Balance is NOT the answer…
I have had many clients over the years request to work on their balance, which I am always happy to do. I love doing balance drills, and love coaching them, however as a coach it is my job to find out why my client wants to work on their balance. Often times, when asked, the response is because they have a fear of falling.
My step father used to tell me, “speed never killed anyone, it is the sudden stops that hurt”. You can apply this same thought to the act of falling. Falling alone is not the problem, the real fear is from the consequences of that fall. You could have amazing balance, and be able to walk a tightrope from skyscraper to skyscraper. Unless you are going to take every single step of your life with the patience and focus of balancing 50 stories in the air, at some point, you will catch your toe on a random curb, or step on a spot of ice, and will fall. Lets face it, the moment that happens, your perfect balance was useless.
In my opinion there are 2 options here. Option one, pay someone to walk through life with you holding your hand, and ready to catch you if you fall (and hope they don’t fall and take you down with them). Or option two… get your body ready to fall.
If you chose option 1, you can stop reading now 🙂
Injuries from falling basically come down to a couple things. Lack of strength, or lack of mobility. An example of lack of strength, resulting in injury, is if you fall and hit the ground and break a bone. The muscle, and bone were not strong enough to take that impact, therefore the bone breaks. An example of lack of mobility, resulting in injury, would be if you fall, but catch yourself on your hands and break/ sprain your wrist. The “catching” of yourself likely put your wrist into more range of motion than it is used to, plus the weight of your body, and impact earns you a nice cast for your friends to sign… unless they are like my friends, then they may just draw inappropriate stick figure art. So, having a strong, mobil body could help decrease the risk of injury during a fall. An appropriately designed training program, should include strength and mobility drills.
But Mike… my neighbors 14 year old daughters boyfriends uncle is an olympic medal winning gymnast bodybuilder, who currently works in the circus as a contortionist and holds the world record for highest bone density ever, fell and got hurt. Okay… well you know what $h!t happens 🙂
So let’s also learn how to be Buzz Lightyear and “fall with style”. The best way, not to hurt yourself when you catch that random curb, or spot of ice, is to know how to save it. Saving it, is not a conscious choice, things happen way to fast for that. It needs to be an automatic reaction. Improving your reaction time through proper hydration (gets the signals from brain to muscle and back quicker) and reaction based drills that improve coordination and proprioception (awareness of body position and movement) can help aid this. A drill that works really well for developing these skills involves letting a dowel tip over, and you try to catch it.
To try this drill get a dowel, or a broomstick, without the broom. Place one end on the floor, get the dowel vertical, gently holding it with the tip of one finger. Lift your finger vertically off the dowel, so it tips over in a random direction. Your goal is to let the dowel get as close to the floor as possible, before you catch it, but ALWAYS catch it. If you don’t catch it the impact of the dowel hitting your floor, my startle the mouse living inside your walls, which may cause the mouse to jolt and run out the secret little hole it has been sneaking into even though you swear you plugged all the holes to outside. The mouse would then run across the street trying to get away from the loud scary noise of the dowel hitting the floor, and a hawk would see it, immediately diving down to get a tasty meal for lunch distracting the driver of the trash truck for just long enough for the truck to hit a fire hydrant resulting in an explosion of water flooding your street, and home, and diverting the water from the lines the fire fighters are using to wash their trucks and your town will have the ugliest dirties fire trucks around… hmm that took a turn.
Do this drill barefoot and you will get even more out of it, working all the muscles of the foot, and ankle. Once you get the basics see how many different ways to catch it. Over hand, under hand, left hand, right hand, in a lunge, in a squat. The more variety you include, the better it will be at providing you coordination, reaction, proprioception, strength, mobility and drumroll please… super cool ninja skills 🙂 The more you do this drill, the more you will get a sense of how much time you actually have, before the dowel hits the floor. You will feel like the dowel is moving in slow motion, and you have plenty of time to get into position and snatch it. This is yet another bonus, teaching your body not to just freeze up, get stiff, but to take the milliseconds it has to appropriately braced for impact, or get into a position to save it.
For a short video of this drill check out our instagram @fit4newton