Trying New Challenges at Any Age
When I began this journey of discovery in 2015, the handstand was one of the very first goals I gave myself. I read Convict Conditioning and was convinced I would be handstanding within one year.
After a few months, with very limited progress, I quickly realised this goal was not going to be achievable within the initial time frame I had given myself.
Then once I realised the severity of my postural problems, I gave up on the notion of handstands for a while. I put that goal on the back burner whilst I tried to recover correct movement patterns and gain some basic strength through resistance training.
Three years on in 2018, I once again revisited this goal. But this time, I would do it with some coaching help.
My First Handstand Lesson
I found the wonderful people at Trybe, and with trepidation and a lot of nerves which I haven’t felt for some time, I enrolled in my first group handstand lesson at the age of 48.
As a child I was always the shy one. Too nervous to put myself forward for anything unless it was football related, and too scared to join new groups.
So at the age of 48 it was certainly interesting to feel those nerves again. Joining a group of people who clearly know each other and who were all able to handstand. Each with differing levels of ability. But none even close to my less than basic level.
The lesson began with warm ups of the wrist and body flexibility to teach us how we should hold ourselves inversely.
These basic moves already had me in quite a sweat due to the lack of strength and flexibility in my posterior chain. This admittedly made me even more nervous, particularly when the coach told me she would have me in a handstand by the end of the class. I smiled, but in my head thought “there is no way this will happen, she clearly does not understand my body limitations”.
Fortunately we broke into groups, with me being in my very own group alone where the coach spent some time teaching me how to get used to my body being upside down.
This consisted of progression moves by kneeling on increasingly higher boxes facing the wall, placing my hands on the ground whilst raising my hips into a type of downward dog position. All this while focusing strongly on keeping the body aligned, chest and abs squeezed tight, and pushing my chest towards the box I was kneeling on.
The last level of progression was on a box which was waist height. So kneeling on this box whilst placing my hands on the ground was already a highly challenging maneuver.
With a severe lack of grace, I began belly down on the box so I could get my hands to the floor, and from there I could wriggle myself into a kneeling position. Then to my surprise I was able to push my hips up and just hold myself in place. This was done with great stress and strength, and I truly believed that was as far as I could go.
But the coach wasn’t about to let me stop there. From this highly inverted downward dog position, I then had to raise one leg at a time behind me as high as I could, as if I was pushing myself into a handstand.
This was when the full lengths of my quads and hamstrings were utilised and cramps began kicking in. I’ve learned recently to accept these cramps as muscle reactivation, so I knew I was doing something right no matter how much it hurt.
My last challenge was to complete the handstand by raising one leg and pushing with the other so my heels touched the wall behind me.
No matter how hard I tried, I just could not do this. With each effort my legs cramped up and down as parts of muscles were activated which haven’t been used for many a year.
To complete the handstand, instead of finishing the move myself, the coach moved one of my heels to the wall. I could then move my other heel to the wall. Then with extreme tension to keep my head away from the wall touching with heels only, I found myself in an actual handstand for the first time in my life.
Admittedly this was completed with a huge amount of assistance and is by no means the free standing handstand I want to achieve as my ultimate goal. But as far as a start is concerned, it was something I was immensely happy with.
The feedback from my muscles over the next few days has been exactly what I was hoping for. DOMS in my upper back and shoulders tells me clearly I hit the areas I wanted to.
Handstands are still part of my training program. I still need to use a wall because I have not put the effort in needed to progress much further.
To free handstand, I need to learn to bail. And with so many other things to focus on, this progression has sat to one side.
That being said, I can happily handstand against a wall anytime, which is something I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I began this journey.
There is no reason you cannot learn something new at any point in your life. In the same week I began my handstand class, I also began my education to become a qualified nutrition coach.
Age is not a barrier to anything.
Only your mind stops you achieving your goals.
Control your mind, and anything is imaginable.