Weight Loss Chronicles: Mastering the Push-Up

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert John S. Bell.

After laying out my very ambitious exercise routines last week I found that this week everything has gone out the window. Why? I blame sheep and an upper left molar. And what, you may ask, do teeth and livestock have to do with weight loss and fitness? Well, I spent an hour in the endodontist's chair last week and an hour and a half this week having a root canal re-done. It was not an experience conducive to intense physical activity, either before, during or after the procedure. As for the sheep situation, we have spent the last two weekends shearing the flock and getting the farm ready for summer. In past years I have pushed the heavy lifting off on our two teenage sons. This year, our older son is off in the wide world spreading his wings and the younger son is doing his heavy lifting after school and weekends at the local farm supply store. So I found myself grappling with large recalcitrant animals frantically trying to avoid a full body haircut without my usual back-up. The good news is that I could actually do it. The bad news is that doing it left me bruised and exhausted for the next couple of days. So, while I haven't spent much time at the gym, I haven't been completely lazy.

While I will indeed get back to the routine down at the gym, I have also been looking at ways to shift some of the resistance training to things I can do at home. Since I already pay for a gym membership I don't see the sense in going out and buying a lot of equipment. Fortunately, there are a lot of body weight exercises out there. I have started with just one; the push-up. I have always hated push-ups and until last week had not willingly performed one since high school. (Richard Nixon was President when I was in high school if you want to do the numbers.) But my workout experience has shown me that I need some serious remedial work on upper body strength and the humble push-up fills the bill as well as any exercise, with the added virtue of no equipment needed besides a piece of carpet to collapse on. Even the New York Times is on the push-up bandwagon.

Now, how does a guy who has spent the better part of forty years avoiding a particular exercise set out to master it? I went to this site: onehundredpushups.com. The author lays out a gradual program to work yourself up from couch potato to push-up master in six weeks. Specifically, he lays out a series of graduated workouts with the goal of getting you in shape to complete one hundred push-ups. Now, since I started out being able to do five, this is quite a goal. (Yes, five. It's embarrassing. I told you I needed upper body work.) I am now on week two and have actually seen progress. I don't expect to hit one hundred in the next five weeks, but I think a more realistic goal will be to do fifty-five by my fifty-fifth birthday which will be around that time. If I make it, I might even buy the book to say thank you.

Now, if I miss the gym for reasons good or bad, I still have some serious exercise in the schedule. I will report next week on how the program is going. Push-ups, farm work and light summer salads seem to be helping even without heavy gym time. Today's weigh-in was 170.8, getting closer to my goal of 165.