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S2 Episode 44: Rest


In this Episode of the Handstandcast, Emmet and Mikael discuss everything related to resting. Going into rest requirements while training and between training and what factors may influence how much you need to rest. As well as answering questions from our listeners related to resting and tips for avoiding overly long rests due to phone distractions.

In a change of format from the previous season, Emmet and Mikael will also be answering questions every episode from you, our listeners! This episode they cover: whether a beginner should focus more on line development or balance work, hand orientation in handstands and if developing a long wall hold will help with balancing.

We hope you enjoy it!

Want to have your say on the Handstandcast? You can now leave us a voice note here with your Q&A questions for Emmet and Mikael! If you have any specific topics you’d like us to cover, or want to send in questions for our Q&A episodes, please get in touch via our contact form.

S2E44 – Rest

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Transcript of Episode 44: Rest

EL: Hello, welcome back to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and my cohost Mikael Kristiansen.  How are things going in Sweden?

MK: About the same as last time you asked.  I’m back home in my hometown, trying to do something else than just fold paper.  It’s hard.

Actually it’s not because the last league of Path of Exile just dropped, so I’m spamming that.

EL; It’s the same shit different year here at this stage.  Will it end?  Who knows.  2021 is just continuing.  It’s 2020, part 1, not 2021.

MK: 2020, the Two Towers.

EL: Return of the King, but the king is the Rona, coming back.

So, we are here on the Handstand Cast to talk about handstands, but today we are going to talk about the thing you should be doing when not handstanding – resting.

We are going to talk about rest.  It comes up as a question a lot, either with our students, our selves…what is the right amount of rest?  How much rest should I do?  When do I rest?  What do I rest between sets?

There’s a lot of questions about rest, so hopefully we can put them into a bit of context, and hopefully you can avoid our mistakes of not resting over the years.  Maybe you should not rest.  Who knows?

Rest, do we need it?

MK: I think, first of all, there is only a certain degree to which you can try to overpower your own biology.  At a certain point the production of ATP will start to matter.  All these processes are really complicated.  Even the best of scientific and or anecdotal experience with this are to be taken more as indicators and guidelines rather than exact strict protocols.

Everyone is different, and the kind of practices and intensities you’re at will also impact it a lot.

EL: Definitely.  In terms of rest, there are different types and things needed. First we’ll talk about during your workouts, between sets.  Then we’ll move to in between days, other stuff like that.

When you’re working out, doing handstand training – you have to start thinking about rest in terms of what you’re actually trying to achieve in the sets, and what will be coming afterwards.

To take a really simplified session, we have our warm up stuff – we can ignore that for the moment.  Then we have the technical training, working on developing skills, alignment, precision, all these things.  Then we have conditioning, working on our inherent physical capacities and raising them.

We should have an idea of two different rest periods in this training.

One of them, because we’re working on precision, we need to be as technically fresh as possible.  There is a crossover, particularly in higher level skills where your strength is also part and parcel of that technical precision.  Your technical line is almost close to the strength line, so your sets might be lasting a minute.  But the time working on the technical precise drill might only be 10-15s of that minute.

In some ways, we’re doing a minute long set, weight shifts or something.  Or moving from tuck to closed tuck as a beginner.

In these technically precise set ups, working close to our technical strength limit, you need to approach them fresh.  Fresh is an interesting concept here.

I always think of 3 things in this: physical freshness, the body is ready or feels ready to make a physical effort; the nervous system freshness, where it can coordinate itself in this direction; and the mental freshness, where we can refocus ourselves to the task at hand and actually make good effort.  These kinds of things line up.

If we look at the pure sports science side of things, and go by strength training in these same zones; the physical reduction of metabolites and other stuff happens at about 60-90 seconds.  The nervous system takes 5-6x longer.  So when you see people doing really heavy sets, or really precise stuff, resting 3-5 minutes is the recommendation there.

The mental freshness is interesting as that can peak and wane over that.  These things almost follow a wave.  You can be mentally ready to go, physically ready, but the strength is not there.

