Normally, when you see someone for the first time in years the comments are usually related to how you look: you lost weight (if you gained weight it’s normally ‘look at you!’), you’re taller, your hair looks great, etc. Not so with me. When I was younger I was a skinny, matted hair kid. Now I’m bald and in shape, but still that never comes up, it’s always something like, “You’re wearing pants!”. Sound funny? Let me explain.

Most students try to make it through High School with some sort of distinction, maybe it’s as a basketball player, or most popular, or strangest looking hair-do. Mine was a little weird, I never wore pants. I wore shorts, a t-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt to school every day in High School, in fact I never once wore pants in the 3 years I was there (I graduated a year early). This may not sound so hard in most places, but I grew up in Alaska where it can be quite cold in winter and the rest of the year rained so much that you thought the city was built under a shower faucet. I remember one time having a fellow classmate offer me a hundred dollars to wear pants just one day, but I never gave in. Why you ask? I have no idea.

At this point you’re probably wondering what in the world this has to do with jump rope, but my evolution into a more normal, pants-wearing individual holds a certain measure of wisdom. Back in 2000 I had the opportunity to perform in Germany and work with a team from there for 2 weeks. I was still in my shorts era of life and thought nothing of what people would say about me. The coach from their team constantly asked me to please put some pants on, but I wouldn’t relent. I liked shorts and didn’t care what anyone thought. Finally, about 2 days before I left he decided on a different tactic, he asked me to think about the Olympics. Here you have some of the best athletes in the world competing in the most watched set of events in the world. Years are spent with some of the best coaches and trainers to make sure that they’re ready to compete. As you watch all the different activities, what is the one thing that every athlete wears up until the start of their event? Warm-up suits. What do they put on as soon as the event is over? Warm-up suits. He asked me why everyone of these athletes used them before and after everything they did.

I can be quite slow to come around to change sometimes, but this was something that really woke me up to something. You need to allow your muscles to warm-up and cool-down slowly if you want to avoid injury. This wasn’t something that I was worried about at age 15, but as I’ve been getting older I find that warm-ups and cool-downs are getting to be more and more important. I travel full-time as a jump roper, I can’t afford to get injured. On an average week I perform 10-12 programs and an injury would cause me to miss a huge number of shows. Is that worth it just so I can say I don’t wear pants? Nope.

I’ve switched to wearing warm-ups before and after everything I do. I take time to warm up before I do a show and I make sure to do some stretching after I’m done. The post-show stretch still needs some work, my schedule sometimes has me jetting out of one school into another with barely enough time to think, but I’m getting better. Do you take the time to warm-up? How about cool-down? If you’re like most people, you don’t do either. We’re so busy as a society these days that most people just have enough time to walk into a gym, do their workout then blast out of there to another engagement. It’s sad to see, but these same people wake up the following day, or week, or maybe years down the road with major injuries that cause them to be in pain constantly. Don’t risk it, if you’ve only got so long to workout, make sure you set aside some of that time to properly warm-up and cool-off.

When I’m home I’ve actually found a creative way to incorporate my warm-up and cool-off into my workout. I unicycle. I live about 3.5 miles from the gym I go to. What I do is unicycle to the gym, once I’m there my muscles are all warmed up and I’m ready to go. Once the workout is done I unicycle home and then do some stretching. For some of you this may sound like a workout just doing that, but I’ve been riding so long that the unicycling part is actually quite easy for me and is the perfect way to start and end my workouts. Think of things that you can do to help. Maybe parking on the opposite side of the parking lot and speed walking to the gym will do it for you. Try to be creative, ask a trainer or a friend what they recommend and then try it out. The key is a willingness to change, don’t wear shorts the rest of your life just to prove a pointless point.

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