Tuesday, July 02 2019

Balance training is the ugly, redheaded stepchild of fitness.  Everyone wants better balance but few are interested in attending a balance class.  Overshadowed by sexier fads and formats, balance training gets sadly overlooked as another generation totters towards a wobbly future.  Hoping to tamper the teetering, Ruth Sova shares 10 balance exercises that you can sneak into your existing aquatic training.

Most people think that balance training is something that old people need to do.  Truth!  Falls are one of the leading causes of death, disability and loss of independence in people over the age of 65.   However, balance is a physical skill that must be developed and maintained throughout life.  Lots of people under the age of 40 have crappy balance.   The fact is that if you have crappy balance in your younger years, you will have extra, super-crappy balance in your older years.    

After the age of 30, many people begin to experience postural issues, muscle atrophy and weight gain.  Problems due to muscle imbalances begin to crop up, as do subtle changes in gait and mobility.  These symptoms become much more pronounced as a person ages, putting them at a much greater risk of a fall.

Fitness classes are typically designed target all or some of the five components of physical fitness.  These components include muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and body composition.   Balance training should be considered equally important among these five components.  Without balance, a person can literally lose everything. 

As Ruth demonstrates in the video, 10/10 Standing Balance, incorporating balance into an existing class is simple.  Starting with a simple standing position, variations of feet, arms, head, eyes and more can challenge stability and stance.  Play the clock game in class and have participants touch the various numbers on the clock with their feet.   The clock game can be progressed to lunging movements.   

Variations in lower body movements and arm patterns are also utilized to challenge balance.  Additionally, Ruth uses Ai Chi postures to shift weight load out of vertically aligned gravity, thus better preparing the body for fall prevention. Noodles are also used in the video to train the body’s ability to stabilize and balance. 

Balancing often involves scary shifts out of vertical alignment and even more terrifying progressions to one-footed stances.  Many people would never stand on one foot in a studio, but they are more confident in doing so in a pool because the buoyant and viscous properties of water make it more supportive.   And obviously if they fall in the pool they will likely only suffer a bruised ego and wet hair. 

Balance training in group fitness often involves variations in stance while performing exercises.   The typical stance progression is from wide, to stride, to neutral, to tandem and to one-leg.  However, there are many other variations that can be applied to base moves to make them more balance challenged.  Ruth is becoming well konwn for her movement tweaking ideas, as evidenced in her recent videos, Extension for Function and Ai Chi ROM.  Above and beyond the 10 balance exercises demonstrated in the video, Ruth shares other balance training techniques in an excerpt from an article that was posted AKWA Magazine.  Read here.

Standing balance training requires vertical trunk control.  Trunk control depends on a strong core, hence the companion video, 10/10 Vertical Core.   As with the balance exercises, the vertical core exercises all have their own variations that can add creativity and results to an aquatic training program.   Combined, the two videos provide instructors with 20 exercises and a wealth of knowledge for improving balance and core control, thus making movement more meaningful. 

The introduction of Ruth’s two ‘express videos’ for core and balance represent a new concept that Fitmotivation is testing. We actively encourage feedback and have made significant changes over the last four years based on customer comments.   Feedback on video content is almost always good, but some instructors say they have difficulty finding the time to watch the videos.  This fall we will start test-piloting TWO shorter express videos (15-20 minutes) in place of ONE full-length video. And so now two full-length videos and two express videos will post each month.  Nothing is permanent.   We will simply test the concept for a few months and monitor feedback.  If subscribers hate it we will switch back. 

Fitmotivation extends big thanks to Ruth Sova for not only once again sharing her talent, passion and experience – but for suggesting the shorter content videos.   Ruth is the original founder of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) and the founder and president of the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute (ATRI).   If you are looking to expand your fitness horizons and delve more into specialized training you may want to explore the ATRI Event calendar for events and workshops near you.    And don’t forget to shop the ATRI marketplace for products and education that is geared more towards rehab and special populations.   

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.