Have I mentioned that I’m a juggler? Yep, for, oh god, 24 years now. I started young and as such I was one of those punks that learned everything five times faster than the adults, who mostly loathed me as a result. There was a window of opportunity somewhere in my mid- to late-teens when I could have put my head down and become one of the better jugglers on the planet, but I chose girls and a social life instead and I’m still not sorry. Giving it varying degrees of dedication over the years I managed to become a respectable juggler anyway.
Unfortunately, juggling is one of the many sports/disciplines where one doesn’t age gracefully. In my advancing years – I’ll be 36 next week! – and having done precious little juggling in my 30s, I can pretty much forget about notable improvement from here on out. Indeed, I’ll have to practice pretty freakin’ hard just to maintain what I’ve got.
People always ask me, ‘Leif, how is it that you engage in virtually no regular exercise, yet you’re about a dozen sit-ups away from being a swimsuit model?’ OK, only one person has ever said that and he was trying to get me into bed, but still, the point stands; I look awfully fit for no particular reason. Actually, in fact, there’s two good reasons; excellent genealogical inheritance and juggling.
Serious juggling is all about fast-twitch muscles, high-speed repetitive motion and of course razor sharp reflexes and coordination. It’s surprisingly strenuous. As such the human body just can’t keep up that intensity after a certain age. Hell, the stamina alone will bury you, if you don’t keep at it several times a week. Are you non-jugglers curious? Try this experiment; find a relatively light object, like an empty glass bottle of anything. In fact, find two. Put one in each hand and shake them like you’d shake a bottle of salad dressing. First do it at about 30-40% of your maximum intensity. Not too taxing, eh? Well, do it virtually non-stop for two hours. How do you feel now? Stings a bit, doesn’t it? That’s about the equivalent of a three club (‘pins’ for those of you not hip to the lingo) or five-ball workout for you.
Now shake the bottles at about 80-90% intensity. I’ll go easy on you, you only have to do this for 10 minutes. Can you still feel your finger tips? That’s a five club or seven ball workout for you, except if you were actually practicing this stuff you’d keep going for an hour or more. You can take short breaks here and there, but not too long because if your muscles start to cool down, forget it, your day’s over.
So there you have it. Hardcore juggling is a killer workout. You may see a lot of jugglers with generous guts, but rest assured, they’ve got upper-body strength and stamina to beat the band.
I bring this up because I juggled Thursday and today. The first serious juggling I’ve done since January and boy was I a mess. I actually didn’t do too bad technically, but I was exhausted after only 40 minutes. Usually I go two hours or more. So, I’m critically out of shape. Plus, I was juggling on a sloped piece of grass, that appeared to be seeded with dog, and possible human, faeces. But, you know what? I didn’t care. I love juggling and I love how it makes me feel.
Which brings me to my next point. Did you know that juggling can actually make you smarter? It’s no coincidence that most jugglers are math and science geeks. Well, truthfully, those people were pretty much all math and science geeks long before they learned how to juggle, but juggling undoubtedly took them to new heights of geekiness.
Just read this study on how juggling affects the brain. The conclusions seem to indicate that regular juggling, even just pansy three ball work, actually causes your brain to generate new synaptic connections, stimulating grey matter growth, hence more powerful brains. Well, I didn’t need any damn study to tell me that. I’ve done enough start-stop juggling over the years that I can speak with complete authority on the affects of juggling and non-juggling.
When I’m practicing a lot I’m just plain more mentally and physically dynamic all around. My memory is improved, multi-tasking is easier, I suffer fewer ‘brain farts’, to say nothing of my improved strength, reflexes, coordination, etc. I firmly believe that juggling is the greatest mental and physical fine-tuning you can achieve without a prescription. Furthermore, this heightened mental and physical conditioning will easily transfer over and improve other aspects of your life; sports, work, in my case, ahem, sexual prowess and so on.
Equally, when I’ve gone a long time without juggling on a regular basis, my focus is scattered, I’m a klutz and I struggle for 20 minutes to remember words like ‘escalator’. The difference is alarming. So after a long break, when I get back to good hard juggling, I always feel a tangible ‘lift’ in my all-around capacity to do, well, practically everything and it makes me all giddy.
As for improving your looks; well to be honest, I just said that so you’d click on the link. Truthfully, by and large us jugglers are a homely bunch, present company excluded obviously. If you truly want to improve your looks, I’m afraid your only option is to travel back in time and intervene before your mother copulates with your father.
Good luck with that.