bored viewerThere's a serious problem with this blog. When I started 30GO30, I resolved to drop my habit of [disastrous] extreme challenges and [failed] life-altering mega-plans and just start doing the work, day after day. The bad news is that it's not always very interesting, at least not in a way people want to hear.

Persistence is boring.

I've been back on track with exercise for almost a year now (a couple of months after my daughter was born). I went back to the basics, and one of those basics was push-ups. I decided when I started that I wanted to do 200 push-ups in 5 sets, however long that happened to take. Long story short – I did it.

So, what was my secret? Is it so fantastic that you won't believe it, and you'll beg to pay me $79.95 for a signed e-book? No. It's so mundane that you might fall asleep halfway through this post.

Here my boring plan.

About 9 months ago, after a solid chunk of pre-baby excuses, I did some push-ups. I got out about 8 in a row before I decided I'd had enough. So, I started there. Then, this happened:

  • 1 set of 8 = 8
  • 2 sets of 8 = 16
  • 3 sets of 8 = 24
  • 4 sets of 8 = 32
  • 5 sets of 8 = 40
  • 5 sets of 9 = 45
  • 5 sets of 10 = 50
  • ...
  • 5 sets of 20 = 100
  • ...
  • 5 sets of 30 = 150
  • ...
  • 5 sets of 40 = 200
I mercifully skipped about 27 steps for you, but you can probably do the math. I did push-ups 3 days/week, and every day I tried to do a bit more. In about 9 months, I was doing 200 push-ups.

But, that's so boring!

What's that you say? – 9 months?! A take-on-the-world superstar like you doesn't have 9 months to get back into shape! Yeah, that's what I used to think too. Thirty years of failed exercise plans later (starting when I was about 10 and sick of being skinny), my shortcuts didn't look so appealing anymore. What good is it to follow some extreme plan for a month, if you're just going to burn out and spend the next 6 months collapsed in front of Jersey Shore reruns?

Failure is boring, too.

The painful truth is that just about any program would've produced results for me over the last 20+ years, if I'd just stuck with it. For example, I tried the hundred pushup program a few times, and it's a perfectly good program. Problem is, I started strong and then quit when it got tough.

I'm not saying tactics don't matter, but that execution is 90% of the game. I have friends doing CrossFit, P90X, and The 4-Hour Body, and they all seem like decent programs. Here's the truth, though - there were fit people before any of those programs. Trying things out to find what's right for you is great. Constantly shopping for the perfect program every time you hit a snag is a recipe for failure.

23 Aug – David Sottimano

OK - despite our convo on Twitter I'm going to attempt this....starting this week. I'll come back in a few months to let you know where I'm at.

23 Aug – Robert Wenger

I think of college when I read a post on persistence. I usually don't miss a point on anything for the first two or three weeks and I feel excellent about my studies, but then I get, say, a 94. Not bad, but then before I know it I'm in the C range thinking "Well it's average, so it's ok." Mindsets can change so quickly. I'm determined for the 4.0 semester this time though, so I hope to maintain the momentum.

23 Aug – Dr. Pete

@David - Awesome, let me knows how it goes. It applies to just about anything, of course. I'm trying to tackle just a couple of things at a time, and add to it as I get some success. In the past, trying to do everything at once hasn't gone well for me.

@Robert - Yeah, it's easy to slip in the long-term. I love new projects, classes, books, whatever. I think we all do, and it's easy to hit the ground running with a big burst of excitement. Keeping it going is always the challenge.

14 Sep – kemchho

making a habit of exercise brings not only girls closer but yeah it makes you feel healthy fit and confident... i hit the gym thrice a week though i do not get enough time from this hectic schedule .... btw little bit motivational blog post ;)

17 Sep – Niall Flynn

Failure is boring :) but gets you support, keep pushing :)

26 Jan – David

Thanks. Good job! I will also do it.

23 Apr – Jon

I've just embarked on the Hundred Pushups plan. So far so good (It's day one).

Did you notice any changes on your arms and chest? Did you feel stronger?

23 Apr – Dr. Pete

Jon - I'm a skinny guy, and I'd say the visible changes were fairly minor. I definitely felt gains in functional strength. I had a one-year-old at the time, and I could feel real changes in how I carried her and what I could do.

Last year, I did 50K push-ups, and I definitely noticed both visible and functional changes. You're not going to get huge on this kind of exercise, and I'm not sure I'd do that again (definitely need more diversity), but I did notice continued gains, even after a year.

23 Apr – Jon

50,000?!?!?! What.

23 Apr – Dr. Pete

Jon - Over the entire year, not in on set, just to clarify. At 6 days/week, it came out to about 160/day (usually in 5 sets of 30-40).