Fact: Pull-Ups Are Hard (But I’m Determined to Master Them)

An update on my quest to finally do a pull-up.



Me and my big mouth. Inspired by Bradley Cooper’s physical transformation for his role in American Sniper, I announced on February 3rd my resolution finally master a real, no-doubt-about-it, full-on pull-up.

It’s about a month later and I feel compelled to give you all an update on my progress. I’ll boil it down to this: Pull-ups are HARD. 

I’ve adhered to my plan of increasing my weight-lifting in order to build upper-body strength, and I’ve also been practicing kipping (i.e. kicking your legs in order to gain momentum) at the pull-up bar. I do this routine three times per week at Main Line Health and Fitness in Bryn Mawr. And I will tell you, it isn’t always pretty.

This is how it looks: I stand at the pull-up bar. I reach my hands up, grab the bar and practice swinging my arms and legs in sync in order to kip. Generally, I can do two to three very small kipping motions before my arms get ridiculously tired and I drop back down to the floor.

Frustrated and defeated, I start talking to myself. “Really, Lauren,” I’ll say. “You had to join CrossFit at 40?”

Then I remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I shake off my frustration.

Ready and determined, I grab the bar again and manage to fully kick my legs out behind me and even use some of the momentum to engage my arms. I’m so proud of myself that I want to grab one of the headphone-wearing gym goers behind me and tell him to watch me. I want to shout, “Look at me! I’m strong! I might be able to do a big-girl pull-up someday!”

Feeling cocky, I jump back up to the bar only to find that my arms are now made of jelly and I can barely grip the bar. I drop back to the floor into a pit of frustration and self-loathing. That’s when I start saying, “Seriously, Lauren. Let’s bail on this nonsense. No one is going to remember that article that you wrote, anyway.”

And this is the pattern. Bursts of hard work followed by outbursts of frustration and defeat. But the good news is that I keep trying, and the more I try, the more progress I’m seeing. I’m not quite sure I knew exactly what I was getting into when I made a public resolution to do a pull-up but I’m convinced that I can make it happen.

So stay tuned, you guys.


Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA.  To learn more about her practice, go here. And to read more of Lauren’s posts for Be Well Philly, head over here.

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