The frustration line has to be ridden along that, as well as the distraction line.  

It’s an interesting topic.

MK: The crossover between these types of fatigue you speak about is interesting.  Obviously one affects the other.  I’m sure many of you listening will be able to relate to, for example, coming in and being mentally very off and feeling foggy in the head, but somehow things work out when you try.  Or you feel you’re physically quite fatigued, the end of your session and burned through lots of energy, but can still keep yourself going and going and going.  Shouldn’t I be caving in right now?  But still you can keep it up.

On the other side as well, you might feel your body has a lot of oomph and you think you’ll do great, but your nervous system just does not coordinate well.  You’re not able to focus for long enough during the session, and so on.

That is where it’s kind of difficult to juggle all these factors, since skill work requires you to work on the skill to some degree to get benefit from it.  If you’re just a bit off and come in and lift some weights, you can put up lower than you prefer but you can finish the workout, more or less as planned.  This can be kind of tricky when it comes to technical disciplines like this.  

Of course, if you are working with any disciplines that involve danger – handstands rarely do, but they can – or stuff that can lead to injury, that could even be for a very beginner who is unsure about learning to kick up into free space.  They might feel safe and competent doing that when fresh, but when a bit off they can hurt themselves.  This is a consideration when you lack the focus and reaction ability as a nervous system thing that is irrelevant when it comes to hand balancing, because if you don’t react fast enough, even a millisecond too late, the correction you need to make is larger.  You spend more energy and drain yourself faster.  You have a cascading effect on it.

Make sure you maximize the odds to pull off the things you try to do in a session.  It requires good planning or an intuitive sense of when you have the physical and mental readiness for going for the exact skill you’re working on.

EL: Definitely.  I find people will build intuitively, but there are times when I’m coaching classes or in person, you see how they’re training.  There’s a certain pace that can keep people focused.

Generally there are two sides: people who rest too much between technical sets, and people who rest too little.  There’s kind of, you do have to try both these styles out, and find what works for you.  One thing I will tell people to do is get a stop watch rolling, time your rest periods exactly.  See if that works.

I stick to these very set rest periods.  Because handstands involve lots of sitting, we all have our phones, tend to fuck around and get distracted.  The rest period you wanted to plan starts to creep over, and your workout gets longer and longer.

We can think of concentration as a finite resource.  You have to micro and intra-set concentration refresh period, then you have the total workout concentration refresh, burning through the amount you can concentrate to the end of the workout.

That’s reducing, per unit of time.  If your workout is extending past your concentration limit, even when you get to your last sets and are physically fresh because you rested a lot, you probably burnt through your total amount of concentration you can spend in that time period.

It’s almost a durational effort.  You have the ability to concentrate for 40 minutes, say.  After 40 minutes, even if physically rested, things start going to shit.

Concentration can be trained, it’s perfectly capable for you to do this.  It comes with practice.  But how much rest can I get to get my technical stuff done to the point where I’m resting but still have either my conditioning sets, which by definition should be less technical at the end of the workout, and that can be done with exercises that require less concentration.

Obviously that is relative to your skill level.  What Mikael takes to concentrate is much less than a beginner.

So we don’t want to burn through our concentration by over resting.  At the same time we need sufficient rest to do the more technical things that also suck up the concentration.

MK: What you said there rung a bell.  I do think that very often, you can separate people into two categories.  It’s not only about rest, but also the general sense they perhaps like to go or think at.  Some really like a plan, week to week, numbers they like to refer to that helps them.

Then you have people who have an aversion to fixed numbers and routines and want their own pace, and to freestyle intuitively.

I won’t say there is a direct correlation between that and how people tend to do the rest, but inexperienced people have a higher degree of people resting less.  They try a tuck jump 7 times in a row.  It didn’t work the 3 first, but somehow they have the idea they have to keep trying to do the motion over and over, while fatiguing more and more per time you try.  By the end, within a short period of time you tried to do 33 tuck jumps and managed to catch 3 of them.

