The Joys of HoopRock & JumpRock – Physical Epiphanies

You might be interested in this article if:

You don’t exercise consistently or at all, you don’t have fun when you exercise, you’re not getting the results you’d like, or you think I’m in better shape than you expect to be at 67. If you agree with any of those statements I encourage you to read on because it doesn’t have to be that way.

So what do I mean by “Physical Epiphany”? According to Wikipedia, an epiphany is  “an experience of sudden and striking realization”.

A “Physical Epiphany” is the experience of realizing your ability to perform some physical skill has jumped by a quantum level between one day and the next. Difficult becomes effortless. Clumsy and halting become graceful and flowing. Euphoria ensues.

I first recall this experience twelve years ago after first learning to jump rope. You might think it was being able to suddenly jump well after weeks of jumping terribly. But that didn’t happen; it was a gradual process of constantly stepping on and hitting myself in the foot with the rope, frequently stepping on and hitting myself in the foot with the rope, less frequently, often, fairly often, occasionally, fairly occasionally, rarely, very rarely. I’m trying to emphasize what a long, tedious process it was, and so totally worth it I get panicky thinking how close I came to never starting.

And it wasn’t discovering how much fun it was to jump to music. That was, and still is, euphoric, but there was no sudden realization.

My first physical epiphany was a few weeks after I could jump consistently on both feet. One day I found I could do something I had been practicing for short intervals off and on, which was to run in place (jump on alternate feet), consistently and without any apparent physical effort (endorphins at work), for pretty much as long as I wanted to – which turned out to be longer than my calves were conditioned for. Euphoria is like that.

Sometimes it’s not a new skill, you just suddenly feel stronger and more agile. Often it’s not that huge and you stop noticing fairly quickly, but it was still pretty cool when quite a few years ago I suddenly realized I could feel my obliques turning my upper body with and against the turn I was making.

Just a few years ago one day stands out when my legs felt incredibly strong and every time I landed they felt rooted, as if my toes could grip the mat through my shoes. Once again, euphoric. I’ve had feelings like that quite often over the years, After a few days you get used to whatever it is you’re feeling and don’t notice anymore.

It’s a cycle. As you become stronger your body learns a more efficient or flashy way to do some move. However this involves some muscle combination that’s stronger but doesn’t yet have much stamina – typically it incurs a larger oxygen debt than you’ve become used to, so initially it makes jumping or hooping harder – more of a burn on those muscles and your workouts may become shorter for a while as your stamina is more challenged. Then your stamina, strength and agility build and one day you suddenly seem super strong and super agile.

A few weeks after I started hooping I went through the same thing. My hooping efforts started with the strength, agility, and stamina I’ve built up over twelve years of jumping, so there actually was an overnight transition from difficult, clumsy, and awkward to effortless, graceful, and flowing as my body realized “Oh, I get what we’re trying to do”, and just started doing it without burdening me with the details. I wish I could describe how amazing it felt. A lot of hooping is just controlled falling, you go up on one foot and balance or jump, then fall off onto the other foot, do some other variation on that foot and continue, pushing gravity as far as you’re able at whatever your current skill level. To be able to do that with no feeling of effort is – you guessed it – euphoric.

Then maybe ten days ago I noticed my body had developed a new way of hooping. Rigid thighs, hips, and glutes. I could feel why this was better in turning, jumping on one foot, and just about every other move. Your thigh, hip, and glute on each side become a very powerful rigid structure as required; the tendons that run up the outside and back of your knees transmit the load from your calves to the outside muscles on the back of your thighs, which are rigid, so the load is very efficiently transmitted to your hips where you have a strong platform for your upper body to push against as you have to move it around to keep your balance. That platform actually extends all the way up above your hip to just below your ribcage, so your upper body is not just sitting on the platform, it’s sort of “socketed” onto it. These are just my observations on how it feels, I’m no anatomist. But you can watch the videos and see for yourself.

