The Black Swan: 3 Ways to Prevent Injury From Falling

Chandler Stevens


Natural Movement


We’re not talking ballet here. The Black Swan refers to an unprecedented and unpredictable event that has a huge impact. It’s the unknown and the dangerous. This concept, developed by scholar Nassim Taleb, is the epitome of what we don’t want to happen. In our physical lives, this is slipping and falling.


Unfortunately, prevention only takes us so far. Although a fall is particularly concerning the older we get,1 the truth is anybody can fall. Leaves get slick, ice accumulates, and sometimes we’re just clumsy. We need to prepare our bodies to handle these uncertainties. Today we'll explore why and how to integrate falling into your training program. 



Train your body to react well when accidents happen.

Incorporating falls into your routine can get your body more accustomed to an inherently disorienting experience.


3 Ways to Bulletproof Your Body for Falls

Without intending to, we put a lot of emphasis on predictability in our training. We strap on our favorite shoes. We train on flat, even surfaces, often with plenty of extra traction. We pick up barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, all conveniently shaped to be lifted with relative ease. We have an overload of convenience. 


But life isn’t always convenient. The most important aspect of preventative training is variability. Variability can be a tricky element to add to your training program, but it needn’t be overwhelming.


Here are three simple solutions that will help prevent injury from slipping and falling:


1. Spend More Time Barefoot

We’ve already covered how crucial foot strength is to overall health and wellbeingBarefoot time also improves balance, another important part of preventing falls. In addition to more barefoot time, you might consider sled drags outdoors, snowshoeing, or trail running. The key is to find as much variety as you can in the surfaces you move on. 




2. Learn How to Roll

Learning how to fall correctly is helpful, even though it carries the risky assumption that you’ll be falling under ideal circumstances. A good fall will look quite a bit like a roll, distributing your impact over as much surface area as possible. Check out this video for a brief primer on rolling effectively, and keep these rules in mind when you practice your rolls:

  1. Protect your head and neck.
  2. Move with control whenever possible.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings.



3. Practice Falling

Incorporating actual falls into your routine can get your body more accustomed to an inherently disorienting experience. They won’t be graceful, but falling over varied obstacles can help you build a bit of armour and add new options to your reflexive arsenal. Your falls might look like this:



Prepare for the Unexpected

Since we don’t want to spend our lives tip-toeing around, we better learn how to fall. It’s not only a good life skill, it can be a lot of fun if implemented wisely.


When a fall does eventually occur, your body will revert to reflexive movement, so it helps to have these three extra tools at your disposal. A bit of preparation won’t help you predict the Black Swan, but you may be better able to keep yourself intact.


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1. Masud T., et al. “Epidemiology of falls.” Age & Ageing 30 (2001): 3-7. 


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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