From the Archives: Props for the Lowly Pushup

[First published March 11, 2008]

Man, it’s tough to write about running when one isn’t actually, you know, running.

I started one essay about the awkwardness I still feel when I go to “work out” in a fitness center. Had I been working at an old-fashioned typewriter, I would have been ripping the sheets of paper from the machine, crumpling them into little balls, and filling a wastebasket with misbegotten early drafts.

The problem was, I was dwelling too much on what I was missing, and I finally gave up that essay as a bad idea.

In a slightly more positive vein, here’s an old post from the archives, inspired by an article that ran in the New York Times (and the link still works!).


They are the unofficial symbol of junior high gym classes, presidential fitness tests, military basic training, and the rigors of going out for just about any athletic team at any time in your life. They are a symbol of vigor, of submission to authority, of determination. they are push-ups, and love ’em or hate ’em, you’ve got to admit that they have played and continue to play an important role in athletic culture…

…NO TALKING IN THE BACK THERE! DROP AND GIVE ME 20!!

Today’s New York Times has a nice article re-evaluating the lowly push-up: An Enduring Measure of Fitness (March 11).

I have fond memories of the 2001 Newton North XC team that seemed to have a particular love of push-ups (and sit-ups). At the start of the season, every practice began with a stretching routine that was followed by “20-20” (20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups). By the middle of the season, it was “50-50”, and I seem to remember the captains exhorting the team to do “75-75” at one point.

For what it’s worth, I find push-ups and other body-weight exercises to be an important part of my training, keeping the body strong enough to maintain decent posture during fast running. I had a revelation a few years back when I realized that push-ups were as much about abdominal strength as arm/chest strength. Now I try to start every day with a series of exercises — including push-ups — before I ever take my first running step of the day.

Anyway, the article makes some good points about how using push-ups to maintain strength as one ages (push-ups, it turns out, are useful for maintaining the strength to fall properly). While we don’t expect to see all the folks at the senior center doing push-ups, maybe it’s not such a crazy idea.

About Jon Waldron

Running and Racing have been important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I ran Track and Cross Country at Amherst HS, back in the day, and am proud to have been training and competing with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) for more than thirty years. If my bones hold out, I hope to continue for another thirty. Sixteen years ago, I began coaching, first as an Asst. Coach at Newton North HS in Newton, MA, and for the past ten years, as Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. I've been writing about running for almost as long as I've been running, dating back to high school, when I would write meet summaries for the Amherst Record for about $0.33 per column inch. I've been blogging about running since 2005, and began blogging at "the runner eclectic" in 2014. Until recently I also had a day job, working full-time as a Technical Product Manager for Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA. But I am now on what might turn out to be a permanent sabbatical. Thank you for reading my blog, and please consider leaving a comment.
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