Birthdays and Yardsticks

47 Push-ups

It’s my birthday today. I’m 47, and as one of my good friends pointed out in a Facebook post last night, 47 is officially ‘middle aged’. Jeez… today I am middle aged! How on earth did that happen??? I don’t feel middle aged. Actually I don’t feel any different than I did at about 28!

When I turned 40 (and a the time, that was the biggest, scariest milestone birthday I could conceive of), I decided that I was going to set myself an annual physical goal on my birthday. That year, I was determined to be able to do 10 full push-ups on my birthday (no knees!!).  I was reasonably fit, and with a bit of training in the weeks leading up to my birthday, I blitzed it, doing 15 before my arms and shoulders gave way. Pretty pleased with myself, I decided that I’d match that figure every year on the 27th of August. It was my way of checking in on myself, and ensuring that I was keeping fit and strong.

A couple of years after that, I was at the gym on my birthday and getting ready to do my 15 push ups and realized that I could do better than that. Why do just 15? Why not set myself a more ambitious goal? Sure I was a year older, but I certainly wasn’t decrepit! So that year I set myself the goal of matching the number of push-ups to the age I was turning. 15 push-ups suddenly became 43!

I love this goal. More than 40 full push-ups is a really big number. It’s a challenge. It can’t be done without maintaining my strength training and fitness. It’s an achievement that I can be proud of.

So today after I smashed a spin class, I got down and did 47 push-ups. All on my toes, in sets of 10, with a 5 second break between sets.  It wasn’t easy, and I admit that those last 2 push-ups were a struggle, but I did it! Yay me!!!!

I use my annual push-up challenge as a yardstick to gauge how I’m performing physically.  This simple challenge keeps me motivated and on track with my big-picture training in a very simple way.  I could of course add in a raft of additional annual physical yardsticks. Things like being able to run 5kms in under 30 minutes, or squat 100kgs – but I like that I’m keeping things simple. It works for me as this one challenge has a flow on effect into my fitness generally, and I know that I’m on track. I also like that I’m making the challenge just a little bit more of a stretch each year. I’m not matching my results from last year, but improving on them.

I do recognise that at some point my body might say enough! I may not be up to doing 70 push-ups when that time comes, and I’ll acknowledge it, and adjust my goal accordingly (70 on my knees perhaps 🙂 ). But in the meantime, I’ll keep doing my birthday challenge, and enjoy feeling strong, and fit and 47 (or 48, 49, 50…) – and definitely NOT middle aged.

  • Do you have something (physical or not) that you use as a yardstick to track your progress and keep you on track?
  • Do you have an annual birthday challenge?
  • Do you consider 47 middle aged?