Years ago I dropped one of my AirPods onto a train track. After the train passed, I stupidly jumped down to fetch it, not realizing how far down the track was relative to the platform. To get back to the platform, I had to pull myself up. It quickly became apparent that I could not do it. Fortunately two people on the platform were able to give me a hand before an ensuing train came along.
While I could make excuses for my failure, like the inability to get a good grip on the platform edge, the harsh reality is that I could not carry my own weight.
The pull-up has been a nemesis most of my life. While rattling off push ups or sit ups to qualify for the presidential fitness award in school were a relative breeze, the pull-up was an altogether different matter and a source of embarrassment in school.
Recently my middle daughter had her own pull-up challenge. In order to be eligible to play up a grade from 8th Grade modified to Junior Varsity soccer, she had to pass a series of tests. While she aced most, the pull-up proved her downfall. Two were required, she completed only one. Her disappointment was palpable
She would have the opportunity to try again a few months later.
In the interim, I offered to train with her – explaining my own struggles with pull-ups. We found a few online routines that we could complete either in our gym with equipment or that she could do on her own while she was in camp or on vacation.
Every other day for two months we would go to the gym, doing lat pulldowns, bar hangs, reverse pull-ups, negative pull-ups etc.
For a while, it was unclear if any of it was making a difference.
Then one day, I heard her yell from her bedroom. I ran back to see her jump up on a bar in her loft bed and lift herself above it three times.
A few weeks later, just days before her test. I jumped up on the pull up bar in our gym to go through our regular set of negative pull-ups where you lower yourself slowly before releasing the bar. This time, however, rather than releasing I pulled myself back up. I did it several times more, lowering myself a little further each time. They were not perfect pull-ups by any stretch of the imagination. I surprised both myself and my daughter.
After a quick, “way to go Dad,” she reminded me that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her – which was certainly true. Her need was the inspiration for my want.
Her test day finally came and we were filled with pride when she texted, “I did it!!!” Her hard work had paid off.
The overwhelming majority of Americans can’t do a single pull-up. The idea of lifting yourself up is easier said than done. It undoubtedly takes hard work but the work can be made easier when provided with the proper support (in our case those online videos and an access to a gym) and having someone working with you who shares similar goals (in my case my daughter)
It also requires a degree of humility. It was embarrassing to admit to myself, my daughter or anyone reading this that I could not pull myself up. But it was a necessary first step towards actually being able to do it. Admitting we need help, seeking out support and guidance, finding someone to work with, working hard together consistently over time, is a pretty sound recipe for lifting yourself up – whether on a pull up bar, from a train track or any depth you might find yourself in.