Blame it on brunch and day party season if you must, but crowds at the gym are definitely smaller this time of year; this past weekend I had the entire half of the weight room to myself.

I did my usual warm-up with an emphasis on the muscles I intended to train. Then I looked up and spotted the pull-up bar—an apparatus I’ve avoided like the plague for a while now. Part fear, part self-doubt and part not knowing whether I could actually do an unassisted pull-up prevented me from ever trying.

I progressively increased weight when I trained my back, so I knew I was getting relatively stronger. But I’m a firm believer that being able to push, pull and move your own body weight is a key and foundational indicator of strength.* So even though I made progress on ‘back days,’ part of me always wondered, as I avoided the pull-up bar, “how strong am I, really?”

The fear of not being able to do one pull-up would imply I wasn’t strong by my own standards, and that truth (or falsehood) was not one I was ever ready to face, and especially not in a gym full of handsome men people.

I seized the moment of solitude in the gym over the weekend as I hopped up and hung from the pull-up bar. With no expectations, no pressure and no audience, I pulled up for one rep, successfully. Amazed by that attempt, I went up and did two more.



I. Was. Thrilled.


In facing my fear of the pull-up bar I discovered that all this time I had it in me, but my self-doubt kept my true strength a secret. So I wonder: what small things do we avoid that secretly hold us back from being the greater, better version of ourselves?

Beyond the gym and fitness, but in any aspect of life, you may be surprised by how capable you already are when you just go for it—capable of achieving a dream; capable of pushing past perceived emotional and physical boundaries; capable of living life without limits.

Next time you’re in the gym and feel your mind or ego telling you ‘no,’ go for one more rep. Or, more importantly, next time you set a goal take small steps toward achieving it. The best thing that can happen: you achieve it. The worst thing: you get even closer to achieving it.

Push past what think you can’t do. Don’t let your doubts keep your strengths a secret. Be great.

Shavaun Pull Up
photo credit: Derrick Davis


*It’s okay if you can’t manage the your own body weight just yet, but it’s something you can work toward. Strive for progress by your standards.

Training with Shavaun