Some kids filled their high school days with booze, sex and general dissipation. I, by contrast, spent my time with food, sports, church and very specific dissipation. For example, once before a race at a regatta (I did crew), my friend Isaac and I decided to eat as many orange halves as we could... but in a particular way. Bite down lightly on the fruit at the peel line, press the fruit hard against our teeth and then suck all the juice out until we had no more breath. Then repeat. Meanwhile, by the way, we were sitting atop a boat trailer, legs a'dangling and orange juice a'dripping. I don't remember who won that contest, but I do think we won the race.
Then there was the time Isaac and I had a water drinking contest. Glass after glass after glass of water from his fridge, and one hour later, until we were writhing and squealing and laughing in his garage. (The pain of laughing at each other in pain made for a nasty little spiral effect.) A year later, this time with precisely measured refills, and two more classmates to join us, we did it again. Bharat made it to a 1/4 gallon (2 lbs.) before stopping. Matt made it to half a gallon before vomiting in the tolet and emerging with what I can only describe as a beatific mien. Isaac and I, the true Hydrolympians, made it to one full gallon of water in about 45 minutes. In both events, our final and just reward was spending the whole night either standing over the toilet to percolate, or walking back and forth from it, or thinking about it between vain attempts at sleep. Hurrah to youth well spent!
Then there was the time I, Matt and Isaac planned to do 200 pushups a night. Not non-stop; but we had to keep our hands and feet on the floor. Eventually we made it doing 100 straight and then fighting our way up in decreasing bursts.
And then we graduated and 8 years passed. I find my self in Taiwan. Isaac is in Florida studying agronomy. Matt is in the same state working. Craig (who was our stroke my junior and senior year of crew, and every bit a part of our fitness mania) is in Vermont getting a PhD in biology. For the past few months, I've been getting back into fitness via a number of martial arts, self-defense materials and nutrition books. But how about the other guys?
And then it hit me.
We form a pact again.
The goal: be doing 200 hundred pushups a day (or night) by June 1. (CORRECTION: This is the primary goal, but along with it I aim to be doing three sets of 20 solid, technically sound pull-ups -- not chin-ups! -- by the same time.)
So far I've only heard from Craig: "If ever there was a need for an intervention for Elliot, now is the time. ... I'm in."
I've decided to keep y'all posted on this little mania, not only because such enhances one's "theletic stamina", but also because, shoot, it might be fun for you to watch.
I came upon the idea last Saturday night over dinner, being nostalgic of course, and within hours I had sent the emails. That very night I did 100 pushups, albeit only 50 straight, followed by a series of, as I say, decreasing bursts. Sunday was the Lord's Day, so I took a rest. Monday I did another 100, this time only doing 40 straight and then fighting my way all the way up. Tuesday I was exhausted and rather inadvertently fell asleep on my floor for a stunning 10 hours of sleep.
Tonight, however, I got back on the horse. 60 straight, followed by 41 more in bursts. Then I went out for a bowl of "fruit ice" (a real Taiwan delight, a large bowl of shaved ice with a heap of fresh fruit and syrup on top), came back home and did 40 more straight.
Once this goal -- which I might add is meant to be a short term pact to maintain a long term practice -- is accomplished, the next target is to use the infamous exercise wheel from standing (not from kneeling) and to do X number of handstand pushups (hard as tungsten, I tell you!). As a sort of water marker, and as a sort of check on any hubristic illusions I may ever dare to entertain, I commit you to the truly awesome Ross Enamait. (Not that this beastly young chap is anything to sneeze at either!)
There is one final twist that makes this little saga more intriguing, for me at least.
A couple weeks ago I was in the shoe store to buy some light, thin shoes for taiji practice. The clerk showed me Nike's specially made gong fu shoes, which I bought. In the same trip, I purchased a gyroscopic wrist exerciser (not this brand, but similar, and much cheaper) and have enjoyed it ever since. Well, that is, until I showed it to my taiji coach.
When he saw it, he seemed nonplussed. "Does this make your wrist use force?" he asked.
"Well, yes," I asked, now on uncertain ground. Is force bad?
"Oh, you can't use this," he replied immediately. "Taiji is all about being relaxed," he continued.
"Oh, I see," I muttered, though I really didn't see. "Well, what about pull-ups?" I asked, mindful of my fitness pact with old friends.
"Oh that you must completely not do," he replied just as promptly. "That kind of exercise makes you too tense, too forceful. In taiji, the looser, the better."
"Uh, right, well what about pushups?" I asked, now putting my throat to the blade.
"No way," he said.
So I've hit an ideological wall. In taiji, force is, allegedly, bad. But in my own fitness interests, force is a necessity. Suffice to say I am politely ignoring my coach's warnings at least until June 1. I'm inclined to see a "higher synthesis" in taiji's dualist Daoist roots. Why not make my fitness regimen the yang to the yin of my taiji? Hurrah to slipshod syncretistic fitness!
[May 6 100, May 7 N/A, May 8 100, May 9 N/A, May 10 101 + 40....]