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Hand balancing

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Online Highlights 1

This is the first post about Online Highlights, which is simply a convenient way for me to share things I find awesome in some way. Click here to view other posts like this.

Cthulhu and Christ – A highly interesting comparison between the Cthulhu mythos as created by H.P. Lovecraft and Christianity.

The Call of Cthubuntu – An article about computing and Lovecraft, highly entertaining.

Spiders on Drugs – Pictures of spiderwebs spun under the influence of various drugs.

VNV Nation – Illusion – An unofficial video accompanying VNV Nation’s “Illusion”, nice both to listen to and watch.

Raphael Lacoste – I don’t fancy this artist’s motive, but some pictures are really, really good.

Gymnastic Bodies – A repository and web forum concerning gymnastics and associated body-weight exercises; very nice indeed.

One hand handstand demo – One of the best one-handed handstand demonstrations I’ve seen (it changes about halfway, so if you’re not interested in the beginning, please skip it rather than missing the other half).

More handbalancing – Another one-handed handstand show, this time from Golden Circus.

How to construct your own workout routine – an in-depth article about creating work-out routines, highly interesting.

Neural mechanisms are the most important determinants of strength adaptations – An interesting article about neurology and strength gains when exercising, fairly academic.

CrossFit Exercises – A long list of various kinds of exercises, pretty useful if you want to know what a certain execrise looks like.

Surreal Art Update – Some surreal art from Dark Roasted Blend, some of it extremely inspiring.

Dark Roasted Blend – Just in case you’ve missed it, this is one of the best picture blogs out there, and I visit it frequently

The Natural History of Unicorns – A review in the January 29th edition of the Economist of Christopher Laver’s book “The Natural History of Unicorns”, not only a nice review, but also an interesting book.

Base jumping more crazy than usual – I have seen base jumping before, but this was by far the most freaked out so far, a must-see!

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This is a status report for progress on my own vertical version of the 100 push-ups program. To see what this is all about and what rules I’ve set for myself, please check the original post from January 5th.

Week 2
In the confusion surrounding my departure from Xinzhu, I didn’t have any opportunity to post an update about my progress for handstand push-ups. The second attempt on the first week started out really badly. I must have over exerted myself the previous week, because four days rest wasn’t nearly enough. For fear of more serious injury, I cancelled the first day’s exercise almost before it started. I decided to change to the middle column instead and try again on Wednesday, which was fine. The Friday session was also alright (8, 10, 7, 7, 10 reps), but the fact that I still found it difficult should perhaps be interpreted as a sign that I wasn’t fully recovered. Thus, since I skipped the first day of the week, my second attempt on the first week also failed, even though I did managed the two most difficult days.

Week 3
The third attempt was successful and not overwhelmingly difficult (my current record is 17 push-ups now, which was done on the second day in the last set). To summarise, I think this level is more appropriate. Next week, I will try to move on to the second week, middle column, but considering the way we travel around and that I spend a lot of energy on other stuff, I don’t think it’s very likely that I will make it. However, I have to start somewhere and I didn’t complete the first week on the first try other.

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This is a status report for progress on my own vertical version of the 100 push-ups program. To see what this is all about and what rules I’ve set for myself, please check the original post from January 5th.

Week 1 – Performance
Since I performed 14 handstand push-ups in the initial test, I placed myself in the most advanced column of the program (in hindsight, it might have been better to disregard this and start with the easiest one instead). All weeks consist of three days exercise with five sets each day. First day was 10, 12, 7, 7, 9, which worked out alright; I even managed to pull of 12 in the last set. Second day was 10, 12, 8, 8, 12, and while far from easy, I still managed this without extreme difficulty. Third day was 11, 15, 9, 9, 13, which turned out to be too much. I failed the second set with 2 to go and the last set with 3 to go.

Week 1 – Evaluation
I’ve learnt a few things from this first week. Most importantly, I shouldn’t focus too much on the numbers and be careful to stop before failure. On the last day, I felt some bad tension in my back, which was not improved by the extreme strain during the second and fifth set. There is a fair chance that I will complete the first week on my second try, but I have to take it easy and not overdo it. Even if I spend the whole month doing just week 1, it will still be worthwhile exercise as long as I’m smart about it. Overdoing a specific set also greatly reduces the capacity for the following sets.

