“Why Not 125?” The Question That Helped Motivate My Students AND Me!



Several months ago, as I was going through my normal morning routine, I began to reflect on my previous night’s workout. In an effort to be more efficient with time, I’ve been going to the gym less and using my resources at home. One of my new favorite exercise rituals is performing 100 pull-ups in under 30 minutes on a pull-up bar hanging in the doorway between my kitchen and laundry room. One morning, as I was mentally rewarding myself for completing the above-mentioned workout, my 10-year-old son entered the kitchen with a severe case of bed head and very sleepy eyes.

Continuing my morning routine I said, “Good morning Zavier! How’d you sleep last night?” To which he gave me his regular response, “Good.”

What happened next was NOT routine, and totally unexpected?

In an effort to lead by example and demonstrate to my son that I make no excuses not to exercise, I proudly declared, “Well, I got my 100 pull-ups in last night!”

I was expecting Zavier to give me another one of his subtle head nods accompanied by, “nice job dad.”

Instead he looked up at me and said, “Why not 125 or 150?”

As I snapped my head to his direction in complete shock, I quickly realized his stare as he was waiting for a response.

WOW! This was a serious blow to my ego. This simple question sent an array of emotions spewing through my mind.

When the smoke settled, I realized his question was a stroke of BRILLIANCE. He was right, and his question was completely fair. Why DIDN’T I do 25 more or even 1 more? Why do I stop at 100 every time I “complete” this routine?

His question continues to impact me daily both personally AND professionally.

Flexed Arm Hang


As a physical education teacher, getting the most out of our students is a continuous goal. Especially in regard to fitness, keeping our kids motivated is a daily challenge. For instance, part of our fitness assessments includes the flexed arm hang. Using an overhand grip, students must pull themselves up so their chin is above the bar and they must hold themselves in a flexed position for as long as possible. Following each round, they set a reasonable goal. Using my son’s question as a tool, I encourage my students to attempt to not only reach their goal but fight to stay up even longer. I tell them; “Even when you feel you need to drop, push yourself to stay up just a second or two more. Break the mental barrier”!

The same goes for our timed runs. For example, our 3rd grade students complete a 9-minute run around our track four times per year. Each runner has a partner who writes down his/her time following each lap. In the past, as nine minutes expired, the runners would stop and only get credit for the last COMPLETED lap. However now, we give credit for each additional fraction of a lap. We tell our students that ever ¼ lap counts and could be the difference in meeting or surpassing their goal. It has paid off tremendously. Out students are now sprinting the last 30 seconds to one minute of the run.

9-Minute Run Log

Why not 125 or 150 pull-ups? Sure we can and should set goals, and use them as motivation. Apparently, we can use our children’s comments as inspiration as well. Thanks to my 10-year-old’s encouragement, I have slowly increased my repetitions.   Without setting a limit, who knows what I can achieve! -what YOU can achieve! – what our students can achieve!  Without challenging our limits, we are just limiting our challenges.

We need to continue to encourage ourselves and our students in developing a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset!

“Sprint through the finish line, NOT to the finish line.”


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