Remember, Don’t Bop Yourself on the Head!


The trainer showed me how to do the exercise:

Lie down on the bench, he said. Take one weight in each hand, raise them straight up above your head, then slowly lower them down to your ears, hold, then lift straight up again. That’s it, he said, slowly down, slowly back up again.

Oh, he said in valedictory, Remember, don’t bop yourself on the head! Well, of course I won’t bop myself on the head, thought I. What a ridiculous thing to say! Why on earth should I bop myself on the head?

Perhaps the trainer said it because he wasn’t in a gym, advising jocks and jock-ettes. He was a medical trainer, advising patients in cardiac rehab after heart attacks, and his assumption must have been that here are people unused to tossing around weights, not even five-pound weights. This kind of rankled with me. There was a time, not THAT long ago, when I would have called those baby weights. I could do one particular overhead exercise using a 20 pound weight! No more. But still, I knew what I was doing.

And then my six weeks was up.  I was finished with cardiac rehab, and working out all alone in our community’s little basement fitness room, just me and my little five-pound weights. As I began, I could hear Pat’s voice echoing, Remember, don’t bop yourself on the head!

First Position (not Ballet!)

So while I was holding up the weights and looking at them, I thought: Well, now, could I bop myself on the head? Indeed I could. After a long hiatus I’m unused to weights and controlling them, especially slowly. They have size and shape, edges and dimensions. They might, as I lowered them, easily come closer than I thought they might, kind of like a fly-by asteroid. And five pounds of iron is five pounds of iron, not something that would do my head any good in a collision, however fly-by. Yes, amateurs (and I’m back in that category) could easily miscalculate.

Gym Position 2, still not ballet!

So I concentrated extra-hard as I continued. Down and down, slowly, next to my ears, hold, begin to lift again, slowly. Concentrating. Paying attention.

And Third Position, it'll NEVER be ballet!

Each and every time I do this exercise, every single time, as my arms are overhead I say to myself, Remember! Don’t bop yourself on the head! And I smile, remembering Pat, who was capable of thinking the unthinkable (“who would ever bop themselves on the head”) and went ahead and SAID IT OUT LOUD. And I smile at myself, while I’m taking these ridiculous poses, and taking them seriously, and even enjoying them.

I think there’s a real lesson lurking in this story beyond my smiles, which is, Don’t assume. As the old wordplay has it, When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me. Nothing is unthinkable: think ahead to the possibilities. And then, when you’ve thought the unthinkable, say it. It’s sometimes needful. One example: a doctor needs to  think about the possibility of a patient tossing their remaining pills as soon as they start feeling better. That way he knows to say, Remember, take your pills all the way to the end, even when you feel better.

I’ll have more to say about the unthinkable, the unsayable, and communication gaps in future posts. Meanwhile, here’s some free advice from me: Whatever you do, remember, don’t bop yourself on the head! What else is mindfulness, after all?

(Action photos by Nancy First)

This entry was posted in Etcetera, Health, Mindfulness, Personal Essay, Wisdom and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Remember, Don’t Bop Yourself on the Head!

  1. Elisa says:

    I have neurological issues that mean that sometimes my head cannot ascertain where the rest of me is, especially something like a weight. Due to this issue too, the muscles that are supposed to work how and when I wish them to, can…well, I DID bop myself in the head a LOT. The therapist had to place a hand on the weight and under my arm to train me and my brain what to do. I too, felt like a dork, until I clocked me. I recalled when I swam five miles a day and used a bar to work out my arms. I had to start with one pound and I was so proud when I made it up to five! I often assume that my body and my mind ought to be able to do a thing. Ha!


  2. Unfortunately, I have done this exercise and have hit myself in the head with the weight. Thankfully I was okay, but I am super careful when I do it now. Great post and keep up the awesome work 🙂


  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Um I could do with some upper body exercise but I don’t think I could manage 5 pounds!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Does it sound like a lot? You start easy, with, say, a 2 pound weight. You can manage the little guys! And then it’s just practice that builds up the strength. You know what I love about doing weights, Gilly? I feel so MACHO. Try it!


  4. themodernidiot says:

    Wow. You got me thinking. I am, by nature, sarcastic to a fault. When people tell me the obvious, I am usually quick with the, “Well, duh” (although to my credit I am quiet about it, so as not to hurt people’s feelings…ok, that’s probably shy of the truth, but it’s a goal).

    The point you made about a Dr. telling people to take all their meds reminded me that not all lack of common sense is really what it seems. I suppose there are people who common sensically know they need to take all their meds or eat their vegetables, but like a kid need that parental nudge in the right direction.

    Great posts, and love the pics! Looking good!


  5. Lovely post……….and keep taking those pills! Keep up the good work too!


  6. mybrightlife says:

    Great post. So essential to engage with weight training as the years go on. I can feel my upper-body strength taking strain with age and need to get me some of those weights and start working! Will have the head popping mantra in my head though, I am sure, which certainly will help!


  7. Thanks – a timely reminder if ever there was one 🙂


  8. I love the “don’t bop yourself on the head” as a big picture piece of advice. Mindfulness indeed!


  9. Johna Till Johnson says:

    Hi Judith! Great post–and congratulations on completing cardiac rehab! Navigating the world after a serious illness or injury is a whole new experience–but one that can teach us plenty.

    It’s good that your trainer has you using dumbells, because as it turns out, the mere act of trying not to bop yourself in the head activates neurons and muscle fibers in a different way (than, say, using machines where there’s no such danger!)


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’ve always had a strong preference for free weights over machines, but thought it was “just” a preference. Happy to know it actually makes a physiological difference as well.
      Thanks much, Johna!


  10. Thanks, Judith, but sometimes I NEED a bop on the head!
    You be careful now, hear?


  11. 2e0mca says:

    I don’t do weights… I do camera’s with top end lenses, weighing in at around 2.5kg – that’s around five and a half pounds. Around an hour and forty-five minutes of waving that lot around has to be good for me? right! 😉 Oh, and I do occasionally bop myself in the eye socket if responding to a fast piece of unexpected action (fortunately the eye-piece has a soft rubber surround to cushion the blow) 😉

    I hope everything is going well after the rehab and you are getting stronger all the while 🙂 I think I might just have a go at my wife’s weights!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Not only would it not do your head any good to be bopped by a 2.5 kg camera — it probably wouldn’t be so great for the camera either! 😉
      If you do have a go at your wife’s weights, report back on how you like the feel of those babies —


  12. Okay, I am jealous. How do you look so good working out there in your community gym? No pictures are allowed of me in our gym. My face is usually red and I am dripping…. and yes I will admit I have been known to bop myself in the head. Thankfully it was with the three pound weight BOTH times. Yikes, you think I would learn? Stroke side doesn’t quite pump iron like it used to. Fear not, I have never given up nor will I ever. 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Be careful, Tara. Maybe you could make this your mantra too?
      Slower is a help also, at least for me. (And more effective for the muscles, too, or so my trainers have said.)


  13. Patti Kuche says:

    Judith, you look so fit and in charge of those weights you could almost set this bop to a beat! Love the lipstick you’re wearing!


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