Overcoming mental blocks: value of conditioning and progression.

Just so you can get on board with the injustice of it all, in April 2013 I did my 1st  ever unspotted  back flick at the age of 52. It was clunky, legs bent etc, but it was a back flick. Throughout the rest of the year, while working on my Tucks and P bars and round off and muscle up and up rises ( the list is endless), and in between back injuries, Elbow tendonitis  and adductor tear ( in both adductors at different times). My back flick slowly improved it, but became dependent on an emotional spot. I had to have my coach by me, to lightly touch my back before I “went”. There was no actual spotting, but my mental dependence grew and grew.

We started solving this last week: ie my coach started  stepping back.
Boom!!

My form collapsed totally and my back flick, when I can pluck up courage to throw one, is  now heavily twisted to one side or the other and is “dangerous”.

In catastrophe theory, I hit my bifurcation point. This is that teeny change that collapses the whole structure  and from which there is no going back: imagine counting from 1 to 5. And you do it well.

“1.2.3.4.5”

Now your teacher say, ok this time  count to 6… you go

“7, 2, sob, london , kitty cat”

So your teacher goes, ok, ignore the 6, lets stay with the 1-5. You go, great!

“ paris, 4, hiccup, moon beam”.

Hitting a bifurcation point, destroys everything you have built up, its not a question of taking  one step back to where you were: everything gets demolished.

You can try charging at the back flick  ( go to a pit and throw  your self in, time and time again)  but , bearing in mind that a back flick involves jumping backward upside down and landing on your hands and is 100% technique based, a temper based solution isn’t the way.

This brings me to some observations which is based on  the Crossft London teaching method, some of  Grigori Raiport’s work and gym bunny rumour.

An interesting bit of advice is to “keep your mind tight”. Everyone talks about abs and glutes: maybe you need to keep your mind focused too. Just throwing yourself backwards doesn’t work.

That said, what does that mean.  I know many  gym goers who pronounce the value of special thinking  and of special mind techniques, but frankly they normally deal in simple moves.

I offer several approaches to solve and maybe avoid  blocks

1)    Practice the basics

Where possible, base your skill  training on proven progressions, build these progression  into your warm up.  You never know when you will injure yourself or have a brain  malfunction and need to retrace your steps

The moment you hit a  (new) problem your brain goes into an emotional overdrive. Many solutions  are quite basic, but in my opinion, panic, combined with laziness and a wish for drama  makes finding the  solution difficult.

I once (back in 1979) had a friend who was really nasty ( and abusive and violent) to his girlfriend. She eventually kicked him out. He decided to win her back. His strategies, as I recall,   ranged from  expensive romantic dinners, to  getting a  violinist to play while he begged under her  bedroom window, I think he even thought of (a mock) sucide. “then she’ll be sorry…..”

Never did it occur to him to be truthful, loyal, loving, sober ,patient and kind.Basics!!!

2)    Get your mind to control your body.

Its  a bit of a negative view, but there are streams of thought that say, left to its own devises, you will be lazy.  In short the body will get away with whatever it can if the mind lets it.  If the mind gives up, or goes soft, the body wlll auto pilot for a while, then it will do what the hell it likes.

You must have been in one of those classes where you mucked around. You could sense the teacher wasn’t in control, and off you went.

So with these models in mind I re-looked at what happened running up to  my failure.

I tore my left adductor  about 12 weeks ago then, screwed my back in a  deadlift workout,  and then we  had  a  lovely time in Madrid.  I had planned a lull to write a bit more and over the last few weeks was able to stay in bed longer,  ( certainly later) and stay up late. I was able to lounge around on a soft sofa.  In short a long way away from my normal  regime.   In short I let everything go.   My routine went, my focus and drive went with it.

My mind surrendered authority,  my body lost strength.

So why the hell would any animal throw itself backwards ( upside down…onto its hoof presumably)  for a   lazy master.

Here then is the value of underpinning conditioning. No matter how good you do the big skills, do the progressions and your under pinning conditioning   often and well because,  not only are they useful rehearsal , but its is  a message to your body that you, not it, is in charge.

3) that said, it takes a while to re establish control, so there’s nothing much wrong with laying off  a hard skill for  a short time, while you re-establish control

If its10 push ups, a run, or  a WOD drive yourself to do it regularly,

Allegedly, repetition works

But, please stay in control

Diagnosing my round-off issues

Here is the grim truth. Apart from my lunge problems, I have a “where my hands go” problem. Green is where my hands should be, blue is where they go.

So 1st port of call when fixing your round off is to draw around your feet and try a round off with your hands covered in chalk.

It gives you grim feedback. If your ego can cope!

You can then take a video clip and watch the disaster in “SLOMO”

This, is surely, partly to do with shoulder flexibility

So here is how to begin to fix it.

1) Position specific work

hold the position against the wall
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Try this yoga type exercise
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2) generic Shoulder flexibility work

I’ll add a link once Ive finished the video

Its the tucks again!

A useful exercise using a swiss ball and some parrallettes. Hold the tuck, and squeeze it in. Then extend out into a straight shape, then pull it back in. Repeat.

As you get better, focus on lifting the hips in the tuck, but do squeeze the knees into your chest. Notice in the tuck your back is rounded.

The importance of conditioning the tuck

One of the crucial abilities in gymnastic tumbling is the ability to pull your knees into your chest and make a ball: The Tuck.

If you cannot, or won’t, ‘Tuck” your tumbles will be  open,  slow and difficult to land.

This means that you must get your  calves  to stick to your hamstrings and your knees to your chest with a rounded back . The G force of most tumbles will try and rip this shape apart. Make sure you can squeeze the tuck both through body control ( abs, chest and leg compression) and by pulling your knees in by grabbing your upper shin’s. As much time as you spend dish and arching, allocate to the tuck, especially if you are open  and lazy in your front and back tuck. On the whole, get this shape with the head sort of  neutral, not  massively strained back ( you are preparing for both a front and back tuck).

If you were taught the basics properly, you will be used to this position in your forward rolls. As an adult, most gymnastic teachers will shy off demanding that you properly tuck in your rolls, and thus leave you unconditioned. The forward roll will put you into a tuck by the nature of the move, but its more a “flop into place tuck” than one you have worked for. I’ll post more later, but hold that tuck in  a variety of positions.

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