Last fall, I started adding some cross training exercises to my normal running routine. Due to the colder temps and some nagging pain in my hamstrings, I had backed off from much of the work. But prior to doing so, I had accoplished one of my goals of running a sub-30 second 200m dash. Unfortunately, I had not been able to achieve my goal of doing 5 freaking pull-ups in a row!
In the last couple of weeks, I have started stopping by the local playground again and attempting a few pull-ups, chin-ups, dips and extensions. My success has varied from week to week depending on my comfort level after having played basketball the night before, and periodically the tendinitis in my wrist and shoulder flare up making some of the exercises impossible. But I continue to toil away in the hopes of actually achieving that impossible dream!
When I was young, I hated pull-ups. I dreaded that day every year for the presidential skills testing, when the gym teacher would call me up in front of every person in the class, girls included, and order me to do as many pull-ups as I could. Other guys would walk up there and rip off 10 or 15 pull-ups like it was their job. Eventually, the moment came when the teacher would call on me and I would sulk my way to the bar, reach up and grab it, then grunt and groan, kicking my legs like I was riding an imaginary bike, failing to get my arms to bend more than a couple of degrees. Eventually, I would fall back to the ground and return to my seat only to hear the snickers and whispers from the other kids in the class. It was humiliating!
I remember being in my friend's basement and seeing that his dad had installed a pull-up bar in one of the doorways. Much like me, my friend struggled with pull-ups. He might have been able to do one or two, but not much more than that. When I asked what the bar was for he informed me that his dad wanted him to do 10 pull-ups by the start of freshmen baseball season. "Shit!", I thought, ten pull-ups! It might as well have been a hundred for me; there was no way I was going to be able to do that!
So, I was excited when I started this process and was able to do 3 pull-ups. I even got all the way to 4 pull-ups in a row when I was going to the playground regularly. And I was super excited when I headed out for a run and trip to the playground this morning. My tendinitis had been doing great, and Katie was busy last night, so I was not able to go to basketball because I had to watch the kids. All of that added up to me feeling pretty good about my chances for 5 pull-ups today.
I jogged my way down to the grade school. My body started to warm up; I was moving at a nice easy pace since I ran 8.3 miles on Saturday and was still a little stiff. When I was a couple of hundred yards away from the school I saw another man enter the street and start walking. At the time I did not thnk much of it, but I would see him again. I jogged all the way to the playground and slowed to a walk a few feet from the pull-up bar. I caught my breath, shook out my arms and prepared for what I thought could finally be the day I did 5 pull-ups in a row.
I jumped up and grabbed the bar. The first pull-up went easy, the second as well. By the time I got to the top of the third pull-up, my mind began to race with the thought of achieving my goal. The fourth pull-up was tough, and as I descended to start the fifth pull-up, I got nervous. Then I started pulling back up to the top. I was really tough. My arms were on fire and I didn't think I was going to make it. I felt my legs start to come to my chest as I attempted to engage my abs, trying to pull every last once of strength I had. The bar crossed over my eyes and I let out a pretty loud grunt (especially for 4:30 in the morning) as I struggled for those last couple of inches. And then finally I raised my chin and set it ever-so-gently on the bar, and smiled. I had done it!!!! I had finally done 5 freaking pull-ups!!!
After I put my feet back on the ground, I turned around smiling and immediately saw the guy that I had passed earlier run by me on the playground. I thought it was a little strange that this guy was running through the playground, since it is not the most direct route to anything. Maybe he was a little curious about what I was doing on the playground. Maybe he was even more curious about what all the grunting noise was about. Maybe he thought about coming back there for a few pull-ups of his own.
But do you want to know what the one feeling I was NOT having upon seeing this guy? Embarrassment! For the first time in my life I was not embarassed to be doing pull-ups in front of others. No sir, I just did 5 freaking pull-ups! Next up? Ten pull-ups!