Beginning Juggling: Juggle Without Walking

It’s common to walk forward when first learning to juggle, especially with balls. I did it, most people I teach do it, and you may be doing it. If you’re not, then congratulations, you are definitely a step ahead of the game!

So why do people walk when learning juggling? There’s a tendency to throw out in front rather than across our body, maybe because of an instinct to protect ourselves from being hit by the ball. When we throw out, of course we walk forward to catch, it the only natural thing to do!

As long as you juggle with beanbag-type balls (or scarves), it’s okay if the ball actually comes at you. So go ahead and aim at your opposite shoulder – this will counteract the tendency to throw out.

Here are some more tips for juggling without walking forward:

  1. Keep your feet planted. Pretend you are a tree trunk, solid and stable. Do not allow your feet to move. If you throw a ball out of reach, don’t step anywhere to catch it. Since now there is no way you can catch a ball that is too far out, your mind and body will react by throwing closer. Basically, you don’t want to reinforce a a habit that is preventing you from juggling, whether it’s throwing forward, catching overhand, etc.
  2. Practice facing a wall, preferably one with a solid color. Stand about 2 feet from a wall and juggle. You’ll probably notice some of your throws hit the wall. Keep practicing and focus on preventing the balls from hitting the wall by throwing across your body. If you need to go back to two balls, do that against the wall and get it solid before moving on to three.
  3. Position your wrists slightly up and in toward your body. This will encourage throws that are aimed closer to your body rather than too far out in front of you.

Try these methods one at a time. So you might start by keeping your feet planted, and when you can do that without thinking about it, then move onto facing a wall. The order doesn’t matter, but you want to internalize each step before moving onto another one.

You might not even need to try all of these things – just one may stop your throws from going out. And you’ll be juggling without walking!

Have fun and happy juggling!

~Heather

Juggling at Family Gatherings!

I just love some of the emails I’ve been getting from students about how they’re including juggling in their family gatherings:

“I showed 4 generations of family how to juggle scarves while I was celebrating an 80th birthday!”

“We brought our scarves and balls to our Father’s Day events yesterday.  We performed and taught family members and had so much fun in the process!”

There’s something about juggling that makes you want to share it. It’s exhilarating and generates positive energy and good moods. Also, once people learn and realize that it’s not extremely difficult, it makes them want to share it with people that might think otherwise. They look forward to how surprised and excited someone will get once they can juggle. (That’s why I teach it too!)

Other reasons juggling is awesome to include in family events:

  • It creates an excitement that’s contagious, and fills any room with laughter.
  • It’s an opportunity for kids to share with their grandparents, or vice versa. This is definitely a bonding experience – and you never forget who taught you how to juggle!
  • It’s not too intense so family members of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy it, even sitting down.

So next time you head out to a family gathering, bring along those juggling scarves and balls. An opportunity might strike to liven up the party with some juggling!

I’d love to hear about juggling at your family gatherings, so feel free to share them in the comments.

Note: If you’d like a photo of your family juggling to be considered for inclusion in a future blog post or on the JuggleFit site, email them to familyphotos@jugglefit.com.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h to Stay Young

So I met this amazing lady at a health and fitness expo recently. Her son had a booth near mine, and she was hanging out and adding an unbelievable energy and vibe to the area. Her grandkids convinced her to come learn to juggle, so I taught her and she of course rocked it. I would guess she was about 80 years young. I asked her how she stayed in such great shape and kept up her energy levels, and she had a very simple answer: “I stretch every morning.”

Lion Stretching

Take a cue from this lion – keep flexible throughout your life with stretching!

Now I know that sounds way too easy, but it’s actually not. Finding time to stretch every morning can be challenging. But it’s so worth it! Here’s a quick test that will show you why (if you don’t stretch often):

  • Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you.
  • You know what comes next – slowly edge your arms forward to touch your toes.

Does this seem tough? Well just imagine how much tougher it will be if you don’t do this again for 5, 10, or 15 more years! Ouch! Yes, our flexibility will decrease – we’ll lose it if we don’t use it.

Begin with just 5 minutes in the morning and work up to 10 or 15. Give your lower body priority – it takes a pounding with constant walking (and sitting!). Here are a few moves to get you started:

Lower Body

  • That awesome lady I mentioned emphasized this one: Lay on your back and pull your right knee up towards your chest. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
  • Sit with legs slightly out to the sides in a V and in full contact with the floor. Keeping your back straight (don’t hunch your shoulders over), place your hands on the floor in front of you and edge them forward until you feel a nice stretch in your inner thighs and hamstrings. Hold for 20 seconds. Aaaah!
  • Sit on floor with your legs together and straight out in front of you (just like in our test above). Engage your abs to help you sit up straight. Point your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then bring toes back up and flex your feet – hold for five seconds (or more – you can tell this is doing a lot of good!). Keep alternating pointing and flexing for a minute or so.

Upper Body

  • Place your hands behind your back and hold them together. Keep your shoulders back and not hunched forward. Tilt your head back as your slowly raise your arms just a a bit to open up and stretch your chest muscles. It’s not about how high you raise your arms – as long as you feel a light stretch in your chest, you’re doing great!
  • While standing or sitting upright, grab onto an imaginary ‘rope’ above you. Place one hand on top of the other as your ‘climb’ the rope, feeling a nice stretch in your triceps and upper back. Use your abs to keep your trunk steady as you climb.
  • While sitting upright, hold your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Round your shoulders as you suck in your abs and push your hands out in front of you (clasp them together if you like), stretching your upper back muscles. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat.

