I’ve dabbled in various forms of fitness but never any kind of regular programme. As I progress through my 30s and fatherhood, I’ve decided it’s time to get strong. Partially so my joints make it past 40 but mainly so my son can say “my dad’s bigger than your dad” with a straight face. I should have done this ages ago but to paraphrase the Chinese proverb; the best time to start weightlifting is in your late teens, the second best time is right now.
The main exercise in the programme I’ve chosen is the squat. Its apparently the king of lifts, requiring not only total body strength but hip and ankle flexibility, the kind of flexibility that sitting at a desk all day destroys! It’s also a scary lift. The movement lets you load a lot of weight and If you still want your lower back to function after 6 months, you need to make sure your form is right. After a couple of months of what I thought was perfect lifting, I get over the embarrassment and film myself in the gym. The results weren’t good!
I do what I normally do when I don’t know the answer to something and google it. After an hour or so I’m bored, my youtube history is full of muscle-bound men and I’m still struggling to visualise what I’m doing wrong.
I’m a bit disheartened but then I feel my 18 month old pawing at me. He’s trying to steal my phone as usual but while fighting him off I notice is that sitting in a perfect squat! It turns out toddlers, having not been ruined by years of desk work, not only have all the flexibility they need to perform the movement but actually do it instinctively. His vocabulary isn’t quite extensive enough to tell me what he’s doing biomechanically but just being able to observe him in person is enough for it all to fall into place.
My experience made me think about how I approach learning something new in my professional life. Firstly, I may think I’m doing something correctly, but without some outside review I’m just guessing. Secondly, just being able to watch someone who has the skill I want might be enough for it to click. Thirdly, that I have a bunch of talented colleagues right under my nose who would be willing to help with me both of those, I just need to look up and ask.
My form is getting better but it still needs work. My son knows this and taunts me every day, shouting “dada” from across the room while sitting there in his perfect little squat. His bench press is rubbish though, so I’m still the real winner.