Here’s a thing: a lot of people have a Bucket List of experiences they want to have before they die: swimming with dolphins, going to Machu Pichu, visiting the pyramids, driving along Route 66 or whatever. I’m sure these are all fine, mind-expanding experiences (I haven’t done any of them), but many of them are expensive, and might have to be put off for a while dependent on your life situation. Meanwhile, there are mind-expanding experiences to be had cheap or for free, at home.
One of my favourite quotes, ever, comes from Socrates. You’ve probably heard it. It goes:
“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
Damn straight, Socrates. But I’ll go you one further: there are physical feats that are so outside the realms of normal human experience that they should absolutely be on your Bucket List. I’ve abused some substances in my time (dear police: they were all legal), and there are some things you can do, while in a gym or on a mat or whatever, that will easily match the adrenaline hit of…whatever (legal) thing you can do. They can change your comprehension of what you’re capable of. There are probably loads I haven’t done yet. But here are some I’d suggest, with learning resources:
1. A double-bodyweight deadlift
The first time I hit a double-bodyweight deadlift, on a day I was feeling strong and just chucked an extra 20kg on the bar, it felt like my bloodstream had just sucked all the oxygen out of the rest of my body. I’ve since gone up to 210kg, but it has never felt quite so insane since.
How to do it: Do Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe’s plan. It took my deadlift from embarrassing to double-bodyweight in about three months, and I am not genetically special. It’s worth buying the book for the form guides to the moves, which are immense.
2. A diving forward roll
Some people like bungee jumping, but I honestly can’t believe it’s any better than diving towards the floor face-first and redirecting yourself away from the pavement (or whatever) on your hands. Learning to roll properly will take your fragility in the event of a motorcycle crash from ‘terrifying’ to ‘actually, not that bad.’
How to do it: Start with the forward roll, as seen here. It’s totally translatable into the diving version.
3. A bodyweight Olympic snatch
I think this is the start of what counts as legitimately ‘heavy’ in weightlifting – an amount of weight that’s genuinely quite scary to fling over your head. Mark Rippetoe describes Olympic weightlifting as gymnastics with a barbell, and I agree with him – catapulting a big weight up in the air, catching it overhead and standing it up just feels ridiculous and heroic. It feels like the sort of thing the Avengers do. It’s worth a try.
How to do it: Honestly, you could use someone coaching you the first time. But this video’s a reasonable introduction.
4. Doing an aerial cartwheel
Yeah, sorry. You might never get this one, especially if you’re over 25. I did one this year and pulled my hamstring, so I might not do another. But it takes the forward roll thing to another level – you’re essentially diving at the floor, spinning around, and landing on your feet. The butterfly twist is similarly ridiculous, and also well worth trying.
How to do it: Learn the gymnastics cartwheel, forward instead of sideways. Now try it with more and more spring, trying to put your hands down for less and less time. Once you’re ready to go for it, block your chest with your arms and…you know what? Find a sprung floor.
5. Running a marathon
Purely because it’s so horrible. I did one a few years ago, in a fairly dreadful time (I’m calling judo injury), and the range of emotions I went through was insane – from upbeat at the start, through stoic, right down to ‘Oh god, when will this be over?’ I was pretty emotional at the finish. Worth a try once in your life, after which you should vow to never do it again.
How to do it: You can probably do this without me. One word of advice from experience: don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can train with short sprints instead of long runs. You will hit the Wall 17 miles in, and it will be dreadful.
6. Throwing a decent punch
The amount of people who don’t have the first idea how to throw a punch is astonishing. Realistically, you can learn the basics of a decent right straight in an afternoon, practice it for a few months, and take your punching power from appalling to, erm, non-appalling. There are few things more relaxing than really cracking a bag. If you can take it to the next level by punching (consenting, waiver-signing) humans, that’s even better.
How to do it: Here‘s a decent primer. Again, a coach would easily be worth £40 of your cash.
7. Doing a back layout
My gymnastics training was not very formal, so I started doing these because I had a great bounce from my roundoff but really dreadful back-tuck mechanics in the somersault. Hence I’d end up flipping through the air, and every single time a tiny voice in my head went ‘Carefulyoumightdie! Ohitsokayyoujustlanded.’ Probably not the most sensible thing to do, but fantastic.
How to do it: Seriously? Don’t try this. An easier alternative, which you can do on a gym floor, in the park, or in a crowded nightclub, is the Capoeira macaco, which you can do progressions for in your living room. Bonus: it is a ridiculous core move.
Like I’ve said, there are others I want to do. A really long open-water swim would be good, and winning a tournament in something fight-related (the best I’ve ever done is silver) might be nice. Some, like running up a wall and doing a backflip, I came tantalizingly close to (did it with spotters, while a more fearless friend of mine leapt straight off the wall and through the couch, only to proclaim ‘That was like flying!’). Some I never managed (doing a breakdancing windmill, winning a pro-rules MMA fight) and may never have the chance to, now. The point is, some physical experiences are just amazing. What would be on your list?
HOMEWORK: Come up with a physical feat to put on your bucket list: it could be as easy as doing a single pullup, or as ridiculous as landing a double-backflip. Stick it in the comments, and start on the road to getting it done.