Agility – The Ability to Move Quickly, Precisely, and Safely
Have you ever been bumped by someone, tripped over something, or slipped on ice and ended up hard on the ground? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, you have – we all have! Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to correct your body position and avoid the inevitable crash? Some people are simply luckier than others, always managing to stay upright in scenarios where others end up in pain. Right? Wrong! The ability to catch and correct yourself has nothing to do with luck – it is a function of stability, flexibility, mobility, coordination, reflexes, and agility. We’ve already talked about stability, flexibility, and mobility. Let’s talk about coordination, reflexes, and agility.
Coordination is defined as the ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently. What this means is, to move efficiently, effectively, and precisely, there must be cohesion between a series of muscles, joints, and body parts. For example, let’s use the simple act of walking. When you walk, there is so much more action than is given credit for. Not only is one leg moving, the other leg and your core are engaged in stability. For this to happen and to happen “together”, the correct body parts have to be engaged at the right time and in the right manner. This is coordination and coordination is the reason why some people move so efficiently, gracefully, and fluidly where others move so inefficiently, awkwardly, and clumsily.
Reflexes are your body’s immediate responses to unexpected stimuli. These quick responses are unconscious and you don’t have to think to move. By design, we are all born with some reflexes. Reflexes are the internal intuitions that tell you to duck when you hear “heads up” or to shoot your hand out to grab something as you trip. Reflexes are how fast you react and move unconsciously in response to an unexpected stimulus and can be thought of as an instinctive movement to keep us out of danger.
Agility is a skill that allows you to move swiftly, precisely, and safely. Agility is the skill that helps you correct your body position and avoid a crash after being bumped by someone, tripping over something, or slipping on ice. Being agile (having agility) includes both moving quickly and precisely in response to an unexpected stimulus and having the body space awareness, proprioception, to move safely and to avoid injury from the movement itself. Agility is an extremely complex skill and is a function of stability, flexibility, and mobility (which have already been discussed) and coordination and reflexes.
For the purposes of this blog, we will refer to coordination, reflexes, and agility cohesively as “agility”.
Why is Agility Important?
Personally, I think that avoidance of injury is a good enough reason. The discussion should end there.
Agility is often associated with elite athletes. Agility is certainly important for elite point guards who want to execute that ankle-breaking crossover or running backs who want to execute that tackle-evading juke. But this skill shouldn’t be exclusive to athletes. For the reasons stated above, it can’t be.
The sad reality is that there are too many of us who are prone to tripping over our own two feet let alone manage to stay upright after being bumped or slipping on ice. The good news is, agility is a skill meaning that it can be honed, trained, and developed.
We spend the majority of our lives in the sagittal plane, forward and backward, whether we’re walking, jogging, or running. We need to acknowledge that other planes of motion exist. Being agile requires you to move through all planes of motion including forward and backward, side-to-side, in rotation, up and down, or a combination of them. It also means being able to move in a safe and coordinated manner. Imagine successfully correcting your body position after slipping on ice only to misplace your foot and sprain your ankle. You may as well have fallen.
Does agility ensure that you will never be injured again? No! But it certainly does reduce your susceptibility and odds of getting injured.
How Do I Train Agility?
Agility training, although slightly more complex in nature does not have to include complex movements. As the basis of my agility training, I include one or a combination of the following components:
– Removal of Sight
– Quick, Precise Movements
– Movement in Multiple Planes
Training agility can literally keep you safe. Do them!