You Can Get Fit!

Finding Your Balance

Posted on: January 4, 2011

This time, I mean it literally!

Many of us live in locations which will be lightly or heavily blanketed in snow and ice in the coming months. How many times have you stepped outside, only to find yourself slipping and sliding, trying to regain control? It’s these times that we’re grateful for our sense of balance.

Some of our sense of equilibrium is dependent on the health of our inner ear. But whether or not your ears are up to muster, you can still perform a few exercises to strengthen the muscles which help keep you upright in slippery conditions.

1. Two-legged balance: start simply by placing your feet in one line, one right in front of the other, heel to toe. Try not to let one turn in or out with respect to the other–we’re going for one straight line with both feet. This is harder than it looks! To help keep from wobbling, think of engaging either inner or outer thighs (it can be different for different people, so experiment to see which works for you). Your hands can also help you–you can place them on your hips, or out to the side somewhere, whatever helps with balance. For the ultimate challenge, close your eyes–it can be amazing how much the visual sense contributes to balance! When you’ve had enough (2 minutes, 2 years, or whatever feels good), switch so that the other foot is in front.

2. One-legged balance: start with your low back in a neutral position (tailbone neither sticking out behind you nor tucked underneath). Then, lift one foot off of the floor, bending the same knee. You can lift the knee to hip height, if it feels OK. Hold this position, keeping your hips as level as possible, not letting one jut out to the side. Stay strong through your deep abdominals and pelvis. When you’ve held this a few minutes, lower the raised leg, shake out the standing leg, and move on to the same thing on the other side.

2a. For more excitement, from the one-legged balance position, you can make small circles with your raised leg, rotating your thigh bone in the hip socket. Make about 10 slow, controlled circles one direction, then change directions. Some people say this is easier than holding in place – maybe it’s the mental distraction?

Also, if you have access to a gym, many yoga classes include standing balance work, which is a nice addition to the above repertoire.

You’ll ultimately end up with stronger ankles, which is great for sprain prevention at any time of year! Not to mention fantastic muscular calves to show off in the warmer months…

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