Tag Archives: acrobatics

Becoming a better unicyclist

Screenshot from 2016-06-05 15:42:32

“Do something crazy with your energy, and you’ll always get back more than you put in” – C.P

The world of unicycling is the gift that keeps on giving. When I purchased my first unicycle last year, I realized it would take a lot of skill to be able to ride it compared to a bicycle. I knew it would take a lot of practice and getting better would likely be frustrating at times, especially after upgrading to a larger unicycle and having to relearn certain skills. Since my last unicycling report on April 18, I’ve been training on a regular basis with my 29″ unicycle and have improved in a number of ways:

  • Instead of 6.5 miles per hour on long rides, I can now ride at 8 miles per hour
  • I can go up big hills. A few days ago I climbed an 80 foot hill with an average grade of 10% without stumbling or dismounting
  • I can now idle a little on the 29″ unicycle, for 20 cycles at most
  • I can juggle while unicycling for up to 2 miles without dropping, 3.5 miles with a few drops; I can even juggle while going up and down hills, so long as they aren’t too steep. My joggling ability definitely helped me with this skill.

In my experience, all it takes to ride faster is feeling more comfortable on the unicycle, and so this it the easiest thing to improve in the short-term.

Idling on the 29″unicycle  was particularly difficult at first. Though I could often idle for several minutes nonstop on my 24″ unicycle, at first I found idling impossible on the 29″. I just couldn’t maneuver the larger wheel the same way I could the 24″, and kept dismounting after dozens of failed attempts. I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to idle on the 29″, then one day it clicked and I was elated. It was a magical moment. I finally figured it out and 1 idle became 3, then 10, then 20. It’s still much more challenging and tiring than on the 24″, but it’s starting to feel almost natural.

Hills are still a challenge as well. There are steep hills around here that I can easily climb with the 24″ that I still can’t do with the 29″. Juggling while unicycling doesn’t feel like joggling yet, but that will take a little more practice. I still need to work on hopping and going backwards. If you’re new to unicycling and are struggling, just keep on practicing. There are tons of videos on Youtube that give a lot of useful tips. What seems impossible now may soon come easy to you with enough practice.

All in all, I’m enjoying unicycling and the fitness benefits, even if learning certain skills can be frustrating at times. Discovering strange new abilities certainly makes it a worthwhile fitness challenge.

Screenshot from 2016-06-05 19:28:30

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Michal Kapral prevented from joggling at NYC Marathon

This is arguably the biggest bummer in joggling history. Michal Kapral, the world’s fastest marathon joggler, has been denied permission to joggle in the NYC marathon due to “security concerns”: World Record Holder Denied Permission to Joggle New York City Marathon.

This is absurd. 3 small millet-stuffed beanbags are now deemed “security threats” under draconian new rules that ban all props. Michal Kapral was planning on breaking his old world record at the NYC marathon and trained very hard for this event. It saddens me both as a joggler and as a native New Yorker that security concerns would come to this.

This isn’t just a setback for Michal Kapral, but a setback for the sport of joggling. Unfortunately, I suspect that there’s more to this than just security concerns. Some people just don’t take joggling seriously, and this may very well include the organizers of the NYC marathon, though they have a long history of supporting our sport.

Let’s hope that the organizers of the NYC marathon rethink their decision before November 1st. It would be terrible if other marathons followed NYC’s example. In the mean time, Kapral is looking for another marathon that is more joggler-friendly to break his old record.

Tossed Out: No Joggling Allowed at New York City Marathon

Summer Joggling Highlights

I’m sorry if my absence has worried anyone. The rumors about me drowning while juggle-swimming out to sea are greatly exaggerated. No, I haven’t forgotten you, my dear readers, it’s just harder to blog consistently when I spend so much of my free time outside during the summer. Though I haven’t joggled any official races so far this year, lots of exciting things have been going on recently, some of which may be difficult to believe. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe what follows.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer:

On Sunday, June 14th I joggled all the way from Mount Vernon to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, a distance of 23.3 miles. It took me 4 hours and 8 minutes to complete this journey from the quiet suburbs to the noisy maelstrom that is the Big Apple, and I didn’t drop the balls once. It was in the mid 70s at the beginning and 85 toward the end. I ran this exact route before back in November 2013, but I dropped several times.

The reason it’s a big deal to me that I didn’t drop during this run is all the endless distractions on this route, especially after leaving Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The heat and humidity and the fact that it was almost totally cloudless that day also weren’t very helpful. Since the Hudson river path runs along the West Side highway, there’s a ton of noise from all the traffic, as well as exhaust fumes. On the path there were many cyclists, runners, skaters, and the occasional freak. It got crowded at times and I had to run around many people. I had to take several short breaks to refuel or rehydrate.

Screenshot from 2015-08-03 15:02:20

I got a lot of comments and support as usual, but I think some Manhattanites are kind of used to joggling. Even with everything going on, I did surprisingly well and had no major fumbles. I was exhausted the last few miles and upon completing I was ecstatic. I was shocked that I didn’t drop once while running the entire length of Manhattan and then some! Besides weariness, I was dealing with sensory overload from big city craziness. This is why I don’t run in the city very often. After runs like this, I appreciate joggling in the woods a lot more.

