Climate science might confuse some people, but pushups have lost me

I’m back at the gym. Sure, I’ve been paying for it for six months already, but better late than never, right? That shoulder ain’t gonna fix itself.

I’m definitely a ‘learning to love exercise’ sort of guy, in the same way teenage me was a ‘learning to love veggies’ sort of teenager. Cardio? I’ll do that all day. Weights? Not my favourite, but I can deal with ’em.

But eventually, try as I might, I have to face pushups. And I goddamn hate pushups.

When I’m doing pushups, I’m usually thinking two things:

  • how much I hate this, and
  • this must be how other people feel about climate change.

There’s a reason I hate pushups. It’s because as long as I can remember, people have been telling me that I’ve been doing pushups wrong. Every time I sign up for a gym membership, work with a personal trainer or do pushups with a friend, I get an explanation on how my form is wrong, and each explanation contradicts the previous one.

“You need to keep your arms out! If they’re too close together, the pushup doesn’t do anything!”

“My last personal trainer told me to keep my arms in.”

“Your last personal trainer was wrong! Trust me, this is how you do it.”

My partner was the last poor soul to feel this: the last time we worked out together, she told me in turns that my bum was too high and too low, and I snarled something about how I can’t fucking tell where my bum is supposed to be to make my back straight without a mirror. I think I probably owe her a present for that.

Somewhere along the line, I decided that nobody really knows how a pushup ought to be done. Intellectually, I know that’s probably not fair: I really should trust professionals above friends and family, just as I’d expect my aunty or my Mum to trust my opinion on climate change, as a researcher, before the opinion of some random they spoke to at the post office.

But after hearing seven or eight people give me seven or eight different perfect pushups, and without any way for me to figure out whose pushup is best, I’ve just reached a place where I’m like,

Fuck it, I’ll do another twenty minutes of cardio instead.

Another twenty minutes of cardio is not going to improve my shoulder. But at least I know I’m doing something productive when I’m on that machine, which beats not having a bloody clue whether I’m making any progress doing pushups.

I think this is probably how my Mum and my aunt—along with everyone else I talk to about climate change—feel when they open with, “So is this climate change stuff really a thing?” (I mean, I guess they could be asking me how my PhD is going, but I like to aim high.)

Like most scientists, I hate seeing my science and my colleagues’ science misrepresented by people who really oughtn’t be trusted. But since I’m spending half an hour a week fuming about pushups, I should probably be more understanding.