Training For Balance- Getting Through Winter Safely

Winter is upon us, and this has been a particularly wicked winter for ice and snow. Perhaps you have already had some falls or slips, or near misses, if you are lucky? While this seems like a hazard of the season, it is not a foregone conclusion. With some consistency and dedication, you could improve your balance and stability within just several weeks of time!

When most of us think of fitness, we may not think of balance as something we can train, but rest assured, it is very trainable! Balance can be improved with simple practice and some core stability training.

For example: Take a few minutes every day to practice standing on one leg. Challenge yourself- if you start with only 10 seconds- continue to practice until you reach 20 seconds, or 30 seconds. Once you can stand on one leg for 30 seconds or more, try doing this with your eyes closed. This is quite a challenge! For the next stage, I recommend practicing standing on unstable surfaces such as an “airex pad”, or inflatable disc, but using a pillow from your home will work just as well. These techniques will “fire up” your neuromuscular system, and begin to get your muscles thinking and reacting more easily to unstable surfaces- whether they are a pillow, or the ice in your driveway.

Supplement this balance work with some core training such as bridges for your glutes, “Birddog” for you spinal muscles and plank holds for your abdominal and back muscles. I also recommend training the lateral hip muscles- which are important stabilizers for the hip joint and for balance. Something as simple as standing side leg lifts can work, as well as the “clamshell” exercise- a side lying exercise, sometimes using an exercise band, in which you rotate the hip open like a “clamshell”.

Lack of balance is a major risk factor for falls, fractures and serious injuries. Just think, if you start training your balance today, by the end of January your risk of falls and injuries will be much less! If this is not an essential reason to exercise, I don’t know what is!