625 Pushups: 5 Life Lessons

It was two years ago when I last put together 5 Life Lessons from winning a Snipe World championship (though 2020 seems to be (too) full of such posts). In early August, when I first took on the 25 pushups for 25 days Facebook challenge to help raise awareness about PTSD, mental illness, and anxiety, I never expected I’d be writing about that—because it didn’t occur to me that a purely physical challenge would teach me so much about my own mental health.

Usually I ignore the various challenges/nominations that roll through my Facebook feed, even when they are attached to a good cause. But this one was impossible to scroll past. First, because it came from my Snipe teammate and good friend Kim Couranz (and I was her very first of 25 nominations). And second because, midway through a regatta-free summer, I was hungry for a new physical challenge.

FYI, It was surprisingly hard to pare this list down to only 5 lessons…. but here goes.

  1. The ocean helps my mental health. Exact scenery, location, and background were all different each day, but only on day 18 was I more than a few hundred yards from salt water—lucky me.
  2. We are tougher than we think. Before this challenge, I had never EVER done more than 23 pushups in one go. On day 1, I completed 25—because I didn’t stop when my mind told me “enough.” The next day I was sore, but I did another 25. Day 3 was the hardest—I could barely lift my right arm that evening. But by the afternoon of day 4, my body had recovered enough to manage another full round. For the rest of the challenge, my mind still tried to shut me down around 15 or so—even as I grew stronger.
  3. We’re all in this together. As I struggled with who to nominate each day (almost as big a challenge as the pushups themselves), I checked up on other participating friends in a vain attempt to avoid duplicating nominations. Many found much more creative and useful ways to help achieve the overall goal of promoting awareness of PTSD and mental illness; one friend posted links each day to mental health resources (while also doing her pushups off-camera). Another reminded us that mental health is partly chemical: not a weakness, just an imbalance. Which is why simply reaching out to an anxious friend can be a bigger help than we realize.
  4. We don’t get a do-over. On too many of the daily videos, I drift out of view of the camera—but I wasn’t about to do another 25 pushups… so I published the original video. It was a daily reminder that we don’t get any of these minutes and hours back, so we’d better make ‘em count.
  5. Rest days are critical. I have never, ever repeated the same physical activity for 25 days in a row—and I won’t do it again. The gurus at Hammer Nutrition say “you get stronger on your rest days,” and though I will continue to do pushups I will definitely alternate them with other activities.

My small effort may not make a huge difference in the overall visibility of PTSD and mental illness, but it’s definitely brought home just how many people struggle with life every day—especially now. So, even though the pushup challenge is behind me, I’ll continue to reach out to people to offer a slice of humor and a side of my own unique perspective. With shorter days and (still) only a few regattas to look forward to and plan for, I might even take on another challenge. Because we don’t get these days back—and who knows what else I might learn?

Watch them all in under 5 minutes

If you want to watch all 625 pushups… click on the photo for a spliced-together time lapse (with a surprise at the end!).

Read previous posts about Life Lessons and 5 Tips for Lifelong Fitness

Got an unexpected challenge, or need a fresh perspective? Reach out in the comments below, or send me an email. Thanks for reading!

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