Another thing I’ve learnt is how to counter the strain on the lower back. I have two solution for this problem (it’s a big problem for me, sometimes). Firstly, tensing the glutes and abdomen will help greatly, which will come as no surprise to those who are already well versed in the art of handbalancing, but it’s very important. Don’t just tense them a little bit, but conscously think about tensing them as much as possible. Secondly, I have found that doing some sit-ups, jack-knives or similar exercises greatly help releasing the tension in the back. I do these in between the sets of push-ups.

That’s all for this week, I think. I have 15 sets to complete, and I hope four days of almost complete rest (Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon) is enough to recuperate fully. I hope I’ll be able to complete week 1 on the second attempt, but preventing injury and allowing for healthy muscle development is of course top priority.

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A few months ago, I heard of the one hundred push-ups program, which allegedly will enable people to do one hundred push-ups in roughly six weeks, depending on their initial fitness, of course. I’ve never been very interested in push-ups, but on the other hand, I find programs of this kind inspiring. In addition to this, I am quite interested in handstands and associated skills. For my own, twisted reasons, I’m of course not going to start the program horizontally like everybody else, but rather I’m going to do do the program vertically (handstand push-ups against a wall, in other words). This fits well into my progress plan, and the shoulder and arm strength thus gained will probably come in handy for lots of other skills I’m aiming for (planche, handstand clapping push-up, et cetera; see project page). Also, I think the project deserves attention and adding my own flavour to it will perhaps achieve that in some small way.

However, I have no illusions about this program. It seems to be aimed towards people who have done little or no exercise in this area before. For instance, if one performs eleven push-ups during the initial test, one is supposed to break that record after four days, which is simply not very likely if the eleven push-ups is the result of hard exercise. Neurological learning will of course enable people to increase their maximum number very fast, but real muscle growth takes many weeks before it even makes a difference. Another glitch is that the program specifies the rest between every set is given as a number of seconds with the addition “longer if required”. Of course, the program will be wildly different if one waits 120 seconds or an hour between each set. I think this program will work just fine if one’s doing regular push-ups, but doing them vertically is testing its limits.

Needless to say, the program is not designed for handstand push-ups, and I expect to fail several times before achieving even some of the early weeks in the program, even though I think I might be able to pull of the first one successfully right away. Regardless of how bad my progress is, a month of this kind of exercise will be a nice addition to my initial handstand workout last month. As far as I know, the world record for handstand push-ups is somewhere above 300, while the record for regular push-ups is more than 10 000. I’m not trying to say that handstand push-ups are more than 300 times more demanding, but the figures show at least something.

So, what am I going to do, what is my goal, what are my rules? I did 14 consecutive handstand push-ups against a wall in my initial test last Wednesday, which puts me in the rightmost column for week 1. Here are the rules I’ve set for myself:

– Three days workout a week, with at least one days rest in between
– Maximum five minutes rest between every set
– Forehead touching the floor is the name of the game
– Distance between hands is flexible
– Losing balance is okay as long as no rest is added
– Failing, I will complete the number of reps, regardless of sets or rest
– Failing, I will restart the same week the week after
– I’m going to try this for at least one month
– I’m going to write something about this weekly, preferably on Mondays

Wish me good luck, I will need it!

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Hand-stand-still

I have suspected it for some time, but today I managed make it absolutely clear that I have reached a standstill regarding my hand walking. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my wild ambitions, my goal is to walk a hundred metres on my hands. Before I left Sweden, my record was somewhat above sixty metres, which meant that I still had a long way to go. Now, two months later, I have only added five metres to my record, and in the past month, nothing at all. Today, I tried one last time, after having rested for almost a week. In three attempts, I walked 52, 59 and 54 metres respectively. Not very impressive.

Why a standstill? There might be many factors working against me in my quest for a hundred metres on my hands. So far, I have been able to think of three things which are different in Taiwan compared to Sweden. Of course, none of these may be the real reason for my failure; perhaps there is something wrong with my method, but I do not think so.

