Hike like a Goat
A 7 Part Skills Series
Part 2—Center of Gravity
This 7 part series came out of a conversation that my Honey and I had about being sure footed on the trail. She wanted to leave the fear of falling behind with all of its timidness and tentativeness. In other words she wanted to Walk Like a Goat. When I said that the first time to her, she wanted to know what that meant because it sounded derogatory…until I explained: a goat is confident and relaxed on rugged and uneven ground—so stable and skilled on her feet is that goat that falling is not even a fleeting thought. Walking Like a Goat is a high complement for any Honey on the trail.
Part 2—Center of Gravity
Push your center of gravity out in front of you with one leg and catch your self with the other leg—this describes walking—in a very loose and simplistic way. But it is true that if you push your center of gravity out in front of you and then do nothing, you will fall on your face. Every step we take even just walking across the living room is an exercise in setting ourselves out of balance and then recovering. It is an innate thing.
We learned to do this process of setting ourselves off balance and recovering when we learned to walk. We learn to hike on various types of uneven surfaces in much the same way.
I’ll spare you the technical definition and give you the layman’s version of what center of gravity feels like. It is that place in your body that has to be centered over your evenly spaced feet in order to squat and stand up easily without falling. It is that spot that when you move it left or right, forward or backward makes you have to flex muscles or hang on to something to stay on your feet. You will often fix this condition of being out of balance when hiking by moving your feet.
Ok that’s interesting you might say but how do I apply any of this to hiking? I think its most important application is in preventing a fall forward while hiking down steep inclines. I push my center of gravity back just a little so that I will just sit down should my feet slip out from under me. This is preferred to toppling tea kettle handle over spout.
This was another of those things that took me awhile to figure out how to explain it. What was going on inside of me without thinking? My Honey wanted to know so she could be confident hiking down a steep incline. She wanted to be relaxed with out fear. Finally I came up with an explanation that I hoped would make sense. I told her that when going down a steep incline she should feel just a little like she is leaning backwards. I actually crouch slightly if the hill is steep enough and point my tail bone at the ground like I was going to sit on purpose. This will move your center of gravity back just a little, slow the decent a bit for better control and prevent falling forward.
This is another element that builds confidence. If you know that you have taken the necessary action to insure that if you fall, you will just sit down, you can descend with a more relaxed spirit—raising the enjoyment level a bunch.
Good decisions based on where your center of gravity is makes you a wiser, safer and more relaxed hiker.
Read more about another skill I call Plan to Fall that goes along very well with this one.
I hope that these skill tips help you and your Honey enjoy the trail more and more.