Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cat Balance

I have a new respect for cat-balance.

For those who don't know what it is, it's quadrupedie (crawling, but hands and feet, not knees) on a rail (or railing, as I'm told it's more properly called). It's called cat-balance presumably because this is how cats walk along the top of fences. You should move your hands and feet in same order as a cat - left hand and foot in the middle, right hand and foot front and back (or vice versa) and then alternate moving the back foot or the back hand. The reason for this is something to do with balance and making yourself closer into the middle and/or diamond shaped instead of parallelogram shaped to be more stable (I think), but try it for yourself and you should see.

Not the best photo but hopefully you get the ideaalso

I haven't done this drill properly for at least a year, despite knowing it's theoretical benefits, but with a minor ankle injury from a precision (very minor, it's barely noticeable only three days on but I'm giving it until next weekend) and a wrist weakness from a few months ago I thought it was an ideal movement to practice today. I was right.

The first suitable rail I found was about 60m long going up a hillside path at the side of a road, the incline was noticeable but not huge. After testing it out and finding it harder than I'd anticipated, I set myself the challenge of getting from one end to the other, with a checkpoint on each 2.5m section for when I fell off. I probably fell off somewhere between fifteen and twenty times overall.

From halfway, sweat started dripping off my face and my breathing was heavy. Then my wrists because sore, my arms started to shake, it became painful round the back of my shoulders and, right at the end, one of my quads started to cramp up. I would guess it took me around twenty-fine minutes to complete, but I wasn't timing and could have been longer (or maybe it just felt like longer!).

It's a pretty good all round exercise! It works wrist strength, the general core (front and, I think, back too), and general upper body; it also works endurance for the quads (hence the cramping) and around the ankle, though maybe not quite as much; and last but not least, balance and coordination. It's also useful because it is non-impact (apart from when you fall off), so if you have some sort of wrist or ankle injury then this drill should be possible sooner than other movements (running or weight on hands). It can be done in all weather and all light conditions, so it's a pretty flexible drill.

From this glowing feedback, you probably won't be surprised that I would recommend that you include cat-balance more in your training than it probably already is (if mine was anything to go by). If it's too easy, crawl downhill or backwards (or upwill-backwards). If that's too easy, also blindfold yourself.

I remember being asked during a session (by Harry, I think) whether there's any practical application (in movement) outside of being a drill. Initially I was unable to answer, though it is definitely a drill worth practising anway, but I have since thought of one: climbing up (or down) something that's around a 45-degree angle. It's too steep to comfortably walk on, but not vertical enough that it can be climbed, so crawling works best. This isn't particularly common and this drill is more than worth doing just for the drill's sake, but it does at least have some possible application!

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