Friday, January 27, 2012

Early 2012 Fitness

I'm not the New Year's resolutions type. Not because I don't think I need to change anything about my life, but because I have never once had any success with the idea. In my experience all major changes come about slowly. One tiny, itty bitty step in the right direction followed by many more tiny, itty bitty steps equals change. So for me, while it would be great if I could say to myself, "I'm going to get super fit this year," it is too much. A year is too long. The goal too abstract. I find it much more effective to break things into smaller pieces.

But for the moment I do have a fitness goal, and I am hoping it is something I can achieve within four to six weeks. The goal is both simple and huge. I want to be able to do a pull-up.

In many programs that work towards a combination if all-around fitness, strength, and health, the pull-up is the barometer. If you are physically capable of pulling your own body weight up to a bar, that means you are not over-weight and you have a good amount of lean muscle.

Currently, I can do what I call a 3/4 chin-up, meaning I can pull myself up to a bar when I start with my elbows open at about a 135° angle and my palms facing my body.

A real pull-up is when you start with your arms straight and your palms facing away from your body. This is much, much more difficult, both because the lower part of the pull is harder and the rotation of the hands engages a different set of muscles. The chin-up is a useful stepping stone to get to the pull-up.

I started using the pull-up bar as part of my workout rotation about 7 months ago, and at that point I could only manage a 10-second flexed-arm hang. So I've already seen a lot of improvement. To build myself from where I am now to where I want to be, I'm going to mostly be doing negatives, which means pulling myself up to the bar from about half way and then lowering myself the whole way down in a slow, controlled manner. That's pretty hard for me at this point, but five days into my pull-up program it's already getting easier.

Here I am (our pull-up bar is in a closet), lowering myself down:

I apparently look very serious when working on pull-ups and use my left arm at a strange angle.

As I'm currently at a healthy weight and fairly strong, I think a pull-up is totally achievable. I just don't know how long it will take. So I'm going to work at it every day until I get one, then keep at it until I can get a handful of good ones in a row. Then I'll find some other short-term fitness goal to focus on for a while.

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