Agility helps your performance as you get older

Posted April 07, 2012, at 6:04 a.m.

Have you been a little off your game lately? Did you blame disappointing performances on things like your age or lack of practice?

The real reason may be something simple and subtle — and easily fixed. I’m talking about agility; or rather, the lack of it. Most specifically, athletic agility. That’s a combination of four qualities: quickness, flexibility, coordination and balance. Here’s a test that will help gauge your functional agility, while letting you know what you may need to work on.

Perform the test on a floor cushioned by carpeting. First, take off your shoes. Then jump as high as you can, while reaching down with your right hand to touch the inner sole of your right foot with all four fingers. Repeat the movement, using your left hand and foot. Don’t judge your performance on the first try; if it’s the first time you’ve ever tried a “grab,” you may need some practice. Give yourself a few minutes to recover, then try the test again. At different times throughout the day, repeat the test until you’ve done it four times on each side. Do the same routine 24 hours later.

Were you able to accomplish a full grab by the second day of testing? If not, figure out which of the qualities you need to work on. If you couldn’t get your hand under your foot in time, the problem may be a lack of quickness. Being quick is a quality that requires practice. You can do research on exercises that will speed up your reaction time.

Was it hard to reach under the sole of your foot because it’s a hard range of motion for you? Think about how much a lack of flexibility limits performance in almost every sport or activity. You can hire a trainer to help you become more flexible, or research the subject of stretching and work on flexibility by yourself. One thing to remember is that becoming more flexible takes time. It may take a year or more of consistent stretching to extend your reach by a mere few inches.

Better coordination is also a quality that can be improved with practice. Don’t disregard the possibility of becoming more coordinated by dismissing yourself as “just a klutz.” Work on movements that require hand-eye coordination, like games of darts. Do proprioceptive exercises like tire hops or quick feet jumps along a floor ladder to give you better internal perception of your body position during activity.

Did you stumble or have to do a stutter-step to keep your balance during the test? Good balance is one of the most important parts of being a good athlete. Improved balance will often come with increased strength. If you’ve been letting your conditioning slide, that will negatively affect your balance. Get back to working out.

Look in a library or online to research ways to improve your functional agility. Put together a personal training program that will improve your speed, flexibility, coordination and balance. Do the workout regularly and give it time to take effect. Within just a few months, you’ll see a huge improvement in your game, and you may even end up in the best athletic shape of your life.

(c) 2012, Adventure Sports Weekly

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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