One Hundred Men's Pushups

Julia Hubbel, Walkabout Saga, Horizon Huntress

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Yep. My birthday gift to myself.

As I walked into my gym, I caught the eye of a regular. I gestured at him, and when he walked over I asked him to count for me. It was January 17th 2020, my 67th birthday. He grinned. He knew what I planned.

I punched them out at speed in bunches of twenty.

When I got to one hundred, my face bright red, I leapt up and we high-fived. Damn man.

Not bad for an old lady.

I went to work on the weights. Just another day in the life.

I'm ex-military. Back when I joined, the drill sergeants at Fort Jackson South Carolina barked at us new recruits daily. We weren't asked to do men's pushups. Just the weenie girl's version, which allows you to do them on your knees. You don't get near the strength, but they're a start.

I'm a farm girl, born and raised. I love hard labor, I love a challenge, and I know the value of a strong body. By the time I was ten I was hefting hundred pound sacks of sweet feed into a barrel almost as tall as I was. Funny thing about work that has to be done. You find ways to do it, and along the way the body simply gets stronger.

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I learned to do men's pushups. I'd been working steadily, doing more and more, until I set myself the goal of throwing down one hundred on my birthday.

Look. My form sucks, no doubt about it. Some years ago a trainer jerked my left arm nearly out of the socket while I was balancing on a Bosu ball and in the process ripped a muscle close to the scapula. I didn't know the seriousness of the damage. The torn muscle atrophied, and ever since then I've never quite been able to do a perfect pushup.

But I give a rat's patootie about style points. I want strength. Functional strength, not impressive size or perfection.

I've lifted for 47 years in 2021. Never competed. That's not my thing. I don't want intimidating size. As an adventure athlete at this age, the last thing I need is a top-heavy body that can tip over while a horse is bucking. Trying to pull that much more weight back up if you're off balance is brutal. I've had to do it. I want sheer power, the kind of push-pull that can save my life.

Just this past February that very thing happened. I was riding an unfamiliar horse in Tanzania, when we were under a tree taking a break. My horse and the guide's horse got into a nasty kicking match. I was thrown forward instantly onto my horse's neck and was falling off. I clasped my hands around her neck and pulled myself up, half on and half off, while flying hooves battled inches away from my body. When one of the other riders was able to the guide's horse out of range, I hauled myself back up. It was easy. It should be easy. It better be easy if you want to do the sports and adventures I do all over the world.

I was thrown from a galloping horse in Kazakhstan and broke my back in eight places Tony Romo-style. In 2015, I managed a tip-overteakettle down 16 concrete steps in Iceland, smashing my pelvis in two places, breaking my left arm and wrist and cracking my head. Both times I got right back up and got myself to safety.

I was well past sixty in both of those instances. You do NOT get that by focusing only on getting HUGE. While I completely support my fellow meatheads on their journeys to stage dominance, that's not my thing. I train for life, for strength, endurance, and to be able to drag my aging arse out of serious trouble, as it has a way of finding me in very remote places.

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The author at the private hospital in Cappadocia, Turkey, after a horse kicked in ribs, teeth, stomped a shoulder, and generally messed up her day. Julia Hubbel 2017 Yep. Still standing.

This year I had lots of injuries. It's been a challenge to train, not just because my gyms are closed. You can't always train hurt. You can train around hurt, but sometimes that means muscles will go dormant, shrink a bit until called back to duty.

A few weeks ago I started pushups again. Twenty at a time. In that magnificent way that the body's muscle memory hibernates, I was back up to double that in no time. Yesterday, sixty. I fully plan to be doing a hundred again by my 68th birthday.

But that's not about bragging rights. Just like the two pull up bars in the doorways of my house, the workout mats, the weights, the bars and all the work I do give me options as I age.

Age can strip us of our options, or we can fly in the face of conventional wisdom and do what it takes to stay in the game at a very high level. For me, that's setting the bar high. This year I might well go for more than a hundred. Honestly, why not?

I'll be writing a lot more on this, but please know: I've been obese. I know what that's like, I know how hard it is. I've been a five-pack-a-day smoker (yep) and I quit. I know how hard that is. I've won the battle of eating disorders after four decades. You read that right. Decades, not years. No twelve step program. Just did it. I know how hard that is. I get hard. I do. However, in my playbook, hard is the crucible against which I build my skills, my humor and my options.

This has nothing to do with bragging rights. This has everything to do with being strong, staying strong, aging vibrantly and ensuring that the world does not shrink simply because I'm going grey. Hardly. The world only shrinks if you and I shirk the responsibility for pushing our boundaries.

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Welcome home. You are HOME if you like irreverent, smart, funny, in-your-face writing. You are HOME if you like stories about interesting people of all ages, cultures, stripes, backgrounds, beliefs doing amazing things because they made different decisions. You are HOME if you wanna learn about aging vibrantly, being in the outdoors, getting and staying fit no matter our number. You are HOME if, on occasion, you like to laugh so hard you spew your drink of choice on your lap cat/dog/gerbil/centipede/soon-to-be ex. I work hard, ride fast horses, do lots of sports, fly high and still leap out of airplanes. Yeah, really, and I am 68. And yes I love, respect and appreciate feedback, including stuff that's hard. Because hard is the recipe for resilient. Wanna play? Let's. Please. Pull up a chair. There's room by the fire. In summer, there's room on the patio. (Okay so I don't have a patio. I made that up.)Get comfy. Bring a towel for your lap. Welcome home.

Eugene, OR
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