Accuracy is one of the key measures of fitness, but it’s one that we frequently underestimate.
Accuracy is a form of focus and concentration. It is measured by how well you place, throw or do things. How coordinated are you in achieving the goal of moving an object precisely from one place to another? A volleyball pass, a well-coordinated dance lift, even the placement of a foot when landing from a jump shot all depend on accuracy.
When we are fit, we combine these 10 measures, popularized in CrossFit lore:
• Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance: The ability of body systems to gather, process and deliver oxygen.
• Stamina: The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store and utilize energy.
• Strength: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
• Flexibility: The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
• Power: The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
• Speed: The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
• Coordination: The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
• Agility: The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
• Balance: The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
• Accuracy: The ability to control movement in a given direction and at a given intensity.
Though accuracy comes last in this list, it is the foundation for many of the other measures.
If you are inaccurate, you trip, jump and land poorly; lift weights (or a ballet partner) with poor technique; and frequently miss the target in other activities. It is so ubiquitous in our daily activities that we forget to train specifically for accuracy. There are no Fitbit measures, no timing pressures and no reminders except the failure to achieve some of our goals. We spend hours spinning, lifting, running and stretching but precious few minutes targeting.
The consequences of inaccuracy are the falls we see in the elderly, the sprained ankles we see in all athletes, torn ligaments from landing a ski jump a little off target and the multitude of “minor” injuries that can result from even slight errant placement of our body parts.
Think about practicing accuracy — and remember that the tools we use to train our muscles can also be applied to train our skills. Place a weight down in exactly the same spot — do it 10 times in a row. Press against a Pilates foot plate with exactly the same knee and foot position every time. Throw a ball at a precise position on a backboard. Kick a soccer ball — or putt a golf ball — repeatedly into a small target. You can even practice accuracy by placing your pen or cellphone down on your desk in exactly the same position. (Use a piece of tape to mark that position.)
Focus on being accurate in all the physical motions of your life. See how far off you are on the first few tries and take it from there. Correct and practice, time and again. The phenomenally simple mental and physical game of practicing accuracy is sport’s version of mindfulness. Both bring inner happiness and health.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco.