No Balance

I can only describe my eating habits this week as “horrible’. Even worse, they were daily so close to great, only to fall off the wagon HARD at the very end of the day. Why oh why do I do this to myself? And today was a train wreck virtually from getting up; I’m not even going to bother trying to figure out what to put into myfitnesspal.

Otherwise (not that I can overlook the above), I had a decent week. I got in my goal 3 cardio + 3 strength + 1 yoga sessions. However, the yoga session was a bit frustrating, because once again, my balance is a whole lotta suckola. I have never once come even remotely close to getting through a balance sequence on one leg, never mind both legs. I even stepped off the mat thinking the solid floor as opposed to the semi-squishy mat would help. Nope. It might have gotten worse.

So this week, I’m doing some research so I know what to work on. It’s a little depressing, actually, as every article basically starts out with some variation of this:

Older adults with poor balance are more likely to trip, stumble, or fall while performing basic daily activities. In fact, 1 in 3 adults ages 65 and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those spills can lead to some scary injuries to the brain, hips, legs, feet, and even damage to internal organs.  http://www.fitbie.com/get-fit/exercises-improve-your-balance

I swear, the more I read about fitness and health, the more terrified I become of injuring myself.

Fortunately it does seem as if there is hope, as summarized by that same article:

Despite what you might think, poor balance isn’t something you’re born with—the difference between shaky steps and sure-footed strides is a matter of practice. In fact, the simplest way to improve your coordination is to stand up. “It’s use it or lose it,” says Julia Valentour, programs coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. “The more we sit and the less active we are, the more likely our balance will deteriorate.”

Here are some tips from http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1377

1. Change Your Base of Support. Balance is your ability to maintain your center of gravity over your base of support. When you’re standing up, your legs are your base of support. The wider your legs are, the wider your base is and the easier it is to balance. The closer your legs are together, the narrower your base of support is and the harder it is to remain balanced. One of the easiest ways you can challenge (and therefore help improve) your balance during any standing exercise is to gradually narrow your base of support until your feet and legs are together while you perform your exercise. Bring your legs closer together while you do standing biceps curls, shoulder raises, squats or other upper body moves. Be sure to keep your abs pulled in tight and make sure you’re not leaning backward as you perform your exercises.

2. Try It on One Leg. Once you’ve mastered doing an exercise with a narrow base of support, you’re ready for the next challenge: balancing on a single leg. Instead of standing on both legs during some of the same moves above, try it on a single leg. Start by just lifting one heel (keeping your toes on the floor) while doing your upper body moves or working up to a single leg squat. As you get better, lift that foot off the ground completely. From there, you can play around with the position of your lifted leg—holding it behind you, in front of you, to the side or, for a greater challenge, moving that leg while you balance on the other leg and perform upper body movements. Just be sure to alternate legs to keep your strength and muscle tone balanced (no pun intended) between both sides of your body.

3. Close your eyes. Your sense of vision is a big part of the balance equation. It works hand in hand with the vestibular (inner ear) and proprioceptive systems to maintain balance and prevent falls. By staring at a single focal point (minimizing your head and eye movement), you’ll balance more easily. If you move your gaze or take vision out of the equation altogether, it’s harder to balance. This option is definitely a challenge—not something for beginners and not something you can do in any given situation. You’ll want to make sure you’re in a controlled environment and that your body is planted (don’t attempt this while walking or hiking or moving through space). You can start by just standing up tall and closing your eyes without moving. Over time, combine the narrow base of support with some one-leg balances while closing your eyes. You might be surprised how challenging it is to simply stand with your eyes closed, let alone stand on one foot or while doing a biceps curl.

Number 3 made me laugh; during yoga the instructor often says “find a focal point”, and that seems to do a whole lotta nothing for me. I guess I’ll have to consider closing my eyes to be super-advanced!

Most other articles indicated you need to strengthen your core to improve your balance. Here are some exercises I would like to give a try to:

Stability Ball Leg and Arm Lift http://www.fitbie.com/get-fit/exercises-improve-your-balance
Sit on a stability ball, arms by your sides and feet planted wide on the ground for a good base of support. Lift your right leg and extend it in front of you while simultaneously lifting your left arm to shoulder height at your side. Return to starting position and repeat on the left side, lifting your left leg and right arm. Use slow, controlled movements to retain your balance while you alternate lifting for 10 to 12 reps.

Make it harder: Place your left foot on the flat side of a Bosu ball with your right foot on the floor. Slowly lift your right leg and left arm as you did in the original exercise, hold for a breath, and return to starting position. Then switch sides, placing your right foot on the Bosu and your left foot on the floor.

Dynamic Balance Leg Swing http://www.fitbie.com/get-fit/exercises-improve-your-balance
Stand with arms by your sides, toes pointed forward. Lift your right leg in front of you to 45-degrees, and then slowly swing your leg behind you to about the same height. That’s 1 rep. Continue swinging your leg back and forth for 10 reps before switching legs.

