Presidential Fitness Test

Reading Danielle Friedman’s Learning to Love Fitness, Despite Dreading Gym Class, and the discussion on I’m reminded how that had a huge, positive effect on my mental health and self esteem back in fourth grade or so.

The first year we were doing the tests, we would do one or two each gym class twice a week for a couple of weeks. I remember the day we had the pull up test very well. The teacher went over the process, climb up the ladder, palms away, swing out and pull up. Girls could just hang and each second counted as one pull up. A few boys tried, and these bigger kids, they had been held back. First one got zero and he was working and working. Next one struggled and got one. We find out that we’re expected to do 1. If we do three, than that’s excellent.

We ask the teacher if anyone had done three yet, because one looks really really hard. A six grader the day before did nine. Nine! That kid must’ve been superman or something.

Now it’s my turn, and I’m dreading it. I’m undersized and not good at baseball and soccer or the other organized games we play in gym class. This is just going to be a shit show. I’m just going to hang there, probably less time than some of the girls, and fall and break my arm or something.

I grab the bar, swing out and try to pull my head up to the bar. And I just go right up. I lower myself down, I go up again, and down and up and down and up. The class is counting along I get to nine and I just let go. I’m not a big sixth grader, I’m not supposed to have done that many. Nine is obviously at the the limits of what is humanly possible. I’d better just stop now.

The teacher asks “Could you do more?”


“Get back up and do more.”

So get back on the bar and I do more. After 16 more my arms are getting tired and I struggle out two more.

I may not be good at a lot of the physical activities, but, in this little microcosm of a 100 student elementary school, I’m extremely good at doing pull ups. And going forward, I’ll think maybe I’m good at other things things too if I try.