Apparently, when Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United the word he used most often during half time talks was focus – so I was once told anyway. I don’t know if it’s entirely true, but it sounds likely. For any competitor, whether in football, weight lifting, athletics, chess or martial arts that mental strength, that ability to focus is vital.
As is a strong body. And how do we achieve a strong mind and strong body? Training. Hard hours of training. Or minutes, depending on your lifestyle and level.
Now, my own lifestyle is not always conducive to training as hard as I would like. Having three children and various duties that I have to complete means that I’m constantly short of time so I have to pick and choose the training methods that I think will yield the best results. This is what led me one afternoon to consider how long it had been since conditioning my fists. I remembered that I used to do handstands on my knuckles as a way of strengthening the bones and wondered if I still could. Not wanting to put too much pressure on my delicate digits, I dropped the timer right down to one minute and took my shoes off to do a handstand in the hall.
To give some context, my youngest child was in the house and entertaining himself playing in the dining room – next to where I was doing my handstand. Let’s call him Tertius as he’s my third and to give more context context he’s just turned three.
So I was holding the handstand, feeling the pressure on my knuckles, but fairly comfortable when Tertius notices me upside down. “What are you doing?” he asks.
“A handstand on my knuckles,” I answered tersely, maintaining my focus. He wandered over. My t-shirt had fallen down to show my tummy and he stood quite close and pulled the t-shirt down to reveal more of me. Then the little blighter started tweaking my nipples, laughing and crying out, “Knuckles!”
I learnt two things that day. One: my son does not know the difference between knuckles and nipples. Two: even a one minute handstand requires mental focus.