If you spaced them out more perhaps you’d catch much more of them.  You had a higher degree of readiness spread out more over the things you do.  There is certainly something there.  For those who tend to rest too little, the move is quite simple.  Gear back on the excitement, which often is a driving force.  Give it a bit more time in between.  Learn to feel how your body feels.

For the other version, where it’s too long…it can happen to me.  I do sessions and am slowly trudging through a couple of things and tend to procrastinate, or if it’s not going particularly well I lose interest.  Whatever, what should I do now, fiddle around a bit then finish up.

Being able to find this balance between using the energy you have in your energy pool effectively, but you can’t have that drag on too long either.  Then your energy and concentration AND CAFFEINE will be slowly dredged from your system without you doing anything with it.

EL: Going back to something you slightly touched on – rest between literal repetitions is interesting in handstand training as well.  We might have set ups..kick ups and tuck ups.  Entries are interesting because when you’re good and precise, it’s easy to bash out 20 kick ups when you’re efficient.

The rest between set ups is interesting.  Resting between reps, particularly when learning something new and not just getting reps in.  You’re not bashing them out mindlessly, you need to get your technical precision and set up right.  At the same time, you have to not rest too long, to start over thinking the movement.

Something I want people to cue in is to have one or two details to think about when learning a new movement and not all of them.  You can add in the extra details as you lock more of them into place.  

What kind of happens is people start developing a check list and it starts getting longer.  If I’m doing kick ups and taking 5s between reps to reset, it could become 30-40s.  This is a very different workout and mental head space to be in.  You have to ride this line of being between reps.

This could be for shape changes as well, like going from straddle to straight, or to tuck, or something.  If you pause in one movement too long or don’t get on with it in some ways, it can throw you off.  You’re almost waiting for that perfect moment to happen, rather than just doing it and letting the catches happen either end of the balance.

It’s always interesting to think about.  “I’m doing reps in my program.”

Same if someone is learning a straddle range of motion press, going up and down.  They fall out on one rep, go a bit too far.  They still have energy and jump back up.  They immediately jump back up.  That’s when you see people go too fast and not take 5-6s just to reset and recenter.

MK: That is very common.  It’s quite useless for a strength movement.  “I didn’t manage to planche, I will try again”

On average, the only thing that made you fail planche is you could not exert enough force in the correct direction.  Is it likely you’ll be able to do that a second after you just failed?  Unlikely.  

For me, the number one movement that will never work on the second try if I fail the first is flares from breakdancing.  If I throw a flare and it’s bad and I go for another, it won’t work.  Years ago when I used to train breaking in Oslo, this would always be the case with the other guys too.  They’d mess up one flare, go back to top rock, and go for it again.  

Okay, here comes another failed attempt.  He throws the flare and it doesn’t work.  It’s so rare that you get it going on the second try.  You need to get the mental static out of your system.  

Maybe people that rest too much, I think there’s a correlation.  If you feel yourself a lot, you analyze.  If there’s a constant overthinking, that can correlate to this.  It’s something that does not help.

Have a couple of things to focus on and focus on those.  Then it becomes intuitive and you can focus on something else.  Trying to do it all at the same time at an early level is basically a recipe for not getting too much done.

When it comes to keeping the general freshness, it is very valuable to do the motions several times in a row.  Don’t think about it.  Trust the fact that your body is learning.  In most cases it’s not about your brain figuring it out.  It’s your body learning it.

The analogy to guitar is perfect.  Your brain needs to look at the thing, see this is how the fingers grip.  When that is solid you practice it a lot.  So on.  By the time your brain has the understanding, it’s not that long.  Then it’s the physical practice.  Over thinking each finger movement will not bring you very far.

It’s kind of a tangent, but it reminds me of this book I read, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman.  He discusses two mental states, System 1 and the more thought out System 2.  Long story short, essentially, being in the state of constant analysis and intense focus, like you’re solving a complicated mathematical problem at the limit of your ability – your brain burns lots of glucose doing that compared to the state where it’s doing intuitive things.

