Stand with your feet tightly together and hold for 30 seconds, are you maintaining your balance? No balance challenge yet? Okay, keep the stance, just close your eyes, hold for another 30 seconds – still not challenging? Alright now stand on one foot with your eyes open, you guessed it, hold 30 seconds! Now with your eyes closed – make sure you’re near a wall or have some sort of support nearby in case you lose your balance. So you see where I’m going with this, at one point you’ll reach your balance threshold. Depending on your physical activity history it might be with the first exercise mentioned or the last one or maybe you are a parkour master and surpassed all the marks!
Proprioception is our internal GPS
For this blog post I’d like to focus on balance training and a little thing we call proprioception. Actually it’s a big thing, it’s like our bodies internal GPS. It helps us with sensory awareness, and keeping track of our body movements through space. There’s a lot of quick planning and coordinating taking place – as can be seen in elite athletes which have keen proprioceptive skills.
So what is proprioception? In brief, there are sensory receptors found in muscles, tendons and around joints that provide us with information about the body’s movements. They supply us with information, such as, speed of movement, resistance, sensations from the environment (wobbly surface, sandy beach). Proprioception is in constant communication with our nervous system, relaying information about motion and the environment around us.
WHY TRAIN PROPRIOCEPTION?
Decrease risk of injury
Daily life consists of big motor movements (especially if you live in a city like New York) involving power muscles, such as, walking up the stairs, pushing, pulling, etc. – our balance system doesn’t get much dedicated attention. At the gym I witness a large percentage of people working on the same power muscles. This can create an overload (length-tension distortion) in the muscle and corresponding attachments, dampening our internal GPS information – making it less quick to react. If you ever had a joint injury or orthopedic surgery, proprioception will be impaired. One of the most critical components in a rehabilitation program is balance training (e.g. wobble board after an ankle sprain injury).
This is why balance training should be part of a well rounded exercise program where you can specifically take it through drills and improve it. This helps greatly in decreasing our risk of injury by being able to manipulate movement quicker – as in a quick reaction to prevent a fall. To improve proprioception you must lose control in a stable yet unpredictable environment. What that means is to purposely expose your body to balance challenges (balance/wobble board) in a safe environment (gym/home) in a systematic process (e.g. start by balancing on one foot). Consciously train proprioception until it becomes a keen subconcious skill, re-educating muscles how to react quickly in unsteady situations.
Proprioception is vital, we would be uncoordinated humans bumping into walls without it! It increases our postural awareness, if you slouch you’ll be much more aware of it! There are many variables that can be manipulated in balance training. Find your starting point. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I’m available via video for a consultation and offer customized pre-recorded sessions and online training! Meanwhile…
Stand Tall, Breathe Deep!