The Propel Blog

4 Ways to keep you steady on ice this winter!

Posted on: February 20th, 2016 by Moni Taron No Comments

lake-huron-554910_960_720-pixabayAlberta’s winters bring all kinds of weather. With all the melting and freezing, it can be treacherous to get outside. Rather than sit inside all winter, we can be proactive – A few simple exercises can decrease your risk of injury!

Whether you’re skating, skiing, snowboarding, running, or walking on an icy sidewalk, everyone can benefit from a few simple exercises that train balance and proprioception.

What’s the difference between balance and proprioception?
Balance is our ability to distribute weight in order to stay upright. Proprioception is, simply, the ability to know your body position without looking. It allows you to walk without looking at your feet by sending information to your brain, giving you a sense of the position of your limb in space.

Balance and proprioception walk hand in hand. Proprioception is essential in balance control. Ice and snow add a bit of extra challenge since the surfaces are always uneven and somewhat unpredictable. Our proprioceptors, especially the ones in our ankles and feet, have to constantly work to allow our body to adapt to the changing surface and stay steady.

So now the question is, how do we train for proprioception and balance?

We can start with a few basics. Everyone can benefit from balance training, and the good news is that you will notice improvements in no time, even with the most simple exercises. Keep in mind there are always ways to make them more challenging!

BEFORE YOU START: Take off your shoes and socks!

Your toes (especially the big toe) and the little muscles in your feet play a HUGE role in balance. If you are used to a rigid shoe, chances are if you take the shoe off, a) your balance is a lot worse, and b) the muscles in your feet are used to relying on stability from the shoe and are not doing their job very well. Let your toes move!

#1 – Single leg static balance

The most basic of balance exercises is still an important one to do. Start with 10-15 second holds on each leg, keeping your hips level and standing knee slightly bent. Increase the time until 1 minute feels easy. If you need extra challenge, close your eyes – taking away visual feedback really puts your proprioceptors to the test! Try it while you brush your teeth or wash dishes. Exercise doesn’t have to steal your free time!

#2 – Single leg Deadlift

Single Leg Deadlift - startSingle Leg Deadlift - end

Single leg balance is great, but it’s not often you are standing still while enjoying a winter sport! Start without weights, and add some in if you need more of a challenge. Balance on one leg, knee slightly bent, and slowly reach down to the floor, keeping your back straight. Reach your back leg out behind you at the same time. Start with 5-10 on each side and increase to 3 sets of 10.


#3 – Arch Lift

Arch Lift - startArch Lift - end

This tiny movement will help strengthen muscles that make up the arch of your foot. Keep the balls of your feet and your heel on the ground. Slowly push your toes into the ground so you create a larger space between your foot and the ground. It should feel like your toes are gripping the floor. Relax and repeat, holding 1-2 seconds each time. Repeat for 3 sets of 5-10. You can do this ANYWHERE, even moving your foot inside your shoes.

#4 – Toe Mobility (aka Toe Yoga)

Toe Yoga - startToe Yoga - endKeep your heels and the balls of your feet on the ground. Lift your big toes off the ground while your little toes stay down, then switch (big toes down, little toes up). Switch back and forth, 20-30 times. If you find this difficult, you’re not alone. Try using the other foot to hold down the big toe while you lift the other toes and vice versa. It takes a while for your brain to remember they can move separately! Once you master this, your toes can grip the ground better and improve balance.

You’re set with some basic exercises! Get outside and get active – no need to wait until summer!

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