Balance

Balance. Something to Think about, and then Do.

Written by our trainer Susan Brano
Something to Think About, and then Do is a series of articles to inform you about training and exercise concepts and to provide ways of bringing them into your daily life. So far, you’ve read about core, posture, glute amnesia, cardio fitness, and hydration.
Our sixth installment is about Balance.
Balance is that subtle skill that keeps us from falling. We all have it, to varying degrees, and it is at work all the time. If you’re sitting on a chair or on a Bosu ball, standing on one foot or two, balance is keeping you up upright. If you’re walking, running, skiing, climbing stairs, gardening, bending over to tie your shoes, making your way through an obstacle course…you get the picture, it’s always at play.
The ability to maintain balance is imperative for avoiding injury, improving physical fitness and improving athletic ability. To make all that possible, the nervous system is continually processing input from many sources. Three that are germane to our discussion include visual cues, proprioception and neuromuscular control.
For visual cues, the most obvious one is having your eyes open or closed, an affect that can easily be tested: Stand on one or two feet with your eyes open. Now close your eyes. Losing visual input requires the nervous system to adjust. The speed of that adjustment will vary based on conditioning. Another visual cue that can affect your balance is your point of focus. When you are learning to balance on one foot or on a Bosu, your eyes may wander. This would create extraneous visual input. Focusing on a single object limits the input and helps you balance.
Proprioception, which happens to be one of my favorite words, is awareness of the location of the body in space, i.e., knowing the location of your head, hands, arms, legs, feet, etc., based on input from various receptors. This input is an important component of maintaining balance. Lastly, neuromuscular control plays a primary role in balancing. Like any physical activity, balance is dependent the right muscle(s) being activated at the right time. As you’ve learned in previous articles (core, posture, glute amnesia), using the right muscles can improve mobility and skill, eliminate common aches (e.g., low back pain) and help avoid injury. Likewise, with balance. As you walk, if you are slouching because your core muscles are taking the day off, not only will your gait be affected but your balance will, too, possibly resulting in a trip or a fall. Training your body to improve balance will reinforce your other training and could awaken muscles you didn’t know you had. That’s a good thing! As they awaken and get stronger and learn how to work together, you’ll see benefits in your daily life and in all levels of physical activity.
There are many things you can do at home to improve your balance. Start by standing on one foot but first, to make sure your using the right muscles, check your posture (engage your core, shoulders down and back, neutral pelvis (no excessive arch in your back). Ok, now raise one foot off the floor and squeeze the standing glutes. As you master static balance, challenge yourself by adding some motion. The one that many of my clients have heard from me is brushing your teeth while standing on one foot. That’s a good one because it’s something you do at least twice a day (right?) so you have lots of opportunity practice. You can add a calf raise or leg swing to amp it up. A couple other moves you can do at home include single leg squat and warrior 3 pose (hinge at the hip, neutral back, torso forward, straight arms forward, one leg back).

 

As a general rule, to progress your balance training, go from 2 feet on the floor to one; from static to dynamic (e.g., swing a leg, toss a ball, touch the floor, hop); change the foundation from fixed (floor) to standing on various pieces of equipment, like that which you may have had the pleasure to use at 5050: black sponge pad, balance disk, Bosu with either the black or blue side up, and our latest addition, the boogie board.
Balancing is fun and very satisfying.
May the force be with you.

Three Steps to Improve Your Balance

Three Steps to Improve Your Balance

Health & Fitness Specialist, Michael McCarthy

Balance can be tricky. It seldom comes easy and the more it’s neglected, the worse it gets. Whether it’s work/life, relationships, or fitness, the long-term benefits of improving your balance can be life changing. For our purposes, let’s stick with fitness.

When training for balance, let’s start at the root of the matter- feet! Most people have had their feet stuffed in their shoes for 8 or more hours per day, every day, for nearly as long as they’ve been alive. Although necessary in most circumstances, the shoes have essentially created a “crutch” for your feet. The muscles of the feet will likely have atrophied (broken down) and weakened, giving you a much less stable surface to move upon. Now I’m not saying to go burn every pair of shoes you own and to relive your Woodstock experience, but let’s address this sooner than later.

First – take your shoes off and let your toes wiggle. Let them breath and feel the ground beneath them. Our feet are incredible sensory tools and require that stimulation to function optimally. Try this out: while standing, take a tennis or lacrosse ball and place it under one foot. Gently apply pressure on the ball and slowly roll your foot up, down, left and right all over this ball. This is a great way to jump starting your nerves, relieve tension in your feet, and bring in some fresh blood supply.

Second – perform a simple exercise to “root” your feet. After you’ve rolled out your feet, stand tall, abdomen and glutes slightly engaged, with your feet facing forward about shoulder width apart. For this exercise you will focus on the connection to the ground with three parts of your foot: big toe, pinky toe, and heel. Apply pressure into the ground with just those three parts of your foot, hold for 10 seconds, and rest. Doing this exercise regularly can help strengthen the muscles of your feet and improve their neuromuscular response, essentially making them more “awake.”

Third – strength train. Having balance requires total body strength and proprioception. Standing still and training balance is one thing, but what about when we’re in motion? Teaching your body how to move through space is incredibly important and even more important as we age. Our feet have been neglected and need attention, however muscles like the glutes and core are incredibly important as well. To truly make an impact on your balance and quality of life I recommend full-body strength training 2-3 times per week. 50/50 Fitness Nutrition provides a great space to strength train in a supervised and safe environment. Programs such as personal training, Targeted Strength, Yoga, and Pilates are all fantastic options to challenge yourself. I hope to see you there!

The Importance of Balance Training

The Importance of Balance Training

Written by Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

The Two types of Balance

Here at 50/50, April is all about balance… you know a balance of snow showers and spring flowers. Just kidding! Crazy weather aside, we are taking this month to focus on keeping our bodies in balance. While balance is one of our key focal points for a balanced approach to health and wellness, it can be easily overlooked. I want to take some time to discuss why balance is important, and how we can improve our balance. The importance of balance training is paramount.  Two types of balance are essential for achieving functional balance: static and dynamic balance. Static balance refers to the ability to maintain your body in a set position, while dynamic balance describes the ability to remain in control of the body during changing circumstances, utilizing movements to maintain a base of support. Picture static balance as simply standing on one foot, while dynamic balance is surfing on a surf board. Both require proprioception, the ability to know where your body is in space, and strength. Focusing on improving proprioception and strength, particularly core strength, will improve your balance. This becomes increasingly important as we age, as falls due to lack of balance are a common cause of serious injury.

Proprioception Training

Proprioception requires the integration of input from our visual, sensory, and vestibular systems. Working on agility and coordination are great ways to improve your proprioceptive abilities. I encourage you to try a new class that pushes you slightly outside your comfort zone to do this. Great options for improving proprioception are Step and Core or Cardio Kick Boxing. The choreography and movements are fun and challenge your proprioception constantly. Secondly, and just as important is developing strength. As I have stated before, a well-rounded training program includes at least 2-3 days of a full-body strength training routine. Personal training and Targeted training ensure you are receiving this full-body strength programming in a safe and effective way. Pilates and Yoga are also great ways to improve core strength, and will also challenge your balance in other ways. Note, that while Bosu trainers and unstable platforms can be incorporated into a routine, training on these surfaces does not have to be a key part of improving your balance.

I encourage you all to mix up your routine this month.

Challenge your body in new and unexpected ways. Your balance will improve and your future self will thank you!

Do you have enough balance in your life? From cardio to strength to flexibility, nutrition, and everything in between – we’ve got you covered at 50/50. Come on in and speak to a specialist, to get your health and wellness back on track!

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