A Sense of Where You Are

Let’s introduce another term — proprioception. This is the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts. Proprioception enables us to know where we are and what we want to do without having to think about it. Proprioception is dramatically improved by a complete exercise program.

In 1999, John McPhee published a revised edition of his book, A Sense of Where You Are:  Bill Bradley at Princeton. The first edition of the book was published when Bradley was a student at Princeton in the mid-1960s.

It’s the story of Bradley as a basketball star at Princeton and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He went on to play in the NBA and then became a U.S. Senator. The title came from the fact that Bradley could sink basketball shots from all over the court without ever looking at the basket. He told McPhee that after many hundreds of hours of practice you develop “A sense of where you are.”

We can walk, run, jump, throw a ball, climb stairs and do many other things without ever thinking about them. Imagine what life would be like if we had to think before every move. These abilities are due to the magic of that big word: proprioception. Aerobics and strength training are important ingredients in our ability to maintain proprioception as we age. These activities help prevent falls, a big issue as we get older, because we don’t “bounce” the way we used to.