The Penny Farthing Bicycle and Becoming Unfixed
I was out buying groceries the other day, which I have to say, is no small endeavour when you have two growing kids who seem to be able to eat their weight in food each day. But I was finished and happy to be on my way. As I left the store, I caught – out of the corner of my eye – something extraordinary. There was someone unlocking a penny farthing bicycle… at the SaveOn. So I did the normal thing where you nod to the person like it was the most natural thing in the world to see a penny farthing bicycle and continued walking. But wait… this is just too good, too amazing, and if you know me at all – someone who lives for finding new and creative activities to try – too much to pass by. I had to know more! I turned around and went back and asked, “is it hard to ride?” He smiled and said, “actually no, it can be a bit of a challenge to get going, but can be learned in about a half an hour – usually.”
There was so much I wanted to know! We chatted a little about balance, agility, steering and riding in traffic etc. He informed me that there was a growing following, and that if I was interested, a group of about 20 high wheelers (as they like to call them), were going to be meeting up later that weekend. And there I was, hooked – curious to find out more about where I can get my hands on one of those bikes.
You see, I’m a Massage and Movement Therapist who specializes in helping people grow in their capacity to understand and move better in their bodies. With this as the foundation of my practice, I have a vested interest in looking for diverse ways for my clients to challenge themselves. And believe me, the majority of the clients I work with love to be challenged. Something like the Penny Farthing bicycle is right up my alley, and I can’t wait to share it!
One of the biggest hurdles I face with clients is shifting their thinking around how to continue to be challenged while staying healthy and injury free. It is an all too familiar scenario for people to come to me after they’ve been injured and say something along the lines of “I’m a mess” and “you have to fix me.” Usually followed by “I knew I was tired and probably needed a rest day but you know, I just had to get another run in this week.”
The shift that I’m talking about centres around something I call dynamic adaptability. This requires being connected with our bodies in a way that allows us to listen and adapt our approach on any given day. For many of us, this can be more challenging than training for a big race.
Which leads me into discussing the ideas around “unfixing,” and what I mean by that. As I mentioned earlier, the clients I work with love being challenged. Most of us do – and we see it all the time: 30 day yoga challenges, boot camps, marathons and long hikes, or even a commitment to walk 1/2 hour each day. There is a certain mindset that often reflects our views of what it means to be fit and healthy. We fix our eyes on our goal and pursue it with dogged determination.
Right now you might be thinking – well what’s the problem with this? The issue that develops is that we can become so fixated on our goals that we lose our connection with our body. Our pursuit of the challenge becomes more important than how we feel while we’re experiencing it, and may even become more important than whether it’s actually good for us. Without that connection, we not only miss the cues and signals our body is sending us, we also diminish our ability for our activities to be dynamic and adaptive. When we are not paying attention to what our body is telling us and adapting to our current situation, we are creating the perfect environment for an injury. So how could we approach this differently?
Let’s take a look at the word “fixed” to help highlight our perspectives around this. Fixed: “fastened, attached, or placed so as to be firm and not readily moveable; firmly implanted; stationary; rigid.” And also “not fluctuating or varying; definite: a fixed purpose.” Again, this has a certain allure to it – I will keep my commitment to exercise or work out at all costs. In addition to this, and often goes hand in hand, is that there can be a tendency to want to do things the same way; we have a routine and we will stick to it. No matter how busy, tired, stressed out or even hurt I am, I’m going to finish this.
A Dynamic Approach
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate in challenges or push ourselves – far from it. We need to continually be challenged to grow and develop. What I find really beneficial for clients is when they include diverse activity that also challenges their mindset. Where I like to work with people is to encourage being dynamically active while pursuing their goals. We don’t want a linear path to the end. Think about how boring that would be.
What are some signs that we might be a little “fixed” in our approach?
- When we have to rely on technology to “get us through” our training. Seriously, it is close to impossible to listen to our body while riding a stationary bicycle and watching TV.
- When we rarely or never deviate from our routine or our route. Routines are good to help keep us on track, but also have a tendency to put us on “auto-pilot.”
- When we haven’t tried or learned something new for a while. When clients tell me “my body is falling apart,” I respond by saying “you’re not falling apart, your body is just bored.”
- When we know we’ve tweaked something and we convince ourselves that we just need to push through it. We often have a lot of advanced signals from our body that we’re close to injury. It doesn’t mean we have to stop what we’re doing, but we might have to adapt or pay attention to what the cause is.
- When we cannot take a “rest” day. Rest and recovery are important aspects of any training. There really are times when the best thing we can do for ourselves is take a rest day. You will not fall apart, you will not quit your training – but you will likely feel much better.
Becoming unfixed takes a little practice. It requires us to be connected with our bodies and willing to trust ourselves to know what’s best. The most important thing is experiencing new challenges where we continue to grow and develop.
Perhaps you could look into getting a Penny Farthing bicycle…
About Paul Cramer
Paul Cramer is a Registered Massage Therapist and Movement Educator, and Founder of Movement Spark. Paul has worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker’s apprentice, an English as a Second Language teacher and curriculum developer. He pursued the study of Linguistics and obtained a BA (Spec. Honours) degree. He has previously worked in IT and its implementation in schools throughout the Northwest Territories. He lived and worked in Yellowknife, Inuvik as well as Whitehorse in Canada’s far north. He currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta with his wife and two children.
Visit his Movement Spark website here, and find him on social media @movementspark. Check out the Small Conversations for a Better World Podcast as Paul and co-hosts Susannah Steers and Gillian McCormick discuss “Medical Systems vs Wellness Systems” (available starting July 17, 2020)