When I was young - a teenager - I could do one-handed pushups, and pushups on my thumbs. I was a fan of Bruce Lee, but trying to emulate his physical feats ended with these two tricks. I still dream of being athletic enough to copy his back-flips and somersaults, but as the years passed, even normal pushups became a challenge. Up to 4 years ago I was lucky if I could manage 10 before flaking out.
I've made progress over the last 4 weeks, and I'm starting to get the urge to push my body further. Adam from the Shapeshifter program published an article recently on how to learn to do handstand pushups, and this inspired me to try it for myself.
His technique is to gradually increase the angle of the body over a period of time while doing your pushups - until you are standing upright on your hands. But a Shapeshifter client offered another technique: starting with a handstand, and increasing the time you can hold the position, until you're strong enough to actually push up. I don't know why, but this technique appeals to me more, and that's the one I'm going to use.
So, over the next two weeks I've set a goal to do handstands everyday, til I can do pushups. And today (Wed. 28 Dec.)I made a start...
Okay... first, do a handstand! I cleared a spot by an empty wall, laid out my exercise mat before it, and placed a soft cushion on the mat - this was for my head should I collapse and land on it. And then I tried to do the handstand. Just a matter of putting your hands on the ground and flipping your body up so your legs come to rest on the wall, right?
Forget it! I don't have the power to kick myself up from a static position... or I don't have the technique. Couldn't get my legs further than a half meter up from the ground. This is more difficult than I imagined. Okay, then I need a run-up of sorts - some thrust, some propelling motion to get my legs up. So, just like I used to do as a kid, start from a standing position, lunge forward, hands to the ground and HUP!
So, what are you waiting for Mike, go... hup!... move!!!
Strange... I froze. I was scared. I realized that this action has become so alien to my body that I don't trust my arms to hold me any more, or my balance to stay up. I was scared of falling on my head... scared of being upside-down. It was like that feeling you get just before a dive into cold water, or from a height, when you hesitate, not sure if you can or want to do it. It took me a good few minutes before I finally got myself to make a move. And when I did, it was a pitiful attempt. I felt my body clench, and my legs didn't come further than a meter from the ground.
Why am I so scared. I tried again, and again, and again - no better. Come on, this is silly, I told myself. I cleared my head, tried again, and this time I was up. Wow!, surprise, that was easy after all.
I stayed up for 10 seconds. Next attempt, I stayed up for 15 seconds, and the third round, for 20 seconds. Enough for one day.
This is funny and educational at the same time.
Funny, because it's not some complicated gymnatic feat I'm trying to perfect here, just a simple handstand against a wall. Five year-olds can do this; I could do this at 5 years old; Hell...dogs can do this!
Educational, because it makes you think that maybe our bodies are capable of a lot more than we can imagine, and the only reason we can't do these things is that we've convinced ourselves that we can't... so we don't even try. Simple playful movements we did naturally as children, fall out of our adult repertoire... we don't skip, we don't jump, we don't flip, turn, cartwheel or roll around anymore - some of us run a little. No wonder we feel so old, and so afraid of breaking.
Well, I for one am going to reprogram my body - I'm going to teach it to jump and skip again, and I don't care if people think a 53 year-old should just stick to walking or not. I've just learned to do a handstand again - now I just have to do it more often so it becomes normal again. And if I can do a handstand, I can learn to do handstand-pushups.
And we'll see if that's true over the next two weeks.