week #26 handstands

What’s all this about, why am I making handstands one of my challenges? Well firstly I spent a lot of my childhood upside down (very keen on gymnastics), secondly I hate the idea that I might not be able to do something that I used to be able to do (why I sometimes run even though I’m not a fan) and lastly that it’s a great way to keep an eye on how good your upper body strength is.

I have from time to time built up tension and pain in my neck and shoulders from computer use that has had me nauseous with pain as a therapist tries to ease out the muscle knots. When I realised that working all the time from home was going to be the new normal, and especially that the massages weren’t going to be available, it seemed like a good idea to look at ways to better protect myself.

Handstands are self weight bearing (or plyometric) and this helps to build/retain bone density in your wrists, arms and shoulders. After the age of 50 half of women will develop some level of osteoporosis and 1 in 6 women will suffer a wrist fracture from a fall. They call them fragility fractures so building bone density is important and exercise is one factor that can help (alongside a healthy diet and not smoking). Handstands are also recognised as a great workout for your core, so adieu to those lockdown lovehandles. As a form of exercise it’s a bonus that no equipment is required.

Here I’m using the wall to try and get a few seconds balance, practising to see how a balanced position feels.

You can do handstands anywhere, although as I’m mainly in the propping myself up phase I found it surprisingly hard to identify a suitable wall or door space that didn’t create a risk of kicking a light fitting or landing against furniture. I spent some time before my first launch considering how to make sure I didn’t just collapse in a heap, I’m already a regular planker with Pilates and so upped the level and intensity of the planks first to see how that felt, particularly doing one handed ones and testing out time in a pike position. I started to use 3kg, then 5kg weights in overhead lifts to prepare too. Before doing the first few hand stands I also recruited a ‘spotter’ to be on hand in case I need balance help or it all went a bit wonky. It was a slight shock to be honest just how heavy I felt when I went up for the first time, or how weak I was?

In terms of success I have to say that the inspirational you tubers whose strength and balance is at olympic athlete level are not going to have their skills overtaken by me anytime soon. I found the free standing handstands really hard to do for more than a few seconds and my goal to lift one arm whilst in a supported handstand remains frustratingly out of reach so far.

Whilst I may not be running about on my hands, as I was aged 10, the good news is that I increased my strength and I had fun doing it. I am a bit sceptical that being upside down ‘boosts your mood’ but as most of my time upside down was spent giggling perhaps the claims are true. I think I have noticed just a bit of muscle definition appear in my shoulders and mysteriously I seem to have managed a very busy work schedule without any build up of neck/shoulder pain. I wonder how that could be?

This link is both inspirational and will give you some ideas about getting started:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU2gRa8VT5I

and for a great Pilates teacher…http://emmamartinpilates.com/ or @emmamartinpilates 

So I’ve gained better awareness of what upper body strength I have and how to work on it. I’m going to need this in the weeks ahead as I tackle more of my 50in50@50 challenges. It’s free, highly accessible and environmentally friendly.

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