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Legends of the Fall

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Photo by SHVETS production.

The Restorative Movement classes offered by SoHum Health are going to be exploring some new territory in the new year. As we approach our sixth anniversary of offering these classes to the public, we are looking at a few new themes to expand our horizons.

Over the years we have put in a lot of time on improving balance. Balancing for thirty seconds on one foot is considered a decent measure of balance proficiency, but we have widened the umbrella to include dynamic balance, which is much more applicable to real life. While it’s nice to know that you can stand still on one leg for half a minute, it’s more likely that falling will occur during activity or movement. Many students have reported improved balance and confidence in movement through participation in the classes.

Learning to fall well

We will strengthen specific muscle groups, mostly upper body and core.

And yet there are two more levels of balance work we will begin to address this year. Starting with the idea of “how to fall well”, we will strengthen specific muscle groups, mostly upper body and core, so that when the inevitable happens, and we do take a tumble, we have a well-rehearsed strategy for getting to the ground as intact as possible. We will work on falling forward and backward.

The bonus of this work is that it also fights age-related muscle loss by utilizing fairly vigorous strength training. This will be a relatively long process and take some commitment on the part of participants, beginning with the five push-up challenge (outlined below).

Once we have established that we can do five push-ups from the toes, we will work on various falling strategies, practicing safe falls that your brain will incorporate into its repertoire of movement.

After mastering the mental and physical components of falling forward, we will move on to a program designed to learn how to fall backward safely.

You never lose the ability to get stronger.

Later in the year, we will begin to look at adding cognitive challenges to balance tasks. This work has been shown to keep participants mentally sharp and physically agile and to help forestall or avoid mental decline. It’s just the good old ‘use it or lose it’ strategy seen throughout nature.

Do you think there’s no way you’ll ever be able to do 5 push-ups from your toes? Think again. As mentioned in our previous post about sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) muscle tissue can be trained to become stronger throughout your life. You never lose the ability to get stronger.

How to progress the Five Push-up challenge:

  1. Wall push-ups: Place hands on the wall about chest height. You want to work up to being able to do 10 wall push-ups easily, at two different hand widths, 8-12 inches wider than your chest and then at chest width, so that both the chest and the backs of the arms are strengthened. Depending on how you fall, you may need either or both of those muscle groups to save you from serious injury. Engage your core by slightly tucking your tail as you do your push-ups, and keep your neck long, not allowing the shoulders to hunch up around your ears. Keep your body straight but not rigid as you bring your chest as close to the wall as possible on each repetition. Build up gradually to ten of each, starting with as few as you can comfortably accomplish.
  2. Kitchen counter push-ups: Follow the exact same instructions as you move the upper body down a level.
  3. Kitchen table push-ups: Moving down another level, follow the exact same instructions again.
  4. Coffee table push-ups: Same same.
  5. Floor push-ups: You’ll be surprised, by the time you get to the floor, if you have followed the program, how easy they feel. It will take a couple of weeks or more, but if you’re aiming for ten, five should feel pretty easy, even at the beginning of this round. Your confidence will be beaming.
  6. Extra credit: Decline push-ups with hands below the level of the feet.

Why not work on push-ups from the knees?

Training results are maximized by using the idea of specificity here. We don’t fall from our knees, we fall from our feet. You might be able to bang out kneeling push-ups (please don’t call them girl push-ups) pretty fast, but they are not really going to help you progress to toe push-ups and could even slow you down.

How often to train?

Start with twice per week if you are deconditioned or just not strong with this movement. Once a week might give you maintenance, but will not allow you to progress. When able, go to three times per week. Avoid training when you are very sore. Post-workout soreness generally peaks about 36 hours after exertion, so you should be able to get to three days a week with some planning. Once your body becomes push-up friendly you may be able to go to every other day.

The confidence alone that you build will carry over into many other tasks in life.

This work shouldn’t take much longer than 5-10 minutes, so no excuses based on lack of time. The confidence alone that you build will carry over into many other tasks in life. When we have a good number of participants at the level of five push-ups from the toes, we will begin to offer some classes on Zoom and perhaps in person, covid willing, to safely practice falling, so that when it happens you are empowered and prepared to protect yourself from serious injury.

Send me an email at if you need any kind of support or coaching free of charge if you decide to take on the push-up challenge. There are lots of ways to keep grumpy wrists from hampering your progress and you’ll likely find that your wrists will get stronger with this work as well. I’ll be working alongside you, trying to recover my pre-covid strength. We’ll be touching on push-ups and associated core work in some of our regular SoHum Health-sponsored Zoom classes, but because we have so much else to cover, we won’t be addressing push-ups in every class.

Current Zoom schedule:

Tuesdays 10:30 am Floor work
Thursdays 10:30 am Chair-based work
Thursdays 2:00 pm Relaxing mobility and stretch
Sundays 11:30 am Restorative Yoga

I hope to resume in-person on Tuesdays at 12:30 at Lost Coast Fitness in February. Covid knocked me for a loop, making me realize even more how we are all in this together.

Ann Constantino, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.