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Fit to Fall

Falling on the ice can sideline winter fun. Here are tips to prep your body to withstand a fall

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One of the key benefits of exercise for people in Central Oregon: being strong and supple enough to fall onto ice and get up uninjured. With that in mind, it's crucial to make sure your exercise program gets you fit to fall. 

To do this, focus less on the glamor muscles you see in the mirror. Bulging biceps become less important as the four small muscles of the rotator cuff; six-pack abs less important than strong obliques and the small muscles wrapping your spine. 

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One of the best ways to train fall-protective body parts is to go down on the floor in a plank/push up position, and then to use your own body weight for resistance to build up areas vulnerable to falls. You can start from your knees if you need to. 

Here are some areas to focus on:

Wrists: With hands flat under straightened arms, gently rock forward/backward and make small circles with your wrists to strengthen and flex muscles and tendons in the wrist and forearms.

Rotator cuff and shoulder: Walk your hands a few inches forward, backwards and sideways. Walk one hand sideways while the other remains stationary. Work up to a spider crawl.

Spine and core: hold the regular plank 15-20 seconds. Next time, flex lift your butt up then sag slightly down (similar to yoga downward facing and cobra). Do alternating side planks to get those obliques.

Triceps: This muscle on the back of your arm plays a major role preventing injuries from falls. When falling, you instinctively reach out your hand to decelerate and deflect the force. Try eccentric push ups. From a plank position, simply go down very slowly, folding your elbows. The triceps lengthen to slow your descent. The next NFL game you watch, look for players' hands reaching out—wrists and elbows slightly bent—then the elbow folding to slow the fall when a player is tackled. 

After these plank variations, stand up and do some squats and side lunges to develop glutes to protect your pelvis and spine if you fall backwards on your butt.

David Adamson is a certified personal trainer at Cascade Boomer Fitness, cascadeboomerfitness.com.

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