A key to skill learning is allowing your brain to fluctuate between these two levels.  When practicing you try to be in System 1.  You stand on your feet, look at the floor, then try to tuck up.  Put your hands here, and as you put your hands on the floor, you’ve already thought through what you need to attempt to do and execute.

You try to execute it many times in a row and allow your body and brain to have the space to process that information.  It’s frustrating with the concept that it’s all about some sort of mental mapping out you do on a theoretical level.  The application needs to happen through repetitions; that is how the nervous system is built.

EL: I tell people you have to train so much that you only make one mistake, and then you can correct it.  If you’re at the point where every rep is different, you over analyze.  

Say you’re learning to flag to set up for one arm.  You put the hips at a diagonal angle, and rep one you’re twisted and leg comes over the top; rep two, your shoulder is too open; rep three, shoulder goes sideways.

Every rep is different.  If you were to analyze it, you’d be unable to grasp onto anything to correct one thing.  

If you practice it enough, eventually you get to the point where you see you’re twisting because leg comes over top and back is arching,  Then I can focus on one cue, one thing, rather than filming every set and trying to analyze everything.

Filming can be productive at certain stages, but there’s a conceptual understanding stage, an implementation stage, and they’re different stages.

Once I understand the movement, you have to bash out and get the alignment between the mental understanding… when you mentally learn a movement, you’re dealing with a. Projection.  You can’t do it; you don’t know what the sensations are, what will be going on, how it will feel, what will happen when you try to do it.  

You understand a textbook case of something, but you don’t understand the 10 000 variations of it that are right and wrong.  Until you get to the stage where you’ve done in X amount of times, you don’t have the alignment between the original mental fantasy and projection, what the mental reality of doing the movement is.

It’s the classic one of people watching someone who is really advanced doing anything in circus.  Oh my god, that must feel so graceful to be suspended in the air.  Particularly with aerial, “you must be floating in the clouds.”

The reality is, the chord is cutting off blood supply to my ankles but I’m smiling long enough to pull my leg to my head, which is hurting my back and my shoulder is janky from last week of training.  But I still make it look good.

The reality versus what you think.

MK: Projection is an interesting word choice, because that is exactly what it is.  You create some sort of hologram of how this feels.  It’s very rarely similar to the idea of it, at least until you’re really fucking good.

When you’re really good, it’s effortless.  Until you get to that stage, there’s a death face attack feeling.  

I think ultimately when it comes to rest in a session, it’s all about best facilitating with the time and energy you have at hand, allowing yourself to be in a learning state as much as possible.  A learning state requires fresh forearms, reasonably fresh shoulders, concentration, and…those are the main things.  You don’t even have to be in a good mood to be in a good learning state.

Some of the best periods of my handstands have been..things weren’t great, but the handstands were.

Making sure you, to the best of your abilities, can do that.  

I guess there is also the thing, if we move from a session to the practice on a longer scale-

EL: Actually, I have one thing to go back to first.

The rest periods between conditioning sets.  When we’re conditioning, when you’re a beginner everything is new and hard and everything is conditioning, sort of.  When you’re a bit more advanced and past that stage, then exercises you chose to work on your conditioning can be very different for each person.

It can be straddle one arms for 30s if advanced, or maybe you can do tuck and straddle handstands, but go back to the wall for chest to wall holds.  Sometimes like that.

One thing to consider when you’re trying to build conditioning and capacity, you are trying to apply a physical stressor to the body.  You’re basically stressing the tissue and trying to illicit a response from this.  This is one where we almost want incomplete rest periods to a certain degree.  

Say you’re doing toes on wall tuck holds.  The first set is 40s.  I want to rest to the point where I almost get a 10-15% drop off on the next set.

Say I do 3x45s toes to wall.  I might rest 60-70s.  The second set might be 40s, the third might be 38s.  This is what we’re looking for.  We’re getting a burn, a pump, the muscles taxed and fatigued.  Hopefully they super compensate.