That’s all very well, but on the particular day I’m talking about this new way of hooping was taking its toll. My thighs were burning and my hips were getting way tired. After all the years of jumping I can tolerate this pretty well, and I was actually enjoying it on one level as I knew that I could look forward to sessions of pure euphoria where I would feel like Superman.

And sure enough, about a week ago and since I have been able to turn at angles, hoop on one foot, and just in general do things I could never do before with very little feeling of effort. It’s wonderful how the feeling of physical effort fades into the background so sometimes you’re not aware of it at all, even if you try, when you’re jumping or hooping. My conscious mind is either tripping on the euphoria or participating in telling my body the next move to try, or both. But the sensation of physical effort is usually far, far away – particularly toward the end, when you feel like you can go on forever – I think when you’re near the end of your stamina the endorphins are working hardest to mask the effort.

Sometimes you’re doing new things for a while before you notice. Like I was totally unaware of moving back and forth to the beat until I noticed I could feel my obliques. That’s the great thing about jumping and hooping to music. You don’t have to be good or even try that hard. As a matter of fact it’s better if you don’t try to do long and tiring sessions. Jumping in particular is mostly about timing, and hooping, at least in the beginning, is about developing the muscle memory in your hips and lower back to keep the hoop rotating. In both cases it’s best to just provide your mind with some samples for your subconscious to work on until the next session. The subconscious is the key to physical epiphany. Between one day and the next it has burned in the muscle memory so jumping or hooping or whatever suddenly become automatic and seemingly effortless.

You just have to start and keep at it – just a few minutes every day – and your body will do the rest. I can tell you from personal experience it doesn’t matter how awkward you are to begin with, if you can walk ok and have no other physical problems that prevent it, you can jump and hoop

Then when you get to the point where you can actually do them it starts to be fun. All you have to do is start trying to move to the music. JumpRock and HoopRock are really just free-form dancing with constraints; so it’s a good way to dance without having to feel self-conscious about it. Who could expect you to be good at it? You’re just starting out. And I think nearly everyone would be a dancer if they weren’t self-conscious. Why else would people nod their heads or tap their feet to music. Jumping and hooping are just logical progressions.

Once it starts to be fun things start to happen more quickly. You get more efficient so there’s less effort. You start getting stronger and building stamina faster than you can believe. Even after I could jump pretty well I couldn’t make it through a four minute song without having to stop to catch my breath. Then at a constantly increasing rate I found I could catch my breath more and more quickly and had to pause less and less often. Then it became no problem to get through longer and longer songs, and so on. It never stops getting better.

It makes me sad when I think of the literally millions of people who will never know the joy, fun, and euphoria that I experience. And even worse they won’t experience the health and fitness I have going into old age. I would be in exactly the same situation if I hadn’t discovered JumpRock and HoopRock, which was just luck.  I had no idea I’d be able to jump or hoop like this at 67 or any other age -it still seems redonk.

It’s not like I was trying to seek out a fun exercise. I had no idea there was such a thing.  I can’t think of a single other exercise that’s fun without being expensive or requiring an opponent. Maybe rock wall climbing would be fun, but I still wouldn’t give up hooping and jumping. And you can’t dance to it.

And it’s so easy. But there are pitfalls. Realize you don’t have to work out hard and do more each day than the day before – that’s the road to burn out. I know people who have seen my results and gotten all enthusiastic about working out every day. But they fall prey to their own enthusiasm and burn out after a few days when they don’t feel like trying to match or out-do what they did the day before. Then it becomes easy to skip a workout just because they don’t feel like it, and so on until they just stop.

As a matter of fact, I don’t want you to be enthusiastic. I want you to think of it as a job of work that you have to do every day, an easy job of work, but still a job of work and one that has to be done every day. The enthusiasm will come when it starts to be fun, but you have to put in the time first. That’s why I want you to make it as easy on yourself as possible. If you can just stick to the commitment of doing it every day you can’t help but succeed. As Woody Allen said “Eighty percent of success is in just showing up”. If you provide that eighty percent and put in a little effort your body will take care of everything else.

