Growin’ Up: Part 2–The Flexed Arm Hang is the President’s Evil

President Lyndon Johnson foresaw the end of th...

LBJ: Purveyor of Gym Class Horrors (Image via Wikipedia)

This is the second in what I hope becomes an entertaining series of adolescent recollections.  You see a lot of stuff when you’re young–some good, some bad, some happy, some sad.  Some involve gym class humiliation.

The Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, designed to get kids up off the couch and to the highest realms of (alternately) glory or embarrassment, was a popular gymnasium fixture in the elementary school days of my youth. A minor part of President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s sweeping Great Society programming, and measuring performance in a variety of activities such as the 50-yard dash, pushups, and other displays of speed, strength, and agility, the Presidential Fitness Challenge was to the young “husky” boy an unadulterated manifestation of evil incarnate.

Most humiliating of all, at least for 8 year old me, was the “Flexed Arm Hang.” The idea was simple! Grab the chin-up bar, pull yourself up, and hang, for as long as humanly possible, with your chinny-chin-chin all the way up above the bar. Little Eddie so-and-so, who never struck me as the athletic type but did on second look have an unusually muscular upper chest, held it for 59 seconds just prior to my turn, setting the flexed arm hang “bar” high. I still set mine low, thinking if I could hoist my considerable mass up that high for a solid ten seconds I could claim if nothing else at least moral victory. I sidled up and hoped for the best.

Almost comically, the gym teacher checked in with me intently, making sure I was fully ready to go before she slammed down the stopwatch hammer and enthusiastically yelled “GO!”

My flexed arm hang clocked in at a notable 0.00 seconds.

That’s right, I wasn’t even capable of pulling my fat ass up to the bar and getting my flabby arms into a flexed position. I just literally hung there, for 4 or 5 seconds, trying to defy gravity and futilely hoping for a sudden change in the laws of physics. I may have murmured something about my hands burning against the bar, trying futilely to draw the teacher’s attention away from my utter failure, but the writing was on the wall, right up there with the torture device they innocently called the chin-up bar. What it read was that I was an embarrassment to my President, and indeed to the nation.

Blogger’s postscript: I recently saw that there is now an adult version of the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge.  If I take it on, I’ll be sure to update the blog.  I might do that this Saturday.  NO, not this Saturday, the one after the next one of the one upcoming.  


6 thoughts on “Growin’ Up: Part 2–The Flexed Arm Hang is the President’s Evil

  1. Had it dawned on me, I would have included a thinly veiled flex-arm-hang as a trap in my ongoing Dungeons and Dragons Campaign, that REALLY would have showed those jocks and popular girls who had it together and who retreated into a fantasy world to escape the horrors of adolescence…wait, what?

  2. I must have had particularly generous gym teachers. They always allowed me to jump up to the flexed arm position before counting how long I could hold it there. Still, I probably never broke the 5-10 second mark.

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