A couple of months ago I set a simple goal, maybe a foolish goal for a thirty year old but regardless, I set the goal and since that day, I have been working towards it, consciously and subconsciously (I think).
My goal was to be able to do a handstand and hold it indefinitely in three months time.
It all started on the beautiful stretch of beach, in Au Luek Thailand. The water was really shallow, about ankle deep, you had to walk around 500m just to be waist deep.
It was in this shallow ocean water where I suddenly had the urge to do a handstand, with the ankle deep water to break my fall and a relatively deserted beach, I thought, “Why not?”.
I tried my first handstand and as I expected, I immediately fell over with a small splash into the water, but at least it was fun, so much fun I continued to do it for the next twenty minutes, and right then and there I decided that in the next three months I will master the art of the handstand.
Just some background information: At this time I was not really following any exercise routine or fitness program, I would do some daily push ups, crunches and I went for a run every now and then.
My first attempts were miserable failures which is to be expected of someone who has not done a handstand in twenty years and who has also not practiced it at all.
I went to Google for help and quickly realised that there is no quick and easy way to do a handstand. I found several tutorials and guides which explained the motions and movements but they failed to explain the muscles and strength involved in actually doing an actual handstand.
The one tutorial promised that you will do a handstand in 28 days but when I forwarded to the end result, it was not a real handstand but a handstand against a wall, I mean really who wants to do a wall handstand?
So after more Googling, I found an entire exercise routine dedicated to bodyweight exercises and it also happened to include handstands. Having committed myself to the goal of doing a handstand I was thrilled at finding this routine.
The other great thing about the routine was that it was all based on bodyweight training, which meant that you could do it pretty much anywhere and as a traveller this was a really important as you cannot seek out a gym in every location that you end up in.
The routine includes pull ups which I could do on hotels doors with some support underneath them, dips which I could easily do between two chairs and other than that, all I needed was enough space to do a push up in.
This is where my obsession with body weight exercise started. I committed myself to the routine and would do it every second day, usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On my off days I would still practice handstands but as a beginner, I mostly did it against a wall. Sorry to all hotel and guest house staff, where I left my feet marks on the walls, I did always try to clean it but I most definitely missed a spot or two.
My first month of training and practicing handstands were very disheartening. The act of doing a handstand made my entire body feel weak. My wrists would ache, my shoulders would pain, my core would hurt and the blood rushing to my head actually caused the veins in my cheeks to burst, giving me the appearance of a ageing alcoholic.
In all honesty I almost gave up and told myself that I will get back to my goal once I stop traveling and can routinely practice. My mind was making a ton of excuses as why I cannot do a handstand and why I should just stop trying.
Somewhere in this time a mental shift occurred and I told myself that I will do a handstand even if it kills me. So over the next couple of weeks I would wake up and immediately practice my handstands and I would repeat this before going to bed. At this stage I was still confined to doing my handstands against a wall.
I slowly began building more and more confidence until I was able to start practicing my handstands without the wall but I could only keep them up for a few seconds at most. The handstand practice and the body weight exercises started paying off.
A handstand relies heavily upon your shoulders and your core muscles to keep you upright and balanced. Before I started with the body weight training my core and shoulder strength was pretty much none existent.
Over the next couple of weeks I would do handstands everywhere, everyone who was with me during this time can attest to this, some people would even get annoyed as I would break into handstands at popular tourist destinations or even in bars where other people were drinking.
As of today I can confidently say that I have achieved my goal, although there is always room for improvement, I can now hold a static handstand for almost a minute (if lucky) and I can walk on my hands for as long as my muscles can carry me. I find walking on my hands a lot easier than just doing a handstand.
Some may say it is a futile goal at the age of thirty and even I laugh at it sometimes, but committing myself to this goal has not only helped me achieve it, but also introduced me to a whole new world of calisthenics, which will now always be a part of my life and something I will continually strive to improve.
And also I will be damned if it does not feel great to achieve a goal after months of hard work and dedication, no matter how big or small the goal is. Although I cannot do an handstand indefinitely, holding one for a minute and then doing a “hand walk” is great and I will continue practicing my handstand and working on my form.
So without further ado here are some handstand pics from all over South East Asia.