Balance is also crucial in sports like snowboarding, downhill skiing, surfing, tennis, basketball and baseball where maintaining a center of gravity determines how well you can move. “Balance means being able to stop on a dime to hit a shot on the tennis court,” Ellison says. “It requires your body unconsciously knowing exactly where your center of gravity is so that you can position yourself in the correct place and make that shot off of a planted foot.”
There are two types of balance:
static and dynamic. Static refers to held balance. For example, if you were to time how long you could stand on one leg, you’d be working static balance. Dynamic balance, on the other hand, involves movement while your body balances itself. Take the classic exercise where models practice walking. They place a book on top of their head and walk across the room. Keeping the book on top of their head requires dynamic balance because they’re balancing while moving. You use both types of balance throughout the day. To add balance training to your exercise program, consider practicing yoga which teaches your body where its center is. Or perform simple, athletic-based drills that challenge your dynamic balance.
The following exercises will challenge both types of balance. Try to complete them twice a week. Focus not only on your balance but also on your posture. Think tall and feel your body gaining confidence as it redefines its sense of balance.
To challenge dynamic balance, Suzanne Nottingham, author of several books on sports conditioning for winter activities and in-line skating, suggests the following exercises:
Stair steps: Position yourself in front of a low stair. You can also use a step training bench. Hold a cup of water in both hands. Step up and down the step as fast as you can without spilling the water.
Sidewalk challenge: Stand on the sidewalk and face one direction. Using your arms for balance, step one foot in front of the other (heel directly in front of your toes) and walk quickly down the sidewalk. Turn around and walk back.
One-legged hop: Balance on one leg. Hop forward on that leg four times. Then hop backward four times. Switch legs and repeat.
To work static balance, try this standing pose from “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga” by Joan Budilovsky and Eve Adamson.
Tree Pose: Stand tall with your arms down by your side and your weight evenly distributed. Slowly lift your left foot off the ground and place the sole of the foot along the inner thigh of your right leg. Place your hands together in front of your chest and raise your arms overhead, palms together. Keep your breathing steady. Find your focus and concentrate on balancing. Hold. Return to starting position and switch sides.