Make it harder: Stand with your left arm extended straight up and your right arm at your side. As you lift the right leg forward, lean your torso backward so that your body creates a straight line from your head to your right foot. When the leg swings back, lean your torso to the front to maintain the straight line. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps before switching sides.

Make it even harder: Try this on a BOSU ball!

Stork Swim http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercises-improve-balance
Balancing on your left foot, bend your right knee and raise it behind you to hip level. Reach both hands (palms up) straight out in front of you. Bend forward and extend your right leg straight behind you. (As you become more comfortable with this move, work toward getting your torso parallel to the floor.) Hold for 10 seconds. Return to starting position. Do 25 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

T-Slide http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercises-improve-balance
With your feet together, lift your heels off the floor and balance on your toes. Reach your hands out to your sides, palms facing forward. With your arms, pulse 1 inch forward and 1 inch back. Do 25 reps. Turn your palms toward the ceiling and do 25 reps. Turn your palms toward the back of the room and do 25 reps.

Make it harder: Hold a 2-pound dumbbell in each hand and close your eyes

Russian Twist http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercises-improve-balance
Sit on the floor, bend your knees, and cross your right foot over your left foot at the ankle. Gently place your hands on your knees, lift your feet off the floor, and lean back 45 degrees. With your hands loosely clasped in front of you, lower your elbow (first the right, then the left) toward the floor. (Keep your legs and spine in the same position — only your core will twist slightly as you move your arms.) Repeat 25 times on each side. Switch sides (crossing your left foot over your right foot) and repeat 25 times.

I expected that if I googled “how to improve your balance”, yoga would be the first thing that popped up, but it wasn’t. In the end I actually had to put yoga into my search to get anything on it. Here are some poses I feel comfortable working on:

Tree http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Shift your weight onto your right foot. Bend your left knee and place the sole of your foot as high as you comfortably can on your right inner thigh. Point your toes down. Raise your arms overhead and relax your shoulders. Repeat on the other side.

High Lunge http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Starting in a runner’s lunge, raise your torso upright and reach your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Make sure your front knee is parallel to the floor, back leg straight, hips forward. Repeat on the other side.

Extended Triangle http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Stand with your feet roughly four feet apart, turning your left foot out on a 90 degree angle. Raise your arms out to the sides so they’re parallel to the floor, palms down. Keeping your legs firmly in place and only moving your torso, reach your left hand down toward your ankle and your right hand to the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.

Half Moon http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Starting in Extended Triangle, slide your right leg closer to your left. Bend your left knee to lift your right leg until it’s parallel with the floor while placing your left hand on the ground. Lift your right hand to the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.

Lord of the Dance http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Shift your weight onto your left foot. Bend your right knee, reach your leg back and grab onto your foot or ankle. Pull your right leg behind you as far as you comfortably can, while raising your left arm in front of you and keeping your hips forward.

Both Big Toe http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Improve-Balance-22078042         

Sit on your mat, bend both knees, and hold onto your left big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your left hand, and do the same with the right side. Concentrate on staying balanced on your bum, and as you’re ready, begin to straighten your legs. Once you feel stable, lift your gaze and lower your head behind you. After five breaths, release both feet to your mat.

Extended Sage http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Improve-Balance-22078042 
Begin in Down Dog and step both feet together. Place your right hand about eight inches to the left so it’s in the center of the top of your mat. Roll open to the left, lifting your left arm in the air and stacking your flexed feet, so you’re resting on the outside edge of your right foot. Raise your left arm straight up for Beginner’s Sage, or extend it over your ear, lifting your hips into the air and arching slightly. Hold here for five breaths and repeat this pose on the left side.

Crow http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Improve-Balance-22078042 
Begin in a squat, placing your hands shoulder width distance apart on the mat. Spread your fingers as wide as you can, creating a strong, stable base. Straighten your legs slightly, placing your knees as high up onto your triceps (back of your arms) as possible. Slowly shift weight into your palms and lift your feet off the ground. Stay here for five breaths gazing at the floor in front of you.

And finally, apparently I should not just be using a stability ball at the gym. I found an article that outlined a few points of interest to me on why I should be sitting on one at my desk (http://www.gearfire.net/10-reasons-to-use-an-exercise-ball-as-your-chair/):

  1. Forces proper spine alignment.
  2. Causes you to frequently change positions.
  3. Improve your balance.
  4. Your body primarily uses your core (abdominal) muscles to help compensate for changes in balance. Thus, you’re essentially getting a low-key abdominal workout.
  5. Using an exercise ball will keep the blood flowing to all parts of your body, throughout the day.

I especially like the last one, as I have Reynaud’s disease, which is a circulatory issue. So I’ve already researched what size I need and put it in my cart on Amazon. Now I’m just waiting for a response from the Office Administrator at work so I know whether to get just one for home, or if I’m also allowed to bring one into work.

Now if I can just get my eating back on track…

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