Saturday, December 01, 2018

The stubborn developer


It all started with this tweet by fellow developer (and friend) Heinz Kabutz:
"New Challenge - 15000 push-ups in 5 months. Great for programmers wanting to get into shape (well round is a shape too ...). The first months are not too bad, but February is a killer. Join here"
Sure, what's more natural than doing 15k push-ups in 5 months, right? Especially, if the last time you did push-ups was some (very) distant time in the past, plus you've never managed to do more than a dozen or so in one go.

I kind of laughed when I saw the tweet but at the same time I've got intrigued. I do try to do jogging occasionally and also try to play volleyball with friends on Thursdays, but any strength related exercise was never my thing. And it still isn't. But then again, I'm about the same age with Heinz and he's 112kg (and taller, and wider) while I'm only 74kg, and he'll manage to do that many push-ups while I sit back watching?

Bloody hell, I'm in :-)

Of course, I was quick to comment on the original tweet that there is no way for me to make it past October, clocking 1000 push-ups that month. First of all, I didn't feel much fit for the task and I usually don't have that much discipline, plus business travel & conferences always mess up my daily routine.

Or so I thought.

Because by the end of October despite the struggle of starting from very low and putting reminders to not forget to exercise, I've clocked 1040 push-ups! I just couldn't believe it. October was heavy on travel and I did miss 5 days, but for all the other 26 days I've averaged 40 push-ups, done once a day in 3 sets. Not just me but 335 other people got to Bronze status. Wow.

Then it became serious and despite the initial success there was simply no time to celebrate. It was really a struggle getting to the 1k level, so how can you double that and reach 2000 push-ups in November, which was meant to be even worse travel-wise? The numbers had to go up to reach the 67 push-ups per day average and account for any lost days.

And I did skip 4 days in November and had to come up with a strategy to cover for those, which meant that some days I would have to do push-ups twice, while increasing the sets to 4. But it did work at the end and on November 30th, I've celebrated the 2000th push-up of the month, reaching Silver status together with 217 fellow Java push-uppers.

Which brings me exactly to my point that software developers can be stubborn as hell once they set their mind onto something, be it debugging an impossible bug, developing a new app or framework, completing a project, or simply doing something seemingly stupid, like push-ups!

In this profession I've met so many capable programmers from all over the world and one of their main traits is their persistence. Being a developer requires both focus and problem solving skills, but that alone is not enough. The most successful developers exhibit an incredible ability in getting the job done, as long as it's a job challenging enough that resonates to them.

And that's exactly the job of managers and leaders: to challenge their teams and align them behind that one big worthy, seemingly impossible goal. Then let the "stubborn" developers go out and do their magic.

So, for the month of December, I am still in the game trying to reach the 3k mark by New Year's. An average of 97 push-ups per day is needed and that already seems too high and it certainly requires two session per day. But I will have a go and see how that works. I feel I've already gone too far beyond all my original expectations and I will likely want to stop at the Gold level.

Now that the number have gone up, I get the feeling that push-ups alone exercise too much the "front" upper part of the body and a more balanced method is needed. Or maybe that will be Heinz's next challenge, who knows? :-)

 /Dimitris

PS - Some Hints (from a push-up newbie)

  1. The good thing about push-ups is they require zero equipment. Non slipping shoes and a t-shirt is probably best.
  2. It usually takes less than 10 minutes to do 3 sets with 2-3 minutes rest in between.
  3. You can do them anytime in the day, but definitely *before* meals. I try to clock some push-ups while preparing my morning coffee. That gets the blood flowing and wakes you up (I am definitely not a morning person). Then try again sometime in the afternoon as a way to get away from the keyboard, or the evening before dinner.
  4. You can do push-ups anywhere. In the kitchen, the living room, your office, the bedroom. When in a hotel room I'd put one of the bathroom floor towels horizontally under my hands to avoid getting my nose too close to the carpet.
  5. I try to do 3 sets every time with decreasing difficulty. E.g. 25-20-15, that's a nice 60. For the first set do as many as you can before it starts hurting, then lower the number for the next ones. That means you may start initially with e.g. 12-10-8, or even 5-4-3, whatever works for you. If you want to check up my progress, it's here.
  6. I'm using the Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch to record the activity in the Strength category. This is really about weight lifting but it's the closest I could find. It can count the push-ups with some relative precision if you do them cleanly. After each set you can correct the count (e.g. it measured 19 but you did 20) and add 0 as weight.
  7. Forget about Heinz, this is all about you - you are competing with yourself :-)

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