Full disclosure: I cannot do a pull-up. Not one single, half-hearted, with a running start and a jump, legs swinging pull-up. And it is the most frustrating thing. Why? Because I’m trying. And I’m still not where I want to be.
It’s also okay. Why? Because I’m trying. And that’s what matters.
Some days it doesn’t feel like that’s enough. When my arms feel like jelly from the effort I’ve put into my upper body workout and my hands are blistered from gripping the pull-up bar and my abs are screaming from the exertion of trying and failing to pull my lanky, 6’, 180 lb. body up to a metal stick that I’m sure is about to rip from the ceiling despite assurances from professionals that it’s safely and solidly welded to the frame of the building, trying doesn’t feel like nearly enough. But, as long as it’s my best, it is.
A year ago I couldn’t jump up and hang from the bar. I’d leap up and my hands would smack the metal, but my upper body strength was so little that I couldn’t even grip the bar before falling. So instead of focusing on pull-ups, I focused on improving my upper body strength in general. I started doing body weight exercise, and wouldn’t you know it, six months later I still couldn’t do a pull-up. But...I could jump up and grab the bar.
Of course, I still wasn’t strong enough to dead hang. I’d leap up and grab the bar and then as my weight came down, gravity would try to rip my shoulders from their sockets and I would come crashing back down to the ground and the harsh reality that I still had a long way to go before I’d achieve my goal. So after eating my feelings, I increased my upper body workouts and added some additional core work. Three months later...still no pull-ups. But...I could jump up, grab the bar, and dead hang.
I could also do an assisted pull-up. I was still not where I needed to be, but I was making progress - all because I never stopped trying. If I’d let myself become defeated the first time I realized couldn’t do a pull-up, I would never have gained the strength to jump up and grab the bar. If I’d given up the second time I tried to do a pull-up, then I wouldn’t be strong enough to dead hang. If I’d given up the third or fourth or fifth time I tried, my push-ups/planks/sit-ups wouldn’t have improved. If I’d quit after the tenth or twentieth try, I wouldn’t be able to do an assisted pull-up. If I’d stopped trying the hundredth time, I would never have been able to do a flexed hang.
Some days, all we can see is what we can’t do or how far away we are from our goals. But if you stop trying you’ll never discover what you can do or see how far you’ve come since you started. So when you feel like you’re facing an impossible goal, don’t give up and don’t get in your head. Give it your best, every time, and never stop trying. I can’t do a pull-up yet, but I’ll let you know when I get there. What are some of the “impossible” goals you’re working toward now?