Besides this, I managed to not drop at all during all joggling runs from July 7, to July 21, for a total of 102 miles of dropless joggling. My previous record was 70 miles without dropping. Yes, I did drop while doing juggle chi many times during this time frame, but that’s a completely separate activity. I came very close to dropping so many times during that 2 week no drops streak. It will be difficult repeating that. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this indicates I can joggle a 100 mile ultra-marathon without dropping.

Though it feels good to not drop, it comes at the expense of not challenging myself enough. In part, I was able to do this because I avoided doing some complex tricks that I still struggle with. However, I did plenty of simple tricks. It often got unbearably hot during those 2 weeks, but making sure I was properly-hydrated and had enough electrolytes helped prevent any serious heat issues.

On top of this, to celebrate the long awaited grand reopening of the old High Bridge, I joggled across it twice on July 25th. It had been closed for over 40 years and the city only recently finished renovating it. It was a really big celebration with so much going on on both sides of the bridge and even on the bridge. This historic bridge, which is the oldest in New York City, goes over the Harlem river and connects Manhattan to the Bronx(it’s a pedestrian-only bridge). The High Bridge was originally part of the Old Croton Aqueduct which I’ve mentioned many times before since I often run on the trail that follows the path of the now defunct aqueduct in Westchester county.2015-07-25 12.34.32

 

I’ve been meaning to do this forever. I remember driving under or near this ghostly structure countless times during my childhood. But this relic was impassible, and in desperate need of repair. So now it’s finally open, and it’s much easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get from Manhattan to the Bronx. I felt so ecstatic crossing it while juggling, and many people were very amused. It’s possible I’m the first person to joggle across the High Bridge, unless some other jogglers in the area beat me to it. The day I joggled across the bridge(I didn’t drop), I also noticed some unicylists on it who probably had the same idea. The kids loved it! Later on, along with some friends and as a walking juggler, I took part in this Giraffe(giant paper mache giraffe heads)parade across the bridge, and the kids loved that too.

How am I able to do this? It requires a lot of dedication, but the rewards are endless. All this acrobatic fun is the end result of a very healthy lifestyle that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, and knowing how to deal with stress. Indeed, joggling may be one of the best ways to deal with stress since it is such a powerful, full-body exercise. It puts your mind in this unique “zone” that makes it more difficult for stress to get to you. That it makes people around you smile is a nice bonus.

 

Kids and acrobatics

AcroYoga pose called Hangle Dangle. Source: Earl McGehee

Acroyoga pose called Hangle Dangle. Source: Earl McGehee

I don’t have any kids of my own, but if I did, I would take their physical education as seriously as their intellectual development. After all, active kids are not only healthy kids, they generally tend to do better in school. This is why athletics are so important for kids and adults alike.

In order to get more kids interested in fitness, we should broaden what we consider to be athletics. The focus in schools is often on boring old calisthenics, team sports or track, and I think this is very limiting. I believe widening the scope of athletics to include acrobatics can help kids find the fitness activity that is right for them. It can also accommodate children who are not inclined to play team sports for whatever reason. If kids aren’t having fun with what they’re doing, they won’t stick to it. Many people don’t see acrobatics as athletic, but I do. How are the abilities of trapeze artists, tight-rope walkers, or jugglers not athletic?

What is probably the biggest stumbling block to wider acceptance of acrobatics as athletics is acrobatics close association with the circus. This association is unfortunate since the world of acrobatics offers so many fun ways to stay fit that can either be the mainstay of you or your child’s athletic routine, or a supplement to it. And before anyone mentions it, I am not recommending you or your kids take up acrobatic daredevilry.

Juggling is arguably the best gateway to this world, and it’s a safe(unless you juggle chainsaws), fun athletic activity in and of itself. It’s definitely a step forward that more schools are including juggling and acrobatics in their physical education programs. Acroyoga is another excellent way to practice acrobatics. Not surprisingly, juggling and/or acrobatics is linked with improved academic scores. The more options kids have when it comes to athletics, the better.

RIP Sarah Guillot-Guyard

This is a sad day. We just lost a very accomplished athlete and circus performer. Besides being a very accomplished acrobat, Sarah Guillot-Guyard was also a mother of two. Some people may believe acrobatics is inherently dangerous(see my recent post: The “dangers of running and the availability heuristic”), but this is the first death of a performer in the entire history of the Cirque du Soleil. There is no such thing as a 100% safe activity.

Her family and friends have my condolences. As terrible as this is, Guyard died doing something she loved.

 

 

Cary Grant – Juggler

Cary Grant - A juggler who rose to the top. Source: Wikipedia

Cary Grant – A juggler who rose to the top. Source: Wikipedia


Today is Cary Grant’s birthday. Born Archibald Alexander Leach, January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England, at his peak he was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. According to Wikipedia :

Known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor and “dashing good looks”, Grant is considered one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men.

What isn’t so well known is that Cary Grant started out as an acrobat and juggler:

Leach’s experience on stage as a stilt walker, acrobat, juggler and mime taught him “phenomenal physical grace and exquisite comic timing” and the value of teamwork, skills which would benefit him in Hollywood.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. It seems his early career as a juggler and acrobat also helped him refine his acting ability, where timing is everything. So next time you see North by Northwest, or Bringing Up Baby or any Cary Grant film, remember he started out as a juggler.

It’s too bad he wasn’t a joggler.

So if you are an actor or performance artist, learning to juggle may help you improve your abilities. I’ll go joggle in a north by northwesterly direction later today.