Push Yourself Up!


To be on the team, you have to perform twenty pushups. There’s no getting around that requirement because if you can’t do twenty pushups you won’t have the strength to help the team. You’d be a burden on your teammates. You’d be unwanted.

So twenty pushups it is, no exceptions. Plus eight pullups, running a mile in seven minutes or less, and scoring at least eighteen out of twenty on the team aptitude exam.

Running, pullups, exam-taking—all easy. But pushups: I can only do fifteen. I’ve tried and tried. I do pushups in the morning, pushups in the afternoon, pushups in the evening. I can never get past fifteen. Sometimes I can only do twelve. At night sometimes only seven.

I really, really need to be on the team. The team is everything. Without the team, I will have nothing. I will be nobody.

Tryouts are in three weeks.

I hire a pushup coach. Don’t do your maximum number every time, coach says. Do five sets of five. Do four sets of eight. Six sets of ten. Then do as many as you can only every third day.

I follow the instructions from my coach, but I’m still stuck at fifteen. I lower myself for pushup number sixteen, and coach calls, “Push yourself up!” But I collapse.

I hire a different pushup coach. Coach says no more pushups. Focus on complementary exercises, he says. One arm rows and pull downs and bench presses and shoulder lifts. Every day I do the complementary exercises, then try pushups at the end of the week. Still I can do only fifteen pushups.

I’ll never do twenty pushups. It’s too hard. I’m not good enough. I won’t be on the team. Everyone else will be on the team and I won’t be on the team.

I hire a meditative pushup consultant who says to close my eyes and visualize myself doing twenty pushups, counting each one. Sure, in my mind I can do twenty, but my body is stuck on fifteen.

I stop trying. I stop doing anything at all. For three days I do nothing, absolutely nothing. I sit around and feel awful: shame and disappointment and failure. I used to think about pushups all the time, that’s how badly I wanted to be on the team. Now, not so much. I don’t think about pushups because I no longer care about being on the team. The hell with the team. Who needs the team?

And yet, even though I’ve abandoned the idea of being on the team, I start thinking about pushups again. Just a little bit. I can’t help it. I kind of miss them. They were a significant part of my life goals and challenges, back then.

In fact, I can’t stop thinking about pushups. Suddenly, it’s all I can think about. So I do some, even though I’ve stopped trying. To my surprise, I do eighteen.

There’s four days until the test. I’m not sure what to do. I’ll do nothing.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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