The Power of the Tennis Ball
OH, MY GOODNESS! This tennis ball is killing me, but oh man is it worth it!!
So, we all know a healthy body = healthier mind = healthier life = happier person, right? There’s not one person I know who can honestly deny that having a healthy body isn’t beneficial, but there are tons of people, including myself, that know that we could be doing more to help us feel better.
I’ve trained horses and ponies, tied goats, team roped, breakaway roped, ran barrels, scooped manure, hauled hay and all the other things that are physically demanding when it comes to having livestock. At one point in my life I used the, “I’m in shape because I’m on the farm” line to convince myself I was in shape but at 24 years-old, my everyday tasks were taking a toll on my body I couldn’t escape.
After riding a lot of training horses during the week, then going to the rodeos every weekend, my ability ride and rope like I knew I could was hindered and I knew I needed to do something about it. I was watching the American the first year they had it and one of the girls running in the final round rode two handed around all the barrels (I don’t remember her name, but it was impressive!). In her interview when they asked her about it, she said she did yoga to strengthen her core and improve her balance. Since I knew that I needed to do something to have that competitive advantage, I started doing more yoga and working out for strength and cardio. For the last four to five years, I’ve kept myself active outside of the arena, but I’ve always still had tight muscles and I could never completely get rid of the soreness. (The tennis ball is coming into play soon!)
A couple weeks ago, my mom and I had a retired physical therapist come to the house. My legs and back had been tight for some time and no matter how much yoga I did, I couldn’t seem to shake them loose. Now, Tom is a brilliant individual with all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. He brought his table out and went to work loosening things up with subtle techniques of chiropractic, kinesiology and other things he’s learned along the way. He tracked nerves and got my organs put back in the right places, so things started flowing better. Then he showed me some specific stretches I could start doing to loosen things up. While they were difficult, they were manageable.
The next time he came he did the subtle techniques again, but I still couldn’t squat as deep as he thought I should be able to. He knew my hamstrings were tight from the time before, but the longer he worked on me, he decided my calves were playing a big roll too. After about an hour he grabbed the tennis ball! He warned me that what he was going to do next might hurt a little and dang was he right! He took that little neon tennis ball and started to find the knots in my calves. For each one he’d find, he’d push down until I was nearly in tears, then release. After a series of big breaths and releases, he asked me to stand up again, I could instantly feel the difference and my squats started to improve.
We didn’t stop at the calves! I stood up out of my squat and he asked me to put my hands straight up in the air and keep them as close to my ears as possible. He giggled knowing that I was going to ‘love’ this next part. Riding horses, roping, typing on the computer, driving and all the other things we do daily with our hands and shoulders forward had caused some serious muscle tension in my shoulders. I know almost all of you reading this can relate!
He proceeded to have me lay down and placed that dang tennis ball under my right shoulder where the first knot was. Next, he asked me to breathe while lifting my hand straight up and back towards the floor. WOW, you want to talk about sore! He proceeded to have me do this up and down my shoulder blade where the knots were. There was a series of sharp pains, burning and just downright soreness, but when I stood up, I could already put my arms closer to my ears.
Now I do these exercises almost daily, using the tennis ball to apply pressure to the knots my feet, legs, shoulders, gluts, arms and anywhere else I can find a knot that needs releasing. He didn’t hesitate to let me know that this is something I need to continue to do the rest of my life and I’m only 28, but it’s making a HUGE DIFFERENCE! I still have a long ways to go until I get things loosened up and I’ll always have times I’m more sore than others, but if this can help prevent soreness, injuries and joint replacements down the road and make me feel better mentally and physically, you bet I’m going to stick to it!
If you can even begin to relate, I highly recommend picking up a tennis ball on your way home from work or school. Anyone who ropes can feel their right arm right now and should be thinking “hmm…how much sharper could I rope if I loosened up these shoulder muscles?” If we don’t have full motion, we compensate with other muscles causing us to make little mistakes, get off balance and not throw as snappy or consistent loops.
No matter what end of the arena you reside on, you’ll ride better with a loose, balanced body. It’s easier to stay in the middle and we communicate more effectively with the animals we ride. Everyone wants those competitive advantages; this is one of them! It’s as simple as a tennis ball.
Parents, most kids are still limber and bounce back from soreness fairly quick, but I’m only 28 and I can feel the toll that my lifestyle has taken on my body already. Had I started these exercises sooner, I could have avoided a lot of pain and had that competitive advantage. The best part, you don’t have to help! And person can do these exercises completely on their own and it doesn’t take a lot of space and tennis balls are CHEAP!!
Click the links to find printable copies and demonstration videos!