Watch Yourself Reach the Top of The Human League
Following on from the blog You’re So Vain which I initially wrote in March 2018, here comes the difficult 2nd blog follow up. From Carly Simon to The Human League, we switch from not being ashamed of your vanity, to not being ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror.
In You’re So Vain, I wrote about the negative connotations connected to vanity, and wondered why we have such trouble accepting that we want to look good naked. I still do not know if this is a human condition, a male issue, or just me who felt this. Nevertheless I have continued to try and aim my goals towards looking good, rather than lifting the heaviest weights and staying on the injury table.
Even though I wrote You’re So Vain in 2018, in reality I did not focus on this properly until I was forced to. Or let’s say, until I had the space and freedom to really look at myself in the mirror naked.
Even saying this makes me feel a little uncomfortable. It’s probably something to do with my English upbringing. We are prudish about nakedness compared to many other nationalities. So looking at and studying myself naked was a challenge. And writing about being naked while looking at myself is even more challenging to my Englishness.
But after a solid 6 months of looking at myself, I know it’s too important of a subject to be prudish about. Simply because the benefits I have gained since quarantine dancing are too much to ignore.
In my quarantine blog, I explained how hard it was to find an exercise rhythm, until I serendipitously discovered dancing like nobody’s watching. This was when I realised I could not gyrate my hips, and I certainly could not extend or flex my back.
I thought this was normal for a man of my age. Even with the changes I have gone through in 6 years, I still had a limiting belief that my back was locked and that was that.
But through quarantine dancing, I started to learn that this was not the case. By connecting my eyes to my body through the mirror, I could actually extend and flex my back a tiny bit.
Since then I have worked hard on these moves. And more importantly what I also discovered was the necessity to look at myself in the mirror to ensure I was actually moving correctly.
This is your ability to know where your body is in space and time. The ability to sense your movement, action and location of your body at any time.
The first time I discovered how poor my proprioception was when I met Judy at Posture Plus in 2015, and she asked me to stand up straight in front of the mirror and look at myself. What I saw in the mirror was absolutely fine. I didn’t see anything wrong.
Then one by one Judy pointed out my tilted neck, my flared ribs, my contorted core, my tendency to put more weight on one leg, as well as quite a lot more.
It was a shocking and humbling experience. And from there I’ve tried to note and practice more proprioception to test myself.
A particular favourite is to lay on the floor, close my eyes, and raise one straight leg as high as possible. I then imagine how high I think my leg is, and open my eyes. This shocked me, and slightly scared me. My leg was nowhere near as high as I thought it was.
By using a mirror to watch yourself do anything, you begin to realign your proprioception.
The Natural Human Form
I always wondered how I would know if my form was right by looking in the mirror. If I wasn’t even able to see that I was standing wrong, how would I know if I was moving right? I quickly realised this wasn’t something I need not worry about.
There’s something innately built into us to recognise correct human form. This is why our heads instinctively turn towards a fit healthy looking lady, or we are attracted to a well built man. We automatically know when somebody has a good body when we see it. And a good body is the same as good form or posture.
After quarantine, I continued dancing alone like nobody was watching when I had the opportunity. But more importantly, I continued looking at myself in the mirror naked whenever I could..
When in the bathroom, I watched myself squat, and extend / flex my back. This grew into back extensions and rotation so I could look at my back in the mirror and watch the extension.
I also began trying to flex and extend other muscles to connect my mind to my body. To bring that connection together. To improve my proprioception.
If like me, you’ve never done anything like this, it really is not easy. It takes effort, focus and concentration. Both my hips and shoulders are locked into strange movement patterns. So to flex these muscles correctly and see them connect is extremely difficult, but strangely rewarding. Because it tells me muscle is there, it just maybe does not move the way it should (yet).
Why Is Watching Yourself Important?
I will never again underestimate the value of watching myself exercise in the gym. Taking videos of what I am trying to do. Because this shows me very clearly where I am and what I need to correct.
There is a reason we need to look good to feel good. The more obvious reason is psychological. If you look good in the mirror, you have confidence in yourself.
However, as I switch my focus from heavy lifting to bodyweight movement and stretching, not only do I see a difference in my body, more importantly I feel a difference. I feel less pain, less restriction and more ability to move freely.
So don’t be shy. Nobody is watching you. It’s you with yourself alone. Study yourself in the mirror, watch how you move. Feel the restrictions and work on them. You really can do it, and it truly does make a massive difference in pain management.