5 minutes

February 20, 2023 Comments Off on 5 minutes

“You die from the legs up.” That’s an old Japanese saying.

It’s amazing how quickly we degrade. And how obvious the signs are.

Here’s one: I was putting on my pants about three weeks ago and almost fell over. Was my balance that terrible?

So I tried putting on my socks standing up. It was precarious and involved much hopping. When I switched to my left foot, I toppled into the dresser. With my shoes it was the same. Apparently my balance wasn’t that terrible, it was worse.

Had It come to this? The only way I could safely get dressed was seated? Good dog …

And before you sneer, try it yourself.

I embarked on a rigorous training plan of putting on pants, socks, and shoes each day while standing, and taking them off, too. To augment my training, I remained standing on each foot for thirty seconds.

Progress was incredibly slow. My plan to gradually regain balance and strength by slowly pulling on socks and shoes didn’t work well at all. I gained some balance but at every moment was in danger of hopping around madly or tilting into furniture.

What the fuck was wrong with me? MS? Parkinson’s? Old?

In an unrelated development I ordered a jump rope. It arrived a few days ago and yesterday I tried it for the first time. Beforehand I watched the world’s fastest jump roper on YouTube, Xiao Lin, who can jump a thousand times in under three minutes holding the rope himself, not using turners. This is kind of beyond amazing.

My goal was more modest, I thought, simply to jump for five minutes. I’m fit. How hard could it be? I didn’t know that this was like making my first goal for my first jog a 4-minute mile.

Within seconds I was panting and after a few more hops the rope had tangled my legs. “What the fuck?” I thought. “I really am dying.”

My five minutes of jumping rope ended up being three minutes of gasping or being tangled, and two noncurrent minutes of jumping. The most jumps I could do before systems broke down was twenty. My legs were limp and quivering.

Today went much better. I got up to sixty jumps before exhaustion led to uncoordination and tangling and gasping. I jumped about three out of the five minutes, all of it in bits and pieces.

But here is the shock: I can put on my socks and shoes while standing, effortlessly and with perfect balance. It’s crazy. The balance you get from a few minutes jumping rope is more than WEEKS of slow practice. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Proprioception is learned at speed, never slowly. Your brain puts together the location of your hands and feet, its only job in an evolutionary sense, by moving quickly. It’s the same in cycling. You cannot learn to go fast by going slow and “building up.” You have to just go fast and try not to fall. Your brain does the rest.

Aside from the incredible aerobic and muscular workout, the balance benefits are astounding. If you really do die from the legs up, death has its work cut out for it.

Now, about that Xiao Lin poser …



Comments are closed.

What’s this?

You are currently reading 5 minutes at Cycling in the South Bay.


%d bloggers like this: