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Pull-Up Despair: A Life Lesson

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For 5 months I’ve been working hard to achieve a goal that I’ve had almost my entire life. I want to do a strict pull-up. I want to hang from a bar and pull myself up over the top of it. Not a lot to ask, right?

So in February, I started a pull-up training program designed by my coach, Tommy Carter at CrossFit Immortal. I printed out the 3-day-a-week plan and teamed up with a friend, AG, who also aspired to pull herself up. We committed to it. We’d stay after class, meet up during Open Gym time on Sundays to work.

I’ve completed the 4-week program about 4 times now. At first, I’d hang from the bar and not really move. When “assisted pullups” were prescribed I needed the springing power of the thickest band or both of my feet pressing hard into a spotter, who basically had to lift me up over the bar. Five months later, I’m using only the lightest band and I can put just the smallest bit of weight on my spotter’s hips as I pull up. The progress is undeniable.

Every time we get together to do the program we start with one unassisted pull-up to check on our progress. Well, on Sunday, AG did it: she hung from the bar and pulled herself right up over the top. As she approached the top I started screaming and clapping like a lunatic. To say I was happy is an understatement. I was thrilled. And then it was my turn. I hung from the bar and pulled myself all the way… to about my forehead. Even if my life had depended on it I could not get over that bar. Oh well, I said, and I continued my work. But when I got home later, I cried. Pride, disappointment, anger, impatience. I want to do a pull-up!! I have been working hard, too! Where’s MY pull-up?

I was still emotional about it the following day, and now my back was feeling sore due to another lingering weakness that I struggle to overcome – my overhead pressing position/mobility/strength situation. I felt sorry for myself about my pull-ups and about my push jerks and now I was feeling ashamed of my mental state, too. I’m a can-doer! I stay positive and work hard. Why am I letting all of this get to me?! I had tears in my eyes as Coach Tommy gave me a pep talk (along with some new overhead positioning stretches).

When I got home I learned that my 11yo, N, had been cut from the travel soccer team. He just hadn’t shown himself to be a strong enough player at the 2-day tryout. His best buddies made the team and he did not. My heart broke as I listened to JR breaking the news and heard the raw emotion in N’s voice.

It’s a life lesson, JR and I told ourselves to ease the pain we felt on his behalf. Sometimes you work hard but it just doesn’t happen for you, we told him. You can try again next year. We’re proud that you always showed up and gave it your best. Keep your chin up. Don’t dwell on past let-downs, just make a new plan for the future.

Um, hello?! I expect and hope that this small person-in-training can pick himself up after a setback, dust off his bruised ego, and step back out into life and try again. Well, I’m a grown woman and I better do the same thing.

So, here’s where I am today: No more stupid pull-up tears. No more feeling sorry for myself. You have to work REALLY hard to achieve some of your goals in life. And the thing is, I want “really hard” to mean 3 times a week for 5 months. But maybe it means 3 times a week for 6 months. Or for 9 months. Or however long it takes. And you know how long it will take if I give up? FOREVER. You know how long it will take if I bitch and moan instead of staying positive? Well, um, it may take the same amount of time but man, that time is going to be unpleasant.

So, I took a 48-hr break from mental fortitude but that’s over now. AG, ever the supportive friend, sent me this motivational text when she checked in to confirm our date for more pull-up work later today:


It pumped me right up. That’s more like it!  Pull-ups, I’m coming for you.


About a month after this post, I hung from a bar and pulled myself right over the top. And then I burst into tears like a little girl. πŸ™‚

In the weeks since, I have worked my way up to 2 pull-ups at a time.  AG can now do 3! We continue to stay after class and do extra work on Sundays. Next up: kipping pull-ups!  


6 responses »

  1. Angela Nannariello

    Awesome read – loved it!!! Working hard always pays off – it’s just a matter of time – and it will happen – real soon : )

  2. Don’t you worry; they’re comin’ – keep your chin up, my friend ;-).

  3. Nice job Amy…you reminded yourself on what a good parent you are!

  4. Pingback: On Being 40 | Fresh Squeezed Mom

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