We can apply linear progression here.  We have a set phase of the program.  I rest this, do this as precise as possible.  I build fatigue, then set 3, after 4-5 weeks, might be up to 45s.  Then we try to hold our tuck for 60s, something like that.

It’s almost a two gear workout.  One part we have freedom on the rest periods, to get this alignment between focused, technical precision and recovery we look for.  The other, it’s time to do a bit of smashing, a bit mindless, get the reps in.

Different things for different workouts.  If you’re working on pressing but doing a drill you can complete quite easily, it’s still heavy.  I’m doing L Sit to tuck planche maybe,  I can still do the drill, it’s easy, the reps go down.

You can stop the set when the technical execution of the reps starts to fade within whatever parameters.  Then I can rest with classic strength training parameters.  I’m doing 3-5 reps, I rest 2-3 minutes between sets, like between squats.  Then I go back.  My reps might drop by 1 or 2.  Over the course of the training phase, we want to increase total reps done, or have this linear increase.

You can satisfy that precision to follow correct rest periods in this phase.  Stick to the clock.  2:1 rest periods would be interesting.

I remember talking to a physio in Circus School.  He recommended generally for circus people to have the heart rate drop back to 120-130 before going again.  Depending on your discipline, and it can be lower in handstands, it could be an interesting way to track rest periods.  Heart rate drops?  Great, back in.  Try it.

One of my other clients gave me this one.  He was taking long in his workouts, but had to be fast because he has a new baby.  He set up his Gym Boss timer on his phone.  It’s an interval timer.  He was doing sets of 30s on, 60s off.  Then he set the times at the end for his conditioning and would just stick to the timer.

He said the good thing is because it was on his phone and it took up the whole screen, he could not get distracted and start scrolling Instagram and taking too long, checking videos.  You just go for it.

When you do less technical sessions you can program them in like that, just not fucking around on the gram.

MK: It’s definitely good to find some methods if you struggle with that.  I suppose it’s time to move over to resting days, weeks, deloads.

EL; Resting years.  I tried a few of them once.

MK: It’s a tricky one.  We discussed this partially before.  To me, I’m very rarely even close to my normal in terms of strength and general control after having a day fully off.  It mainly applies to handstand related stuff.  The more complicated it is, the harder to execute after days I’ve rested.  It’s important, and some people will feel better after resting, which makes sense.  You want to recover your nervous system, muscles and so on.

I think it’s taking a couple of days off a week, that’s generally a good idea.  You need to look at it from a longer perspective as well.  You are putting a lot of strain on your body and you want to make sure there is some possibility for it to achieve a complete recovery, to some degree, from a week of training.  You don’t want to end up running yourself into the ground and doing way too much.

It’s very easy to do that with fun and interesting practices.  You get excited, want to put a lot into it, then boom, you did too much and your wrist or this or that sucks.  You keep trying to solve it by doing exactly as much as you have.  It’s rarely a fix.

EL: Rest days, how many days a person needs a week is very variable.  There’s always a glorification of working too hard.  The “you’re not training twice a day” stuff in hand balance, maybe a bit of movement culture as well, “you must be training 8h a day.”

Yes, you could, but the thing is, a lot of the fatigue we generate in this type of training is not acute but chronic.  It builds up slowly, then eventually something goes.  It’s riding the fatigue line that happens to many.  That’s when the bad things and actual long term injuries happen.

You push your tendons too far to the limit for too long, they are inflamed and then you have to deal with it.

It’s learning to back off, take the foot off the gas.  Even 5 days a week is sufficient for most people.  You could group your two days on the weekend and get a long rest,  Or you could…put your day on a Wednesday..

It could be take Friday off because you know you’ll have time on the weekend to have a longer session then.  These kind of rest periods are good.  It’s good to see what works for you and what happens.

MK: One thing that is invaluable in all this, the issue with hand balancing that I’ve run into many times myself, is you are doing very monotonous work and expecting your body to be able to do a type of work that requires some strength, many days a week.

