SPD and Gym Equipment: Falling Off The Treadmill
I’ve always self-regulated and kept my SPD under wraps, but this year I’m letting it all out. My confession of the day is that I totally fall off gym equipment, especially elliptical machines, and they’re my favorite. I’m that person you’d see on America’s Funniest Home Videos flying off a treadmill mid-run. Yep, that’s me, a graceful gazelle. Not!
Some days I mount my machine, feeling awesome and ready to rumble, and then suddenly, I feel dizzy. Other days I don’t get woozy until I’m stepping off the machine. I’m pretty sure everyone at my gym thinks I’m strange for being super careful when I step on or off the equipment, being slow and deliberate, like I’m a hundred years old and may fall and not get up. It sounds worse than it is, I’m a well adjusted human being, but this is what is going on in my head and sensory systems at the gym.
And I’m not alone in my lack of gym machine grace. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 24,000 people went to the hospital last year with treadmill-related injuries.
So what are those of you with crazy balance issues like me supposed to do? Quit going to the gym? Nope. I talked to occupational therapist Britt Collins on what could be causing the problem and what we can do about it.
Britt let me know that some people are not as coordinated as others and can struggle with motor tasks, but some of us actually have trouble with our vestibular system, which is our balance system. This may cause you to feel unstable when changing from a stable position to a moving position.
If you feel unstable, try to find a machine closest to a wall and not in the middle of the room with a lot of movement around you. Start walking/biking slowly and then speed up as you feel comfortable. Make sure you cool down slowly to slow down your balance system.
It can be common to feel like your body is off when another person is running faster or walking slower than you beside you. Its like when you are stopped at a red light in the car and the turn lane next to you starts to go. If you’re zoning out, or listening to the radio, you might panic for a second thinking your car is actually moving. This could be partly visual perceptual and vestibular.
Knowing how to properly use the emergency shut off clip is important (if the machine has one). Use it and the machine will stop automatically if you lose your balance and fall.
Make sure that you are breathing. Taking deep breaths when needed to calm yourself and regulate. Also, when you hold your breath you are more likely to get dizzy.
If you struggle with your balance or feeling of being on moving equipment, but you really want to get cardio exercise, remember these six things:
- Start and stop slowly.
- Choose a machine next to the wall.
- Try to use a machine where no one is next to you.
- Use the emergency shut off clip.
- Watch a TV or pick a focal point on the wall to steady your vision.
Do you have any trouble with balance at the gym? What about when weight lifting? Do you run into people during your Zumba class? We’d love to hear about it.
Thank you to Britt Collins, MS, OTR/L for her expertise. You can pre-order her new book Sensory Yoga for Kids which will be available through Sensory World December 2015.
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