50 Pushups A Day
Several years ago my wife tells me that a fried of hers and her husband were going to do 50 pushups a day as a new years resolution. For those of you that have read previous blogs of mine, you will realize that I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions but that is beside the point. 50 per day seemed like a reasonable goal and easy to accomplish so if Bruce and Jules could do it then Deanna and I should give it a shot as well. I realized after a couple of days that every day was a bit often for a strength exercise, so every-other might be a better idea.
After a couple of months I was still doing my pushup routine and now was doing well over 100 (in several sets) and was sticking to my routine. After several weeks I was also riding my stationary bike, working on core strength exercises, jumping rope and getting into quite a routine.
Before continuing I need to offer some perspective. I was a competitive runner in high school and continued to train off and on over the years. I was always fairly active. In 2001 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This was a shocking diagnosis and I feared was that I would quickly develop some disability. As I learned more about my disease and was able to live with the awareness of my condition, I realized that my prognosis was very different than my fears. Turns-out that over the past fifteen years there has been a lot of development in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. About ten years after my diagnosis I did learn that I was having trouble running or walking any distance over 2 miles. At this point my wife strongly encouraged me to get a new doctor. The new neurologist was able to find a new treatment that was more effective in treating my condition. This new medicine was particularly effective for me and appears to have stopped my illness in its tracks. The new medicine is very good news but it has not restored my ability to run or walk any distance over 2 miles without difficulty.
There was a period of several years when I exercised very little because I was not able to run which is how I stayed in shape. My wife purchased a stationary bike for me one Christmas but I didn't ride much – I didn’t like sitting inside on a bike to exercise – an beside that I was a runner. I did take several bike rides one summer and found that I could ride with what appeared to be few difficulties but didn’t make much effort at committing to a routine.
This brings me back to my initial discussion of pushups. The simple discipline of doing pushups started something much bigger. After several months of my new routine I asked my neurologist if he thought that I could participate in the Bike MS 150 mile ride. With Dr. Cohan’s approval, I continued to ride my stationary bike and mountain bike at least three days a week and in June of 2011, I purchase my first road bike. I completed my first century ride (100 miles) in 107 degree record-breaking August heat. The next day I chose to ride 35 instead of the 50 mile course but I completed a transformational task of riding 135 miles in two days, after not exercising for over two years because I couldn’t run over two miles at a time.
The first lesson that I learned is that it is easy to define yourself by what you cannot do rather than what you CAN. Today I find it mildly amusing that I chose not to exercise because I could not run or walk more than two miles all the while I am able to ride over 100 miles and while gaining over 6,000 feet in total elevation in the 107 degree heat! It is amazing how often we choose to settle for much less than we can accomplish because of our self-limiting beliefs.
The second lesson I learned is that these limiting beliefs do not operate at the conscious level. Comfort zones are nearly completely unconscious habits. I think that is why they are hard to notice. If a strong-minded person were to realize the decisions they were allowing themselves to make then I believe that different decisions would often be made. Our lives are a combination of beliefs and habits. Our habits create beliefs and then ultimately our reality. Challenging comfort zones is not easy yet it is an important step in breaking the chains that hold us back from our potential. The first step in changing these habits is to analyze your thoughts, habits and beliefs to find your self-limiting habits and beliefs. When you are aware of these situations then you can take steps to change your habits and perhaps ultimately your relatity.
The third lesson learned was that big steps often begin with simple steps. 50 pushups a day is a very simple discipline. Even if you are in poor shape, 50 is only 5 sets of 10 pushups – most anyone can do that. Eventually you may be able to do a single set of 50. If I would had set out to ride 100 miles on my bike, I likely would have burned-out and maybe not achieved my goals. I experienced this in the past with my failed marathon training or the triathlon that I never completed. The pushup routine was easy to accomplish either when at home or in a hotel room. In having a large goal it is effective to have easy to accomplish short-term goals or activity that keep you moving toward your longer-term bigger picture goals.
The final lesson learned from this process has been that the big picture goal of the 150-mile ride kept me accountable to my fitness routine. The MS 150 Ride is a fundraising even for the National MS Society. The moment that I raised my first dollar for the event I was committed. I knew that as I started fundraising I was going to achieve my goal. That being said it was a very difficult event – as a matter of fact, the most difficult physical event that I completed in my life. I was able to achieve my goal because I changed my beliefs; started simple; created short-term success; challenged my comfort zones and then developed an accountability system that tied me to the goal achievement. As I was struggling through the record heat, unexpected hills and the saddle sores I kept focusing on the great feeling that I never imagined that I would ever again be able to achieve such a great physical feat. There are many times that I have worked very hard in competitive athletics throughout my life, at the same time I have never felt so accomplished nor have I struggled so much to compete in any event.
I am now training or my third MS 150 this August. I was better prepared for the second yet the lessons from the first year stood true. The weather was more forgiving, the course a little easier and my conditioning was better. I am honored this year to be selected as one of two Rides with MS Ambassadors for the Oregon ride. I hope that my message can have an impact on others that are dealing with similar challenges. I do not believe that my challenges compare in any way with others dealing with life threatening illnesses and I do not claim to comprehend their challenges. In some ways I have a life altering chronic diagnosis and in others I have received a gift that provides a new perspective. The lessons that I have learned through my challenges have served to make my family and me stronger. I would change my diagnosis in a second if I could, but I am grateful for the lessons that I have learned through my challenges.
I hope if you are dealing with personal challenges, you can find hope in my words. If you are running a business or managing a department I believe that there are great lessons to be garnered through my experiences as well. It is my sincere hope that you will find wisdom and perhaps some comfort in what I have learned and find your “50 pushups” to start something big in your lives or your business.
I have proven to be strong fundraiser through my ride. In 2012 I raised over $10,000 for the National MS Society (NMSS) and in 2013 over $7,000. Much of the funding for MS research, care and treatment comes from private funding. I would hope that you would consider a donation to support my ride and for the work of the NMSS. You can follow this link to my fundraising page and to learn more. http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Bike/ORCBikeEvents?px=11633003&pg=personal&fr_id=22739
Thank you for your consideration.