Adjusting that so you don’t do an enormous amount.  Intensity, frequency, volume.  You want your intensity of technique high, your frequency high.  You’re not well off doing loads of volume, then.  It’s a very simple equation, and one that can be difficult to handle.  You’re interested and excited, you want to train and be in the zone where you practice.  

Make sure you don’t make them too long.  You know you can do a tuck one arm, do two instead of seven.  Then you’re not putting way too much stress on the system through the week.

It’s a simple thing to think about if you’re noticing you’re able to do as many sessions as you have been, but the quality is deteriorating…maybe think about this.  Do one or two sessions a week with more volume, and three with less.

When I look back to my best phases of training in Copenhagen a few years ago, I’d have one really hard workout a week and the others would be much more chill.

EL: If you get into planning a training week for someone as well, using you as an example.  Has a rest day, then back to training.  Day one, Mikael was off so works on lower tier stuff to get back into it.  Day two, smash day.  Go for it.  Day three, drink coffee and throw things around the place day.  Things are off, but end of week…I do my heavy stuff then, but then I’m rested and have another five days before I do it again.

It’s this idea…understanding yourself and how much rest you need between different types of sessions.  

The seven day week gets glorified in some ways as well.  Everything has to happen on seven day schedules.  But you could find out that, using strength as an example, squatting twice a week is not going to work for you, but once a week is good.  Deadlifting heavy once every two weeks is what works for you, then you just do accessory exercises between the sessions.

Same with handstands.  When it gets more advanced, it could be that heavy flag days just take it out of me, too much.  If I do them too often I do nothing productive.  Can I find a rhythm and rest between the repeats of the sessions I want to try that suits the cadence?  I’m still training and recovering, but at the end of the day it’s not all out every single time.

MK: For handstand training, I do think leaving a few reps in the bank is on average the better option.  What tends to happen is people train too often for that go all out thing.

I noticed myself, a few weeks back, after my shoulder injury started getting better and that I can do stuff again, I pushed a bit too hard.  I was suddenly able to.  But you are going into..you do need lots of recovery.  Then you really need to facilitate for that recovery.  It’s tricky to find time for that when you know you tend to get pulled into it too often, or you plan to train many days a week.

I do think, on average, it’s a better option to keep a bit of energy, particularly if training many days a week at it.

EL: One thing I’d like to say as a general comment: on rest days, particularly if you’re into tracking nutrition and stuff, do not decrease your calories.  This is a classic mistake.

“I should eat less on rest days.”  Make sure you eat the same, or possibly a bit more, so you have fuel to fuel that recovery.  That’s a general comment there.

The other one I’d like to touch on is the No season.  This is a term I got from Jujimufu.  We have, in sports training, the on season where you play the sport actively in a competitive manner, the off season where you do training to increase your whatever, speed, strength… We don’t really have these seasons in hand balance.  You do a bit in circus school, because we have show prep times, then training times.  You get that a bit there, but unless you have a regular show schedule it’s hard to mimic.

Then we have Juji’s concept of No season, we do nothing.  You don’t train at all.  I actually tried this out.  I had it forced upon me from when I broke my wrist and couldn’t train upper body for quite some time. 

It was interesting, an almost 3 year break from proper training.  The first thing I noticed is that all the weird little niggling ‘injuries’ or things started going away, all gone.  None of them really bother me, all these things from circus school and the performance days had kind of built up.  It’s hard to say if it’s a thing, but a sensitive area that flares up occasionally depending on how inflamed you are. 

They all had a chance to go.

When I came back, things were better.  I’d done this recently with juggling as well, not having done any real juggling for quite some time.  There was a glory day where we were able to go back to a juggling meet up, and suddenly I was better.

This is a very subjective thing.  If I were tracking quantities it was terrible.  But in terms of replicating stuff, seven rings was there, I had a crack at nine balls.  All these high level things, I could still do them, and they felt easy.  Subjectively they were still a bit shit and the accuracy was slightly off.  In terms of physical demand and moving hands at the right speed, it was there.

