Doing scantily-clad outdoor workouts the past few days has made it easy for me to notice that the season is changing. The cold is coming.

Training on outdoors gymnastics rings with cold hands isn't so great at grip strength becomes weakened in low temperatures, at least until one gets used to the conditions.

What becomes even more compromised in the winter for me (and I doubt I am alone in this experience) is dexterity. If I think back to times where I have came in from the outdoors and before warming up I have needed to fill in some forms or write something, I remember how strange writing felt and how untidy it looked. Readable writing but written as if by a hand other than my own.

The numbing effects of the cold hamper dexterity, as does numbing from any source on any sort of dexterity.

The first two definitions of "numb" that I found are:

  • deprived of the power of physical sensation

  • deprive of feeling or responsiveness

When considering the second definition, the question comes to mind: how can you move what you cannot feel?

Movement and feeling is vital across all sporting arenas and I know is of particular importance to horse riders. As I'm off to work with dressage riders in Holland in just over a month, I'm going to illustrate my points with the example of a rider.

A dressage rider, like many other athletes, needs high degrees of mobility, feeling and dexterity to respond to and influence their environment which is primarily their horse. A lack of feeling and responsiveness on horseback will limit the performance of the riding pair.

Unlike stationary, lifeless paper allowing my numb hand struggle to move to write letters and words on it, a horse will move right back at its rider. This makes feeling of the utmost importance.

Yet many of us don't feel everything. We are somewhat numb in certain parts of ourselves. We feel very little around certain areas of our body and have very little command of how we move there.

Many of us get by and get better at our sport regardless. How do we do this?

Writing with a numb hand is made easier by looking at our hand as we write. We fill in for the degradation of one sense with the elevated use of another. Attempting to write with a numb hand and closed eyes would expose our lack of feeling very quickly.

We can get better at our sport, riding or whatever, with poor feeling and responsiveness by compensating with other senses and in other ways but in my experience, helping somebody elevate their ability to feel and respond with movement to what they feel will help them get even better even faster.

One easy way of beginning to train yourself you feel and respond better is by playing around with movements of various types with your eyes closed so that you have to feel your way through them, noticing how you use yourself to do them. 

A warning for my riders: please don't do this on your horse! Learning to feel yourself better off your horse will deliver great benefits without the massive risks of doing so horseback. This goes for you non-riders too - be sensible where you experiment with learning to feel by taking vision out of the equation temporarily.

Numb riding and numb sport can be done but bringing feeling back into your game is always a good idea.

 

Arton "Numbnuts" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1

P.S. Dutch riders, email me at arton@floatsting.com for details of how to book a session with me.