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While walking four laps around the track (a mile) the other day, I did 204 push-ups. And none of the easy variety. My nose almost grazed the asphalt on each rep. This is mostly good, but a little bit bad.







Good in the sense that I’m building a stronger core.

Good that I’m 67 years old and still going strong.

Good that I keep improving. Last year I could only do half as many push-ups in the same distance.

Which brings us to the little bit bad.

When is enough enough? When can I say, “Self, 204 is a great achievement. Congratulations. You have biceps to die for. Now it’s time to move on.”

This Aspie has a problem with that.

When I was a 42-miles-a-week runner, each 10-kilometer race came with the added stress of setting a personal best. If I came up even a few seconds short, I moped for the rest of the day.

Back in the ’90s I taught myself to juggle. In just a few months I progressed to three rings, three clubs, four balls and my best stunt— a golf ball, a basketball and an eight-pound bowling ball.

I got good enough to hire myself out to elementary schools, charging $200 a day to teach basic juggling to PE classes.

I became obsessed with learning new variations to three-ball juggling and keeping two aloft with one hand. A practice session couldn’t end until I did every trick 20 consecutive times without a drop. Sometimes I’d be at it for an hour until I finally nailed the behind-the-back bit.

The gig gradually fizzled out as principals cared less and less about juggling and more and more about preparing students to take standardized tests.

But I maintained the nightly practice ritual for years until I cut myself juggling steak knives and finally decided to find a more finger-friendly hobby.

These days, I rarely run unless my morning weigh-in is unsatisfactory and I must punish myself with a trot.

I save my serious physical fitness time to strength work, and do a series of exercises with the goal of becoming a more bulked-up individual. Squats. Curls. Bench-presses. Leg lifts. Lunges. Planks. And, yes, push-ups.

I can’t do a ton at one time — maybe 20 — but I pile up impressive numbers over the long haul with bursts of six or eight.

My mentality should be, “Hey, let’s enjoy the pretty afternoon with a nice walk and a few push-ups on the side. For God’s sake, don’t count. Just have fun with it.”

Instead, it’s “Hey, 204 push-ups in a mile isn’t bad, but I can do better. If I cut back on rest, I can crank out at least 220 and maybe more. I can have fun in the next life. Let’s hurry up and get muscle-bound.”

When is enough enough?

When will I say, “Hey, biceps, quit running my life.”

Probably never. But that’s OK. It’s only a little bit bad.


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Garret Mathews
I grew up in Abingdon, Va., and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1971. I wrote features and columns for the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph from 1972 until 1987 when I was hired to write the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier. I retired from the newspaper in 2011. Altogether, I penned more than 6,500 pieces on every subject from murderers to moonshiners and mail-order brides to Appalachian snake handlers. I won several contests (and thousands of dollars in prize money) in contests sponsored by Scripps-Howard (the former owner of the Courier). My 12 books include “Swing Batta” (about coaching 9-year-old baseball players) that was published by Michigan State University, and “Defending My Bunk Against All Comers, Sir!” (about Army basic training during the Vietnam War) that was published by Zone Press. My play about the civil rights movement — “Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror” — has been performed three times. Two of my one-act plays have been in the Indy Fringe Festival. My humorous take on having my prostate removed was published recently in the Chicago Tribune. My legacy web site — Plugger Publishing — has links to four projects that have consumed quite a bit of time over the years. “Favorites” is a collection of my columns from Evansville. “Columnists: While We’re Still Around” contains pieces from other columnists whose work I admire. “Folks Are Talking” is a collection of Appalachian-related features I penned during the ’70s and early ’80s when I worked on the West Virginia newspaper. “Coming Together” contains interviews I conducted with three dozen civil rights volunteers who went South during the turbulent ’60s to register black voters and desegregate institutions. My wife MaryAnne and I live in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis, where we happily babysit our two grandchildren, Gavin and Ben.