Strong Eyes = Faster Reaction Times
Eyes are often overlooked (get it?) when discussing ways to improve a rider’s performance on the track, but they are a very important contributor to better performance and an essential part of rider fitness. Your eyes allow you to see potential obstacles (rider or terrain), help you make crucial split-second decisions, and help you maintain focus. If they’re not functioning at an optimal level, then both your performance and, more importantly, your safety are at greater risk than normal.
Wearing goggles is the most popular way of keeping your eyes in good condition while on the track. While that’s always a good first step, there’s still more that needs to be considered. One of the major contributors to vision and other eye-related issues doesn’t even occur on the track. It occurs in the comfort of your own home.
What is Eye Strain?
Eye strain is a condition that can occur when your eyes stay focused on something for an extended period. The most common culprits that cause eye strain include everyday entertainment devices: TV, computers, smartphones, etc. And with our increased dependency and fascination with these devices, eye strain is becoming more and more common each year.
Eye strain is extreme fatigue of the eyes. With eye fatigue comes symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, soreness, and difficulty focusing. For rider fitness, that translates into decreased performance due to a lack of focus, vision impairment, slower human reaction times, and the list goes on.
How to Resist and Avoid Eye Strain
Eyes are muscles. As such, the most effective way to make them stronger and less susceptible to eye strain is to train them like any other muscle – via strength training and conditioning. Yes, it’s different than working out your chest or biceps, but the result is the same. You’re targeting the weakest muscles in your eyes and stretching and strengthening them into shape.
A full eye-conditioning program will consist of the following three areas of focus: Diet, Exercise, and Rest.
Eye Strength Diet
Take your vitamins. A multivitamin will do the trick. Vitamins A, C, and E (along with other important minerals) are essential to maintaining strong eyesight.
Get more DHA. DHA is a fatty acid that is abundant in certain cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, etc.). It supports and maintains important cell membranes that boost overall eye health and drip reaction times considerably.
Exercises That Boost Eye Strength And Cut Reaction Time
Eye circles. Eye circles strengthen and tone your ocular muscles. They’re a “total body” workout for your eyes.
- Roll your eyes clockwise in a full circle. Do this twenty times, and then rest for 10 seconds.
- Next, roll your eyes counterclockwise twenty times.
- Perform this exercise 2-3 times per day.
Focus exercises. Focus exercises focus on strengthening your weaker muscles. There are several variations of focus exercises. One of the most popular variations includes doing the following steps:
- Hold an object in your right hand with your right arm fully extended in front of you. Focus solely on the tip of the object in your hand. If you’re using a click pen, then you will focus on the tip where the clicker is located.
- Next, slowly bring the object towards your nose by bending your right elbow. Make sure your focus remains on the tip of the object throughout the entirety of the motion. Keep your arm in this position for five seconds.
- Then, slowly extend your arm to its original position while still maintaining eye contact with the tips of the object. Again, hold the position for five seconds.
- Perform 2-3 repetitions of this exercise each day.
Eye Contractions. Eye contractions are a simple exercise that strengthens and stretches your weaker eye muscles through tension and release.
- Contract your eye muscles by tightly closing and squeezing them for four seconds.
- Then, open your and rapidly blink 10-15 times.
- Do this exercise five times throughout each day.
Recommended Exercise Equipment
Laser Pointers. Seeing what you’re about to hit won’t do any good if you can’t react in time. This exercise will help decrease your reaction time and increase hand-eye coordination. All you need is a wall, a laser pointer, and a buddy.
- Stand in front of a wall with your arm outstretched holding the laser pointer. Make quick movements with the pointer and follow the dot with your eyes only, keeping your hand in your field of view. This will allow your brain to “calibrate” yours eyes and your hand.
- Next, drop you hand down to your side, out of your field of view, and repeat. This will coordinate your eye movements to your hand movements, creating a “link” between your eyes and your body, reducing reaction time.
- As you progress in speed, try using two laser pointers at a time, with your hands in various positions.
- Here’s where a buddy comes in. Stand at the wall like before, but have your buddy move the laser pointer around. This will force your brain to react to outside influence, because that laser pointer dot could easily be another rider on an animal on the trail.
Get enough sleep. As with most health-related advice, sleep is crucial to maintaining healthy eyes. Always strive to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
Break every hour. When you find yourself focusing on something for an extended period of time, make sure you give your eyes a rest every hour. A good rule of thumb is to take a ten-minute break for every fifty minutes of focus time.
These exercised may not seem like they will do much towards rider fitness, but at the end of the day, strong and quick eyes will give you and edge on the competition, or at least avoid crashing.
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