Last week, I was listening the The Satellite Sisters, my turn-to podcast when I want to be amused and vaguely informed and generally kept company while I nurse a toddler or wash some dishes, and they were discussing the push-up. Of the drop and give me twenty variety, not the frozen confection out of the back of a beat-up van playing the same tinny version of Turkey in the Straw a thousand times over.
Apparently, new studies (to which I offer no links, I'm not that sort of researched blogger) find some correlation between a person's ability to do push-ups and his/her general fitness level, especially as one ages. This makes sense, in a making broad assumptions sort of way, as we might assume that if you can do twenty push-ups somewhat easily, you're likely not a two pack a day smoker. I'm not sure if the relationship is symbiotic or coincidental, I am sure there are many exceptions, but I'll buy it. I might have my numbers a little off, but I'm recalling that studies indicate that a reasonably fit 40 year old woman should be able to do fifteen pushups. A similarly aged man, 27.
Now I don't purport myself to be super fit or anything. In fact, if I'm really telling it like it is, then I'll tell you that the truth is that I'm closing in on twenty pounds above where I was a year ago, and it's not extra muscle bulk I'm carrying, no. It's twenty pounds of a dang hard year, clinging to my middle like bad memories. I don't exercise as much as I did before. The one-two sucker punch of miscarriage complications slash fractured foot followed closely by the onset of one very wet winter did a number on me and my ability to move my body as much as I did before. I'm not athletic in the slightest. I'm the opposite of athletic and dislike sports of all kinds. But I do like being active and walking and hiking and bike riding. The only weight I lift is my thirty-five pound son.
Genetics didn't give me a dewy complexion or musical talent, just a stocky and stout stature with maybe a little bit of an extra inclination toward being muscley. So despite any dedicated effort on my part, I have a strong upper body. I mean, stronger than you might otherwise think. Or I thought it was pretty strong, anyway. Who knows what you think. I may have even had passing thoughts of pride, which confused my customary self-deprecating disposition, regarding my strong back and shoulders.
So when the youngest of the Sisters (but still, a decade or so ahead of me) declared her push-up test total at 16, I was challenged to try myself. I can't recall the last time I tried to do one. Not on the on-your-knees type, but a regular full on push-up. I had no reference for guessing how many I could do, but if a woman in her forties can do sixteen, me, with my strongish back and strong enough arms, well, I can do ten, right? Easy.
I managed a measly three. And my husband, who says that at his best he could pump out sixty-eight in two minutes, reminded me that to be "right" my arms must bend to ninety degree angles. So the three I barely did? Probably not even right. I'm pretty sure I didn't go down that low. Now, I have since seen websites that demonstrate a proper push-up starting prone and working up, one, back down, up, two. Like that. If I start flat and go up, and back down, flat, I can do lots, lots of independent push-ups. But hover with my nose near the floor and my arms at right angles? No freaking way.
So all this means what? That maybe I have some serious training to do before I quit my day job and join the women's bodybuilding circuit.
My new goal is to get to a point where I can do ten in a row. I'm practicing by holding plank exercises and doing half-pushups, where I focus on just the downward motion. We'll see what happens from there. I don't really aspire to the full on body wax, oiled skin and string bikini look, arms clasped above my head in flexing competition pose, but I do want to be just as strong as I can be. I'm not there yet.