Rapid Eye Movement

Ocular Drills: Identifying Objects & Focal-Point Shifts

Oct 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
Workouts for Your Eyes

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Workouts for Your Eyes

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Ocular Acrobatics
The Challenge: "You want your eyes to be able to identify objects instantly," says Worrell. If you're kayaking and you can't ID that gnarly rock on your right and then quickly shift to the waterfall straight ahead, your system becomes disoriented and you might miss the safest line through Class V rapids.
The Drill: From a deck of cards, pick out the ace through six of one suit. Tape the cards randomly on a wall close to eye level, spacing them about one foot apart, with the ace in the center. Memorize where each card is located. Standing seven feet from the wall, jump your eyes from card to card in sequential order as quickly as possible, starting with the ace. You want your eyes to land on the card without having to refocus, but you don't want to move to the next card until you can clearly see the current card. If you lose focus, return to the ace and start over.

Focal-Point Ping-Pong
The Challenge: Skiing, kayaking, surfing, biking—they all require you to very quickly switch focus from an up-close point to one much farther away. If you can't do the job efficiently, it takes longer to achieve clear focus, and that's when crashes happen.
The Drill: Print out a piece of paper covered with a random mix of all the letters in the alphabet, with each letter half an inch tall. Tape up the piece of paper ten feet away, at eye level. Turn to a page of small text from this magazine and hold it at eye level ten inches from your face. Think of a word—like "outside"—and search the sheet of paper on the wall for an o. Once you find it, switch to the magazine page to find a u, then switch back to the wall to find a t, and so on. Keep spelling different words as quickly as possible.

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