How 6th grade P.E. Class Made Me Stronger

I attended school in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 5th grade to 12th grade. I had a fun experience during my sixth-grade year at Hoover Middle School that I would like to share. We were working toward the Presidential Physical Fitness Award in our physical education class. Mr. Romero was my teacher. As many might remember, there are certain criteria that have a baseline time/rep for you to perform. Run, jump, sit-n-reach, pull ups, sit ups, etc.

A good friend of mine, Charlie, was called up before me. He was quite a bit smaller than me. He gets up there and busts out 10 pull ups. I’m thinking “wow, great job Charlie! If he can do 10, I can probably get at least 12.” I get up there and I grunt, and I groan, and I grunt some more. When all was said and done, BAM! I had done one full pull-up! To say I was smidge embarrassed would be an understatement. I dropped down off the bar and headed back to the bleachers trying to blend in and hoping everyone would quickly forget what had just happened. As you might have guessed, I didn’t get that lucky. Mr. Romero decided to call Charlie up to the front, and then he called me up too. He mentioned how Charlie did 10 and I only did one. He went on to point out the obvious fact that Charlie was much smaller than I.

That day, I came to the realization that I was a wimp! I remember storming home, sitting down on my bed and thinking about how bad I hated Mr. Romero. My dad got home from work, came into my room and sat next to me on my bed and asked how my day at school had been. I reiterated the entire story including how Mr. Romero brought us up in front of the class and talked about how the little guy had smoked the big guy. Dad asked what I wanted him to do about it. After thinking about it for a few minutes and weighing my options, I asked my dad to help me build a pull up bar.

So, dad and I got to work. First, we tried a tree branch in the back yard. That didn’t work, so then we tried the closet door. We went out to the garage and tried the garage rail. None of our attempts were successful, so we jumped in the van and headed for the hardware store. There we purchased a 5-foot-long pipe that was about an inch in diameter. It felt the same as that dang pull up bar at school. With some unique engineering, dad figured out a way to mount it inside my closet. Every day before school, after school, on the weekends, I was on that pull up bar.

I trained, and trained, and trained some more. With the Presidential Physical Fitness award, we retest to determine our progress. It came time for the pull up retest. Of course, everyone remembered what took place that first time. Charlie was up first and did his 10 pull ups. Then, it was my turn for redemption, and let’s just say that I did a few more than Charlie’s ten! There was a swagger in my step as I headed back for the bleachers this time!

What I hadn’t realized at the time was that Mr. Romero knew me. He knew exactly what buttons to push to make me want to be better and I will be forever grateful to him for that. I’m lucky to have friends like that today. As we workout in the gym or do business together, we talk about life and they push me to want to be and do better. I am grateful for their friendship and for their ability to bring that kind of reality to my life. I strive to be that kind of friend and hope that you will do the same.          

Written by Russ Donahoo