January has arrived once more and along with it, the extremes of either icy ground or wet mud under our feet. I think regardless of age and ability the thought that runs through our minds when stepping out into these conditions is, “be careful not to fall”.
Taking sensible precautions such as wearing suitable rubber soled shoes and boots, avoiding situations beyond your confidence level, looking where you step etc is a given.
Even if we practice balancing exercises, the likelihood is that most of us will fall to the ground at some point in our lives. This may seem a touch pessimistic but the point my friends is this, if the likelihood is that we are going to fall, isn’t it better to understand how to fall more safely wherever it’s possible? In my experience the main problem with falling is not necessarily the fall itself but the fear of falling. The people I have worked with who fall relatively frequently, either because of balance issues or other medical conditions, generally have less fear about falling than those who have never fallen or have, and have really hurt themselves.
The problem with fear:
- It causes you to tense up
- Hold your breath
- Cloud your thinking
IT DOES ABSOLUTELY DIDDLY SQUAT IN REDUCING THE CHANCES OF FALLING.
The problem with tensing up, holding your breath, not thinking clearly is: you WILL fall harder and more awkwardly and therefore are far more likely to hurt yourself.
Back to my frequently falling people. I would suggest that those who fall more often learn:
1) falling doesn’t always result in serious harm
2) you can learn to fall more safely
3) that fear does nothing but increase the risk of falling and landing hard.
If we prepare ourselves and have a learnt response in our heads, as with any other muscle memory we can improve the way we fall and potentially reduce the chances of hurting ourselves.
I realise there are times when, within the fraction of a second, we can find ourselves sprawled on the ground because we have slipped so fast we haven’t had a chance to think about anything. That is a reality but I’m not talking about those kinds of falls. I’m talking about the ones where we know we are going over and we have 1-2 seconds to respond. If you’re thinking that isn’t enough time to do anything, count out 1000, 2000 and you’ll find there is more thinking time available than you might first have imagined.
To find out what hurt most and what hurt least I practiced falling on a trampoline, much to the amusement of my husband (photographer) and our incredulous children (incredulous and amused that I chose to repeatedly fall and requested to be repeatedly filmed doing it). What I do for you my friends…
THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER: BEND. SLUMP. ROLL.
1.BEND YOUR KNEES, CROSS YOUR ARMS, TWIST AWAY FROM THE FALL
2.BREATHE OUT AND SLUMP INTO THE FALL
3.ROLL WITH THE MOMENTUM AS YOU LAND
Of course there a many ways in which we can fall to the ground; head first, backwards, sideways. However where it’s possible to bend slump roll, then, bend slump roll.
What hurts most when you land
1.Stretching out your arm to stop yourself. Slumping onto your side by bending your knees and twisting, changes the point of impact away from your hip or your wrist.
2.Trying to stop the fall when you simply can’t, results in you reaching out, trying to grab things which aren’t there making you fall more awkwardly.
3. Tensing up and holding your breath can result in a harder landing.
4. Attempting to stop the momentum of rolling over the moment you land, prevents the force of landing being quickly dissipated out of your body. Your body then holds the brunt of the landing.
Falling is still a horrible thought, even for me. However, having some idea as to how you could lessen the impact and potential harm is significantly less horrible. I hadn’t practiced falling in a while prior to writing this blog and it was good for me to remind myself of the mantra ‘bend slump roll’.
Keep the mantra in your head of course but prevention is always better than remedying a landing. Practicing your balance reactions to maintain constancy even if it doesn’t seem to improve, IS SO IMPORTANT. Too many times I hear people resign themselves to having terrible balance and a reason to justify not practicing. Don’t be that person.
If you wobble for England standing on one leg without falling over you have effective balance reactions. To improve, what you need is effective balance reactions in more challenging circumstances (June 2017 blog). Standing rigidly still, staring at a spot on the wall is NOT EFFECTIVE BALANCE CONTROL. Wobbling like the wobbliest wobbler without falling over, is!