Can has physical coordination?
August 24, 2011 1:07 PM   Subscribe

How can I train myself to become less of a clumsy oaf and more physically coordinated?

I'd like to stop knocking things over, bumping into objects, and stubbing my toe on damn near anything within a mile radius, or at least to reduce these occurrences a little bit. What exercises can I do to improve my physical coordination? Bonus points if said exercises also double as cardio.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I asked a very similar question a while back and got some great answers.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:10 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oddly enough, what seemed to help me the most was strength training or strength mixed with cardio - things like kettlebell swings, wall ball shots (heck, lots of medicine ball exercises), and various bar & dumbell things - both heavy lifts & light lifts done with many or fast repitions.
I bet someone with a knowledge of exercise science could confirm this or tell me it's all in my head but moving around/staying balanced while holding something really seemed to help.
posted by pointystick at 1:11 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yoga has helped me a lot with body awareness.
posted by in a dark glassly at 1:15 PM on August 24, 2011

Dance might also be a good way to work on body awareness. And get your eyesight checked--the need for glasses or a new prescription can creep up on you, especially if (like me) each eye is slightly different and your depth perception is affected. I am a veritable bull in a china shop without my specs.
posted by corey flood at 1:17 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am extremely clumsy, too. Something that helped me tremendously was to start making my environment adapt to me, rather than me trying to adapt to my environment.

If I stub my toe on the trash can more than once, the trash can gets moved to a new place. If I knock the lamp of the desk more than once, that lamp needs to be moved to a new place. And so on.

This is harder to do with, say, walls (I run into those, too), but I've noticed that I've become significantly less "accident prone" if I stop trying to re-train my limbs to go certain places and work with my gracelessness instead of against it.

Yoga and the like may help, too, but why not start with the easy stuff first?
posted by phunniemee at 1:23 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to recommend combat sports. They're strong on cardio, emphasise neatness of movement and balance, and usually involve elements of distance awareness. My personal experience is of fencing and I can confidently say it has helped me in the area you're concerned about. I haven't tried other combat sports but I'd imagine karate, taekwondo or the like would work just as well.
posted by fearnothing at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2011

I'm working on this, too, and what helps me is to slow down and take my time doing things. When I multitask and rush--like when I'm thinking about what I have to do next while I'm walking--that's when I get distracted and smash into things. My attention is divided and all I can see is what I'm walking toward, not what's around me (or right in front of me, and I'm about to trip over it). I have to slow down, look around me, and focus on what I'm doing right now.

Yoga also helps me, I think because my balance is better and I'm more flexible. I don't lose my balance as much and if I start to fall, I'm flexible enough to compensate so that I stay upright.

I agree with phunniemee, though, that it helps if you get rid of obstacles; I stayed in a hotel room recently with a platform bed and I must have bashed my legs on that damn platform 5 or 6 times. I'll never have one of those in my house (and part of the problem was that it was deceptive--it stuck out farther than the mattress, so it looked like I had enough room when I didn't.)
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:31 PM on August 24, 2011

I am the oafiest oaf that ever oafed. Pilates and yoga both helped me be aware of my body and with general balance/flexibility.

But the single biggest thing that helped me—I just acknowledged that I'm clumsy, and that if something is situated in a precarious way, I will knock it off. If the chair is in an inconvenient place, I will knock it over. If I'm trying to carry four things, I will drop the three most valuable ones. I just don't do stuff like that any more. Stuff takes longer, but I drop/run into/break fewer things.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:35 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some form of power yoga. I found great benefit from it in my fine movements and it can certainly get your heart rate up. It gets those control muscles in a way that weight machines don't.
posted by phearlez at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2011

Bonus points if said exercises also double as cardio.

p90x is an exercise program that consists of various roughly-hour-long videos, alternating between routines that focus on weight-bearing, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility.

The two main ones for cardio are Plyometrics (lots of jumping around with an emphasis on landing lightly) and Kenpo X (lots of speedy limb-flailing inspired by martial arts moves). Both require focus on where and how your body parts are interacting with the air and ground around you; they sound like what you're looking for. Also, one of the videos is Yoga, which I see other folk are recommending as a helpful activity.

I also find that trail running is VERY helpful for this, as it requires deft feet in the face of roots and stones, and enough situational awareness to dodge branches and such.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Climbing. Indoor climbing works but outdoor rock climbing, if available in your area, is much more fun. Climbing really teaches you to be aware of your body and how to balance. Also, 2nding trail running.
posted by fieldtrip at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2011

Boxing teaches balance, power management, eye-hand coordination, strength, agility and honesty. You may never learn to be a great boxer, or stop being an oaf, but you can learn to be honest about your prospects for physical grace, while improving in same considerably, by learning to box. Not for nothing is it called "the sweet science."
posted by paulsc at 3:14 PM on August 24, 2011

I recommended that you read the William S. Borroughs essay The art of "Do Easy"
posted by to recite so charmingly at 4:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was very clumsy - am still a little bit that way, but am largely normal.

I mean, I'd fall off my chair regularly in highschool - not just 10 times as much as anybody else, but well past the point where anybody did it but me.

The main thing that fixed it for me, was spinning a firestaff.

Now, I know that sounds crazy, spinning a burning-stick around when you have a tendency to whack yourself with it, but actually, the ends are padded with the wicking, and it is much, much easier to learn not to hit yourself with the ends when they are on fire.
And they don't burn you, because kerosene (or pegasol), is not very flameable. A bit sooty, so black cotton clothing is good (I had long hair, so I'd wear a beanie, or wet it down, to stop it frizzing).

So, I couldn't do anything but spin it in a figure 8 to either side of me. And I'd wander outside round sunset each night, and do that. It turns out, that because that motion fluidly (ideally)crosses between your left and right sides, it's very good for better crossover between the hemispheres of your brain - and that's a crucial skill in not being clumsy. It's similar to some motions physiotherapists do with children with certain types of physical-clumsiness type disabilities).

For years, I just did figure 8s and a couple of other moves. Then I realised I was capable of more. Hell, I realised I suddenly had the hand-eye coordination to *draw* (I have two drawings, over a year apart, where it's obvious I suddenly got fantastically better at drawing, and I hadn't drawn a thing in that time).

I also think doing a bit of Judo was really good, as they taught me how to fall down without hurting myself. Fighting? Who the hell gets into fights?
Falling - now that's useful. I was still clumsy, but I think I got a lot more confident in my physical motion, since hey, at least I'm unlikely to break something now when I fall down (has proved very handy, even went into a roll when falling down a flight of stairs).
Oh, and wearing boots - I realised that for me, falling was partly related to my ankles just spontaneously, painlessly giving way, which in retrospect, would have put me off a fair amount of physical activity as a child, which lead to general clumsiness. Wearing boots provides me with ankle-support, and the longer I go without twisting it, the better I do.

Any physical activity will help awareness, but for specific activities, I whole-heartedly recommend firestaff, poi or something like that.
You can feel like you're doing something fun/cool by yourself, with relatively basic movements, and they improve coordination and spatial awareness like woah.

I'm sure juggling would do that too, but that is in a much harder basket, ie an exercise in frustration.

Good luck!
posted by Elysum at 8:05 PM on August 24, 2011

free weights teach balance--they have to; if you don't learn balance and muscle coodination, you can't complete a compound lift, and you might fall over. i didn't think about it at first but now after doing a dedicated stint of barbell training i've noticed while stretching afterward and through the day to day grind type activities my sense of balance is way better, as good as back in the day when i do gymnastics. pilates with a good instructor who cues well and gives feedback help too.
posted by ifjuly at 11:48 AM on August 25, 2011

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