Introduction:

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:

Excercises:

1. Lunge position Balances:

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2. One-footed Balances:

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3. The Speed Skater:

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4. The Grid Hop:

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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.

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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