Late spring 2019. I decided to bring more awareness to mental health issues and raise money for the charity Mind Doncaster, by performing 1000 pull ups.
I have been training Push Ups and Pull Ups EMOM (Every Minute On The Minute) for quite a while at that point, David Goggins being my inspiration. I would break my own PR every now and then, in fact in August 2019 I did 1111 Pull Ups in one training session, and if I remember correctly, in the following days I ran a half marathon as well.
So I knew I would definitely be able to hit at least 1000 reps for World Mental Health Day, 11th October.
I trained most days, somewhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Every minute I would do usually 7-8 Pull Ups. All good on that front, despite some aches here and there.
Organising the event and venue, in which it would take place, turned out to be more difficult.
I wanted to do it in the main shopping centre in town. So that bypassing people could donate a bit too. But the management claimed there was not enough space to set up a pull up bar there. Despite the fact they would routinely display multiple cars inside the shopping centre. OK…
That made me even more determined to do this challenge! Fortunately the manager of a small gym I was training a few clients at, was happy for me to do it at their gym.
The days prior to that I rested. No Pull Ups, just got a massage.
The the big day came. I woke up in the morning, did the Wim Hof Method (including cold shower), had a healthy breakfast and some ceremonial cacao. I cycled to the gym, did some more Wim Hof breathing, set the timer. 3, 2, 1, GO!
I started cranking out 6 Pull Ups every minute on the minute, pacing myself. 100, 200, 300… 600…
It went fairly quickly and I felt great. Energised. But I’ve noticed a problem. The steel bar was not smooth and soon my fingers got sore and began bleeding.
I kept going. I hit 1000 Pull Ups, and I was nowhere close to finishing. I had to do at least another 112 to break my own personal best. I did that, and I kept going.
Roughly from Pull Up no. 1200 things got harder. I had to put on some thin cycling gloves my girlfriend gave me due to my injuries. I dropped down to 5 reps per minute. Time started stretching out, and I moved my attention inwards.
At around 1500 reps I’d be sat on the bench staring into nothingness, or at the timer. When it beeped, I’d do another 5 reps, then go sit on the bench and continue staring. I was getting really exhausted, but I kept going. Just keep going…
I ended up surpassing the goal of 1000 Pull Ups by another thousand. 2000 Pull Ups in 6.5 hours. Hundreds of sets.
I did rep no. 2000, and said I was done. 2000 is enough. But in all honesty, I could have done a few hundred more.
I was on the verge of crying. I could not believe that I managed to push myself this much!
One thing you need to know about myself, I am not a strong person from nature on. I might be more flexible than others, but that’s it.
Even psychologically, my deafult behaviour is not to be a strong independent leader, but to hide and not be seen, due to some childhood trauma (thankfully, no abuse involved. Working on it). Previously I suffered from loneliness, social phobia when I was a kid, I’ve been on the verge of depression and of an eating disorder.
Perhaps that is why I looked up so much to strong people like Bruce Lee or Jean-Claude Van Damme, since my early teens. Hence why I learned martial arts, later Calisthenics.
And now I managed to pull off something this crazy, hard, monotonous and painful. I could not believe it! Honestly, this was one of the most intense moments of my life. Certainly more important than finishing school.
After this experience (as well as from running 13 – 22 miles at a time), I can see how certain people can use monotonous physical activities to reach an altered state of consciousness. Or simply to go into a state of meditation. It is common knowledge that ultramarathon runners wind up hallucinating after tens or a hundred miles.
When you are, sorry for the expression, balls deep in such an event, where you have been doing it for hours, and the end is not in sight, the only thing you can do, is to be present. Let it flow. Do not accept or reject what is happening. You cannot escape to your imagination, and you cannot stop. Just be.
And I believe that is what most of us need.
Watch the videos from that day below:
I do not particularly enjoy running – I’m not THAT crazy! Yet I still do it. Why?
It certainly has physical benefits, like reducing bodyfat, cardiovascular health, release of endorphins, etc. but that’s not the main reason for me.
Throughout the years, training has helped me tremendously with my mental health and to be the person I want to be. It significantly reduces fear and anxiety and boosts my confidence and motivation.
But running is different from other workouts. It’s monotonous and you cannot stop. You HAVE TO keep going. 10, 30, 60, 120 min. You are out of breath, too cold or too warm, your legs are starting to hurt, you are sweaty and tired. You are uncomfortable at best or downright in pain.
What can you do about it? Cling to it and feel sorry for yourself? Hell no!
Reject it and either distract yourself or stop? Not an option.
You just have to be with it. No judgement whatsoever. It becomes a meditation, which you can take and apply in your daily life. We all go through periods of sadness, stress, grief, pain. Sometimes they don’t last very long, but sometimes it feels like there is no end in sight. One has to then remain in a state where there is no conflict and no judgement (more on that in a later post/video).
It is a known fact that athletes who do ultramarathons (50, 100, 200 mile long runs) tend to experience hallucinations, and overall an altered state of consciousness. I am certainly not suggesting you should run such insane distances, I have never run more than 22 miles myself. Yet it shows us, that sports (when you are actively participating, not just watching ESPN on your TV) are one of the most accessible tools for the modern western man to reach altered states of consciousness, a state of meditation and to come back into the “felt presence of the immediate experience”, as Terence McKenna would say. Which is something most people in the West need more of in their lives.
You can watch my short YouTube video on this topic below.