55 Push-Ups by My 55th Birthday

What’s Going on with the Pushup Goal?

May 26, 2016
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In January, I announced to great fanfare and excitement (primarily my own) that I was setting myself with the goal of being able to do 55 push-ups by my 55th birthday in late July. By February, I had gotten to the point where I was doing 2 sets of push-ups on my ottoman and 1 set of knee push-ups and was feeling great about my goal when I start feeling a strange pain in a muscle I didn’t even think I was using during the push-ups. My left arm above my elbow would sometimes ache in a way that I could only describe, in a nod to Pink Floyd, as “painfully numb.” It was also painfully weak. I couldn’t lift a bag of groceries easily without pain.

I knocked off the push-ups for a week to see if that would help. It didn’t. And then it hurt to do them and I never was able to start doing them again.

Over the last few months, the problem has worsened and it’s now clear that the pain is actually coming from my shoulder and occasionally radiates down my arm. I’ve seen an orthopedist but we’re still in the “take lots of ibuprofen and see if that doesn’t help” stage. 

As it turns out, both this shoulder pain and a related problem, bursitis in my left elbow that showed up at the exact same time, may have both been caused by a bad fall I took during an ice storm here in Atlanta about 10 years ago. The elbow problem seems to have turned a corner, though, so I have hopes for my shoulder. I’ll just have a heck of a 60th birthday goal.

I got a ton of comments on my previous post. One commenter in particular, Olga, gave this great advice:

And my personal piece of wisdom as far as form goes – what we think we do is not what we really do. I know this from my own experience, since I used to do rhythmic gymnastics as a child. We did a lot of choreography, you know, like ballerinas do. And I remember how I was doing my best and thinking that I looked fabulous and then the coach would come up and start correcting everything – the position of the back, the arms, the legs, the head – and by the time I would be set in the right pose my muscles would be screaming from pain: it always takes a lot more effort to do it right and your brain has to learn how the right form feels. There’s a reason dance class rooms have mirror walls, from floor to ceiling. Dance or pushups, it never hurts to check your form in a mirror. Always do it!

I need this advice because I have a tendency to both rush through things I find unpleasant and to try to skip ahead to the next level of something I’m learning before I’m ready. I’m eager for my shoulder to be healed because learning to do push-ups could be the ultimate teaching meditation to help me overcome this. Of course, making sure my shoulder is really and truly healed before I start a project that might injure it again seems like a fine teaching meditation as well. It’s all in your attitude, I guess.

I still want to do something to commemorate the midpoint of my midlife. I’d love to hear your suggestions.