Why do I hate balance training? Simple: I’m horrible at it. That’s also the reason why I want to be better at it. Not just so I can have better balance, but so I can make progress on a goal that I keep putting off. Few things make me feel like a bigger oaf than trying to perform the simple balancing acts that seem so easy for most of the upright population. When the Olympics come on every four years, I watch the people on the balance beam and sit there wishing I could stand on one foot for one whole minute.
When I was two years old I was told–well, my parents were told–that I had very flat feet. I was put into orthopedic shoes to fix the problem. I’m going to turn 33 this year and it was not until two years ago that I realized how badly my feet evert, how my knees don’t track properly, and that when I close my eyes, I might as well be exercising on a balance beam for how difficult and unnatural it feels.
I started to realize how important balance could be for me when I got more involved with strength training. In September of 2009 I went to Minot North Dakota to spend a week lifting weights with a professional strongman named Adam T. Glass. I had “met” Adam online and we were soon friendly enough that he said yes when I asked him if I could come up and pick his brain.
It was quite a brain. I quickly realized that there are endless variations of the movements and lifts I liked to do. When I would try to bench press or deadlift and it just didn’t feel good, one of two things would happen:
1. I would do it anyway (not a good idea)
2. I would take a day off and not do much (not a bad idea, but not what I wanted)
But there were variations of each exercise that I could usually perform on those days. And better yet, I could test the exercises to see if they felt right. Adam called this biofeedback testing. If you’re curious about that, I recommend checking out his Grip and Rip 2.1 DVD, where range of motion testing and its application in the weight room are well-demonstrated.
Well, some of the movements I tested out were beyond awkward. I was pretty excited to think that on a day when deadlifts tested poorly that doing something as simple as changing my grip or foot stance could make the difference between deadlifting or not. One legged deadlift patterns always tested well for me, but there was a problem: I couldn’t balance well enough to do them!
That’s where my pursuit of balance training and a more in-control equilibrium began. I believe that we are only limited in our physical pursuits by the amount of questions we are willing to ask ourselves and the amount of experimenting that we are willing to do.
To run the best tests possible, I want to have the best possible balance. So I’m starting small. How long can I stand on one foot? Are my feet everting less the more I pursue movements that test well? Can I do movements that feel easy when my eyes are open without losing control if I close my eyes.
I’m not getting out the balance boards or bosu balls or instability training devices. I know enough right now to meet myself where I’m at.
Hopefully where I’m at a year from now will be, if not on a genuine balance beam, at least walking in a straight line, should the need ever arise. I’ll be back with updates on the balance exercise experiment.