Workout Wednesday #12

by DavalosMcCormack on March 4, 2009

We all need a little balance in our lives. Balance between home and work. Balance between the emotional, physical and spiritual parts of our lives. Balance between the creative and disciplined parts of our brain.

But balance is also important in other ways. In our workout routine for example.

If you’ve ever done yoga and tried one of the easier poses,  tree pose, you stand on one foot with your other foot placed against your inner thigh, or at least as close to it as you can get. It’s a very easy pose to get into, but a really tough one to hold for any length of time if you are not used to it. But it is a good indication of just how ‘well balanced’ you are.

Why is balance important? Because we use it all the time. We use it walking down the street, particularly on a rainy or cold day when you could slip at any moment. You use it simply stepping off a curb. You use it when you pick up a child. You use it when you are on a bus or subway train that’s moving. It’s an everyday part of our lives, but one we are so accustomed to that we don’t even think of it.

But not thinking about it can be costly. Some of the nastiest injuries I know have come to people doing ordinary movements and not thinking about them.

One of my mates broke his ankle in several places just stepping off the curb and landing awkwardly. His foot traveled a distance of a few inches in a split second but it took months and months in a cast and several more months of painful rehab to get him back to normal.

According to the National AG Safety Database every year around one million Americans suffer serious injuries from tripping or falling. Some 17,000 people die from those injuries, among them many seniors who broke a hip and never recovered.  And of the almost 4 million disabling injuries in the  workplace every year, around 15 percent are due to trips and stumbles.

So you see, balance is not just useful, it’s essential.

So, how can you improve your balance.  Easy.  Here’s one.  Just close your eyes, raise one leg off the ground and see if you can balance on one leg for 30 or even 60 seconds. It sounds easy, but once you try it you’ll realize it isn’t.

Here’s another.  Stand on your bed, or sofa or some other soft surface, with your legs about shoulder width apart, holding hand weights – or a medicine ball or anything that weighs about 5 or 10 pounds – at chest height. Then turn slowly to your right, return to center, turn slowly to the left, return to center, keep repeating. Again it sounds easy but the soft surface under your feet forces you to focus on balance.

You can work on your balance everyday. It doesn’t have to be in the gym.

One thing I like to do is when I put on my socks and shoes I lift my leg up and try to put them on while standing on one leg. It’s harder than it sounds, particularly if you are tying laces. The best part is that this is something most of us do every day of our lives – unless you live in flip flops – so we get to practice it constantly.

One more then I’ll leave you alone. If you have a staircase in your home stand on one step with your right leg and your left leg hanging out in mid-air. Then do a slow squat until your left leg touches the step below. Repeat. Do that several times then change legs. If you don’t have stairs in your home then get a box and stand on it, anything that raises you up on one side higher than the other will work.

The bottom line, you end up a more well balanced individual.

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