Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jhoon Rhee and the quest for 100 pushups.

For years, I've wanted to be able to do 100 consecutive, good pushups. Once in awhile, I would actually strive towards it, never making much progress. I suppose it's because I "wanted" to do it in the same way I "wanted" to be a seven foot tall billionaire who lived on a tropical island. Wanting it doesn't necessarily make it so.

It all goes back to Jhoon Rhee.

Back in 1999 or so, there was a Masters of Martial Arts special on TNT, hosted by the illustrious Wesley Snipes. (On a personal note, I can't stand Wesley Snipes after he made walking around the Arnold Classic a living hell. How much security does one second rate star need??) Anyhoo, midway this special Jhoon Rhee, then in his late 60s, entered the stage and cranked out 100 pushups. Incidentally, he performed these pushups in 60 seconds. I was quite impressed.

Doing some research on the man, I have come to think of him as the Korean Jack LaLanne, minus the juicer endorsement.

In the basement of his stately McLean home, 70-year-old Jhoon Rhee begins his workout as he has done every day for years, among pictures of some of his heroes: George Washington, his Korean ancestors, an ancient Korean king. Midway through an hour of aerobic exercises, he drops into a split that would make a gymnast envious, bends forward until his face touches the floor, looks up and smiles.

"I couldn't do this 15 years ago," Rhee said.

Rhee's daily workout doesn't end there. He does at least 1,000 push - ups and a few hundred sit-ups every day. He even does push-ups during long overnight plane trips - when the flight crew allows. He hasn't missed a day of working out in more than 17 years.

"Who else can say they've been working out like me?" Rhee asked.

I promise not to make a habit of posting pictures of semi-disrobed elderly men in my blog, but this man is flexing at age 70, you have to give him his due.

In the past, I've started doing pushup workouts and getting far too sore in the first week, not wanting to continue. So I started modestly. I decided I would do pushups everyday, but I would start with one. One, pathetic solitary pushup. Everyday, I'd add one more. I do my best to make each one a good pushup, so no rapid-fire pushups are allowed to count, and I make the last 5 even slower.

Results? Today I did #38, which is still nowhere near my previous maximum. But I'm doing it everyday, and feeling my endurance improve greatly. I even have a little definition in my arms as a bonus. But that may be from all the extra sword work. My recently sprained wrist is also feeling a lot better and the range of motion is slowly improving.

My goal is 100, and I'm getting a little closer everyday. At this rate, I will be at 60 at the end of the month, 90 by 12/30 and at my goal on 1/9... 3 days after my birthday.

I'm sure there are more efficient systems to reach my goal, but I like this as it gives me something to look forward to everyday, and I can see my progress slowly add up. In a lot of ways, its just like the martial arts. No shortcuts, just lots of practice.
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