Thursday, January 10, 2019

Younger Longer. Finding Balance

The Golf Gypsy proudly standing by Dinah Shore. 

Ben Hogan, one of my childhood heroes, tells the story of learning how to bend his left knee nicely to the right, whereas before his left knee shot out when he took his back swing. He practiced so much in his family yard that there was no grass left. When his mother sent him to the grocery store a few blocks away, he would practice his golf game all the way there. Ben Hogan's Modern Fundamentals of Golf

As a youngster, I too, practiced many hours learning how to repeat a solid swing. I didn't seek the knowledge of anatomy or what my body needed to stay strong and flexible. There's a chance I never thought about growing older, and if I did then I'd just push through the pain that I'd seen other "old" people go through.

Push is exactly what I did from age thirty-five to the present. With three teens in the house my husband and I discovered the best use of weekend time was to workout together on the University of Oklahoma's  Duck Pond circuit training path. That in turn led to regular nightly workouts at the new YMCA, but time passed and my body began to wear down, The joints and the knees consistently irritated my back and hip. Little did I know that my "knock knees" would someday cause my walk (gait) and golf swing a great deal of unbalance and lack of power.

When I retired at age sixty, I enrolled in a Tai Chi class to help regain a sense of balance and rhythm, rather than my frantic teaching mode of the last four decades. The class moved so painfully slow that I dropped out after the first week. One of the few things I ever quit in my life, but why submit my body to something that demanded I slow down! Once again I participated in aerobics, long walks,
Dynamic Stretching is powerful.
Starla Boyd, instructor
stretching, and light weights to keep my body moving. Over the next decade I spent time with rehab and chiropractic work along with interment yoga, strength training, and Pilates. These technique kept me playing, helped with strength and walking even in pain, but I didn't see what was coming.

Watching the kids at the golf course play and play golf, I realized that age may make a difference, but I could most certainly improve upon my body's overall health, starting with developing strength in my feet and knees to improve my posture and balance. I began with new inserts for my golf shoes and tennis shoes from OK Runner, and became aware of the importance of footwork to minimize my knock knees. I worked on correcting my gait and then discovered Tai Chi.

The only way for a woman to compensate for her
relative lack of physical strength is for her to
build an efficient repeating swing, with
   Mickey Wright, LPGA founding member

Immediately, our instructor set aside time each class to work on balance. That became my reality check! Could I stand on one leg and do various moves with the other, and vice versa. Like a trained golfer (athlete) I recognized that this required daily practice, so in my back yard I practice various balance moves and Tai Chi moves but not on windy days in Oklahoma.  My practice wasn't helping until I learned that my must remain flexed or soft to maintain balance. (It seems as though I took a golf lesson not long ago, when my knees stiffened causing me to pull up out of my swing.) So awareness of flexed or soft knees became paramount in my venture into Tai Chi and proper balance.

Tai Chi move using balance and soft knees.
What a difference ten months of balance training has made in my everyday life and golf swing. Thanks to "finding balance" I won our Club Championship this fall, much to my surprise, and I truly can say that stronger posture, feet and knees that work together helped to improve my golf swing, power, and confidence.

Click on the links for various programs and balancing tips.

Tai Chi helps improves balance because it target all the physical components needed to stay upright--leg strength, flexibility, range of motion and reflexes--all of which tend to decline with age. Harvard study on Tai Chi

7 Exercises that Help Improve Balance (there's a app for this)

Tai Chi for Health

Tai Chi and Chi Gong

Letty Stapp Watt
historian, golfer


  1. Love to read you blog and the info. You are a very talented writer. vm

  2. Another great article. I do Senior Exercises 3 times a week at the community center. Since I have neuropathy, fibromyalgia and arthritis of the lower back it has helped. The only thing I cannot do is get down on the mat for floor exercises because I can't get back up, so I do mine in the chair. I can do the rest of the exercises okay. I am going to practice some of the balance ones you show here because I lose my balance really easy. jr

  3. Letty, the mention of Dinah Shore's name was truly a "blast from the past!." Where is this sculpture? And congratulations on the club championship.
    Your mention of Tai Chi encourages me to try it again. I did 10-15 years ago, but my instructor, Joya, moved back to China. I'll try it again or the yoga class. mob

  4. I'm practicing the 7 Exercises for Balance. Thanks. ld