve this goal so I felt really motivated to push harder in the last month to meet the goal.
  5. So starting December, I told myself that 20 was the minimum per day and that I’ll be shooting to do 30 in one set. By this time, the habit has taken and it became automatic for me to do the push-ups usually in the bathroom right before I go into the shower. By the 19th, I’d hit the goal and decided to keep it going till the end of the year, eventually surpassing it by 370 more.

Like any habit, the hardest part was really at the beginning when it feels alien and the struggle to maintain is real. Over time though, with a strong enough motivation or set of motivations, the commitment is supported enough until the habit takes over and begins easy to live with.

For 2017, I’ve kept it up and set a goal of 10,000 push-ups for the year. As of the end of September, I’m on track to exceed that goal as long as I keep at it. And which is why again starting this month, I’ve decided to set a goal to develop another habit I’ve long put off – writing. 7 days down, 23 to go!

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