Since injuring my arm last summer and working with a great physical therapist, I’ve focused a lot on building strength not just in my upper body but also in my knees and core muscles. Early on when I was still in a lot of pain and could barely open a bottle of seltzer, it was very frustrating trying to do the various exercises at home. However, as the bone healed and the muscles began to calm down, I began to get excited by how much progress I was making. Even little things like being able to accomplish a forearm side-plank was enough to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Who am I kidding? It still makes me extremely proud when I reach another milestone.

Today I did the first real pushup I’ve done in over six months. Yes, it was just one, but if I had tried to do that over the summer, my arms would have been screaming at me in that wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night sort of way. I still need to be careful, but it’s so nice to finally be able to do things like, you know, use a basket at the grocery store or pick up a full tea kettle. 

Chris was hanging with me while I did all my stretches today, asking about which muscle groups they work and whatnot, so he was there to witness my nerdy “Holy sh*t, I can do a pushup!” moment.

“It’s not like I need to be able to do pushups to be, like, complete or something,” I said, “but it’s encouraging to see yourself making progress.”

He said, “Everyone should be able to do at least one pushup.”

Though some might think that sounds a little bit “drill sergeant—esque,” I actually agree with him. Obviously, there are exceptions, but being able to support your own body weight is a pretty good measure of what kind of shape you’re in, much better than simply a number on a scale.

I’ve worked with a number of obese individuals, and there have been quite a few who were so weak and/or so heavy that they could not support their own body weight and needed a wheelchair to get around. Additionally, though I haven’t worked with anyone who’s been in this particular situation, I’ve read about people falling down and being unable to get up because of their size. How scary is that? I’m not saying everybody should be super-skinny, but being strong is important, and we owe it to ourselves to do what we can to build and maintain strength.

Speaking of drill sergeants, as reported in USA Today, Michelle Obama visited the Army training post to see what Gen. Mark Hertling, who is in charge of the Army’s training programs for recruits and has ordered overhauls of the fitness and diet programs, has been up to. The First Lady sees the US Army health initiative as a good model for fitness and health. When you consider that 15% of 17- to 24-year-olds are are too overweight to qualify and that in 2010, 59% of female recruits and 47% of male recruits failed the entry-level physical fitness test (only 20% failed in 2000) and that these are the folks supposedly defending Americans (whatever that means), I’d say they’ve got their work cut out for them.

I’m curious to hear whether these initiatives lead to positive results. Perhaps schools could learn something from the renewed emphasis on “building personal responsibility for their health and performance.”

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