Fitness: Go Ahead, Play the Fool

Whether we like it or not, and to our dismay, there are times we will play the fool in life.  That’s just the way the roulette wheel spins, no matter how tight to the hip we try to live, unexpected embarrassment will be in our future.  How about taking the bull by the horns and beating it to the punch?  You will not wait for foolishness anymore, you will be proactive about it and bring it onto yourself; and in so doing be in charge of its coming and going.

Being a fitness trainer, one of the things I often hear is, “Oh I can’t do that, I have bad balance”, or “I will look stupid doing that”.  Well that’s how you get better at something, you have to work at it before becoming more proficient.  Nobody cares if you look silly, they are too concerned with how they look and are being perceived by you.

You will never improve your balance by continuing to only put yourself in supported positions from which it is easy for you to find your balance.  You have to test the boundaries and limits in a safe, controlled, fixed environment like your home, the park, or the gym where you won’t get hurt.  This is especially important as we age and our reaction time slows.  We need to take steps to neutralize this slowing down, maintaining our bodily awareness and coordination.

So, along with continuing to move and stay in motion, we also need to do balance training.  A good start would be to stand and balance on one leg, gradually lengthening the amount of time.  Maybe you start the first few weeks by holding onto a chair to do so, then progress after a month into being able to do 3 or 4 seconds without holding the chair, then up to 7 or 8 seconds at a time several weeks later, and so on.  After getting better at that through the months and year, you can add in bicep curls or shoulder presses, or bend at the waist to put your body parallel to the ground and row weights up, all on one leg.

Age doesn’t have to define your physical fitness, it sets some parameters yes, but still enables much movement and strength in it’s wake.  The great golfer Sam Snead could still kick the top of the door frame into his 70’s because he continued on with it, and didn’t let his age limit him.   Who knows when you are going to be out and about and slip on a banana peel or roll your ankle off of a curb, and need that cultivated proprioceptive awareness, along with a more reactive inner balancing system.

Don’t worry about looking silly, set yourself to challenging your body in a controlled environment, doing things you hadn’t thought of doing before.  A man asked Pablo Picasso one day, how it was that he was able to do all the things he had done in his life, and Picasso replied, “Because I did the things I didn’t know how to do.”  Don’t limit yourself with doing only that which you do now, you don’t have to be great or good at things you try, just put yourself to new and different tasks.  Know and believe you can do more, test your capabilities and limitations, and keep striving.


Afterthought
:  It is so empowering to put yourself to something that you aren’t sure you can do, or are afraid of messing up.  I remember at the gym about a year and a half ago, when I wanted to go further with my upper body work outs, and decided to start doing pull ups and chin ups.  The bar at the gym is set pretty high, so when shorter people like me want to use it they usually have someone lift them up to it, or find something to put under their feet for a boost up.  Well I wanted to do them all on my own, and didn’t want assistance, so I decided I would try jumping up to it.  It was a bit daunting for me, and something I was nervous about for a few weeks, until I finally took the plunge and made myself jump up and try to grab the bar.

Over the next couple months I slipped off a couple times and looked funny for a second, but for the most part I focused and believed, and was able to jump up to it and hold on.  That was the most empowering thing I did that year, the self-belief and confidence it helped to build and support in me was a bit thrilling.  I put myself in a scary situation, not knowing if I may even fall to the ground if I missed, but I found that the payoff was so much greater than the occasional miss and embarrassment.  I may even have got others’ attention with this move, so who knows who you can inspire by pushing your boundaries, it just may be worth taking the chance for you, and for others!

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