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The Two (Not-So) Surprising Things I Learned From Falling Off My Bike

April 2, 2018

Last fall, I fell off my bike. I just lost my concentration for a moment, flashed back in my head to a stressful moment earlier in the day, and crashed.

It wasn’t a major accident, but still, I injured my right [left?] shoulder enough to seek medical attention. The doctor who examined me was surprised there was no internal damage due to the amount of bruising. Thankfully, after two months off exercising, I was able to resume a modified training program.

However, the pain, stress, inconvenience and financial loss of the situation made me quickly realize how serious a simple accident can be for most adults. For seniors especially, a fall can have devastating consequences.

Always looking for silver linings, I took away two important lesson from my little fall.

First, fitness matters. The doctor told me that fit people generally handle falls better and recover faster than individuals who are not fit. This is true for anyone at any age, but we all know that a natural part of the aging process is the diminishing of physical abilities such as strength, flexibility, co-ordination, and agility – the same faculties we use to prevent falling.

Second, the whole incident could have been avoided by simple mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the body’s main tool for preventing falls. When you are mindful of your surroundings, the likelihood of injuring yourself is significantly reduced.

Here is a simple method to become more aware of your surroundings:

  1. For 10 to 15 minutes every day, walk very slowly and methodically around your place of residence. Focus your attention on the heel of the foot that is about to leave the ground. Do not think about how your heel feels, just be aware of the sensation you are experiencing in the heel.
     
  2. Follow that heel until it is placed on the floor, then switch your attention to the opposite heel.
     
  3. Repeat this pattern for the duration of the exercise.
     
  4. Realize that your mind WILL get distracted and start to think about whatever problem is most persistent at that moment. As soon as you recognize that you are no longer being mindful, very gently bring your awareness back to your practice.

Not only will you develop better environmental awareness thereby reducing the chance of having a fall, but all the benefits of mindful practice will be yours as well: reduced resting heart rate, normalized blood pressure, increased energy, reduced stress levels, improved intimacy in relationships, feeling of contentment, joy in your life….Wow….the list goes on.

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