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Lessons from the 21-Day Push Up Challenge

By Jacob Andreae

The 21-day push up challenge is an Australian initiative. There is a strong correlation between exercise and mental health, which drives their motto, ‘Push for Better’. You have the option to fundraise for Headspace and you’ll learn about mental wellness with daily and practical tips. The total number of push ups each day represents a mental health statistic in Australia. 


The total number of push ups done is 3046, which represents the total number of lives lost in Australia due to mental health issues in 2018. You have the option to complete this number as a team; 4 is recommended if doing it as a team. Our team of 4 consisted of the 4 PE teachers at the school I work at, Darwin High, and we decided to do all 3046 push ups each. 


There's always a "messy middle"

The fact that this challenge encourages you to exercise on a regular basis, forming great routines, and in a way that aligns with what behaviour change experts suggest to creating exercise routines, as well as fundraises for a related charity and teaches you about the purpose by linking the number of push ups to daily stats and messages, makes this challenge one of the best to be involved with. 


Personally, I learned heaps about mental health from the daily messages and stats, which you can read here. In addition to the daily stats and messages, there were many parallels to everyday life that I believe you can draw from this challenge. Here’s the lessons I learned from the 21-day push up challenge. 

Lessons from the 21-Day Push Up Challenge


No matter how big, any goal is achievable. The biggest lesson I took away from the 21-day push up challenge is that ANYTHING is achievable. No matter how big, it is achievable by creating a plan. 


Set an outcome. With a specific number in mind at the end, you give yourself something to aim for. This gives you, and anyone supporting you, an idea of where you’re heading. Not only does this make your outcome specific, it makes it measurable. You can measure your progress along the way and this helps to keep your motivation up. 


There’s always a “messy middle”. Motivation is always high at the start and it always has a little boost towards the end. But motivation always dips in the middle. No matter how long your challenge goes for, there’s always a middle when motivation subsides, and sometimes disappears. 


Break your big outcome goal up into small, daily, manageable chucks. By breaking your big outcome goal up into manageable chunks ahead of time, you know exactly what to expect each and every day. This understanding helps to keep motivation up during the “messy middle”. It may not keep it high, but it helps to maintain it at a level that keeps you moving forward. 


Link it to a purpose. Most goals are set with the head. But it’s our heart that drives motivation. We are all emotional beings. Having a purpose bigger than ourselves helps us to keep driving forward (especially in the messy middle). 


Choose a task that you’re okay at but that you wouldn’t consider a major strength. For some reason, especially in Australia, people looove challenges. When you choose a task that you’re capable of but aren’t great at, you boost your motivation because it feels like a challenge, but because you’re achieving, you stay motivated.  


Do it with a team who you see on a regular basis (almost daily). In addition to being emotional beings, we are also social beings. Our strength as a species is our ability to socialise with one another. Having a team go through the challenge with you, once again, helps to keep motivation high. Having a team also helps to keep you accountable and feel supported. 


Build a team of supporters. In addition to a team who are going through the challenge with you, having a team of supporters in the stands, cheering you on, also helps to keep you going. You don’t need to be a professional athlete performing in front of thousands of fans in the stands. Social media gives everyone the ability to have their own fans. Use this to your advantage and bring them with you on the journey. People love to see people overcome their challenges and succeed. 


As you can see, it’s all about motivation, motivation, motivation. Keep motivation high. It’s about getting your motivation up at the beginning and keeping it up. Motivation is the fuel that drives behaviour. 


I was a part of Team Tanks. As a teacher at Darwin High, I work in the heritage-listed Darwin water tank, which has been converted into a school gym, hence the name. If you’d like to donate to Team Tanks, you can donate here. If you’d like to donate to my effort individually, you can donate here.


Thank you! 


Even if it’s not push ups, how do you push for better in your community?


Leave your answer to that question in the comments section below. 


Would you like to join me for my next challenge? I had so much fun doing this challenge that I've decided to incorporate these sorts of challenges into my training program. They could be 7, 14, 21 or 30 days. I'm not sure exactly what the next one will be but join me on Instagram to be a part of it, or just to watch the fun!

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