7 Lessons From the 10,000 Pushup Challenge

by Adam Kreitman

10,000 push-ups.

Sounds like A LOT of freakin’ push-ups, doesn’t it?!

Sounded like a lot to me too when I first heard about an acquaintance, Brian, who shared his experience of doing a 10,000 Push-up Challenge… knocking out 10,000 push-ups within a year.

When Brian started his Challenge he hadn’t done a push-up in years, was horribly out of shape and had serious shoulder issues. After consulting with a physical therapist on technique so he wouldn’t damage his shoulders even more, he set out on his goal of completing 10,000 push-ups.

The Challenge turned out to be a HUGE success for Brian. A few months in his shoulders were perfectly healed and he went on to knock out all 10,000 in about 10 months.

But that’s not the end of his story…

With his newfound upper body strength and pain-free shoulders, he has now taken up a new hobby – rock climbing – which he’d never been able to pull off before the Challenge and he is more active now than he’s been in years.

After hearing his story, something about the 10K Push-up Challenge intrigued me and I thought I’d do it too.

I mentioned this idea to my 12 year old and, to my surprise and delight, she thought it was a great idea and wanted to do it with me.

So on February 8, 2015 we set up a spreadsheet in Google Docs to track our progress and started our Challenge.

And on September 23, 2015 – a little over 7 months later – we reached our goal of 10,000 push-ups!

Here are some of the lessons learned along the way that are just as applicable to business as they are to our Challenge…

1. Break big goals down into smaller parts

When I mention doing 10,000 push-ups to people the response was almost universal. Their eyes would go wide, they’d give out a little chuckle and say something along the lines of “That’s a lot of push-ups. Good luck to you on that one!”

And, yes, 10,000 does sound like a lot of push-ups… until you break it down into smaller units.

To knock out 10,000 push-ups in a year, you need to average about 30 a day. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

You can even break things down further and think of it as doing 3 sets of 10 push-ups each day. Surely you can fit 10 push-ups in just after you get out of bed in the morning, in between responding to emails, after putting the kids to bed?

When you break it down like that 30 a day starts to sound pretty easy. And, at least for us, it was pretty easy in practice too so a few months into the Challenge we decided to shoot for 50 a day. We continued at that pace for the duration which is why we finished 138 days before our 1 year deadline!

2. All motivation is not created equal

Say you’re in a jungle and a tiger is chasing you. What are going to do? Yeah… run like hell! Your motivation here is survival and getting away from the tiger.

Now what happens as you (hopefully) put more distance between you and the tiger? Well, the further away you are, the less motivated you are to keep running.

This scenario is an example of push motivation where your motivation comes from running AWAY from something. Trouble is, once that something is removed (or lessened), your motivation wanes.

Now let’s say you’re wandering around the desert and have no water. You’re parched and desperately need a drink. Off in the distance you see luxury hotel with water fountains, waterfalls, and a giant water cooler at the entrance just waiting for you!

What are you going to do here? Yeah… run like hell again!

But here’s the difference. In this case, the closer you get to your ultimate goal, the faster you run.

This is an example of pull motivation where you’re working TOWARDS something.

Our Push-up Challenge was based on pull motivation. The closer we got to our goal, the more excited we were and the more push-ups we wanted to do.

Pull motivation is generally more effective than push motivation because it’s much better to be working toward your goal than running away from something (fear, avoiding pain, etc.).

What’s motivating you?

3. Having specific, measurable goals and a deadline

This shouldn’t be a new concept to anyone yet we so often fall into the trap of setting soft, mushy goals.

A big part of the reason we succeeded with our Challenge was because we had a specific number of push-ups we were working toward and a specific deadline to do them by. (Now the deadline was one we ended up obliterating so may have not been ambitious enough, but it was a deadline nonetheless.)

I’d tried to start exercise programs in the past but never stuck with them. Part of the reason this one was a success is because nothing focuses your attention quite like having a deadline to accomplish your specific, measurable goals by.

4. Get an accountability partner

I could not have a better accountability partner than my daughter. During the entire Challenge we were constantly celebrating our progress, encouraging one another and cheering each other on.

There were days I didn’t want to do any push-ups or thought about giving up completely. But as soon as I thought about her, quitting wasn’t an option.

Especially if you’re a solopreneur, things can be mighty lonely. If you don’t have someone who understands what you’re going through, can serve as a mentor/sounding board and hold you accountable… find one. It’s much harder to accomplish what you want to achieve when you’re doing it in isolation.

Having an accountability partner (or mastermind group) to keep you on task and motivated to keep moving toward your goals makes a HUGE difference.

5. Habits are hard to break

This is true of bad habits and good ones.

We’ve been doing push-ups pretty much on a daily basis for over 7 months. It now feels weird NOT to do push-ups at this point so, even though we met our challenge, we’re still doing our push-ups every day.

6. It sets the stage for you to accomplish bigger and better things

10,000 push-ups sounded like a really intimidating number when we first started. Now it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

In fact, we’re talking about doing another Challenge where we knock out 10,000 push-ups in half the time. And/or we may add in some other exercises like squats, sit ups, etc. to the mix.

When you accomplish something that was originally quite intimidating, it alters your perception of what you’re capable of.

The big, hairy, audacious goals you set for yourself today can seem like child’s play 6 months or a year from now. If you want to grow and accomplish bigger and better things in business and your personal life, setting and accomplishing bigger and better goals is how you get there. You might be surprised at what you can achieve.

7. The ultimate payoff might not be what you expect.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure what I thought the payoff from the 10K Push-up Challenge would be. Partly it just sounded cool. Partly I thought it would get me exercising regularly.

And, if I’m honest, I guess I did have thoughts of an Adonis-like physique by the end of it. (While my arm muscles have gotten a bit bigger, for a skinny guy like me the effect is kind of like tying a knot in a fishing line!)

But in the end, the biggest thrill of it all for me was going through it with my daughter. Seeing the pride, joy and excitement on her face was the best payoff I could ask for.

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