A few weeks ago I did a post about interleaving and for the most part I’ve been using this innovative learning strategy for learning new unicycle skills since then. In case you’ve forgotten, interleaving is a learning strategy that involves mixing things up instead of focusing on just one skill at a time. So far it appears to be working.
As you can see in the video I figured out how to juggle while idling one-footed(at least that’s how unicyclists would describe it). I even figured how to do the tricky two to one foot transition in only one practice session; I assumed it would take longer to learn the transition. Instead of a long block practice approach, I interleaved learning this skill with the closely related juggling while unicycling backwards. I would focus on one skill for 10 to 15 minutes, then switch to the other skill for 10 to 15 minutes, then back to the first skill, in an ABABA pattern for about 50 minutes to an hour or more. Of course in this heat breaks are very important.
It took a mere few weeks to learn juggling while idling one-footed though I can’t do it that well yet. I think interleaving did give me a learning boost. I also think the fact that it’s just an extension of juggling while idling two-footed, which I can do competently, was also a big help. There’s a lot of overlap, it’s really not that distinct of a skill in other words.
Since juggling while one-footed idling is a more challenging version of juggling while idling, I think it’s helping me polish my juggling while two-footed idling(sometimes the key to mastering something is to practice the more complex variation of what you’re trying to learn— you don’t even have to do the more complex variation that well to benefit from it). It would be interesting to see what happens if I try interleaving with skills that are unrelated.
It also helps that I mixed it up with juggling while unicycling backwards, which I can almost do competently now. Idling and backwards are related skills and if you can do one well it helps with learning the other. Idling is, after all, going forwards and backwards just a little.
So if you’re on a learning plateau with anything, consider experimenting with an interleaving approach or at least trying variations of what you’re trying to learn.
Lately I’ve been working a lot on my juggling while unicycling backwards technique, particularly in circles and figure 8’s. It is extremely challenging to say the least, but I am slowly learning to do smoother circles. In essence, it’s the same thing as doing forwards circles and figure 8’s while juggling: leaning in the direction you want to go in, as well as pointing your shoulders toward where you want to go. Your body is just facing the opposite direction from where you’re going.
Beyond this it can be difficult to explain the how of it. This is because so much of the learning when it comes to this difficult skill is subconscious. Repeat the same task over and over again and it gets stored in your muscle memory.
Although I haven’t mastered this skill yet, here are some tips for those who want to know how to do this(this assumes you can already juggle while unicycling forward):
Relax. Breath deeply before and while doing it to calm your muscles and oxygenate your cells. Try to achieve a state of mind that is both focused and relaxed.
Try to find a large, flat, quiet area to practice in. Don’t worry if your circles or figure 8’s are over-large, with practice you’ll slowly make them smaller.
Learn to idle while juggling first or while learning this. Idling and backwards are closely related skills. The better your idling, the better your backwards and vice versa.
You’ll likely make the same mistake over and over again. Learn to fail better, try to do the opposite of what keeps leading to the same mistake. In other words, try making different mistakes.
Don’t worry if you notice an asymmetry with your turning abilities, this is perfectly normal. I find clockwise backwards circles much easier than counter-clockwise. Just work a little more on your weaker side.
Be patient. It takes a while to learn a skill like this. You may experience many learning plateaus or you may even regress before getting better. Take breaks if you get very frustrated.
If you are a very self-conscious kind of person and there are people watching, just ignore them. Try not to care what others think and learn to laugh at your mistakes. Or just learn to get used to having people watch you.
The transition from forwards to backwards can be especially tricky when you first start out. Even if you can do it well without juggling it can still be a huge challenge. It’s almost like a separate skill in itself. The key to this is to isolate your lower body and upper body so your unicycling doesn’t interfere with your juggling and vice versa. This is a good approach to juggling while unicycling backwards in general.
With enough practice this should become a second nature. Happy riding!
Wild Juggling is no more — we’re relaunching as AcroTrekker to better reflect the new direction of the blog. As I’ve said before, the name “Wild Juggling” was meant to be temporary until I could come up with something better. In part this is because I’m no longer just a joggler, I’m also a unicyclist. “Acro” does a good job of representing both of these pursuits, with “trekker” suggesting adventurer, traveler or endurance sport.
I’m as committed as ever to vegan living and to a science-based approach to health and fitness. This hasn’t changed. What has changed is that I’ve become more of a scam-buster over the past year — I’m an ally of the anti-MLM coalition and will do more posts exposing these types of scams. Sadly, it seems few vegans are speaking out against this.
Other than this, things won’t be that much different. Expect the usual(or unusual) adventures, the inter-state runs, the vegan meals, the training plans, among other things. To those of you who have followed and supported me over the years, thank you for sticking around.