Atoning for My Fifth Grade Self

After my 45 minutes on the elliptical today, I cooled down with a few quick laps outside of Doctors Wellness Center. It was such a delightful morning, and I wanted to get a few more steps in, too.

Kanye was waxing poetic about Jesus walking on my shuffle, but I thought I heard a soft “Psssssst.” I looked around and didn’t see anyone, so I figured it was just a figment of my sweaty imagination.

“Psssssst. Hey, you!”

No, I definitely heard that. I looked around to see if perhaps my trainer, Daniel, had slipped outside, but no, I was still alone. I remembered that I hadn’t taken my  blood pressure med before working out – my BP often drops dramatically after a hard workout –  and maybe this was a new symptom. I kept walking.

“Pssssst. It’s me from fifth grade. You remember, you couldn’t handle me then, and I bet you can’t take me now either.”

So I wasn’t alone. Tucked in the median of Monckton Boulevard, a short street traveled only by gym members and dental patients, was an outdoor chin-up/pull-up bar. Worse than that, it was a chin-up/pull-up bar with an attitude, taunting me very early on a cool morning.

In all seriousness…

My one and only experience with a chin-up/pull-up bar was in fifth grade, and I remember it quite well. During recess, our teacher took us out to what I called the “monkey bars” and told us about the President’s Physical Fitness Test. I don’t remember the president, nor do I remember the rest of the  test. I do remember the pull ups, however, and I remember that I was unable to do even one.

Given my history with pull-ups, I tried to ignore that stupid bar this morning. One lap down, no problem. Second lap, that bar was starting to get under my skin. After the third lap, I made sure no one was watching, climbed on and reached up. I took a deep breath and tried to pull up. Damn bar got me again. If I was able to move at all, it was a mere fraction of a fraction of a fraction of an inch.

I was a little defeated when I got in the car. I’ve lost nearly 100 lbs. I’ve been working out for almost two years. I have biceps. I even have a sleeveless dress now. But I can’t do a pull-up? By the time I got home, I’d re-framed the entire thing and concluded that even attempting a pull-up was a victory of sorts, but I didn’t really believe it.

I felt vindicated when I got home and Googled pull-up. I looked at several online articles, and apparently pull-ups are hard. Very hard. According to former Navy Seal Stew Smith, “Of all the exercises, the one with the largest mind game attached to it is the PULLUP.” (I should’ve known it with the attitude that pull-up bar gave me this morning!)

If there’s something I can’t do, especially something that is hard, I must do it. I bookmarked a couple  online tutorials about training for pull-ups before I realized that I already have what it takes to train for pull-ups: 1) my fabulous trainer, Daniel, who I already work with twice a week; 2) my former nutrition counselor, Traci, who not only trains, but also knows how to get into my head!

By way of this post, which I’m emailing to Daniel and Traci, I’m challenging myself to perform at least one pull up by my 46th birthday on September 24. I’m also throwing myself on Daniel and Traci’s mercy – even more than usual – and asking if they can help me reach this goal. I’m willing to work, but I need some guidance. Danny and Traci, can you pretty please help me out?

Stay tuned, friends. This may get interesting!

  1. Traci says that we’ll talk about the pros and cons, then decide. If for whatever reason we decide the pull-ups aren’t the best thing for me to focus on, maybe I can look at taking the Presidential Physical Fitness Test for Adults ( My ten-year-old self just really wants to be vindicated from that fifth grade fiasco!

  2. I don’t blame you at all. I remember the fifth grade physical fitness test. All my friends could do pull-ups. But when I attempted, everyone just stared at my shaking arms stay pin straight. I wasn’t even very overweight back then. To this day, I still can’t do a pull-up. Though it’s a lot less surprising now, haha!

    • Yesterday, I talked to my trainer, Daniel, who said that pull-ups are very hard for anyone to do. (You notice they aren’t included in the “adult version” of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test!) I question why they’re even part of the fifth grade version. Maybe they need to revise it from 35 years ago, LOL!

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