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Balance

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.

Balance

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:33 pm

Have been working with several people at the gym, backpackers to rock climbers, to improve their balance, breathing, and focus. Would like to share my findings here with those of you who may be interested in obtaining better balance, posture, poise, either in your backpacking, rock climbing, or just in your everyday life.

There are a myriad of exercise and poses that can help with balance and your hip stabilizing muscles, but one very important one stands above the rest, and if mastered, can significantly improve you balance, whether using it for crossing a log over a swift river, crossing a river, skirting a cliff, climbing a class 5-10 route, or just to maintain good balance as you age.

This is the yoga move called the Tree Pose (Vriksasana), this pose allows you to become grounded with the earth, like the roots of a tree, while teaching one to breathe continuously and steadily. It helps you find your center, improves mental focus, helps improve balance, and also opens up one's hip, strengthens ankles, thighs, and spine. It also stretches the inner thighs, groins, shoulder, chest, and reduces flat feet and relieves sciatica.


If you have rock climbed previously, you understand the importance of breathing smoothly and steadily, especially during difficult and precarious moves. If one does not incorporate steady, monotone breathing, it will become rapid, the focus will be lost, and panic will set in. This example lends itself to crossing a log/river or any other situation where concentration, focus, and balance are required.


Exercise Description:
You should shift weight onto one leg, say the left leg, with the entire sole of the left foot remaining in full contact alignment. You can raise your hands above the head along the ears with or without clasping them together or you can clasp your hands in front of your chest like the worshipping. You can remain in this position for 20 seconds and 60 seconds. You can then return to standing pose or Tadasana while slowly exhaling. You can repeat this Vriksasana on the other leg with the ground. You should now bend the right knee and place the right foot on your inner thigh, like in a half lotus position, inhaling slowly when you move the right leg. In the initial stages, you can use your hands to place your right foot on the left inner thigh. The toes of the right foot should point directly downwards. The left foot, the center of your pelvis, the shoulders, and your head should remain firm in a vertical.


Once you can hold the pose easily for 30 sec, hold a light plate, dumbbell, or an elastic band in one hand, to throw off you center of gravity, this will recruit even more stabilizer muscles and recruit your core muscles even more intensely. One can then progress to a very difficult variation, standing on a Bosu Ball, which will increase the intensity and balance required, and then later incorporate weights or band to this variation.

Few notes:

Always do this pose barefoot.

Widen your toes, distribute your weight evenly between them, exhale steadily and deeply into the ground thru your leg, ankle, and foot.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org



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Re: Balance

Postby Bradg » Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:38 am

Hi Maverick

Thank you for all of the posts and attention you have given to the site.

A few months ago I began do about 30 minutes of yoga every morning in addition to regular cardiovascular and weight workouts.
It has contributed to a significant increase in energy, health injury recovery, and balance. At 58, one of my greatest wishes is to be able to continue to ramble the Sierra for as long as possible. I'm feeling like regular yoga will be a great contributor to this. Haven't been doing tree pose, but now that you have reminded me of it, I will incorporate into the routine.

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Re: Balance

Postby sambieni » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:18 am

I practice Iyengar yoga about 3x week in local studio. It is a slower form of yoga, but VERY focused on perfect alignment and extended holds of each pose. I have often needed physical therapy for shoddy knees, even at a young age, as part of my ritual spring training for summer time hiking. Last summer was the most rugged, adventurous my packing has ever been since I was a teenager. Vriksasana and Ardra Candrasana (half moon pose) are certainly major helpers as far as balance and related agility. And the rest give the strength, endurance and stability one needs. I credit my year+ practice of Iyengar as the #1 reason I felt so good last summer with 100+ miles of hiking/backpacking and basically zero aches/pains. Obviously the practice continues and is now regular, weekly part of my life.
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Re: Balance

Postby paul » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:41 pm

Another thing I do for balance is when I am out walking I find things to tightrope on. Not really tightrope but more like balance beam, For instance I walk from my house up into the local open space fairly often. Just before the end of the street where the open space begins, there is a section of road maybe a couple hundred feet long with curb but no sidewalk. So I walk the curb as if it was a balance beam. No risk of falling, but good practice. Balance is all about practice, whether Yoga or balance beam. Another thing is some portions of local trails have railroad ties along one side acting as retaining walls, just a foot or so tall - I walk the top of those for the same reason.
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Re: Balance

Postby Dave_Ayers » Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:15 pm

Thanks for the reminder Maverick. Yes, really good to do some balance training. This is even more important for those of us that use poles most of the time as brain plasticity re-purposes lesser used circuitry which can result in a reduction in the sense of balance.

