Let’s take a moment and think about a topic that you probably would rather not think about. The risk you take on participating in a winter sport. Whether it’s sledding or aggressive backcountry skiing, the risks are everywhere! Heck, even walking in winter weather has it’s hazards! Having a healthy appreciation, or an awareness, of these risks is a good thing, I think. It allows you to be prepared for life’s events so you can live life to the fullest. With a little extra preparation and planning, and by building natural body armor, you can be “Crash Proof” and ready for all of life’s adventures.
As we head into the new year, winter is in full swing for many of us. Some of us have already experienced a good taste of winter, especially those of us who live in the northern half of the U.S. Many of us have already gone out to play in the snow or ice in some capacity, but I also wonder how many folks aren’t going out to participate in these outdoor winter activities due to fear of injury, or that feeling of being unable to keep up with their friends or family.
Fear of injury is a legitimate concern. Preventing and/or surviving a fall on the ice is a feat in itself and responsible for an incredible number of injuries every year alone. Did you know, apart from winter related activities, adults over 65 have a 1 in 4 chance of falling? This number has risen 30% in just the last 10 years according to the CDC. For the “mature” adult, surviving the winter without taking a fall while walking to your car is a big deal! So if you are an older adult, anywhere close to the age of 65, or if you are planning on living a good life well into your 60’s and beyond, the time to become Crash Proof is now.
You might be thinking, if walking has has it’s dangers, getting through a full season of downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or even sledding is truly an epic accomplishment and deserves a badge of honor! Well, maybe. Statistically over 200,000 people visit the emergency room or doctor’s office for more serious winter sports related injuries, with estimated total injuries as high as 3.8 million since many smaller, less serious injuries go unreported! Even sledding was responsible for 22,000 medical visits last year! The largest at risk for winter activity related injuries is the 25-59 age group at a whopping 55% of all winter sports injuries. So when it comes to winter sports, it would seem all adults are at risk. Thankfully, we can mitigate these risks while still engaging in life!
”He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing”– Mohammad Ali
First you must KNOW THE FALL.
Of course, wearing appropriate gear like a helmet and other protective gear is the first step in armoring yourself. Next, is to be aware of your environment and how to self-regulate at your ability level (this is a huge issue in itself!). Prevention is still the best medicine, but we can’t live our best lives without getting out of our comfort zones. We are meant to play, every day! Personally, I wear studded shoes while walking the dog and doing activities on icy/snowy surfaces. I can’t say enough about how much more confident I feel while walking an 85-pound pit-bull puppy!
Most injuries occur in inexperienced, de-conditioned people in unfamiliar areas. Healthy, fit, experienced people, aware of their surroundings and situation, are much less likely to get hurt. It sounds simple, but it’s really easy to get ahead of ourselves and lose track of our ability to self-regulate, especially in the moment. Being prepared and staying present is huge!
So what else can you do? Believe it or not, you can actually train yourself how to fall. You can relearn how to make falling a natural “reflexive” movement, just like you naturally learned to roll, rock, jump, and play as a child.
Think sprinter, martial artist, or gymnast. They all move incredibly well and can move effortlessly through extreme ranges of motion and movement patterns. What do they all have in common? They OWN their relative strength. They have trained their bodies to be flexible, stable, and resilient – this along with essential relative strength, is what we call reflexive strength.
Our brain has to be seamlessly connected to our body and trained in various patterns to achieve this. We can fast track this process and achieve incredible results by reconnecting with our bodies through the developmental sequence using the Original Strength RESETS. The Big 5 Resets are diaphragmatic breathing, moving the head, rolling, rocking, crawling/cross crawling.
It’s funny how the word “strong” means many things to different people. To gym people, it might mean a heavy deadlift. To someone on the couch, it may be big biceps. But through my lens it comes down to being able to OWN your body in all circumstances. This is technically called kinesthetic awareness. In simple terms it means knowing where your body is in space while having multiple options in movement to avoid a threat, minimize impact (damage) and move effortlessly in all directions. Building strength and kinesthetic awareness can be achieved through challenging the body’s ability to move. Learning to move well on one leg, being able to push and pull yourself up and down at will from awkward angles, can create a balanced, athletic body that is strong relative to your bodyweight. It’s like having armor!
Do you have this kind of strength and armor?
Can you do a full single leg squat with little effort? Can you get up off the ground effortlessly in several different ways without using your hands? Can you carry more than your bodyweight for at least a minute? Can you smoothly jump up (and land!) on a 2 foot box without flinching?
Can you crawl for 10 minutes straight with your head up while breathing through your nose?
These kinds of examples of strength and athleticism are optimal, if not essential, to perform at your best and reduce your risk of injury in any kind of winter sport. Strong people are simply less likely to get injured and will recover much faster than de-conditioned folks. This may be an extreme example, but I’ve heard countless stories of strong, able-bodied people getting into major car accidents where doctors have said they are still alive because of their fitness, health, and ability to react. They also generally make much better recoveries. Like an automobile accident, sometimes winter sports can challenge our bodies to the extreme.
So how do you learn to fall, move well, and become stronger?
If you’re a self-starter, Press RESET daily for at least 3-5 minutes, it all starts with breathing! Practice rolling and tumbling to build your reactive strength. Improve your balance through intentionally challenging your gait patterns (crawling, marching, skipping, etc.). Train to be powerful and learn how to jump and land well! Also, along with your traditional strength exercises, train to get strong on one leg, and don’t forget to think outside the box here too!
If you need more guidance and direction, you may be interested in checking out my Crash Proof course. In Crash Proof we break down the progressions and principles of learning to get up and down off the ground in as many ways as possible. Then we add speed and other more complex patterns and challenges until a person feels ready to actually train the fall. From there we practice rolling, tumbling, and creating variable, reactive situations in a controlled environment. This takes time, but it’s incredibly powerful knowing you are able to “expect the unexpected” and meet life’s challenges head on with the agility, strength, and an extra layer of protective armor.
“Life is a game. Play it. Life is a challenge, Meet it. Life is an opportunity. Capture it.”
In other words, be Crash Proof!
About the Author:
John Odden is an experienced strength coach and Original Strength Certified Professional, and a Highland Games World Record Holder based out of Bend, Oregon.
Since he was a child he has been fascinated with improving his health, fitness and athleticism. He was a tall, skinny, awkward kid growing up who always lacked confidence, especially in the gym. Unfortunately, some misguided enthusiasm resulted in chronic back and shoulder injuries that sidelined his athletic career and limited his quality of life well into his 30s. Unknowingly, these injuries and setbacks would be the cornerstone of his passion and unique perspective on how to teach others to live an empowered, pain-free, active life using the strength and movement principles that he has created and honed in his 20+ year career.
John has recently worked with our OSi Online team to develop this stellar Crash Proof Course.