The most important principle I know of is that it’s more important to work out every day, no matter how little, than it is to work out hard on any given day. Particularly in the beginning, when it’s most discouraging, you need to let your body give you the day after day physical feedback of feeling better and the mental feedback of having fulfilled your commitment of getting your daily exercise. The more it becomes a ritual the better and the more days you keep the chain going the stronger it will be.

With JumpRock and HoopRock it should be easy because you can look forward to having fun and it’s pointless to do long workouts in the beginning anyway. I started out on a stationary bike, which was no fun, then or later; and there was nothing to actually prevent me from doing a full thirty minutes, which I would usually do, meaning the next day it was tough to start because I didn’t want to do another thirty minutes – even though I knew I didn’t have to I would try to use it as an excuse. Humans are so stupid.

Thankfully I was always able to tell myself that on this day I would only ride a few minutes just to fulfill the commitment (the only thing that saved me was the commitment and making it so simple and easy – silly, but it worked)  – it was stupidly agonizing, but I was always able to do it. Then after I started it wasn’t so bad so I would ride the full thirty minutes. So bizarre, to know full well that once you get started you’ll be OK, but just not able to actually start because you just feel so tired from the stressed-out chemicals in your blood stream (so to speak) – the very thing that riding the bike will fix is the thing that prevents you not from making the ride itself, just starting it – now there’s a Catch-22. This soap opera went on day after day about six weeks; after that I still didn’t feel like starting, I never would, although eventually it got so I wasn’t really even aware of it, but even when I was, the knowledge of how much better I would feel had actually sunk in, and there wasn’t a lot of drama about it.

Then twenty-four years later I discovered jumping. It probably took a month to six weeks before jumping to music became fun, and it’s been more fun ever since.

Also, about two years ago I started doing weights for my chest and shoulders. Not as much fun, but it improves my hooping and jumping. I didn’t do weights for about the first ten years of jumping. When I did start, I found out that jumping had built my core strength so that I got much better results than in my forties and fifties. I realize now doing chest and shoulders is fairly useless if you don’t have core strength. When your muscles start getting tired your abs have to provide a strong foundation for them to push against. Picture an angler fighting a fish after her shoulders and arms start to get tired and she has to start relying on tightened abs for support and maneuvering her upper body. The years of jumping provided that foundation so there was an easily discernible difference, even after a ten year gap, in how I was able to keep going after my chest and shoulders started getting tired. So discernible that I noticed the difference a few days before I figured out what was causing it.

I didn’t expect to be gaining muscle, strength, and stamina at 67. But there’s no doubt I am. Of course if I had been anywhere near peak condition when I started at 55 I’d have reached it years ago; it’s all relative. Regardless, to be improving instead of declining in fitness at 67 in itself seems incredible; add in that it’s because of doing something that’s so much fun I’d do it even more if I could and it becomes magical. If you like music you can have exactly the same thing. And the sooner you start, no matter what your current condition, the sooner you can reach your peak fitness level and the longer you can enjoy staying there.

It’s time for me to go jump and hoop. Feels like Christmas.

 

I'll be 70 in less than 6 months (it's Dec 2016 now) and never expected to be in this kind of shape or have this kind of stamina, at any age. Then I discovered JumpRock at 55 and HoopRock at 66. Both are so much fun it's actually easy to get fit and stay that way; this blog is to encourage you to follow my example and be in great shape yourself going into old age - that's all I can promise for now - we'll see how actual old age goes. I'm highly optimistic.
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2 Responses to The Joys of HoopRock & JumpRock – Physical Epiphanies

  1. Sandy Siegel says:

    You are so inspiring, Rich! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and encouraging us to keep trying!!

    • Rich says:

      Thanks Sandy. I don’t know about wisdom. It was just dumb luck that sent me down this path – I’m trying to describe what a great experience it has been and continues to be so that other people will give it a try. Once you get hooked on hooping and jumping it’s a whole new world where you don’t have to hate exercise anymore. And both are skills you can build on indefinitely instead of just exercise that you can do more and more of. Best of all it’s fun. Hooping more than jumping right now, but it’s newer.