Keep in mind your morning stretches should be gentle and only slightly past the point of feeling the stretch – keep it safe. More intense stretching should be reserved for after a warmup or post-workout. The point here is to get your blood moving and lubricate your joints before you start your day.

There are so many awesome stretches you can do, so pick and choose you favorites and switch it up occasionally. And remember the words of the lady in her 80s bouncing around with the most energy in the room:

“I stretch every morning.”

Motivation to Get Up & Move During Work

It happens to the best of us. We’re sitting while working for hours on end. We know it would be good for our health to get up and move, but it’s surprisingly tough to get motivated to stand up for that reason alone. But what if we had something fun to do?

Something sure motivated this guy to stand up!
A yo-yo? Hmmm…
Photo by Trevor Page

Yes, my answer, as for many things, is try juggling! But it could just as easily be jump rope, a set of squats or yo-yo. (C’mon, squats can be fun!) All of these provide light exercise and get you up and moving around. So take your pick.

What motivates you to stand up and move during the workday? If you haven’t found anything yet, experiment! Here are some ideas:

So when you get that nagging feeling that you’ve been sitting for too long, you’re probably right. Get up and do something you enjoy for a few minutes.

Not only will this provide some healthy activity, it will refresh your mind so you can come back to your work rejuvenated and highly productive.

Let’s hear some more ideas in the comments!

Super Fun Fitness Classes in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

It’s so great to be back in Brooklyn, and I’m looking forward to teaching in Cobble Hill every Tuesday in April. Classes are from 7-8pm at Artscetera, 212 Smith St. between Baltic & Butler. These classes will teach you how to juggle for brain and body fitness. JuggleFit Classes in Brooklyn

Each class is for beginners, and there will be plenty of laughs, learning and fun. And don’t worry, it’s okay to drop the ball! But you’ll actually be learning first with juggling scarves, kind of like juggling in ‘slow-motion.’ It makes things much easier than starting with balls.

I’ll also fill you in on all the surprising benefits of juggling – like how it burns up to 280 calories an hour and is awesome for your brain.

All equipment is provided – just come on over and have some fun getting fit. Cost is $10 per person and you can register here. See you there!

Visit JuggleFit.com for a list of all upcoming JuggleFit classes & events.

Healthy Breadcrumbs

Ever notice how pretty much all of the breadcrumbs for sale at traditional grocery stores have bad-for-you ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils? Occasionally, I find myself at the store with breadcrumbs on my shopping list to make a yummy casserole or spinach loaf (hey, it’s okay to splurge sometimes!). I always read the ingredient labels in disbelief, I guess hoping that they have made a change and removed the bad stuff! Admitting defeat, I usually grab the crumbs with a frown on my face and proceed to cook with them.

Crushed Wasa Crispbread for Breadcrumbs

Crushed Wasa Crispbread for Breadcrumbs!

Fortunately, I discovered a great substitute while making some impromptu homemade macaroni and cheese. The recipe called for breadcrumbs sprinkled on top near the end of baking, but I didn’t have any. That step sounded way too good to leave out. What to do? I scoured my pantry, hoping I might find some. I noticed some Wasa crispbread which I love, and wondered if I it would be a good substitute. What a discovery! I crushed a couple of “Hearty” variety Wasa crispbread to bits inside a zipper sandwich bag and topped the mac & cheese with them the last 10 minutes of baking. They were amazing and so much better than any breadcrumbs I had before.

I would imagine the whole grain, multi-grain and sourdough varieties would also make great breadcrumbs. So give it a try next time you are making a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs. Simply break a slice of crispbread into small pieces, place them in a zipper bag, and crush with the bottom of a glass or jar.

For more of my food tips and simple recipes, follow ShakeASnack on Twitter!

I Think I Can Finally Juggle Five Balls!

I did several posts a while back about my journey to juggling five, and I’m happy to say I think I’ve finally got it. You can judge for yourself from the video. I know I have a long way to go and need to get many more throws!

I found the following things to be the most helpful in learning (in order of importance):

  1. Make sure all of your throws are of a consistent height. Little did I know I was 99% there a long time ago, but my throws were getting a bit lower after about the third throw. I didn’t realize what a big hindrance this was until I experimented with throwing them as high or higher instead. It worked like magic. I was able to continue if the throws were higher than the rest, but it was extremely difficult and eventually fell apart if I threw them even a bit lower.
  2. Practice at least five days a week. Even if it seems like you will never get there, keep practicing and you will get it! I think it took me about a year. However, do take a week off if you have not made progress in a few weeks to reset and come back fresh.
  3. Throw almost straight up, with the slightest angle. At first, I experienced a lot of collisions doing this, but I was soon able to move the pattern out just a bit. I found this way easier than having to move in closer from juggling to wide. Probably because juggling wide looked good for a few throws and felt “safer.” Working through the collisions of a tighter pattern really paid off for me.
  4. Hold the juggling balls with a light grip. I found that gripping onto the juggling balls too tight affected the smoothness of my throws. Barely gripping at all, and just “elevating” or hoisting the balls, especially on the first throw, seemed to work well.

Hope these tips help you in some way on your journey to learning to juggle five balls. And if you think you’ve “almost got it”, take a video of yourself and you might discover that you actually do!