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Tips and Techniques - Develope Your Balance

Develop Your Balance

People frequently ask me, "What can I do in the off-season to keep my skills up?" I always recommend exercises to develop and improve your balance-and they're quite easy to do with an Exercise Ball. But first, let's look at why balance is so important.

The key to developing good balance is to use the correct muscle groups combined with proper posture. If you keep your nose over your navel (in all directions, not only side to side, but also front and back) it will enhance your balance and also free up the major abdominal muscle groups. By not "pre-loading" these muscles, they will be available to deliver maximum power for your paddling.

Try this: Kneel on the floor with your butt as low as is comfortable for you. Now hold your arms straight out to the sides. Bend forward at the waist about 6" and then try to rotate from side to side. Notice how your breathing is impaired? 
Next, lean back about 6" and do the same. Observe what it feels like to rotate from side to side and how it affects your breathing.
Now try it with your nose over your navel. Rotate from side to side and pay attention to how much easier it is to breathe. Also observe how much more effortless the rotation is. This is because you have not engaged major muscle groups trying to hold your body in an off-balanced position (leaning forward or back).

You can feel the same thing happen when you are standing. If you stand erect and centered, it's effortless. When you lean forward or back, you can feel all the muscles in your legs and back tighten to hold you in this position.

It is an important concept to keep as many muscle groups free as possible and not tied up because of poor posture. When a muscle group is free, it can respond quickly and fully-often the difference between making a move or not.

Now that you understand the important of balance and posture, here's some simple exercises using an Exercise Ball. Get on top of the ball in a kneeling position, with your back straight. Be sure to do this on a padded floor and have someone spot you when you first try it. It won't take long to figure out that if you bend forward, it is harder to keep your balance. It's much easier to keep your nose over your navel and just use your lower body to stay balanced. Picture your upper body staying erect, relatively still, while from the navel down, your body is working to keep the ball under your center of gravity. Don't forget to relax and breathe. In a short time you will be sitting on the ball with little effort.

After you have mastered balancing in a still position, start moving around and try bouncing up and down. While doing this, visualize yourself side-surfing a hole or riding some waves. Your balance and posture will greatly improve-and so will your paddling. It's also a great way to watch TV without turning into a couch potato!


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