Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Question of Balance

In “Fatigue and the Lurch”, I implied that loss of balance was associated with tiredness. Today (13/06/2016) Bryony and I went for an early morning walk after two days of mostly laziness and a goodnight’s sleep. I still wobbled quite badly and Bryony was walking right behind me to see it. I couldn’t ignore the fact.

It seems possible that this is more a matter of concentration, since the lurch occurred whilst I was thinking about something else. In fact I was thinking about the subject matter for this next blog, which was originally going to be about relearning to ride a bike.

Let me offer a new hypothesis. The lurch occurs when I’m distracted from the specific task of balancing. This would fit in with the known facts that the stroke damaged one part of my brain; presumably that part of the brain that deals with balance in the back ground. The corollary to this is that I must, or have already, relearnt how to balance but in the active foreground of my brain.

If that is the case, am I always going to think about balance actively? If I want balance to become an automatic process that doesn’t need thinking about, how do I go about encouraging that?

Currently I can get on a bicycle and ride several hundred yards, but I do not feel safe for riding on the road. I suspect that this is the impact of the “Question of Balance”.

I have always ridden with quite a high saddle. This allows me to stretch each leg on the down stroke and keeps my muscles much more relaxed over longer distances. There is a downside to this configuration, in that the saddle is relatively high and it’s quite a stretch to get your leg over. Advice from the www suggests that you should be able to swing your leg over the saddle easily from the ground – this image from http://www.bicycling.com/.
How to mount a bicycle - officially!
I find that this leaves the saddle too low for cruising on a bicycle. Initially, I had to practice getting on and off the bicycle. While I relearned this fairly quickly, I notice that I have to think about the process actively each time I mount the bike. That is an odd feeling.

On my way to school (50 years ago now), I had to pass through gap in the fence at the end of our road meant for pedestrians. I remember the time it took to become confident at going through this gap on a bike with straight handle bars. Eventually I could take this gap a full throttle. Post stroke though, this facility has disappeared again. I certainly wobble through narrow gaps meant for allowing pedestrians on to the recreation ground behind our house.

This question of balance is even more important on longer cycle rides. I do not expect to have to think about staying upright all the time. As with this morning, my mind wanders naturally. Perhaps the next stage in this process is to become so used to cycling that my mind transfers the question of balance to a background process.

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