Tag Archives: improving coordination

Can meditation help you learn to juggle?

IMG_1239A lot of people I know would love to learn how to juggle, but find it very difficult and eventually give up. I wish they wouldn’t give up so early. It’s such an enjoyable activity that is a great arm and mind exercise. It can also help improve hand/eye coordination.

So I am always looking for ways to make learning to juggle a lot easier. Something that may help novices throw their first 3 ball cascade flash(3 throws, 3 catches) is to meditate beforehand.

According to the Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, in the study, Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need:

RESULTS:

Novice meditators were tested on the PVT before each activity, 10 minutes after each activity and one hour later. All ten novice meditators improved their PVT reaction times immediately following periods of meditation, and all but one got worse immediately following naps. Sleep deprivation produced a slower baseline reaction time (RT) on the PVT that still improved significantly following a period of meditation. In experiments with long-term experienced meditators, sleep duration was measured using both sleep journals and actigraphy. Sleep duration in these subjects was lower than control non-meditators and general population norms, with no apparent decrements in PVT scores.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest that meditation provides at least a short-term performance improvement even in novice meditators. In long term meditators, multiple hours spent in meditation are associated with a significant decrease in total sleep time when compared with age and sex matched controls who did not meditate. Whether meditation can actually replace a portion of sleep or pay-off sleep debt is under further investigation.

It looks like meditation may help improve motor skills. So if you are struggling with juggling, try meditating first. You may not have to meditate for 40 minutes to get the benefits; perhaps as little as 10 to 15 minutes may help. Above all, relax and focus, get rid of all distractions. Meditation may also come in handy when you are making the transition to joggling.

Due to the focus juggling requires(at least in the early stages), it is for good reason it has long been called an “active meditation”.

Athleticism and vision

Here! Catch! How good are your eyes at keeping track of fast moving objects? Would you like to improve this ability?

Since professional athletes have to keep track of fast moving objects, it comes as no surprise that their dynamic visual acuity(DVA) is superior to that of non-athletes. What is DVA, and how exactly are athlete’s eyes better than non-athletes? The Waseda University, Mikajima, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan reports:

Dynamic visual acuity (DVA) is defined as the ability to discriminate the fine parts of a moving object. DVA is generally better in athletes than in non-athletes, and the better DVA of athletes has been attributed to a better ability to track moving objects. In the present study, we hypothesized that the better DVA of athletes is partly derived from better perception of moving images on the retina through some kind of perceptual learning. To test this hypothesis, we quantitatively measured DVA in baseball players and non-athletes using moving Landolt rings in two conditions. In the first experiment, the participants were allowed to move their eyes (free-eye-movement conditions), whereas in the second they were required to fixate on a fixation target (fixation conditions). The athletes displayed significantly better DVA than the non-athletes in the free-eye-movement conditions. However, there was no significant difference between the groups in the fixation conditions. These results suggest that the better DVA of athletes is primarily due to an improved ability to track moving targets with their eyes, rather than to improved perception of moving images on the retina.

So it was because their eyes are better at moving to track an object, than because of some kind of improvement in the retina. It is interesting how they tested this.

Can this ability be improved? With enough training, it looks like the answer is likely yes – High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players:

Results

The University of Cincinnati team batting average increased from 0.251 in 2010 to 0.285 in 2011 and the slugging percentage increased by 0.033. The rest of the Big East’s slugging percentage fell over that same time frame 0.082. This produces a difference of 0.115 with 95% confidence interval (0.024, 0.206). As with the batting average, the change for University of Cincinnati is significantly different from the rest of the Big East (p=0.02). Essentially all batting parameters improved by 10% or more. Similar differences were seen when restricting the analysis to games within the Big East conference.

Conclusion

Vision training can combine traditional and technological methodologies to train the athletes’ eyes and improve batting. Vision training as part of conditioning or injury prevention can be applied and may improve batting performance in college baseball players. High performance vision training can be instituted in the pre-season and maintained throughout the season to improve batting parameters.

This is pretty remarkable, though they didn’t use any control groups(they compared results with the previous year).

They used a variety of devices to help improve their DVA and hand/eye coordination, including: DynavisionTachistoscope, Brock String, Eyeport, Rotary, Strobe Glasses, Saccades, and Near Far training.

I have no experience with any of these things, so I can’t say which ones work better than the others. As a juggler, I wonder if jugglers have the same superior DVA as baseball players, and I also wonder if learning to juggle could help improve the DVA and coordination of baseball players.

I also wonder if any of those cool sounding devices could help a juggler improve his/her juggling ability.

It’s hard to say at this point.

Jump rope training

In this era of increasingly super-ultra high-tech fitness, many simple, old-school fitness tools are unfortunately getting neglected. It just looks so “uncool” to some people, to use something your great grandparents may have used to keep fit. With all the high-tech options available today, and with how accurately they can keep track of calories burned, why go primitive? While I am not opposed to technological progress, I believe some of the best workouts you can possibly have can still be done with little to no equipment.

Take jumping rope for instance. Very ancient and ever affordable, a 150 lb(68 kg) person can burn 238 calories in 20 minutes by jumping rope at a moderate pace. And it exercises both your upper and lower body. All you need is the rope, and the space to do this(wooden floors are best). There are so many to choose from, and you can even make your own jump rope. It’s pretty good cross training for runners and boxers. Boxers frequently jump rope because it improves cardiovascular fitness and stamina. And heck, it’s a lot of fun when I do it very fast.

Besides being a good total body cardio exercise, jumping rope can also improve coordination. According to the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health Sciences, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey: 

Adding rope jump to training programs improves joint repositioning and coordination. Weighted Rope Training group got greater gains for coordination and eccentric endurance parameters for lower extremities in a closed kinetic chain.

This makes it excellent cross-training for a variety of fitness activities. This is also one of the reasons I often recommend jumping rope to people who have trouble learning how to juggle. Becoming a good rope jumper may also help you become a competent joggler. Remember, in joggling, rhythm is everything, and jumping rope can help you develop a good sense of rhythm. It may even help you become a better dancer, so maybe you can compete on Dancing with the Stars after all(is this still on?).

I don’t jump rope as often as I used to, but being in the “rope bubble” as I call it puts me into a meditative state that is similar to how I feel when I juggle.

High-tech fitness equipment has its place, but they don’t guarantee amazing fitness results. And whatever you do, don’t forget to work on your coordination.