On Second First Pullups

Less than a year ago, I did the first pullup of my life. It was a big deal for me, as it is for a great many people. Helping someone to get their very first pullup is a wonderful feeling. Even seeing the glow of dawning possibility on someone’s face when they try their first band-assisted pullup is spectacular.

I worked for a very long time on rings last year in my home, building strength to my first pullups. I worked my way through bands, and kips, and got to the point where I was doing unassisted kipping pullups on the rings. I made it up to 14 unassisted in a row, and aimed for 20. I was strong, thrilled, exultant!

Then I built a facility.

In this place, I contracted for the construction of pullup bars. Now I could do pullups with a dozen of my friends at the same time! So cool! I jumped up, grabbed hold… and realized that my muscles did not work. At least, not that way. My wrists hurt. My shoulders and arms wouldn’t fire. I didn’t understand. But then I realized: I had trained my arms and hands and body to rotate through the pull, adapting to the frictionless environment of the rings. Having a fixed bar completely changed the mechanics and dynamics.

Most people learn on the bar, and hate going to rings. They lose their power and speed, and struggle through ring pullups. I was learning that the reverse is also true. We really do adapt to the specific demands placed on our bodies. If we do not vary those demands constantly, we cannot truly achieve fitness across a broad spectrum of situations. Yes, I could pull myself up on rings… but I could not pull myself into a tree or into a window.

That hurt. It was discouraging to feel so weak, so incapable, after achieving so much! It was tempting for a moment to hide from it – to just do my pullups on the rings – to hide the fact that I lacked strength and capability in that way. And yet, that’s no way to honor myself or you. That is not the way we do things in CrossFit, and that’s not the example I want to offer to the world. That’s the moment in which it was most important for me to return to the beginning premise: LOVE YOURSELF, JT. This is how you are now. Accept it. Acknowledge it. Decide how you want to be going forward. Then start.

So, I started: December 14.

Today, I pounded out the workout of the day as prescribed next to Eric P at CFF: with pullups, on the bar, unassisted. 5 rounds of 5 pullups and 10 burpees. Not a huge workout, or a long one, and I had to break up the last 2 rounds of pullups because my arms were getting tired… and I got them all done.

Now I’ll work my way up to 20 in a row, and beyond. Why? Because I choose to be stronger tomorrow than I was today. Because I know how effective metabolically it is to haul my body mass up and down by the arms at high speed. Because I refuse to hide from my self and my present reality. Because I choose instead to love, to acknowledge, to accept, and to change.

This is the same choice I see in the other members of CrossFit Fenway every day. I am honored and humbled and reminded that I am at least capable of doing the same. Thanks!

3 thoughts on “On Second First Pullups”

  1. Great note JT, that’s exactly how I feel. Have to start somewhere. I’m at the beginning of my journey, but I acknowledge the shape that I am in and choose to change for the better. Excited to be part of crossfit Fenway.

  2. I’m still working on my first pullups. I can do a deadhang from a slight arm bend, but not from fully extended arms. I’ll get there though!

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