Do you know what I think is the most perfect physical expression of financial independence? Mr Money Mustache would have you believe it is riding your bike, and that’s a strong case, but at best I’m a part time cyclist. I have a seven-mile ride to the train station and I will freely admit to picking and choosing my battles with the elements. I’m not short of opportunities in the day for overcoming adversity without adding cycling through the rain.
The First Wealth is Health
What do I think is the single perfect physical crystallization of financial independence? What is the purest personification of clawing your way to a life independent of paid work?
Pulling your body weight up through your own force. Shedding extra pounds to make your journey easier.
Do you get it? Pullups are the exercise equivalent of my journey to financial independence.
I’ve been doing pullups for seven years and I count it as perhaps my single biggest physical achievement. I have no history of sporting victories and throughout life I’ve measured my achievements in cerebral terms, so this is a big deal for me.
A few years ago after a house move I’d put on a few pounds, and entered that middle-age phase of career chasing, family demands and not enough time spent on my health and fitness. But I didn’t ease into exercise, instead I embarked on P90X, and without over-dramatizing, it changed my life.
I’m not endorsing this program in particular; it worked for me, but you need to find what works for you. For me it was about the variety of exercises and simplicity of instruction and Tony Horton’s corny jokes. This is where I tried yoga for the first time, and seven years later I am still yoga-ing and pullup-ing.
What’s so great about pullups? Any body weight exercise is very pure with no additional equipment required (although I do have a pullup bar). There is something gloriously self-sufficient about improving yourself with nothing other than… yourself. Just like financial independence it’s only you that can make a difference.
Like financial independence, pullups are a self-reinforcing feedback-loop. At the start it’s difficult to start, where even one pullup is impossible to achieve. But take baby-steps and build up to it. Then after weeks of practice, you lose a few pounds, gains some muscle and the reps snowball in the same way that savings compound with investment returns.
What’s my top tip by the way?
Do “negatives”. Negatives are pullup-lite, and they involve jumping up to the pullup bar and then gently lowering yourself with your muscles under tension. Do a couple of weeks of negatives and soon you will graduate to your first pullup – I guarantee! This method is far superior to spending money on support bands or using a chair.
And ladies can get there too. Check out this guide for ladies on starting pullups.
Pull Yourself Up!
There is nothing like acquiring a new skill that is initially so hard you can’t even start. But through perseverance, practice and just putting in the time, pullups are now part of my routine. I still get wonderment from completing a pullup workout and satisfaction from pulling up my entire body weight. How many can I do? I dunno, I don’t really go for quantity, I go for a variety of hand-holds and using additional weights. But if you want to crank them out, then go for it!
Do you have an exercise that encapsulates your journey to financial independence? Let me know and write a comment below, I would love to hear your stories.
Actuary on FIRE is not to be confused with actually on fire; but instead is an actuary with a family on the east coast. He’s revving up his game after a recent financially indolent interlude.
He is fascinated by the huge difference in philosophy and financial strategies between the FI community and the establishment of actuarial thought and institutional investing.
While you’re here, be sure to check out how to build a kickass FI spreadsheet and actuaries versus financial independence smackdown!