Tree Pose, of course, increases the difficulty a bit by raising the center of gravity by putting the arms and free leg as high as possible.

Those in the advanced class who find Tree easy will want to move up to doing one foot balances on a Bosu, balance pod, or similar equipment. Then consider adding the hiking shoes (adds sloppiness), adding dynamic movements, or even try one foot balancing with the eyes closed.

Note that skating is excellent balance training, especially inline and ice varieties.

Some day I'd like to give slacklining a whirl.
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Re: Balance

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:39 pm

Approaching the big 70 I am convinced that one key to longevity in backpacking is balance. While the tree pose is one way of challenging and improving balance I think it is not sufficient to help me do what I want. I do multiple things that require balance-- one legged squats with a dumbbell in each hand, lunges forward and backward and side to side where I completely commit my weight to the supporting leg and a couple other yoga poses that require movement while standing on one leg. Despite working on this several times a week I am seldom successful doing these things with my eyes closed. Of course balance without strength is not sufficient so a lot of the things I do are dual purpose in addition to trying to get about 2000 vertical feet per week and 5 to 6 miles of walking, some with a pack 5 days a week. This routine is really hard to maintain when on road trips or fishing but I try.

DA--Actually for me doing balance stuff in my hiking boots is much easier than barefoot because they provide a wider platform.
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Re: Balance

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:55 pm

Yes, the Tree Pose is just a single component of a well designed program that one needs to engage in. As you mentioned, strength training with some balance needs to be incorportated, like walking lunge variation, for example using a single dumbbell works balance and the core, step-up variation, single-legged squat variation, one-legged bridges, and single-legged RDL's should all be used to strenghten the glutes, quads, hams, calves, and core, which all need to strong to obtain good balance, inconjuction with pure balance movements lke the Tree Pose.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Balance

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:39 pm

As much as I love my trekking poles, I make a point of doing day-hikes without them, as well as hopping through talus as balance practice. The main reason I use trekking poles is to save my knees. But I have noticed that if I over use them, my balance gets out of practice. Fishing a talus-ringed lake carrying your fishing rod is a good balance problem too! I am usually pretty well balanced by the end of backpack season. I am still working on maintaining balance in talus while wearing my bifocals. Getting better, but still not there.

I think flexibility is also a key to continuing to backpack in old age. You have to be able to comfortably live on the ground and get up and down reglularly. Taking care of the small grandchildren helped with this. Now that they are older, I have to find something else. Scrubbing floors and gardening help. I may have to start doing some regular exercise ot get back to the climbing gym.
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Re: Balance

Postby oldranger » Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:24 am

Daisy's point about flexibility certainly hit home. I, too, usually avoid trekking poles on training hikes. But if I am fishing the shoreline of a lake with difficult terrain I take one trekking pole with me. The problem is when i get really focused on fishing I will wander down the shoreline without the pole and then have to backtrack and find it. Getting old is a b*tch!
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Re: Balance

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:01 pm

Trekking poles are a pain if you are also doing stuff where you use your hands. I avoid them when I day-hike if my main objective is photographs. Like, you, I probably would lose them. We need to develop a line of equipment for geezers - all in florescent orange with a chip inside so you can push a button and your GPS will lead you to the item!

OR, do you use bifocals? If so, do they mess up your balance? I am having a horrible time adjusting - and I have had them five years! Balance is supposed to be inner ear- but I swear that sight has a lot to do with it. When I do take trekking poles in talus, I find that just touching the next rock (no pressure applied at all) centers my balance since my eyes seem to decieve me with poor depth perception. I did not have this problem 10 years ago.
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