If you’ve ever watched a child learn to crawl, walk or develop a new skill, it’s amazing how persistent they are until they have achieved their goal. It’s even more incredible how quickly they can master these skills and how smoothly they move in the process. As athletes, our rapid growth interferes with this innate ability to move. Here are some suggestions on skills to practice to regain what we lost in adolescence or to maintain it while we still have it.
1. Deep squat every day. If you’ve ever watched a child play, they are able to hold a deep squat for ten minutes at a time. We quickly lose this as we grow due to tight calf muscles, stiff ankles and hips,and decreased body awareness. Start by holding onto something such as a couch or chair if needed. Gradually increase your hold time until you’re able to text, scroll through your social media feed, do homework, or make it through a whole commercial break in this position.
2. Get outside and “play”. Kids love to be outside and practice free play. Too often this is the part that we cut out of our lives when it gets hectic. Free play allows for improved creativity and mental/physical growth. Every day, no matter the weather, get outside. Take a walk as a family, swing on the monkey bars, sit and read a good book, or just enjoy mother nature’s beauty. This helps us to reset our internal clocks and our minds as well as to help develop stability on uneven surfaces.
3. Get enough sleep. Children usually get 12-16 hours of sleep per day to fuel their rapid growth and development. Obviously athletes can’t expect to get that much sleep, however 8-10 hours is recommended for adequate recovery between workouts and especially when injured. If our body and mind works hard during the day, there may not be enough blood flow to the body parts that need it for recovery. Easier said than done? Try to avoid procrastination for a week and I bet you’ll be able to get to sleep earlier than usual. Even 30 minutes extra per night can be helpful.
4. Spend some time barefoot. Help to develop arch control and strength in your foot. Shoving your foot in shoes, especially non-supportive shoes helps to undo the practice we got as kids. Being barefoot also helps to develop the body’s natural ability to balance.
5. Practice mindfulness. Kids have naps to rejuvenate but you might not have that luxury. Find at least 10 minutes a day to practice meditation, mental imagery, or to just let your mind wander. If you need help, search for apps that help guide this such as Headspace.
If you start to forget these things, just spend some time watching a small child. You’ll quickly realize how fast we lose those little things which make us strong yet mobile and stable. This is often part of what leads us down the path of injury and pain.
**Deep squat picture compliments of Robwolff.com**