In July this year, while the UK was still locked down, I was challenged by a friend on Facebook to do the 25 Day Pushup Challenge and, because I can’t resist challenges, I did it.
The idea was to do 25 pushups every day for 25 days, to film the process and to post it on Facebook in a campaign to help raise awareness about the growing cases of people, often young, and mostly male, who are suffering from depression, anxiety and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). A condition which contributes to, again, mostly young male, suicides in this country.
I am no athlete but after leaving the hell that was my compulsory school sports experiences behind me, I have always tried to stay fit and, yes, to challenge myself by doing what has never come naturally to me. Like going to the gym or even roller-blading along the promenade at Brighton or in Hyde Park, London, where people, wisely, dodged out of my way.
I thought if I took part in the pushup challenge, I could be more encouraging as an example to others than elite sportsmen and women who can inspire by their skills but also, maybe, put the rest of us off with their unachievable brilliance and those rows of medals, silver cups and champagne showers that we will never win. Very nice to watch, of course, and great for them, but they can leave the rest of us feeling like, well, also-rans.
Talking about these issues is good, of course, but also, there is just a chance that regular exercise, no matter how athletic or not you are, can raise your endorphin levels and significantly effect, to use a modern catch-phrase, your mental well-being.
There have been difficult times in my life (as with many people) and I can talk first-hand about the effects of fitness-training when life gets tough.
I was lucky with some of my physical challenges when I was definitely old enough to know better. I found Kungfu, and an excellent instructor, the world-class martial artist, Neil Johnson. http://www.whitecranefightingarts.com/
Neil is also a brilliant and patient teacher who challenged my lack of co-ordination and lack of natural talent, into doing things that I would never have believed possible. Like training with kungfu masters in China, for example. Amazing!
I got fitter than I had ever been and even learnt how to win, at least a few times, in combat. The feeling was unbelievably exhilarating.
I trained hard and saw and felt the results of working the body to its limits. It was really good fun. I did kungfu weapons-training too….the seven and a half foot staff…
and the straight sword. Martial patterns I could practice wherever I was on holiday, like this rooftop in Santorini, Greece where an old broom handle made a good weapon.
Even the smallest spaces – like home – have space for martial arts training and, of course, for push-ups. So no excuse not to practise.
In the last ten years I had two life-threatening illnesses which challenged not just my life and my fitness but also, yes, that phrase again, my mental well-being. Doctors told me that I probably survived from the brain haemorrhage because I was very fit.
So I have continued in my efforts to stay that way, with a lot of help from my kungfu instructor, Neil, even though I was told I would have to give up full-contact kungfu sparring.
I also owe my gradual return to fitness to two personal trainers too. First, Ritxar Magee Atxukarro, whom I trained with on my doctor’s referral – UK prime minister Gordon Brown’s initiative which died with the change of government. Ritxar got me back into the gym here in Lewes and gave me the confidence to push back against illness and to get me going again.
For the last two years I have had a new trainer, Gyles Abbott, at Soulfit, http://wearesoulfit who has taken me back to fitness a second time after my recovery from a second illness, pulmonary embolism, when even walking up a hill was a struggle…now I can run up that hill.
My fitness has returned, or is returning, thanks to these three gentlemen and, yes, by a lot of personal effort. I have often felt down about health problems but I found that pushing back really helps. Exercise really does make you feel good about yourself.
Most of us usually discover pushups as a kind of school punishment, but, hey, they are a great form of exercise. You don’t need any equipment, just your body and a bit of will-power. I can vouch for the fact that doing them on a regular basis, why not every day, will really make you feel better. Honestly, if I can do them, so can you. Good luck!
Here’s the short movie I edited to show you how I did it.
I didn’t stop at 25 days – this morning, day 41, I am still going strong and hope to keep it going with new variations.
One last thing, if you don’t believe I did all 25 pushups on those 25 days, the full film is available on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-hFwwf5QDc