Mountain Grit-Training for the long haul


The Simple 7 Buckets That Build My Buffer: Suppleness-Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills -Balance, Strength, Stamina, Specificity, Spirit

“Re-strategize at half-time, and get tougher for the second half, of life, that is!” Any progress in Buckets 1 and 2? Fixed what needs fixing? Restored and refilled the baby bucket? Mobilized the parts that were locked-down? Rewired the trunk for the ground game? Got the gait in gear with spring and speed? A work in progress ….

Bucket #3 is SKILLS

The physical literacy bucket of agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction, and speed. As kids, we developed this bucket by playing games like tag, dodge ball, kick-the-can, and keep-away. We climbed trees, swung on ropes, built forts, crossed streams on logs, played pond hockey and built bike jumps, all with NO coaching, and no suit of armor. It was trial and error, and FUN. All of this fun stuff prepped us to sprint, jump, leap, hop, throw, strike, shuffle, cut and tumble, the foundation for more specialized sport, recreation and adventure skills.

For Mountain Gritters in it for the long haul, the SKILL bucket needs to be robust enough to support our lifestyle. Either we do our favorite activities regularly OR we TRAIN to keep them. “We adapt to what we do or don’t do!”

Bucket #3a is BALANCE

We CAN be spry, nimble and quick, well into our 80’s and 90’s, if we continue to stimulate and nurture our senses. This is not to dismiss accidents, concussions, and serious medical conditions, or just plain bad luck.

So what keeps us upright, hiking in heavy winds? In the dark, searching for a flashlight? In a white-out on the mountain? …. the regions of our brain that process information fed from our senses!

Senses? Vision, hearing, vestibular [that gyroscope in our inner ear], the receptors in our joints, muscles, tendons, fascia and skin all send signals to our brain as to where we are in space, keeping us upright and oriented. When one of these systems declines or fails, our signals are diminished, brain processing is slower and our movement may be compromised.

Stimuli? Same old in, same old out. In other words, if we are stuck in a rut of the same exact DAILY rigid regimen, our senses are dulled, and certain regions of our brain are under-stimulated. Don’t get me wrong, healthy DAILY practices, habits and patterns are a good thing. Stuck in a rut is NOT. ‘New or different’ IS brain fertilizer, sprouting and fortifying new circuitry, [neuroplasticity], the stimulus cog in the learning wheel, at any age.

Mountain Grit focuses on thwarting the effects of NOT moving enough, along with ‘spicing up’ our movement recipe with new and different ingredients, that stimulate growth and discovery for decades to come.

Bucket #3a ‘Boost My Balance’

Why should I care?

• Balance is the freedom and confidence to live, labor, work, play, care-give, and travel; it adds to my competence on the trails, snow, ice, skis, in the river, on the ranch, or on the ladder.

• It is vital to changing positions and directions, to turn, bend, reach, dodge, lift and carry.

• It allows multi-tasking, as in walk and talk, hike, hunt and spot wildlife, and maneuver on the river bank, in the POWder, or on the dance floor.

• It is critical in stepping or hiking DOWN, more so than going up.

• Any riding, gliding, biking or paddling activity necessitates a steady stream of adjustments and corrections, as does pushing a wheelbarrow or carrying a grandchild.

• If I want to continue to thrive in my current home, living this mountain lifestyle full of the activities that make me ‘tick’, I need balance.

My Balance Check-Up

I will NOT self-inflict pain or injury just to prove I can do it.

YES [1 point]: I did it automatically with ease NO: I struggled or felt pain


1. Stand on ONE foot with my eyes open for 30 seconds.

2. Stand on ONE foot with my eyes closed for 10 seconds (inner ear)

3. Put my pants on standing up.

4. Catch myself if I trip; or stay up if my 100 lb. dog sees a squirrel and jerks on the leash.

5. Climb a ladder, change a light bulb, and climb back down.

6. Step over my dog or any obstacle without hanging on.

7. Walk in my ski boots, carry my skis to the car, and put them up on the rack.

8. Walk, talk, turn 180o around and walk backwards for 10 steps if I had to.

BONUS: I can jump in the air, turn 180 degrees, and stick the landing, in both directions.

Scoring for Bucket #3a:

GREEN: 8+ holding your own, and denying the slide.

YELLOW: 4-7 have started to slide, reverse course now.

RED: 0-3 it’s never too late to start the restoration and re-learning journey; be sure to EASE* back in.

*Let’s use the analogy of the rusty bike. Moveable parts need to be moveable. Stable parts need to be stable. They complement each other for a smooth, efficient ride. If the tire is flat, or spokes are missing and the shocks have no spring, riding over lumps and bumps will retire this bike. If my human vehicle cannot detect and respond to changes in my environment, I need to reboot and ‘rewire’ [not retire] my circuits.

Common Sense Solutions:

Continue doing the things that we love to do. Whether it’s on the snow, trails, water, horseback court or the dance floor, do NOT stop. “TRAIN so we CAN!”

Timely Tips

• If the inner ear gyroscope is off, physical therapy can work wonders, as it does for restoring movement from injury, accidents, or chronic medical conditions.

• Neglecting vision and hearing deficits is not an option for the Gritter. Corrective aids, repairs, and restoration procedures are available. The sound of skis turning, tires rolling, and rivers running IS input, ya know.

• Medications, specifically multi-med interactions ARE a major risk factor for falls. The side effects can be worse than the ailment, if physical activity is limited and balance is degraded.

DAILY, walk, walk BRISKLY, on a variety of terrain, and use stairs whenever possible. OWN and KEEP these abilities!

Keep our feet ‘smart’. The bottom of the foot is loaded with receptors that feed the brain as we navigate our environments. Shoes are barriers. Walk barefoot at home. Wear minimalist shoes when appropriate.

At HOME, perform all house work and in/outdoor maintenance involving multiple position changes, tasks, surfaces and tools. Try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, while standing on one foot.

At WORK, break away from the chair and the screen every 30 minutes. Consider a vocation change. Love the outdoors? Become a guide, and TRAIN so you CAN.

At PLAY, its’ all seasons, GO! Backpack, hike, camp, paddle or golf. Try a NEW activity. DANCE, of any type, along with XC skiing and pole-walking groove coordination. That’s brain candy!

TRAIN on our feet. Tai Chi, martial arts and other mind-body practices improve dynamic balance, fall resistance, while stoking the brain networks.

ALWAYS include knee hugs and single-leg hip hinges, lunges, skips, leaps and bounds in all directions when warming up. OWN the squat, lunge, step-up-down, hinge, carry, pull and press. KEEP and TWEAK them with load, speed or complexity, including diagonal and single limb versions.

A TRAINING BENCHMARK: Walk the slack-line. Suitcase carry a KB on-the-line. Train to complete, or compete in The Rut or a Spartan race.

If you need a jumpstart, seek out a movement professional that can safely and strategically get you on your way. Join small and large group training sessions remotely or live. See for Pat’s class.

In closing, ponder this:

“Experience the unexpected. Tap all the senses a different way every day!”

Next up on GRIT: Bucket #3b Skill – Agility


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