I started the Just One Push-up Challenge on December 31, 2019. Prior to that, I hadn’t done push-ups consistently for a couple years. I’ve now done them for almost 200 days straight. Here’s why the Just One Challenge works.
I used to be an elite athlete. When I was at my peak I ran 80 miles per week and was very disciplined about doing core exercises, sit-ups, light weight-training, stretching (well, I could have been more serious about stretching) and numerous other activities to optimize my performance.
I haven’t been an elite athlete for some time. Years. Okay, decades. And over that time, I not only stopped running as much as I used to, I also stopped doing lots of the other activities. I became inconsistent about doing sit-ups, push-ups, stretching, etc.
When we first announced the Just One Push-up Challenge on December 31st, 2019, I decided I was going to do it. Conceptually, I knew it should work. It checks all the boxes for a simple system to build a new routine. But I wanted to test it for myself.
And I thought it might be nice to experience having chest muscles.
I’m now approaching 200 days straight doing my push-ups, and I’ve discovered a few things about the Just One Challenge and why it is so effective.
MY EXPERIENCE DOING THE JUST ONE CHALLENGE
My first day I did one push-up. I felt kind of silly doing it, but I did it.
My second day I did the one push-up, and then before I got back up I did a few more. I felt like an over-achiever.
For the rest of the week, I probably did between 5 to 10 slow push-ups. Each day I said I will do one and stop if I want to, but I did a few more. And I felt pretty good.
Over the course of the first couple weeks, I had a few days where I almost didn’t get them in. Just before bed-time I would get down and do at least one push-up to make sure I could keep the streak going. It was more about the streak than anything else.
After a couple weeks I started doing the push-ups just before I took a shower. Doing it everyday at the same time made a big difference. It didn’t weigh on my mind when to do it, and it was easy to use that time because I was often waiting for the water to get hot prior to shaving. Once I started doing them as part of my shower routine, everything clicked. I never came close to missing a day.
My one push-up pretty quickly became one set, and that set was whatever I felt like doing. Slow push-ups, fast push-ups, diamond push-ups. I mixed it up to keep it interesting.
After three months, I was enjoying doing the push-ups and started doing multiple sets. Not every day, but whenever I felt like it. My minimum mentally was always Just One push-up, though practically it became one set of 20.
I’m now in the middle of month seven, almost 200 days since I started. I still don’t really have chest muscles, but maybe there is some nascent potential. I’ve switched to doing them when I wake up instead of before the shower because I want to do more. I actually enjoy doing them again and tend to do multiple sets every day.
What started as Just One is now a pretty healthy push-up routine. It took a while to get there, but I really do see the progress. Now I’m starting the same way with sit-ups and I’m joining my sister’s Just One Challenge to write at least one line per day.
WHY JUST ONE WORKED FOR ME
I think there are four main reasons the Just One Challenge has worked so well for me.
1. IT SET A “RIDICULOUS MINIMUM”
I often felt like I should be doing push-ups (and sit-ups, and other basic exercises) but I never fit it into my routine. When I decided to do the Just One Challenge, I still found it hard. But every day I would tell myself, “It’s ridiculous to say you can’t do just one.” And knowing I couldn’t justify that excuse, I got down and did it.
The hardest part of doing push-ups every day is going from Zero to One. Knowing I only had to do one made that easier.
2. I NEEDED A ROUTINE
Everything changed for me when I chose to do them right before I got in the shower. This was important for two reasons: 1) I knew exactly when I was going to do them everyday, and 2) I wasn’t carving out new time so much as using idle time. I took time that was literally spent standing and doing nothing and turned it into some push-ups.
3. MY IDEA OF WHAT IS ENOUGH CHANGED OVER TIME
In the beginning, one was enough. It was about maintaining the streak. But as I did push-ups every day, the idea of doing push-ups became normal. And as that happened, the idea of doing “just one” started to feel just as ridiculous as “not being able to do just one.”
As my routine got better, my motivation and expectations grew. And I started to do more to align with those.
4. I CAN PUSH MYSELF HARDER DUE TO MY FOUNDATION
I now do way more than one push-up every day. I’ve moved the routine to the morning, just after I wake up, because I enjoy (!) doing multiple sets each day. I actually want more time than I had before the shower.
I’m only able to do this now because I put in the time to build a solid foundation. That foundation has two parts: the daily routine, and the improved strength I gained over the first 3-4 months.
Back when I started, if I had tried to do what I’m doing now I would have failed. But because I built up to it, I’m able to sustain it.
A FEW TIPS
I think it’s important to keep a few things in mind to get the most out of doing the Just One Challenge:
It’s about the routine, not the results: The results will come if you establish a good routine.
Your “Just One” can be anything, but keep it as small and reasonable as possible. It should feel ridiculous. The more ridiculous it is, the harder it is to justify not doing it.
One is the minimum, not the maximum. If you feel like doing more, you can. But remember, tomorrow you still have to do your Just One.
Redefine your minimum when it makes sense. One push-up can become one set. One line can become one paragraph. One minute can become one mile. But don’t force it. Wait until you find yourself doing that anyway.
Get a big calendar and mark a giant “X” for every day you do your Just One. Seeing your progress will not only keep you committed, it will become a symbol of your success.
Doing it with someone else helps. Having an accountability partner makes any new endeavor easier. If you don’t have someone who wants to do it with you, connect with us on Facebook or Instagram and we will cheer you on. We even created a brand new IG account just for this challenge: @justone.challenge
This is a great activity for something that is important but doesn’t require you to master it. Health, fitness, hobbies, learning, diet. If you need to be the best to get any rewards, Just One will take you a long time to get there. But if you just want to have a better, healthier, more productive routine then the Just One Challenge is perfect.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Our podcast episode dives into all of this and more. You can listen above but I recommend subscribing as we have a lot of great episodes coming up.
Our Just One Challenge shirts are the perfect complement to your personal Just One Challenge. Use them to remind you to stick with it and get it done.
The whole point of this is to build good habits and make progress. Here’s the under-rated aspect of making progress: it feels great! Join us in the Just One Challenge and take that first step. You’ll be glad you did!
Bryan Green is the co-founder, Editor, and COO of Go Be More. He is a huge proponent of the Just One Challenge and wants to know what challenge you are going to do! You can give him feedback at bryan◎gobemore.co or on our Facebook page.