Saturday, January 16, 2021

Balance and Quickness

I've had an informal goal for a while of working up to being able to do twenty pull ups in a row. But recently YouTube served up a video to me, made by a guy my age, who was doing a pull-up challenge, clearly chuffed with himself for being able to beat Jeff Cavaliere.  Cavaliere's challenge was to do fifty pull ups in as few sets as you could, with of course various parameters for what counts and how much rest between sets and so on. For the first set, this guy did 19 pull ups, and he had a few more in the tank. So here's an old  guy, a guy my age, who can do twenty pull ups. It's possible.

He had an enormous back and shoulders, and I thought: you know, I don't particularly want to look like that. Maybe twenty pull ups actually isn't what I want. The number came out of thin air, basically -- I think Jeff Cavaliere said something in some video about "banging out twenty pull ups" -- and I never really investigated farther. It just lodged in my head, and since I'd recently worked my way up to being able to do five or six, from having been unable to do any at all, I thought, "cool! That's what I'll work up to!" And it's just been sort of a brain burr, since then.

It makes sense that you'd need a huge back to be able to do that. Or else that you'd have to be very light. But being shaped like a gorilla is not actually what I want. I want a body that's lighter and quicker than that, not so specialized for one movement. And it's not like I *need* twenty pull ups, in my daily life. It's just a number that floated into my life, and now it's lodged there. I think it's time to gently dislodge it and let it float away. Twenty pull ups is not in my future.

What I do want is more quickness and balance. Watching the generation ahead of me, it becomes clearer and clearer that if I manage to dodge the chronic "diseases of Western Civilization" -- cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis -- what will take me down is simply falling. Falling and hitting my head, or falling and breaking my hip. That's what I should be training to avoid. I do almost nothing that requires balance and quick responses, which means, I'm pretty sure, that they are gradually deteriorating. I have the requisite strength, now -- I can sit down on the floor and stand up again without using my hands or my knees. So that's great: no amount of balance or quickness would help that much if I were not strong enough to catch myself on the way down. But on the other hand, no amount of strength will help if I topple too far before trying to catch myself. I'm going to need the balance and quickness, too.

I never fall. I think of myself as a person who does not fall. But by the time I start falling, it will be late in the game to fix it.

I do a few things to cultivate balance. I often put my socks on standing up, for example. I do step-ups onto a chair, as part of leg day, which was meant to be a quads-and-glutes exercise, but has turned out to be much more of a balance exercise. But I do nothing to cultivate quickness, nothing at all. I think I need to learn to hop, and scamper over rough terrain, and do a lot of getting quickly to the floor from various directions and in various attitudes. I'm quite sure all these motor sequences can be trained, and that someone's already thought it all out. I just have to go find them. Find them, learn them, and practice them.


Murr Brewster said...

In the last three months, I've heard of five friends who fell. Three smashed their shoulders, one broke her arm and wrist (and she's a pianist), and one hit her head and suffered a brain bleed. I thought it was some kind of new epidemic until I realized it's just that I'm in a new age cohort. I myself fall frequently (well, trip) and have excellent bone density, but I agree, I need to work on balance. I couldn't pass a standard sobriety test. My sister, who was very misshapen due to polio, made a lifelong habit of balance, including putting her socks on standing up. I'll be lazily waiting for you to come up with the protocol.

Marly Youmans said...

I have recently dropped all my recent practices and shifted to qi gong...