Lessons Gained From Learning to Physically Pull Your Own Weight

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A column by Rick Osbourne

Question #1: Why would anyone ever feel any need to learn to do pull ups?

Answer #1: It’s always cool to be strong and pull ups are always associated with being strong. It’s also common knowledge that people (including kids) who can do even one conventional pull up, are ALMOST NEVER OBESE. Maintain the ability (which requires decent eating/exercise habits and 30 seconds of practice per week) and you’ll AVOID OBESITY FOR LIFE.

Question #2: If you’re currently unable to do conventional pull ups, how can you systematically go about learning to do them?

Answer #2: First you LOWER THE BAR to a point where you can easily do 10 leg assisted pull ups – jumping and pulling at the same time. Work at that level every other day (1 set per day) until you can do 15 repetitions. At that point RAISE THE BAR ONE INCH and work at this new level until you can do 15 repetitions.

Continue this process of raising the bar one inch, working until you can do 15 reps, over and over again until you finally run out of leg assistance. At that point you’ll have mastered the art of doing pull ups. And at the risk of being overly redundant and repetitious, people who can do even one conventional pull up are ALMOST NEVER OBESE!* That’s really important!

Question #3: Other than being strong, cool, and avoiding obesity for life, what will you have gained from this very tangible, hands-on, physical learning experience?

Answer #3: You will have learned how to SYSTEMATICALLY ADDRESS ANY CHALLENGE by finding a place to begin successfully, increasing the workload in small increments, over time, until you’ve finally mastered the task.**

The task could be academic like learning how to read, write, do math, physics or chemistry. It could be social like learning to get along with people. It could be psychological, aesthetic, or economic. It matters not. You can address any and all challenges, and EXPECT TO SUCCEED by employing the same approach used in learning to do pull ups.***

An Experiential Reference Point

In terms of educational theory, this pull your own weight learning experience qualifies as what Professor David Ausubel calls an “Advance Organizer.” Ausubel contends that when learning anything new, the most important factor is WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW that can serve as an experiential reference point to which you can compare and contrast the new experience (i.e. it’s similar to or different than). That reference point gives the new experience a context and meaning, as it gradually becomes assimilated into your knowledge base.

More specifically, kids who learn to do pull ups using the method described above will have gained a very tangible experience which they can use to approach any and all new learning experiences. Find a place to start successfully. Gradually increase the workload in small increments over time. And eventually they’ll master the task, no matter what it is.

The Most Important Lesson

In this light, the most important lesson gained from learning to physically pull your own weight is that you NEED NOT PASSIVELY ACCEPT the cards (in this case the inability to do pull ups) that fate has dealt you. Instead you can ACTIVELY CHOOSE to find a place to start successfully (in this case with leg assisted pull ups). Work at it regularly in order to improve gradually, over time until you have finally mastered pull ups, reading, writing, arithmetic, physics, chemistry, law, economics, history, philosophy, art, or love.

In other words, you’ll learn to pull your own weight, to take responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your life. It’s not easy. And it’s not quick. But it is simple. And it is straight forward. That said, learning to do pull ups serves as an excellent “advance organizer” for living, for becoming, and for fulfilling your potential, whatever it may be.

* This is just like lowering the rim, and gradually raising it in small increments, over time, in order to learn how to slam dunk a basketball!

**“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

***We’re staunch proponents of self-competition (Johnny this week vs Johnny last week) instead conventional competition (Johnny vs Jimmy).

Rick Osbourne is former physical educator and a pioneer in the field of functional childhood obesity prevention. He currently serves as President of the Pull Your Own Weight Foundation which is an Illinois based, 501c3, not for profit organization whose focus is functional childhood obesity prevention. He’s written and published three books in this field, the latest of which is entitled Beating Childhood Obesity Now: A Simple Solution for Parents and Educators. He’s the Examiner’s national childhood obesity prevention correspondent. He writes an online column for The Edvocate. And you can connect with Rick via TwitterLinkedin, or Facebook.

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