Shooting yourself in the foot

Harnessing handicaps to amp up creativity, challenge, and turn the mundane into the extraordinary

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Instinctive Fitness. Yeah, I went a bit overboard with the headline length. The ideas here are a refinement and expansion upon my What if…? Limits and Play article I wrote close to a year ago.

I’m terrible at planning. When I feel the urge to start a movement session (most would call ‘em workouts, I’m weird) the frustratingly easy excuse to do nothing is that I don’t know what to do. Either the spot I’ve picked is rather featureless or there are just a handful of obstacles to play with; none which are super compelling.

When you’re out moving and practicing on your own, it’s hard to maintain the motivation to keep going if it’s not fun. Sure, if you’re short on time, it’s always possible to work on some techniques in isolation, or do some bodyweight conditioning. However, if you have more than ten minutes, then I believe there should be something to do so engrossing that time slips away.

First we have to solve the dilemma of not knowing what to do though. How? Turn your movement/training session into play.

Let me be more specific, make a game out of the session. I’m not talking about keeping score or winning here. Games have rules, right? Limits, that’s all I mean.

Placing limits on what’s available to you, handicapping yourself, sets constraints on your possible choices. Constraints, paradoxically, can help creativity flourish. The goal of our movement shifts from practice and repetition towards creative problem solving. I dunno about you, but I love fixing problems and puzzling out how to make things work. Using games to transform training and practice into a challenge to figure out keeps me entertained endlessly.

Whenever you’re feeling paralyzed by a lack of options, or even by having too many, the solution is simple. Handicap yourself, set rules to what you can or cannot do; what you can and cannot use. If you do this and engage your imagination, even a blank floor or piece of sidewalk can become your movement canvas.

Okay, now time to get specific.

As a beginner in Parkour the first way I learned to set limits on myself was through a simple game. I played it as a kid, I’m sure you did too.

The floor is lava

Caution, this floor is now lava credit: Geeknative

There’s nothing like liquid hot magma for making clear what is and isn’t off limits. Imagining a field of molten death forces you to immediately get creative and search for routes that allow you to traverse your environment with singe free feet. The rules of the game are plenty flexible. If you’re dealing with just a floor or limited obstacles you may need to create arbitrary rules about what is actually lava and what isn’t, but once you do even a bland and boring sidewalk becomes extraordinary.

My personal favorite way to use this game is to pick a place to reach and try to get there with little to no slips into the lava. With this variation precision, control, and fluid movement trump speed and power. Here are two recent examples using the floor is lava game—including some utterly appropriate volcanic rocks to jump around on, after all, I am in Iceland.

_The floor is lava _could easily be the only limit you need in most situations. It can carve out clear routes and offer compelling challenges for you to play with, whether you’re dealing with near featureless spaces or epic places littered with infinite combinations.

Still, why stop at just one game?

Handicaps, sometimes literally.

You're a horrible person, that's what they'll say if you tread on us. credit: <a href=

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