Same with handstands.  When I came back after my wrist finally got back to order, my wrist was only hurting a small amount.  I’m going to prove to myself that my wrist is better and get my one arm handstand back.  That was my main motivator to get it.  Going in, training, six days a week, sometimes twice a day, to get the one arm.

It was many years ago and I would probably not recommend doing that.  C’est la vie.

I went in and things were better.  There’s a theory on it that the nervous system prunes itself.  The things that get stronger are the better patterns if you do your training properly.  They remain.  You trim all the shit branches off the nervous system tree; only the good branches remain.  They’ve been reinforced the most.

Things are easier, more precise.  It’s very interesting because it’s also been noted elsewhere.  Long term track and field athletes, some women would get pregnant, have their baby, do their recovery time and be out a year.

If they were very precise with their training they’d be charting and plotting it.  Suddenly they’d find the graph would go logarithmic, start getting a curve on it instead of linear.  There was some kind of theory that long term training effects and adaptations of the more passive tissues of the body take longer than we think.

This is one of those things.  If you take these times off, and Mikael has probably never done this, when you come back it will not be good to start with.  When you go, you’ll find something else has happened and got more precise.  It’s very interesting.

MK: A common occurrence within many things.  You had a short period of intense burst practice, then let it be for quite a while.  You come back and hey, it’s actually working.

That’s also the tricky thing.  We need the physical development for it.  At the same time we need to juggle all these components, in terms of how much we do and have continuous practice.

The thing to know is it’s not dangerous to take time off.  You will very likely feel off if you have for a while, but your body hasn’t forgotten.  It comes back rather quickly, even though you need to rebuild a bit of strength, and so on.  There are certainly quite a lot to that fact.

It’s also about your brain processing the information,  It doesn’t need the conscious You to micro manage it. You are not needed, basically.

EL: To gain a physical skill and strength level, the first time is the hard time.  After that it gets easier and easier, even if you put things away.  There’s so many cases of people who took time off their sport, stopped weightlifting, come back and in 3 months time they’re back to normal, or even beyond.

There is possibly a longer term rest period, take the No season for 2-3 months and reap the benefits.  

I think we touched on a lot of the rest periods, from between reps to between lifetimes.  No reincarnation yet but we’ll save that one.

As normal we’ll move on to a couple of questions.  We have a call in question first from Tobias.

“Hi.  Tobias here from Denmark.  I’d like to ask, what do you usually do in your breaks while training?  I usually just pick up my phone and go on social media.  Sometimes that gives too long breaks and I know I should have started earlier.  Is there a semi productive way to use the breaks?  Anything like that you recommend?”

MK: You can stretch a bit.  Something I’ve been doing a lot lately is not bring your phone to train.  That’s nice.  It becomes enough phone fiddling anyway.  Sometimes it’s nice to not use it.

Stretching is fine.  Again, what you want to do is ensure your brain can rest.  Refer back to the book I was talking about before, Thinking Fast and Slow, and these two types of mental states.

When you rest, you are in System 1 state.  It’s intuitive and you’re not focusing.  If you stress about being “productive” for each and every second, you’ll be stressing enough.  Don’t try too hard in that sense; allow yourself to drift a bit if that is what’s needed.  Don’t let it take over.  If you feel the phone is too big a factor in that, leave it out of the room.

Or use an app that kicks you off social media apps when you’ve used them too long in the day.

EL: Shout out to Cold Turkey, I have that on my computer to stop me scrolling, because I actually have so much work to do nowadays.

Leaving the phone out is a good one.  The Gym Boss timer idea of turning your phone into something useful is good.  Bluetooth headset, so you can control music without having to worry about looking at the phone.

Gym bag, sometimes just throw your phone in there.  Make it difficult to get, basically.

Social media is the bastard for all these things.  It’s like crack, in shit picture form.  And memes.

Our next question: “I’d like to hear your perspectives on handstands and longevity.  What are some of the long term benefits and negatives?  How can we keep hand balancing to an old age?  What are some of the oldest hand balancers you’ve seen?”

