Drumroll, Please: I Did a Pull-Up!

It took two months of hard work, but I finally did it — here's how.

pull up woman illo


My hard work finally paid off. I can honestly now say that I am able to do a pull-up.

My quest began on February 3rd when I announced my resolution to master the elusive pull-up, an upper-body strength move that many women struggle to perform. Over the last few weeks I have been virtually obsessed with making this happen. 

Here’s how it went down: I have been standing at the pull-up bar at Main Line Health and Fitness almost every day, practicing my pull-up skills. I started by doing jumping pull-ups, an assisted pull-up in which you stand on a stack of weight plates to bring yourself closer to the bar. In a beginner’s jumping pull-up, you stack enough plates beneath you so that your wrists comfortably touch the bar. That way, it’s a shorter distance to jump in order to get your chin over the bar. As I became better at doing jumping pull-ups, I started removing one weight plate each week; I was required to jump higher and higher in order to pull my chin over the bar.

After a few weeks, I was standing on only one two-inch weight plate. It hit me that if I could do a jumping pull-up from a two inch platform, I could probably remove the platform and jump from the ground.

So I dragged the weight to the side and stood on the floor. I felt like a parent who remove training wheels from their kid’s bike. Breathing deeply, I jumped from the ground, grabbed the bar and managed to slowly pull my chin up over the bar. I dropped back down to the ground in total shock.

My instinct was to look around the room to see how many people had witnessed my athletic feat. As usual, I was merely a stand-up comic playing to a dead room. The other gym members, engaged in their own workouts, were oblivious to my accomplishment. But I stood below the bar in abject shock. So I thought, “Let me try that again.” I jumped back up to reach the bar and executed yet another pull-up. I dropped back onto my feet in total amazement.

In that moment, I felt like I had been handed an Oscar for best athletic performance. Feeling proud and overwhelmed, I started to recite my acceptance speech in my head: “I’d like to thank the coaches at CrossFit for their advice and their encouragement. I’d like to thank the members at Main Line Health and Fitness for allowing me to monopolize the pull-up bar for the past few weeks. I’d like to thank my parents for encouraging me to pursue my dreams.” And then I could sense the Oscars orchestra playing me off the stage, so I wrapped it up.

I still cannot believe that I can do a pull-up. Growing up a scrawny kid with no upper-body strength, I figured that my genetics were stacked against me. These victories, however trivial, are always a great reminder of an inspiring quote from NFL coach Mike Ditka: “If you’re determined enough, and willing to pay the price, you can get it done.”

Now onto to setting my next goal!


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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