There’s nothing like having grand ambitions for your athletic abilities – and then learning (the hard way) that the body isn’t up for it the way it used to be.
Like that time I decided to take a 2-hour class so I could become a hotshot skate skier. For those of you who don’t live in serious snow country: Skate skiing is a fast style of cross-country skiing with footwork and weight shifts similar to ice skating.
I wanted to get in terrific shape and enjoy winter. I relished the idea of burning scads of calories. Then I could eat heartily without worrying about gaining weight.
Sounded like a great plan, didn’t it?
Only I fell down approximately 1 bazillion times in the skate skiing class. Which was not only incredibly humiliating, it was also baffling since I was athletic and I’d regularly cross-county skied (traditional style) years before.
How could I possibly not be able to skate ski?
Meanwhile, all the other folks in the class skied around looking slightly awkward but pretty good for beginners. They hardly fell at all.
The instructor, Jerry, ignored me and my inability to ski more than 2 inches without wiping out. I’m sure he thought there was nothing he could do for me and that he was far better off focusing on the people who could actually stand and move on skis.
That was years ago. It took me a long time before I realized that my failure to learn skate skiing was due to the fact that my balance ABSOLUTELY STANK.
See, balance problems can sneak right up on you. You can be in your 40s or older—or even in your 30s. You can be athletic. You can be active. And your balance can still go B-A-D.
What happens when your balance goes bad? SIMPLE: You fall down more. And NOBODY wants that, or the potential for bruises, broken bones, wounded egos or worse.
5 signs your balance may be going bad
- You always use handrails to go up and down stairs.
- You sit down to take off your shoes.
- You sit down or lean against a chair or wall when pulling on pants or socks.
- You fall down often when skiing or skating.
- You find it really, really hard to stand on one leg.
Improve balance with tai chi-style movement
If your balance needs work, take heart: It can get better. Awareness is the first step!
Practicing tai chi is well known for helping improve balance, among other benefits. Try this quick and easy technique from tai chi.
The set up
- Stand with your feet as wide apart as your hips
- Center your weight evenly. Let your shoulders feel heavy. Feel the floor beneath your feet.
- Take a long slow breath deep into your lower belly. Slowly exhale and feel your lower belly contract. Maintain this long slow deep breathing.
- Keeping both feet on the floor, slowly shift your weight to your left foot, then slowly to the right foot.
- Continue slowly shifting your weight from foot to foot. Notice how one foot feels when it’s bearing the majority of your weight. Notice how the other foot feels when it’s mostly “empty” of your weight.
- Slowly shift your all your weight to your left leg.
- Slowly lift your right foot off the floor. Leave your toes touching the floor if you need them for balance.
- Slowly put your right foot down on the floor and feel every part of your foot connect with the floor: first toes, then ball of foot, then heel.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Do this exercise for a minute or two at at time.
Want an extra challenge?
- Raise the lifted foot higher off the floor.
- Try this on a softer or uneven surface like grass or carpeting.
- Slowly shift your weight and see if you can lift the other foot off the floor.
- Notice the sensations in your body as you shift your weight.
- Move slowly, like you’re in water or gelatin.
- Lock your gaze at one unmoving point. This helps you balance.
- Practice daily.
A great sense of balance is essential to health, vitality and living fully. That’s true whether you want to take up skate skiing or simply move with greater confidence and ease in everything you do.
Don’t let your balance go bad like mine did. Maintain it daily.
If your balance needs work, cultivate it daily. I’m proof that balance can get better.
Next winter, I’m trying skate skiing again. I’m keeping my ambitions modest this time. Wish me luck!
What’s your favorite way to stay active? Leave a comment below.
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