Most people know all about the two main components of a fitness program: Cardio and Strength Training. At least that’s what we’ll call them for now. However, those of us in the fitness industry know that it goes far beyond running on a treadmill and lifting some weights. You need to have flexibility, which is totally different than just sitting there trying to touch your toes for 10 seconds and jumping around while shaking your arms and legs to feel “limbered-up”. I have totally seen people doing that at the gym and you know who you are! It also includes stability and balance training and for a select few of us, agility training. So, this week, let’s talk about balance and your ADL’s.
I am very glad to see that a Google search of “ADL’s” comes back with a majority of links to information regarding Activities of Daily Living instead of something random to misinform the public. There was also one link to the Anti-Defamation League, but that’s not where we’re headed today. So, what is an activity of daily living? It’s anything that you do daily to go about your day. So:
- Oral Care
- Climbing Stairs
- Using the Phone
- Computer Work
- Gardening/Outdoor Work
Etc, etc, etc. Your list may look totally different than my list, but this is a sample (with a few added) that I found online.
The point is that as we grow older (Yes, I know I’m only 34, but I don’t want to wait until I’m 64 to prepare for this) we lose all sorts of physical fitness. Our respiration is slower, our muscles are atrophied, our flexibility is decreased, our bones are less dense, our balance and stability are off, and our reaction times decline. This is why I think we all need to take a moment to focus on balance today in 3 ways.
Balance in Our Work/Home Lives
I work from home part of the time and part of the time I work out of the home. I am somewhat scared about what life will look like in 4 years from now when my youngest goes off to school and I re-enter the workforce full-time. I will be closer to 40 with no real “career” longevity at any one company to show for my time. But, for the time being I try to make life work without making work the number one priority. Remember, we should work to live, not live to work. So, evaluate your life and especially what you do for work and determine, how could I make work work better for me? Are you doing things at work to stay healthy? Do I move often at work? Do I pack my lunch or at least choose wisely at my eating times? Do I eat mindfully or sit in front of the computer screen mindlessly gobbling whatever I have in front of me? Do I take advantage of health and fitness opportunities offered at my work? How can I improve my functionality at work to improve my life away from work? Can I leave work at work?
Balance in Our Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Self
This is an area in which I am currently working. It’s important to know how to keep yourself happy and what that entails. What makes you feel fulfilled in life? What gives you a sense of purpose? 6 years ago, when I got divorced from my first husband, I went through a year of self-discovery. During that process I learned a lot about myself and it all eventually led me to being who I am today. However, in the past few years my life has changed again. I became someone else’s wife and two little someone’s mom. Therefore, it’s always good to re-evaluate from time to time. I know, that personally, when I do not devote enough time to yoga and exercise, to my meditation and to reading and learning, then I feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders and it’s awfully heavy. We all need our own personal escapes; the “ME” time. Finding balance in your heart, your mind, your soul.
Balance in Our Physical Bodies
Finally, because it is Tone It Up Tuesday, think about balance in your body. Yoga brings a lot of balance to the body by way of practicing poses on each side individually and by practicing “balance” poses. Lots of “functional” exercises prepare the body for regular movement by challenging individual sides in ways that we move day to day. The wood chopper exercise from last week is a prime example. Simple measures of balance like sitting on a physio ball can tell you a lot about the physical balance you have in your body. Do you feel like you will fall off or like it would be fun to bounce up and down? Do you think you might be able to do this?
If you’re new to balance training, I don’t recommend you start with anything like this, but perhaps just try this:
- Stand with your feet hip width apart
- Spread your toes out as if you’re gripping into the floor or mat
- Relax your arms away from your body as they fall gently to the sides
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears as your head rises up through the crown toward the ceiling
- Let the weight of your body fall evenly throughout your feet, ankles, knees, and hips
- Close your eyes
- Examine your body head to toe in your mind and look for areas that are higher than the opposite side, further forward or back, carrying more weight, more tight
- Then, without shifting your hip, pick one foot up
- Set the foot back down slowly
- Repeat on the opposite foot
An exercise like this can tell you a lot about yourself inside and out. It can tune in some somatic awareness as well as kinesthetic awareness. It can be the beginnings of true balance training and improving your stability and coordination. Give it a try and tell me what you find below.