Rapid Eye Movement

Ocular Drills: Improving Balance & Staying Focused

Oct 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
Workouts for Your Eyes

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Workouts for Your Eyes

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Burton Worrell's ocular drills are designed to improve your visual recognition, focus, and reaction skills. Spend three minutes on each of the four exercises shown here. If you feel like you want to quit before that, don't. You're building visual stamina, a critical but overlooked skill for optically intense endeavors like downhill mountain biking or searching for handholds on a granite face.

Walk the Plank
The Challenge: When you're multitasking at full tilt, balance is one of the first things to suffer. Forcing yourself to focus on a moving object throughout your line of sight—while you're moving and keeping your balance—trains you to maintain your inner equilibrium.
The Drill: Lay a two-by-four flat on the floor and stand on it with one foot in front of the other. Pick up a pen that has text printed on the side and, with your arm fully extended, lift it to eye level. Make wide, sweeping figure eights with your arm and, moving only your eyes, stay focused on the letters on the pen. Finally, walk forward and backwards on the beam while continuing the figure eights.

Connect the Cards
The Challenge: One of the trickiest aspects of most sports is staying focused when everything is moving around you. Think of a wide receiver in football: He has to concentrate on the ball while he and the other players around him are in motion—a situation that easily overtaxes the brain. Skiers face the same task when speeding down a line on a crowded slope.
The Drill: Tape ten playing cards around the border of a four-by-six-foot chalkboard. Draw a complex, twisting path between two of the cards. In a corner of the board, write down which two are connected by the line you just drew. Repeat with the remaining cards so that the board is a jumble of chalk lines that connect the cards in pairs. Standing seven feet from the board, start at one of the cards and follow the route as quickly as possible, moving only your eyes. Check your answer key to ensure you picked the right path.

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