I have always been drawn to challenging people. You know, the kind of people that make you second guess your decisions. The kind of people that could be dry in telling you that what you want, or what you think, doesn’t really matter all that much to anyone but you. This is the kind of people I hang out with. So, it is no surprise that my best friend personifies this type of individual. He is not only a brilliant thinker, has a gorgeous fiancée, and happens to be in extremely good shape, but he’s also 10 years younger than me.
In one of our conversations, this guy, who is already in shape, tells me that he wants to do chin-ups to improve his, in my opinion, already fantastic fitness. This made me think – hell, now I really have to step up and improve mine. You have to understand, I have never been the athletic type. However, I wanted to be as self-conscious and disciplined as my young best friend.
Don’t you feel like making stupid bets sometimes? Like who’s going to be the first person to remember the name of a b-list actress without looking it up online? I love silly bets. So, I told my friend: In 9 months I will be doing 20 straight chin-ups – and that is going to be more than what you’re going to be doing at that time.
Now, if you could see the differences between us you would have thought that I was under the influence of heavy drugs when I said that.
I knew it was almost impossible but I would really fight for it. From that point on, chin-ups is all I could think about. I was only able to do 4 or 5 repetitions at the start! But I knew that my stubbornness (aka determination) would help me reach my goal. I didn’t follow any big workout plan or implement any dietary constraints. My only resolution was to just get to it. So, I started hitting the gym 5 times a week. My sessions were not long; just long enough to do something. My strategy was to force myself to go and leave after 20 minutes. That was it. Maximum time in the gym for the first month was 20 minutes.
Since I was working with my own body weight, every time I ate in excess, or drank heavily, or went out partying, I paid for it big time the next day in the gym. And just like that; without much effort and starting with only 20 minutes a day, I started to improve. I then joined group classes, which included Zumba and aerobics, where I was the only man. My eating habits also improved and I did lose some weight. It got to the point where I lost 3 sizes in pants and really increased my muscular mass. Colleagues and gym goers started to notice the change and started giving me advice on how to improve my workout. Yet, all I thought about was: must do more chin-ups. I was single minded. It was all about doing chin-ups every day. And life doesn’t slow down for anyone. I have a full-time job, kids, a girlfriend – a regular busy life, like anyone else. So, of course, there were days I couldn’t go. But I knew I would recover. Instead of beating myself over it, I just thought: more chin-ups.
At the end of the 9 months I was up to 22 straight chin-ups. My friend told me he couldn’t complete 20 straight. To this day, I’m still not sure whether my friend said he couldn’t because it was true, or if he was being nice and lied so that I could abandon my obsession. At the end of the day, all that matter is that I did it.
What came with it was wonderful. I started feeling better, my eating and drinking habits improved, and my mind was more relaxed. The downside is that I did have to spend some money rebuilding my wardrobe (fitness does have its price). It felt great. And having established the right habits meant that it was easy for me to continue, even after the bet was done. I continue going to the gym to this day. I enjoy the compliments from my girlfriend. I like having this sense of fulfillment. Ultimately, what I realized was: consistency and clear vision trump intensity. Intensity is something that happens afterwards. And it happens naturally, effortlessly, and without you having to feel like you need to bend your will power to the extreme.
I hope there’s something in this story for you. In an upcoming post, I will tell you about my motivators.