Firstly, the climate here is very different from that in Sweden. Not only is it hotter, but it is also much more humid. I am not certain how much this affects physical capacity, but I am pretty sure it is a contributing factor. Even if I practise late at night, the humidity is often above 80 % and the temperature has seldom been below 25 C. I do not feel very tired by this, but I suspect it still affects me in some degree.

Secondly, since the weather is not very suitable for physical workout, I try to practise in the evening when the temperature is endurable. As with the humidity and heat, I am not sure how this affects output, but if there is an effect, it is certainly negative. I usually practice before midnight, which probably is too late. In Sweden, I seldom practised after ten o’clock in the evening.

Thirdly, the food here is different. In Sweden, I knew very well what I ate, and was fairly certain I consumed all the nutrients I need in a day. Since I cannot cook my own food here, I have to rely on restaurants and small grocery shops, which are not very good if I am looking for a wholesome and nutritious diet. The worst thing is probably that I have totally lost control of the situation. The only way to know if I eat too much or too little is by weighing myself once every week. So far, the weight is stable, but that does not mean that the diet is balanced. If this was the only factor, I would immediately conclude that I am undernourished in some way, but since the situation is more complex than that, I am not so sure.

The problem is that I do not enjoy the hand walking at all. I have always liked to challenge myself, but standing still for months is not my idea of having a good time. Change is required. The first item mentioned above can be changed, but only with the coming of winter and cooler weather; perhaps that will allow me to reach my goal. The second item is a function of the first, and is thus also dependent on time. The third one remains difficult, but I could make an effort to make sure that I get the nutrients I need. It will be tricky, but I suppose it can be done.

All of the proposed solutions require time, however, and since I do not intend sit on my hands and wait (I prefer standing on them), I will change my focus to something else. If I cannot increase my capability to walk long distances, I will instead try to practise something for which skill is essential. Three things come to mind: hand walking in stairs, hand balancing on one hand and free handstand push-ups. I know I have the basic strength to do these exercises, but I am still not very proficient in any of them. Since there is an upcoming monthly report in just ten days, I will try to figure out something until then. In the meantime, I could well use some cheering on and encouraging words. This goal is perhaps more important to me than I realised at first, because right now it feels really bad.

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Borrowed camera

Some people have asked my why I so seldom make use of photographs in my articles. There are three answers to this question. First, I have no camera. Second, I do not think my life contains many interesting things to photograph. Third, I think photographing an event removes focus from that very event (article in Swedish).

The first is now history, because I have borrowed a Canon Digital Ixus 500 from my parents (thank you very much!). The second will change this autumn when I go to Taiwan. The third will still persist, but I can promise that my articles in the future will sport more photographs. To start, I took a few pictures of my room, the dormitory in which I live and its immediate surroundings. There are also some random pictures towards the end. Enjoy!


The street outside.


My door.


Pigeon holes.


The door to my corridor.


Corridor living room.


Kitchen.


Corridor living room.


My door.


Shoes upside-down.


Elbow lever.


Handstand.


Handstand again.


Usually, there is more water.


But Niklas does not mind.


Unfortunately, no photo of the landing.


Super Rut with cape and all.


Ten out of ten for style.

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It took a few months of arduous practicing, but yesterday i finally managed a free handstand for one minute, clearing yet another item on my 101-in-1001 list. I have tried to track my handstand practicing, but it is very hard to do. I have always been interested in athletics of various kinds, and at some instance I must have begun practicing. However, I only practiced walking on my hands and I did it very sloppily and infrequently. This summer I started seriously towards walking 100 metres, but I decided that I had to be able to stand correctly before attempting to move around.

Since then (about two months ago), I and Niklas have been practicing our handstand for a couple of hours each week. At first, improvements were rather sluggish, because we experimented a lot with stance, how to get up and things like that. With help from our diving instructors and inspiration, hints and theory from Jim Bathurts of Beast Skills (I highly recommend his website), we have gradually improved, especially in the last two weeks or so. I have been over 50 second for at least a week, but yesterday was the first time I actually stood for more than a minute (63 seconds, to be more precise).