MK: Benefits?  You get good at standing on your hands.  You keep your physique in decent shape.  Bad things?  You can wreck your wrists or shoulders if you go overboard.  But you can do the same with snowboarding.  

In terms of age, what you need to do is acknowledge your body might not have the same recovery functions to the same degree as when younger.  You might need to go a bit slower.  I’m certainly feeling I can’t smash like when I was 25, there is a difference. 

You need to use the experience and understanding of yourself that you have hopefully built up, so you can make better choices.

In terms of aging hand balancers, there are several in their 40s doing really well.  Some of the oldest guys I’ve seen doing absolutely crazy shit….Ricardo Sosa, I saw him do like one arm pressing at 50 something, another guy doing 15 one arm crocodiles to one arm, in his mid 40s. 

You’ll find loads of these tanks around in the circus community.  It seems like in Russia, people in trad circus or other things you never heard about.  Possibly the craziest I ever seen, a guy who was 64, performing in a contemporary circus show in France.  He was performing on Russian bar, basically a death machine.  

To briefly explain, a Russian bar uses the same poles as for pole vaulting.  They take two and tape them together.  Two people stand opposite of each other with this bar on their shoulders.  A person then stands on the bar and jumps.  Using the flex in the bar, they jump super high, do flips, and land back on the bars.  It’s nuts and you can get pretty wrecked if you get wrecked.

The guy on that was 64, looked like a grandpa in his face, but his upper body was made of granite like he was 24.  He did a triple backflip with no spotters on stage.  Pretty solid at Russian bar.

He also did an aerial chain act, doing several full twists in a row on the chain.  Stupid.

Things are possible to do for a reasonable amount of time, but you need to pay more attention and not everyone is going to be able to do things like that guy did.  That is definitely an outlier way below the peak of the bell curve.

EL: If I think about circus artists who have their skills quite a long time, it comes down to 2 or 3 generally.  Jugglers, hand balancers, and contortionists.

I always segregate in my mind between contortionists and the very flexible.  Some people just have contortionist genetics.  I know multiple people also performing handstands in their act, performing to their 70s.  Are they performing 10 shows a week?  No.

Are they performing basically the same act they were doing in their 30s?  To a large degree, yes.  I even know someone still doing a Marinelli bend at 60, or could still.  That’s when you sit on your own head while biting on a pole.

It’s interesting that…if we look at handstands and the good stuff: you are using your body, holding yourself.  There is no impact loading, no rapid changes of movement.  You don’t have contact injuries in the same way as sports, or circus.  Maybe in hand to hand.

But the risk of a catastrophic accident, like in aerial where the equipment just goes, or you slip or something – it’s not really there.  You have the same risk of catastrophic injuries as walking across the floor.  

If you built your conditioning, there’s the classic phase of Mikael’s teacher: “First ten years, very very pain.  After it’s like holiday.”

If you spent your first ten years in reasonable shape, titrating up your dose so things are easy, then you can maintain them quite a long time.

MK: By the way, speaking of walking across the floor, I remember working for this German circus company.  This B Boy Marcio, at the time was one of the best power move B Boys in the world, he was working for another show of theirs we were going to see.

They said oh no, Marcio has a replacement.  He dislocated his kneecap, walking across stage.  He basically, the sole of his shoe was really sticky and got stuck on the floor as he was doing a step.  He kicked into the floor and his kneecap just popped off.  And this guy does some of the most extreme crazy shit I’ve ever seen.  So miserable, imagine.  You spin around in the craziest shapes for a living, then just take a walk across the stage and explode your knee.

EL: Most injuries happen when people are walking; don’t walk.

We are going to wrap it up there.  We have been…first thing’s first.  If you want to send us any questions, DM them to us on Instagram @HandstandFactory.  Or use our Anchor.FM.  Or go to the Podcast section of our website to send us voice questions that way.

Other than that, I’ve been Emmet and I’m here with Mikael.  Cheers.


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