50, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Push-up

(Push-ups Part 1: Push-ups Challenge, Part 2: Push-ups, Revisited, Part 3: Still pushing, Part 4: Collapse one push-up from goal)


I’ve been slogging away at the dreaded push-up for over six months. I’ve sure had my ups and downs. (Groan.) After my monumental effort and failure to reach 50 the other day, I had a relatively easier time banging them out this morning.

Over the last several months, I finally settled into a routine that works well. This is a typical workout lately, which is based on the Week 5, Day 3 workout in the 100 push-ups plan. I modify it by taking a longer break between sets.

  • Warm up by walking on the treadmill for five minutes
  • First set – 18 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Second set – 18 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Third set – 20 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Fourth set – 20 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Fifth set – 17 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Sixth set – 17 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Seventh set – 20 push-ups; treadmill for .25 miles
  • Eighth set – maximum number of push-ups, at least 45, which I never quite manage consecutively at the end of a workout. I break it up as needed.

So in about 45 minutes, I walk two miles toward my 10,000 steps a day, do 175 push-ups, and watch a TV show to boot.

A little mental trick really helped when I tried to complete more than 20 at a time. I used to count by fives in my head — 5, pause, 10, pause, 15, pause, 20, pause… and something like 30 seemed insurmountable. The trick was to start thinking of them in sets of 20, so I would do 20, and then start a new set of 20. So 40 just became 20 plus 20, and 50 became 20 plus 20 plus another 20 that I didn’t have to finish. I guess it sounds silly, but it really made a difference.

Like I said, I have been working on this goal for over six months. (The program is designed to take six weeks. What?!?) I am so glad to reach it! I spent several months seriously doubting I could ever do it.

What now? Despite my title to this post, I never quite learned to love the push-up, but I don’t want to give up the fitness gains I have achieved. I really improved my core strength and arm strength. I would like to settle into some sort of maintenance that is not quite so dreadful. Maybe I will do a certain number of push-ups spread throughout the day for a few days a week?

Now, nobody tell me to try to do 100!

Thinking of taking on a push-ups challenge? Some tips:

  • Be safe. Check with a medical professional before beginning any new fitness routine.
  • Be patient. A lot of people start and then give up when the increased numbers get too difficult. Repeat the workouts as often as you need to until you are ready to move on and increase your numbers.
  • Think in sets. When you get into higher numbers, think of them as sets of a certain number, rather than as one at a time. (See the “mental trick” above.)
  • Do the workouts consistently. Like Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Put in the workouts, and you will make progress. If you are really tempted to skip a workout, at least do a certain small number of push-ups. You may find that you are willing to continue after getting over that first hurdle. For me, the first set was always one of the hardest. (Of course, if you have any pain that may be an injury, stop and get it checked out.)
  • Track your progress. Record your workouts using an online push-ups logger or a simple chart. Seeing progress over time is very motivating.
  • Take rest days. The program I followed recommended doing the workouts three days a week.
  • Add other exercises. My Cardio Tennis instructor is fond of saying that three basic exercises can give people an all-around workout: push-ups, crunches, and lunges.

Do you do push-ups regularly?

#2. 101 things in 1001 days. Do 50 consecutive push-ups.

Thanks so much to Steve for making the “I did fifty” badge above. Check out his 100 push-ups program.

101 things in 1001 days

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

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7 Responses to 50, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Push-up

  1. YAY! Congratulations lady! That is so awesome!! 🙂
    Shannon ~ My Place In The Race recently posted..Spiral Veggies = Fun To EatMy Profile

  2. I am so glad you posted this… like I wrote a few days ago, I can’t do pushups to save my life! This will help me out, thank you 🙂
    Tessa @ Amazing Asset recently posted..WIAW- Changing It Up AdditionMy Profile

  3. sammy says:

    Marcy – Well Done!!!!! 50 pushups is so fanastic. Another one crossed off the list!
    sammy recently posted..Gah! My Running Career is Over!My Profile

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