In Martial Arts, awareness is Zanshin, or ‘total awarness’. This is when you see everything and are ready for everything and anything. A Karate-Ka is ready to fight. Whether you are lifting weights in the gym, running on the treadmill or outdoors, doing Crossfit or taking on an Obstacle Race, body awareness is the ingredient which will help you significantly reduce the risk of injury.

No matter how great your technique is and no matter how much experience you have in your chosen activity, if you are not aware or your environment, movement, breathing and your body in general, then you have more chance of getting injured and not know how, when or why that injury occurred.

Of course there is no 100% guarantee of avoidance but optimising your awareness will help reduce the risk significantly.

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What to be aware of:

1. Awareness of your surroundings

This is related to objects and people around you. If you slip, lose your balance or fall you have more control over the situation if you are aware of your surroundings. When you go running in the park or tackle an Obstacle Race, awareness is critical. You can trip and fall on anything, anywhere and at any point. You have to pay attention to the ground beneath your feet, the trees in front of you, branches above you, roots and rocks and other people around you. Your eyes, ears and brain are capable of ‘computing’ a thousand elements in a moment – let them do so!

2. The exercise routine

Is your routine properly structured: warm up, stretching, main workout etc.  Are the exercises in proper order so your body is gradually taken from easy to difficult?

Body awareness exercises to get you ready for anything2

3.  Awareness of your body

1) Start position of the exercise

How you begin the exercise will tell whether you will do it correctly or not throughout.

2) Posture at start

Posture is probably the most common error. Few people take time to consider their posture on a daily basis. If you are not among those who slouch every time they get the chance, I congratulate you.

3) Posture during the exercise

4) Posture when coming back to start position

A squat for example. You lower yourself with a nice technique, then on the way up you round your back. Or the other way around.

5) How your body behaves

Are your knees shaky when you squat, are the arches of your feet collapsing when you run, is your neck handing towards the floor when you do a press-up, are your hips too high or dropping when you do a press-up?

6) Softness and fluidity

When you walk, take off for a jump, when you land, when you run, when you put objects on the floor, is your movement heavy and sharp or is it fluid, soft and controlled?

7) Relaxation

The more tension we have in our body, the higher the risk of injury. Tensed muscles lead to tensed ligaments and tendons, reduced flexibility and mobility, and puts pressure on the entire body. Aches and pains are often caused by general tension in the body.

Don’t get me wrong, when you lift weight you need to tension and stress on the targeted muscle groups, but be aware not to over tense muscles you don’t really need for that particular movement. Running is probably the most obvious example. When we run we don’t really need to tense and lift our shoulders to the ears. It’s not going to make us faster, in fact it will slow us down and cause us a lot shoulder and neck pain.

4. Your breathing

Breathing is the first thing we do when we are born. It is life itself. Yet so many of us have problems controlling our breathing. So I ask you, if we cannot control breathing, the first thing we do when we come to this Earth, then how can we expect to control our bodies, our minds and our environment?In a future article I will explain basic breathing exercises and why you should care about them at all.

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