3 reasons athletes are naturally less likely to eat pavement
If you live in the northeast, you’re likely buried in quite a bit of snow. While it’s pretty when it falls, it’s a pain once it’s fallen—sometimes literally. It’s interesting to note that the fitter among us are less likely to succumb to that nearly invisible patch of black ice. “Generally, a healthier body should be able to react more quickly with a greater sense of urgency to any of the changes [in environment or body position] that they're experiencing,” says Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in Beverly Hills. Here's why.
The fit have better proprioception.
Your proprioception is your body’s subconscious ability to know where all its parts are positioned or where it is in space. “It’s reflexive in a sense, because your body is essentially taking in the information it's receiving from its different sensory systems and reacting appropriately,” says Berenc. “When you’re looking at fall prevention, proprioception allows your body, without having to think about it, to react to any change in your position or your situation (i.e. your foot making contact with that patch of black ice).” Proprioception also kicks in if your ankles starts to twist, allowing it snap back, without you ever having to think about it on a conscious level. And the good news for the fit is that they’re typically more attune proprioceptively than the rest of the population. “Because they've spent a lot of time exploring the use of their body and exploring how to control it, their body's more attuned to know where the good ranges are, where their end range is, and really how to react and react in a quick manner,” explains Berenc.
Improve it: Work on improving range of motion through things like lunge variations, increase balance with unilateral exercises (think: single-leg deadlifts), and shore up your overall mobility.
The fit have better kinesthetic awareness.
This often gets confused with proprioception but they’re actually two different things. “Kinesthetic awareness is that conscious knowledge of where you're at in your environment,” says Berenc. “Looking at the example of walking down an icy street, it's knowing how close you are to the edge of the curb or how close you are to the upcoming light pole and really being able to make decisions on how you move or where you're going depending on the obstacles that you're running into.” And again: athletes come out on top here. “The more you train, the more you're able to make quicker decisions and have a greater sense of awareness of how you need to move to navigate your environment,” says Berenc.
Improve it: Work on agility drills like theseand consider signing for an obstacle race or taking up trail running.
The fit are more powerful.
“A big piece of fall prevention is making sure that you have the power and the speed to catch yourself,” says Berenc. “That's what athletes tend to work on a lot—having that power and the speed to react quickly and forcefully and be able to control your body in space.” When we're walking and we slip or we trip, recovering is a real forceful, powerful act to perform. "This is why working on power is so important, because the more power you have, the more you can manage those stresses and really own that ability to control where your body is at versus," says Berenc. "If you're not powerful enough, you may catch yourself to where you're not going to fall, but that can also cause some problems in the long run (i.e. injuries) because your muscles may not be ready to handle that stress," he adds.
Improve it: Try these six drills for a more athletic body. And stay tuned for our upcoming plyometric workout for runners.