Why I care about my push-up a day habit

Photo by Kirill on Unsplash

I woke up at 11 PM last night in a panic. Barely awake, I got off the bed and on to the floor and did 10 push-ups. This wasn’t due to some half-fever dream. It was worse: I almost broke my push-up a day habit.

This was a weird thing that I started with a few of my friends. The idea was to simply do one push-up a day. Didn’t matter what time, didn’t matter if you did extra, the goal was simply to do one every day.

By now, more than a few of you want to tell me how much more you could do. How you can do 20, 30, or 40 push-ups right now. That’s great, and I applaud you for it. But can you do that every day?

A single push-up a day is something that 95% of the population can do. It can take 5–10 seconds, it doesn’t need specialized equipment, and the motion can be performed if you’re missing one or both of your arms.

But I still almost failed to do it that day, and I’m pretty sure more than a few people would have after a few weeks.

Why ?

Because it’s boring. So boring that you forget about it.

Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons 1.0

This chart is a representation of what’s known as the Yerkes-Dodson law . This law talks about the peak level of arousal (and yes, a lot of jokes have been made about that phrase).

Too much arousal leads to poor performance. This makes sense: try solving a puzzle when there’s blaring alarms, flashing lights, and people shouting at you, and you’re going to do pretty poorly.

But too little arousal can also lead to equally poor performance. This is when you’re bored or barely paying attention, so you don’t see a flashing warning light or you miss the crucial piece of information that you teacher says.

1 pushup is a boring goal, no doubt about it. It’s not a difficult thing to achieve, and across all 4 factors that might affect this curve, it’s rated pretty low.

So why do it?

It’s because the goal wasn’t to use this to get fit. It was to form an exercise habit.

One of us was overweight and wanted to lose weight. One of us was training for a 10k. One wanted to lift a lot of weights. For myself, I wanted to be able to lift my body weight.

We all had different goals, and we were working at different paces. Some of us did more, some of us did just 1. But we all got into the habit.

If it’s so boring that you might forget it, then the only way to combat that is to form a habit. On good days, you can do more. Or you can slowly ramp up. But on bad days? It’s just 1 pushup. It’s a quick thing that you can knock out of the park at any time.

What do they call the person who finishes a marathon in last place?

A marathon finisher.

I have a few goals that I’m working towards. And many times, I don’t have that much time to work on it throughout the day.

But a few minutes each day is always better than large chunks of time once a week.

Creating a habit of a pushup, a blog post,or whatever your goal is each day will get you there eventually.

J.R.R. Tolkien took 12 years to write the Lord of the Rings.

But it is one of the most enduring works of fiction out there.

So get out there, and drop and give me 1. Every single day.

Top writer in UX Design. UX, Data Visualization and Data Science. Author of Data Persuasion: https://tinyurl.com/rndb9bw. Substack: dataanddesign.substack.com

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