40 Pushups a Day – Setting a Smart Goal for Strength

I was 38 years old and my birthday was just days away.

Somehow, the upcoming nine at the end of my age gave me a little jolt that I needed to challenge myself to something before turning 40.

I was on the precipice of a new decade of experiences on the blue marble, and I felt compelled to attempt something I had never done before.

I had been talking to my elementary students about goals and the importance of setting one that is both meaningful and achievable.

As if out of thin air, a challenge formulated in my mind.

On my 39th birthday, I shared it with my students and broke it down into the SMART goal framework that we were learning about in the classroom.


Starting today, I will do 40 push-ups each day until my 40th birthday.

My goal clearly stated the task to be performed – doing 40 push ups each day. It also included the target number of repetitions and the time frame until my 40th birthday.


The progress could be easily measured by counting the number of push-ups done daily, and comparing it with the total goal of 40 push-ups per day.


This was where I wasn’t sure if my goal would fall apart.

I had never done push ups day in and day out before. Sure, I had done more than 40 push ups in a workout, but never with the intention of that specific number. I had done 5 push ups over 10 rounds before, but that was part of a bigger workout.

I made some parameters here: the push ups could be any kind –

  • wall push ups
  • push ups on a ledge
  • strict plank push ups
  • downward-facing dog push ups
  • wheel push ups (while in a back bend)
  • inch-worm push ups

I could be creative.

And I also made a deal with myself that, if for some reason, I wasn’t able to complete all 40 one day, I could make them up the next day. One day, I ended up doing some 120 pushups!

So my goal was achievable, a little crazy according to my students, but achievable.


My goal was relevant because I had pulling strength and balancing strength, but my push ups were weak and I wanted something that would build upper body strength. I also wanted an activity that could be done anywhere and did not need any special equipment.

I had no idea when I set this goal how important these two considerations would be.


Finally, I had clearly defined the time frame for achieving my goal – until my 40th birthday. This added a time-frame within which to achieve my goal. It helped me stay focused on my progress over a specific period of time.


Being the engaging teacher that I am, I told my 6-10 year old students to drop and give me 40! They weren’t so excited about the lesson anymore! But they did help me to kick-off my 365-day goal of 40 push ups a day.

The rest of the story…

Within a few months of setting my goal, the Covid pandemic hit.

All gyms, both indoor and outdoor, in my area closed.

Parks closed.

All public spaces closed.

I was living in a small apartment in the city and would have gone absolutely stir crazy had it not been for my seemingly frivolous goal.

I could do my push ups anywhere, and my goal challenged me to get up and move.

Frequently, my push up challenge pushed me into doing a longer, more complex workout because it got my blood pumping and it challenged my endurance.

I also found that it was more fun to do the 40 pushups interspersed with other exercises that challenged other body parts.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a goal like doing 40 push ups every day for one year could make such a positive impact on my life, and in such an unexpected way!

I don’t normally recommend doing such dogmatic, repetitive exercises, but sometimes finding the right challenge to take you through a difficult time is just what’s needed.

With a new year upon us, if you could set a fitness goal for yourself to do every day for the next 365 days, what would it be?

Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of our strength training throughout the day. That’s why we added it as a healthy habit to track in The Agile Life Plan 4-week kick-start free course. Try it out for yourself 🙂

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