I believe the greatest weakness I see in clients is the inability to physically change directions quickly. It’s like there is a point in life where we stop running in a free and easy way. I’m trying to figure out not only when it happens, but why. Perhaps the “why” lies in the fact that when we’re all grown up our behaviour has to be all grown up. Along the way, our definition of “fun” changes. We’re not supposed to run around the park like crazy unless we have cleats on and we’re chasing some kind of ball. Even that stops being fun if you happen to be really competitive (been there, done that).
That in of itself is sad, but even more concerning is that when we stop moving in a specific way our muscles and nerves stop working in that area. We get weaker. Then it hurts to move. Then we move less. Then sedentary lifestyle diseases sneak in. It’s a downward spiral. I’m sorry for sounding bleak, but the truth hurts.
I wish I could run around a park like I did when I was 12 years old. At my age (I do have grey hair) I can run for a couple of kilometres. I can get on my bike and ride for hours. While that is great for my cardiovascular health it does next to nothing to improve or maintain my ability to change directions quickly. If I choose not to think about that I would be left with a false sense of security believing that I am stronger than I am. The reality hits hard when I slip on the ice and I have no way to save myself from falling.
Bringing multi-directional movements into our lives is the only way to round out our fitness. Fortunately, I have a Great Dane who will decide she’s going in an opposite direction from the one I am heading. This is definitely a strengthening exercise for multi-directional fitness. It’s not great dog behaviour but that’s a completely different discussion.
If you don’t have a misbehaving 100+ lb. dog at your disposal there are lots of other ways of keeping yourself strong. Lunging in various directions is a great way. Try doing forward, backward, and side lunges. Work with a partner where one person calls out which way to go and the other moves. This adds the reflex response to the equation.
Dancing is another great way to improve multi-directional strength. If you’re shy put on your favourite music and sashay around your living room. If you’re up for a more of a challenge, take a dance class.
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