The Nina, the Pinta, and Proprioception

Photo by  Andrew Neel

Photo by Andrew Neel

This coming Monday is Columbus Day in the U.S., which commemorates Christopher Columbus’s 1492 landing in America. And it’s got me thinking about a lesser known navigator, proprioception.

Proprioception is your body’s cognitive awareness of itself in space. Some even call it your sixth sense. It’s what allows you to see your head in your mind and bring your fingers to scratch it. Try it right now. Close your eyes. Bring your hand to the top of your head and scratch. Aw yeah. That’s the stuff!

Your proprioceptors (the internal GPS sensors in your muscles and tendons) do more than help you scratch that itch. You also use them for balance and moving you from point A to point B, to name a few.  

While a lack of positional awareness worked out fine for Columbus in the end, the rest of us would be well served to keep our proprioceptors sharp. At worst, it’ll help us rehab injuries more efficiently. At best, it’ll help us avoid them altogether.

There are lots of ways to improve proprioception. The following “proprioceptional” exercise is arranged in ascending order of difficulty. Take a relaxed approach to this training. Remember, any time you spend at any level will make you stronger. When you can balance easily for at least 1 minute on both sides, advance to the next level.  

Proprioceptor workout: Balance on one foot

  • Level 1: Shoes on, eyes open
  • Level 2: Shoes on, eyes closed
  • Level 3: Shoes off, eyes closed