Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 10, 2013

Bringing back the push-up


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — From burning sit-ups to the humble push-ups, old-school fitness is cool again. These exercises may be old  — the American English term “push-up” was first used between 1905-1910 —  but they still hurt just the same. Regardless of the time, 1905 or 2013, they transform the human body, creating strength and muscle. I can remember the first time I attempted a push-up in junior high. My skinny arms couldn’t hold up my body weight. I switched to “girl push-ups,” otherwise known as push-ups on the knees. Then, I fell in love with other fitness routines, especially running, and push-ups didn’t seem important. Neither did pull-ups. I always admired the women in the gym who were able to do pull-ups. Too hard, I thought. I put old-fashioned exercises on the fitness back burner.



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Over the course of the last month, I have done more push-ups, modified pull-ups and sit-ups than I ever did in six years of PE class in the ’90s. After I visited the new CrossFit facility in Bluefield, Va., for a story, I was eager to take a class, just to see what all the craze was about. I had heard about CrossFit from many out-of-state friends and had read about the sport on the Internet. ESPN aired the CrossFit games on national television. And the fitness company Reebok signed a 10-year contract with the sport, cashing in on the popularity and current fitness trend. The entire fitness world seemed enchanted with CrossFit and I wanted to know why.

Why would anybody want to do multiples reps of push-ups, burpees and pull-ups? Well, I admit, it sounded painful, but kind of cool. CrossFit may be popular, but the basics are not new. The sport didn’t invent the pull-up; it simply brought it out of the fitness closet, along with a few other classic moves. Remember the jump rope? It isn’t just for the playground. There are dozens of different moments in CrossFit that are familiar. At the same time, there are just as many new skills and an expansive vocabulary as well. For every old-fashioned exercise, there is one that is new and challenging. I am still learning new words everyday. Those few classes have turned into a celebration of my one-month anniversary.



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I am getting stronger and having fun at the same time. But the biggest gain, so far, has been the trip down memory lane. I miss being an athlete. It was my identity for a long time. In high school, one of my favorite conditioning drills involved a wooden box. Coach set up multiple boxes on the court and we would sprint, then jump up on a box, then sprint and repeat the entire course. If you missed the box, the wood met your shin. It was one of my favorite drills — except when I missed the box. When I saw box jumps at CrossFit, I couldn’t hide my grin. It was like being 17 again. I have written about my memories with basketball, and how I replaced the sounds of a basketball hitting the hardwood with running. CrossFit hasn’t replaced anything; it has taken those fitness back burners and brought them to front. I used to be intimidated by PE class. I was never comfortable unless I was running or playing basketball. CrossFit has changed the way I look at intimidating exercises.



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Life’s triumphs mature with age. We focus on paying bills, finding love, raising kids and saving for retirement. There are no more game-winning shots or horrible PE classes at 2 p.m. Throughout my career at the BDT, I have always  been an advocate of fitness through my writing and conversations with my fellow co-workers. Before we were journalists, we were football players, cheerleaders, basketball players and little league baseball players. And the same goes for our readers. I believe those former years are still a part of all us. We see glimpses when we watch children at a little league games, cheer for our favorite teams or participate in a fitness class. We might not be as good as we used to be, but our bodies remember how to jump, push, pull and run. It just hurts more and requires a TLC.

Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at jparsell@bdtonline.com or follow on Twitter @BDTParsell.