We’ve all stubbed a toe, spilled a cup of coffee, rolled an ankle, and dropped a pen in the middle of a big meeting. If you consider yourself clumsy, however, these aren’t just occasional annoyances but a regular part of your life. Being clumsy might seem like one of those unchangeable personality traits — but it isn’t. You actually do have the power to stop banging into things all the time.
How to figure out why you are clumsy
Are you always ramming into things because you’re rushing around? Is the prescription in your glasses a little old? Are you distracted? Is your balance off? There are a number of reasons you could be exhibiting klutzy behaviour, and you should start by narrowing them down.
Jason Harrison, a strength coach and the co-owner of Present Tense Fitness in Dayton, Ohio, explained that clumsiness can come from poor balance, bad eyesight, or even an underlying medical condition, so before he works with someone who describes themselves as clumsy, he asks them a series of questions. It’s important to think, too, about whether this is new for you or not, as a recent bout of incoordination could point more easily to a certain cause.
If you can’t figure out the cause easily, there’s no shame in bringing it up to your doctor, especially if the clumsiness is new to you.
Try strength training
There are a lot of benefits to training and exercise, and while you might associate most of those with looking and feeling better, your overall fitness will also impact how you move through the world.
“One of the things that we know gets better with good, solid, smart strength training is proprioception, which is essentially our body’s ability to know where it is in space. Depending on the person’s experience with training, they might see a pretty dramatic improvement in their proprioception — and a lot of times this can happen pretty quickly,” Harrison said.
Get in tune with your unique body
Harrison also said that a person can encounter two kinds of barriers to purposeful movement: Organizational and emotional barriers or skills-based barriers.
“From an organizational and emotional perspective, people often have barriers to intentional movement that have to do with how they feel about their own bodies,” he said, pointing to an unwillingness to go to the gym that stems from discomfort around mirrors as an example and prior experiences of being called “not athletic” as another.
As for building skills, he suggested working one-on-one with a trainer or coach. Even if you don’t love fitness or strength training, he said, you can learn a lot about bodily efficiency — and that will stick with you in the real world, long after you leave the gym for the day.
Try these exercises and practices
Stephanie Weyrauch, a doctor of physical therapy in Connecticut, offered up the following exercises for anyone hoping to improve their clumsiness:
- Single leg stance. This is a great balance exercise. Stand up with your feet together, then hold onto a stable object, like a bar or chair. Lift one foot off the ground while not allowing your legs to touch, and “think about lifting the arch of the foot and squeezing the butt muscles together.”
- Diaphragmatic breathing. This can help you connect with your body and improve your awareness of it, Weyrauch said. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, then breathe in through your nose while keeping your chest still. Let the hand on your belly rise up toward the ceiling. Finally, breathe out through your mouth with some force, like you’re blowing out a candle. Repeat.
“Tripping can be a result of weakness in the ankles and hips,” she said. “These exercises can help improve muscle coordination and joint proprioception.”