Push ups. They have always been my enemy. They were a requirement of the antiquated physical education program at my middle and high school, a requirement that I always failed. I never understood why testing upper body strength was paramount in being able to assess my physical fitness. I played soccer, field hockey, basketball, and volleyball at one point and had good cardiovascular stamina, but our gym teacher looked down on those of us who couldn’t do a set of push ups. This was the same phys ed program where I witnessed a teacher pull out the old caliper tool to measure a student’s body fat, so really, why was I surprised that they would shame us for not being able to do a push up.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Josh Treadwell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ten years later, I still can’t do a push up, but this time – I want to. I began my journey towards better physical fitness January of this year, and was routinely either running, or doing the 21 day fix every day, sometimes both. I felt my muscles get bigger and noticed my increased strength made everyday tasks easier and more fun. I actually wanted to climb things and run through a field just for fun. I had more energy and overall was happier. In August of this year I tried a push up on a whim. It was shaky, but I managed to lower myself down and barely raise my body back up before I collapsed. I was shocked that I had just (kinda) done a push up! Well not long after that I quit my job, took a couple of weeks off to visit my parents back home in Nelson, and take a birthday vacation to Seattle. After that, school started, and my focus on fitness has not been the same.
After taking 6 weeks off workouts to focus on school I have noticed some negative side effects of not having exercise incorporated into my daily routine. I have less energy, and seem to be exhausted from just mental activity alone. My muscle mass and strength has reduced slightly already, and I can notice it in everyday activities. I no longer have an outlet for my anxiety, which has been exacerbated by being back at school. My body seems to miss the endorphin rush, as I used to work out in the morning, and I now experience difficulty with mental fogginess and a lack of clarity in the morning. This is why for my passion project I want to focus on being able to complete a set of ten push ups. To be able to achieve this goal, I will be researching the muscles and muscle groups that work together to complete a push up, what exercises can I do that will target those muscles and strengthen them, what effects nutrition and hydration play in muscle development and quality, and how physical education can have a positive effect on our quality of life. While my goal is to do a set of ten push ups, the positive effects of incorporating exercise back into my life will be more than the just satisfaction of being able to accomplish my goal. I am hoping that I will also be less stressed, have more energy, and get rid of my mental fog.
When I was in high school, teachers didn’t make it clear to anyone why any of these physical education requirements were necessary. It seemed so arbitrary to assess us on how well we could complete the beep test, climb a rope, or do a push or pull up. Now that I’m older, I see the benefits of doing physical activities that YOU enjoy, and how physical fitness can improve your overall well-being. That is why this passion project is so important to me. I want to be able to emphasize to students how physical education can benefit them in their everyday lives, so I can help them discover what they’re passionate about. I hope that through exploring my personal fitness goal in this passion project, I’ll be able apply what I’ve learned to teach physical education in a relevant, self-directed way.