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Skipping: The Childhood Game That Reveals How You Improve Your Health

How you skipped as a child reveals how you approach your wellbeing and health. But is it better to procrastinate or leap-in and work things out as you go along?
(Video and resources at the end)

Did you know that there’s a day devoted to skipping? National Skipping Day. It’s a time where school age kids are challenged to jump around. There’s the chance for them to compete in 6 categories and amass scores for  different types of skips. There’s Double Dutch, Double Unders, Face to Face, Keep the Pot Boiling, Continuous Cross Overs and Pretzels. It sounds like a blast doesn’t it?

It may have been a fair few years since you left school but do you remember playing skipping games as a kid? Can you recall that moment of nervous hesitation as you waited to jump in. Counting, rocking back and forth, tracking the rhythm of the rope, and trying to time it just right so you didn’t get all tangled up. Or perhaps you took the opposite approach to that of the cautious counter – completely gung-ho, dashing in, and hoping your timing was right.

It’s not too huge a leap to make but there’s a connection between skipping and health. Not the more obvious leg pumping, arm swinging, cardiovascular benefits, but something completely different.

It’s the mindset and approach you had to skipping.

Just consider this for a moment…

When you want to crack on with some brand new activity, how do you decide the best time to start? What do you do first?

Do you wait on the sidelines… calculating… endlessly considering… hoping for the right moment to present itself? ‘Not just yet. I think tomorrow will be better’.

Or do you think: ‘What the heck! I’ll just get started’ and keep your fingers crossed?

Do you see? Skipping reveals it all!

The way you now approach change or learning new activities that challenge or improve your health is the same as the way you approached skipping as a child.

PROCRASTINATING VS. LEAPING IN: WHICH GIVES THE BETTER RESULTS?

Is it better to procrastinate or to leap right in?

Both approaches have their up-sides and down-sides. Procrastination might give you time to gather useful info to speed you on your way. Too much procrastination and you never even start the process which will lead to you making some progress. Leaping in, on the other hand, works; simply because you overcome resistance and inertia and just get on with things. But spontaneity doesn’t automatically guarantee that your actions are moving you in the required direction – one that brings you closer to your desired goal.

A comment by Josuha Banks on a recent podcast episode (he’s one half of The Minimalists) really brought this home. He was discussing the connection between making a change – the path, the process and the results – and shared an analogy which involved travelling to work.

What would happen if he set a goal and decided to run to work. Would he reach his destination?

Well, if his office was 17,000 miles away, then the chance of succeeding was zero. However, he actually lived about 1.5 miles from work. So given his desire to reach his goal and the action that he had decided to take, he’d have prertty-much guaranteed success.

Next he considered what would happen if he just left his house and started sprinting in a random direction. Would he get to the office? It seemed highly unlikely.

Joshua concluded with a pithy phrase:

“The how must follow the why.”

UNPACKING THE PROBLEM OF SUCCESSFUL CHANGE

There’s so much food for thought here.

17,000 miles to the office. It wouldn’t matter how prepared you were – equipment, mental attitude, food and water. Running to the office in one day is completely unrealistic.

So setting a realistic goal is important for making a change.

1.5 miles to the office. Absolutely do-able. Of course it would help to get prepared the night before – running kit / office clothes sorted; rucksack packed lightly; extra time allowed to reach there, cool off and get changed for work.

Getting prepared before hand is important when making a change.

Running out of the house in a random direction. I guess you have a 1 in 360 chance you’ll be heading in the right direction, but without a map even the most proficient runner would struggle to reach the office.

Creating a route / method to follow is preferable when making a change.

‘The how must follow the why’. It’s a bit cryptic isn’t it? At first this statement seems to be about your approach – whether you procrastinate or leap in. But is success determined by how rapidly or slowly you choose to take action – be it sprinting down the road or waiting for the perfect moment before you begin to skip? Not really. So making successful changes isn’t about your  ‘how’ – the effort, the thing that you’re going to do. The ‘how’ is the second part of the equation. If you don’t have a clear understanding of ‘why’ you want to put in this effort to get the ball rolling, there’s a greater chance you’ll head off in a direction that ultimately doesn’t make any sense.

In your process of creating a change (in health, in life, anything) getting your ‘why’ figured out first, before turning your attention to the ‘how’, can help you head in the right direction.

CHANGE: WHY YOUR BRAIN MAY BE KEEPING YOU STUCK

A second insight shared by The Minimalists’ guest, psychologist Dr LePera, was on how as a human you’ve evolved with a subconscious that prefers to maintain the status quo:

“Humans have a distinct drive to stay in familiar patterns… to keep safe… And to the subconscious, safety is the familiar.”

She continued with the ways this might bee experienced –  you resist, talk yourself out of acting or feel uncomfortable –  and so you remain stuck in familiar patterns. Despite your best intentions you’re: “unable to build the bridge between knowing better and doing differently”.

There’s so much truth here. There’s safety in doing things the same way as you always have, even when you know exactly what outcome you’ll get. Old habits get repeated, they might even seem impossible to break.

Coupled to that is the need to expend more energy to examine and alter your entrenched habits.

Have you noticed how easy it is to switch off, lose focus, and just drift along in life? It’s actually a clever resource conservation method as it powers down your energy-hungry brain. It’s also a way to free up energy resources and make them available to other parts of the body. When the brain is making fewer demands on your energy reserves other processes can start to take place.

So what happens when you decide to change your routine?

When you actively focus on a particular habit, become grounded in the present, and engage your mind and body in doing things a different way, you make more demands on your energy reserves. You need the energy to jolt your brain and body out of ‘coasting mode’. You’ll use energy as you give yourself gentle reminders that stop you from slipping back into your familiar groove. And you’ll need plenty of energy if you try to make a load of changes all at the same time.

The key message to recognise here is that both physical effort AND mental energy are required for change.

 

***
Change is possible. While old habits may seem permanently hard wired there is always the potential to achieve different results. However, this doesn’t mean doing so is easy-breezy as there are many steps to incorporate, such as: gaining clarity on your motivation (the ‘why); defining realistic goals; choosing appropriate activities (the ‘how); knowing when you’re truly engaged in a new activity or comfortably coasting in ‘power-saving mode’; and having the resources to give your body and brain the jolt to get started on the process of change. Whether you’re a procrastinator, or a woman who leaps first and questions later, these are useful considerations to bear in mind.

 

 

RESOURCES

The Challenge:

National Skipping Day – April 24th 2021

The Form:

Good skipping technique is key to keeping you safe and feeling skip-tastic. 

The Rope:

Weighted skipping ropes seem to be the better choice for upper body toning and weight loss.

The Workout:

Image Stoica Ionela at Unsplash.com

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