Gotta run: Pushups drive magical transformation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 23, 2020

Elaine Brown has been a long-time friend and member of Salisbury-Rowan Runners. Also a W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center employee, she currently helps organize the VA’s Hero Run 5K, usually held in September. I did an article on “wow” moments a few weeks ago and realized that this applies to Brown. She has been successful with a workout program and a miracle transformation driven by pushups.


Brown said, “In May 2019 I was preparing to do my birthday fundraiser for suicide awareness in June. I looked into challenges and came across a hashtag on Instagram for Veteran Suicide — #22aday. This tag led to Mission 22 and Stop Soldier Suicide pages. After some research, I decided to add the pushups to my routine and include them into the fundraising efforts for the month.”

After 22 pushups for her daily video, Brown usually attempts to do more. Initially she wanted to get to 50 in one set by the end of 2019 and completed that goal. Pushups transitioned from those done from the knees to a traditional version and then to the more strict military style. She’s done other types called the wide-grip, clap and stacked.

Before her exercise routine started

The pushups have driven a more complete workout. Brown said, “I do many types of exercises depending on my mood, how I feel, how my body feels, and the weather. Since I was doing the pushups daily, my upper body and arm workouts were modified to work other areas to prevent injury. My upper body strength is still limited even after all this time. I do flys, dips, and bench presses, dumbbell rows, laterals, pullovers, and push-presses. I use weights on most days but will modify how much depending on how I feel. I use bands for leg work as well and make sure to add cardio either with a treadmill, rowing, or outside hikes and walks. Several times a month, I do a ruck by carrying weight to build cardio.”

Overall body workouts include the machines in the gym where Brown follows the circuits and hits the weight area for other specific focus. The machines are great for back issues, helping with correct alignment. Brown alternates upper and lower body throughout the workout. Workout time typically lasts from 45 to 90 minutes.

After she worked into better shape.

Previously, Brown did mostly cardio with some running, walks and circuits in the gym. She said, “I hated weights and didn’t work out much. Before, I could barely lift 5 pounds with a single arm. Now I can lift more weight and my upper body does not hurt while even housework is much easier. My shoulder joint used to pop out frequently but doesn’t anymore. My arms have muscle definition, motivating me to work out more often and to use more weights in other areas, including my core. If my shoulder got stronger, I assumed with more core work, my back pain would decrease. So far it has. Using specific exercises and yoga also helped my back greatly. I have fewer pain episodes.”

Brown emphasized, “I don’t think you ever stop struggling with fitness. I always want to do more and improve where I am. For example, I get frustrated when I can only lift a set amount of weight over my head but see others in the gym doing more. I feel a bit competitive when I am there and push myself too much at times. Other factors affecting overall fitness include food, water, nutrition, sleep habits, your mindset and work/home life. I’m great in some areas, terrible with others. That will affect my gym time, my weights, and my ability to accomplish my goals. Dedication and follow-through matter too. I am still working on harmonizing all areas of my life. Those weaker areas I will always keep working on.”

Brown topped out at more than 204 pounds in 2008, but she’s not sure how high she went after a checkup. Currently at 129 pounds, she would be fine adding some more muscle weight. She said, “The workouts and the pushups are my therapy. Without a good workout, my mental health takes a hit. There is certainly a correlation between my gym time and the quality of my life in general.”

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