Keeping My Balance, or the Strange Case of the Woman With a Toothbrush Lodged in Her Throat

Who’s the woman on the street corner lifting her leg to the front, side, back? Some urban looney? The victim of a new disease? No, I’m working to keep my balance.

I’m familiar with the hundreds, thousands, of experts and organizations who freely offer advice about achieving balance between work and family, mental and physical activities, spiritual and carnal desires. Stressed out? You need balance. Overweight or in poor condition? You need balance.

But another kind of balance is commanding attention in my life. It’s plain old body balance. Not falling down or over. Avoiding stumbles that send me tumbling to the floor. Being able to carry a tray of goodies without spilling.

Zumba dance class brought this concern front and center. Twenty years ago I could kick above my head without a thought, and a series of leg lifts like a Rockette was part of my routine. Then I realized that certain moves in Zumba routines are threatening me with disaster. These all relate to balance. Several quick thrusts alternating right and left limbs, even simply standing on one leg for a short period of time makes me shaky. Tremors run across my entire body, and my eyes cross as I try to remain vertical and stable. So I’m seeking ways to improve my balance.

Cars and pedestrians who pass me on my walks stare when they see me at a red light, for I’m exercising. Sometimes I practice when I’m stuck in line at the grocery store or post office. My latest effort, after reading advice from a 99year-old athlete, is to balance on one foot while I’m brushing my teeth. This is a true challenge, and I do worry my husband may find me one day with the electric toothbrush firmly lodged, but still vibrating, deep down my throat.

Another article with a trainer at the Y provided tips complete with photos in the Denver Post that I’ve tried to implement gradually. Start small with only a few inches of foot raising. Then add small weights or a ball to the routine. The pinnacle is perching on a stool or bar while holding barbells over your head.

I’ve been practicing semi-religiously for about three months with little improvement in sight. I’m getting so worried about losing my balance and injuring myself that it might be time to address the balances in my life concerning stress and worry. Once I do that, I’ll build up the courage to attempt the most challenging exercise: the half-ball, one-leg effort or Bosu ball. Just in case someday I have to traverse a road or hall with a surface constructed of globes, or I decide to join Cirque do Soleil.