So where do I go from here? Onwards, of course. Niklas’ record is 33 seconds and since I enjoy practicing with him, I will naturally wait at least until he can manage a minute as well (I am pretty sure it will not be very long). I will also work on my arm strength, especially¬† my forearms and wrists. Standing more than a minute requires quite a bit and it is not the balance I am lacking. Having gained more balance and strength, there are a lot of things to practice on (see Beast Skills for examples!). Gradually, I also intend to shift focus to walking, because a hundred metres is quite some distance and will require lots of training.

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My twin 101-in-1001 projects (Air Alert 3 and hand walking) have now been running for eight weeks and it is time for the eighth report (see report 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). This report will be the last one for several reasons.

First of all, writing about things like thin once a week is just… silly. Normally, progress is much slower than can be counted over weeks and I doubt that anyone is interested enough to demand weekly reports. Something like once a month would be much better, but then I need a different system of posting these anyway.

Secondly, I have serious doubts about the quality of Air Alert 3 as a means of developing height. The sheer volume of repetitions really does not make sense if the goal is to jump higher. Sure, if I want to develop strength in my legs in general, it is probably rather good, but that was not the point this time. I have had this suspicion confirmed by several people who ought to know what they are talking about. Also, I think that eight weeks should give a better result than a two-centimetre increase, which could be an error of measurement anyway.

As for the task on the 101-in-1001 list, I specified that the programme should be at least a month and having completed the six first week, I consider the task concluded. I really should not pass too heavy a judgment on Air Alert 3 itself, since I will not finish it in its entirety, but I have lost faith in its effectiveness, which is a prerequisite to spend time and energy on doing it.

As for the hand walking, I have a long way to go (pun very much intended), even if I beat three records this week. First of all, I increased my one-attempt record from 27 metres to 31 metres, which is fine. The strange thing is that I beat it again one minute later and walked 33 metres. One might have assumed that I would be tired from the first attempt, but obviously not tired enough. This shows that I have potential to walk much more than 33 metres, but the corridor in which I walk is 33 metres, so it has to be outdoors. I also beat my record for walking 100 metres in as few attempts as possible with one minute rest, from 110 in 6 attempts to 107 in 4. It seems like I am on the right track.

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My twin 101-in-1001 projects (Air Alert 3 and hand walking) have now been running for seven weeks and it is time for the seventh report (see report 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). These endeavours are fairly different in that Air Alert 3 is a fully developed training programme, whereas my hand walking is more or less improvised (the goal being to walk 100 metres). Now over some thoughts on the seventh week.

As foretold last week, this week proved to be somewhat more ambitious (which does not say very much, considering how little I did last week). As for Air Alert, I have done all three sessions this week without too much trouble. It is demanding, but it is not that bad, especially for odd weeks when it is performed Monday-Wednesday-Friday. I have decided to remove the last exercise, the squat hops, since they seem to do more harm than they do good. They were supposed to be done only on Wednesdays, so I do not think that the removal will affect the overall outcome in any serious manner (except for the positive effect of removing an exercise which does not feel alright) .

As seems to be normal, I have also changed strategy for hand walking, going back to walking long distances. I have made three attempts to walk a hundred metres in as few attempts as possible, the best being 110 metres in 6 attempts. I will consider walking more than a hundred metres in the future, since I really need to build up strength if I want to pull this one off. Gradually increasing with about ten metres per week might do the job, but we will see about that.

Accomplished Air Alert 3, week 5
Sargent Jump: 51 centimetres
Walked 342 metres (25 max) on my hands
Walked 110 metres in 6 attempts with 1 minute rest

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My twin 101-in-1001 projects (Air Alert 3 and hand walking) have now been running for six weeks and it is time for the sixth report (see report 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). These endeavours are fairly different in that Air Alert 3 is a fully developed training programme, whereas my hand walking is more or less improvised (the goal being to walk 100 metres). Now over some thoughts on the sixth week.

There is not much to say. I spent almost the entire week in Falun, which has already been covered before and after the trip. It was a week lacking in physical activities and provided well-earned vacation instead. I did one Air Alert, but I will have to redo that week next week. Hand-walking was reduced to a few attempts here and there, but nothing serious at all. Hopefully, next week will be a return to more normal patterns, because otherwise I will never finish either of these projects.

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