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Blog-How to Fall and How to Not Fall

How to Fall and How to Not Fall
By: Matt Anderson, Fleet Feet Sports Madison

Working with runners who run year round in any weather we hear a lot of injury stories, especially during the spring thaw and the fall freeze.  After hearing these stories for 9 years, I have come to the conclusion that many people do not know how to fall or how to stay upright when footing is not ideal.  Of course there is some degree of klutziness for everyone, but I think many just need a lesson in Falling and Not Falling.

As a self-proclaimed expert on falling based on my childhood “roughhousing” days, and on the concept that staying upright is beneficial in most sports that I played growing up, especially football, I thought I would share my observations and recommendations on how to properly wipe out.

How to Fall (and reduce the likelihood of breaking a bone or causing other bodily harm)

    Learn some Physics.  So, this guy Newton figured this out…

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

In this example the unbalanced force is the ground.  With this in mind, think about falling and how fruitless it is to put out your arm to catch yourself.  For example, I weigh 185 and am 6 feet tall so if I fall approximately 5 feet to the ground the total force generated is 1195 pounds (this has to be right, I Googled it).  Anyway, even if that isn’t exactly correct, the concept is.  My wrist, elbow or shoulder is not likely to withstand that impact force when extended.  The solution?  Tuck and roll.  Do not put your hand or arm out to catch yourself.  Look for soft place to land.  Maybe put your arms up to protect your head in the good old fetal position.

Falls Not Ending Well-Fleet Feet Sports Madison Blog

Falling Better-Fleet Feet Sports Madison

    Plan to fall.  If you are running and you know it is icy or slippery in any way, look for those spots well ahead of your current position so you can avoid or plan ahead if you to have to cross it. 
    Practice.  Ok, this may sound silly but you could practice falling if this doesn’t come naturally.  This may be a good summertime activity in a nice green field or sandy beach/shallow water setting.  I’m really just adding this so we can all think about summer...

How to Not Fall:

    Lean forward.  I’d rather fall on my chest than slip backward and risk cracking my head on the pavement.  Work on your Good Form Running and lean forward when slippery.  Then keep the arms in if you do fall forward. 
    Plant with your outside foot.   When conditions are slippery plan your corners or change of direction so you are pushing off on your outside foot, lifting your inside foot to make the corner.  If you plant on your inside foot and it starts to slide – you are going down hard and fast.  If you plant with your outside foot and it starts to slide you have a chance at saving yourself with your inside foot.  Also, since you are planning to fall (see number 2 above), look ahead and try to round the corner a bit more than you would in normal circumstances.  You might also want to slow down on the corners!

 Planting Feet Fleet Feet Sports Madison Blog

Hopefully this is all pretty obvious stuff and you are saying to yourself – duh.  If not, I hope these tips make sense and help you when you do fall. 

My journey to the ground

I’d like to end on a personal falling story to hopefully illustrate my point.  A few years back I wiped out during the Pardeeville Triathlon.   Yeah, that’s in July, so ice was not the culprit.  I had just gotten off the bike and was running into the transition area.  I kicked my bike peddle as I was running and the bike suddenly veered in front of me.  So, I did the obvious and leapt head-first over the handlebars into the landscaping feature at the entrance to the park in a sort of side shoulder forward roll.  I then popped up, grabbed my bike and continued on my way. 

Thankfully no one saw it… okay, that’s a lie, pretty much everyone saw it and still give me crap about it.  I will say, I was proud to finish a triathlon with grass-stains on my back.  Anyway, this was more instinct than planning but in that split second I found somewhere soft to land, didn’t extend my arms to catch myself and walked away injury free.  (Placing 3rd in his age group – Jessica’s addition)

Falling Better-Fleet Feet Sports Madison Blog

Good luck and happy vertical running!

Matt A