Raise your hand if you’ve fallen when going for a run or a walk around your neighborhood or navigating trails? If you’re reading this, your hand is probably high above your head right now while also distrustfully inspecting that sock over in the corner that is waiting to trip you up on your way to your living room. The reality is, nearly EVERYONE has had some sort of fall or trip or tumble. It’s part of being a bi-pedal mammal on this earth. But when you are going for a run or a walk and you are far from home, it’s no laughing matter when you take a tumle and bloody your knee, elbows, hands, or head (or worse, break or sprain something). These kinds of falls can often be prevented… or at least reduced, if you follow a few really simple guidelines that we created to simplify strength training and foot, leg, and general muscle responsiveness.
There are three words or phrases that are critical to remaining upright and maintain a healthy stride and gait when running and walking: Proprioception, Fast-twitch muscles, and Foot Dexterity. They are listed below with strategies to help develop each of them.
Proprioception, otherwise known as kinesthesia, is your body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location. It’s present in every muscle movement you have. Proprioception is critical in allowing you to move without thinking about your next step. It allows you to walk, or run, without consciously thinking about where to place your foot next. It lets you touch your elbow with your eyes closed. In other words, this is your NUMBER ONE DEFENSE against falls. Here’s how to strengthen that instinctual sense.
SOLUTIONS and VIDEOS: We’ve found these simple exercises that are able to be done to improve proprioception and not disrupt your schedule at all! This video shows you some simple to advanced options and does a great job explaining proprioception and ways to improve it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijSf31gs1d0 This is an even simpler video for someone just trying to restore balance: https://www.sports-health.com/video/video-3-simple-exercises-restore-proprioception
FAST TWITCH MUSCLES:
Fast twitch (type II) muscle fibers are built for short, powerful bursts of energy. In distance running and walking, we often over emphasize and utilize Type I muscle fibers, slow twitch muscles, at the expense of our Fast Twitch fibers. Everyone has both types of fast-twitch muscle fibers, but some people may have more of one than the other, depending on how you train and the type of activities you do.
In short, having fast-twitch muscles is imperative to quick reaction time and preventing falls. The amount of fast twitch fibers you may have in relation to your slow twitch fibers can be predetermined to some extent by your genetic make up as well (ie. some people are just naturally fast at short distances like the 100 meters while others excel at longer distances like the marathon). But they can also be manipulated through training. Falls happen FAST, so it makes sense that building muscles that react fast can help you prevent them! Here are some GREAT and SIMPLE fast twitch muscle building exercises to prevent falls:
SOLUTIONS and VIDEOS: Ladder exercises! There are TON on YouTube for these, but a good goal would be to do just 3-4 of these 2-3 times a week. EVEN ONCE A WEEK can make a difference. These ones are for tennis, but they could be for any activity or sport. At the end of the day, they are simple and can be done with or without a ladder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JGamatrQPs Another good one on someone’s deck. Pick 2-3 of these to start with. You don’t have to do all of them! This just shows you that you can do it anywhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgslipt0RAU&feature=youtu.be
FOOT (toe) DEXTERITY:
Foot dexterity, or more accurately, toe dexterity and foot mobility, is a critical component of keeping all of the muscles and ligaments moving to their maximum potential and helping with balance and injury prevention. Just like your hands/fingers, you can develop dexterity (skill and ease of movement) in your toes and your entire foot. Below are some exercises that can help with this to keep your foot healthy and maintaining a full range of motion.
SOLUTIONS and VIDEOS: Just being able to move the ankle and foot in all different directions helps prevent rolled ankles, shin splints, plantar fascia issues, and much more. Here’s the most basic activity you can do at your own desk or watching TV. You don’t have to spell the alphabet, but just focus on moving all different directions until your ankle and shins get a little tired. https://youtu.be/vHMJ0zgrsFU
And for your toe dexterity and mobility, here are some great exercises to practice barefoot! Really simple! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leuDMYDb0xY
We truly hope the exercises and activities above help you not only prevent future falls, but also help you with your overall health, injury prevention, and efficiency when running and walking!
GO BY FOOT!
Sean and the crew at Foot Traffic.