Health and Fitness

Pre Season Fitness-Part 2 Balance and Co-ordination

Last time we reviewed some basic stretching exercises as the foundation to our ski fitness program. Once you have decent flexibility you can start working on improving balance and co-ordination.

The Science:

Balance is a combination of three systems in your body working together: your eyes (visual system), ears (vestibular system) and a sense of where your body is in relation to its surroundings (proprioception).  Semi-circular fluid filled canals in the inner ear let you know the position of your head and whether it is moving, these canals are linked to the visual system ensuring your eyes keep focus as your head moves.

The sense of where you are in space or proprioception arises from receptors in the muscles and tendons. These receptors give the brain feedback as to the length and tension in the muscles and this information is then used to issue appropriate instructions to the muscles in order to keep you balanced. This all occurs at lightning speed with your muscles having to constantly work during everyday activity to keep you stabilised, imagine how much harder they’re working skiing down a choppy piste or riding away from a cliff drop.

Why Improve Balance and Co-ordination:
Injury can impair proprioception and increase the risk of further injury long after an initial accident. A common example is a recurring ankle sprain. If you ‘turn’ your ankle the ligaments on the outer part of the joint often tear or rupture, this disrupts the pathway between the receptors in the tendons, the brain/spinal cord, and the muscles relating to the joint. The result of this is impaired proprioception and often re-injury as the muscles cannot react fast enough to stabilise the joint should you ‘turn’ your ankle again. By specifically training your proprioception you can decrease your risk of injury or help stabilise an existing or recurring injury.

The following exercises are a step in the right direction. You can do these exercises as a routine or individually, as you please. In a similar fashion to the stretches, the exercises you find most difficult are probably the ones you should emphasize:


1. Lunge position Balances:

Stand with a split stance in a lunge position. Front foot flat and knee at 90 degrees above foot, back foot on ball of foot. Raise front heel as far as possible with weight on toes-balance and hold for 3-6 secs. The movement is purely in the ankle; don’t let your hips shift forward.

2. One-footed Balances:

Stand on left foot with right hip and knee at 90 degrees and balance. Progress to standing on the ball of your foot then try the same exercise with your eyes closed to increase the difficulty, then switch legs.

3. The Speed Skater:

Put down 2 markers on the floor up to 2m apart. Stand by the right-hand marker on your right leg, crouch down on the one leg and jump sideways to the left-hand marker to land on your left leg. Hold your balance 3-6 secs on your left leg then jump to the right-hand marker again to land back on your right leg-repeat in a set.

4. The Grid Hop:

Imagine a naughts and crosses grid. Stand in the middle on your right leg, hop forwards and then back to the centre. Work your way around the grid clockwise returning to the centre after each jump away from the centre. Then go anti-clockwise with your left leg, and then try anti clockwise with your right leg and clockwise with your left to make the exercise more demanding.

These exercises can be progressed by doing them barefoot or where appropriate with your eyes closed. You can use your imagination and design your own exercises, try brushing your teeth with one hand while balancing on the opposite leg and vice-versa or balancing on the tube or bus.

You can incoorporate balance excercises into everday life...Sadly,our ageing 'Daniel-san' could get the 'brushing your teeth with one hand while balancing on the opposite leg' bit right!

Next time we’ll be looking to build some strength and endurance so get balancing first and remember to keep up the stretching.

For any specific advice on stretching and mobility training or sport specific exercises get in touch with Peter Banister

Words: Mike Nixon, City Osteopathics
Photos:Pally Learmond


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