Dr. Brooks Tiller is an American Ninja Warrior competitor, adventure athlete, speaker and author. He has traveled the globe as a physical therapist, strength coach and movement specialist; coaching Olympic and professional athletes to increase their performance physically and mentally. Tiller lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.
You are set up. You can see the tom fanned out and slowly moving your way. You are in perfect position. There is a tree behind you, a little cover in front of you and your Mossy Oak camo keeps you hidden.
A few yelps. He eases closer with a gobble. But, he sets in a holding pattern just out of range. He gobbles. He struts. This old bird is putting on a performance. You have a front row seat to the whole magnificent show. But he is just out of range.
Holding still, ready for an opportunity to shoot as you enjoy his performance, you begin to feel a sharp pins and needles sensation increasing in your legs. This intensifies to a painful burn. Soon you realize that you are unable to move your legs. They are asleep. Paresthesia has set in. This is not an emergency, but sure can feel like it, especially if that tom turns and you need to scurry around like a ninja to cut him off.
Paresthesia is the pins and needles feeling of tingling, prickling, or numbness that occurs when a nerve becomes irritated. This irritation most often comes when sustained pressure is placed on a nerve. Pressure on a nerve decreases blood flow and decreases sensation leading to a feeling of your legs being asleep.
Nerves and the tiny blood vessels that feed them can be cut off due to the pressure of sitting in one position, even if only for a short duration. Muscles may twitch uncontrollably if they fall asleep, as we lose conscious control of them. To decrease the risk of our legs falling asleep, there are some important yet simple tactics we can use to ensure we are ready and able to jump up and chase a big gobbler without our legs giving way and falling flat on our face.
Proper Seated Position
Getting our set-up right is the most important physical factor to ensure our comfort and decrease the risk of our legs falling asleep. Setting up against a tree will give us a good background while keeping a proper posture. When seated, our seat should be in line with our shoulder and head. Excessive knee, hip flexion, and crossing our legs can increase pressure and decrease blood flow. So when setting up, make sure you are comfortable and in a good posture.
Poor, slumped sitting posture can also decrease nerve responsiveness and increase the risk of our legs falling asleep. Slumped posture will put excess stress on our nerves, decreasing our sitting time.
Sit on a comfortable cushion preferably against a tree with our back straight and shoulders back. Get a good turkey vest with a cushioned seat. Nerves and blood vessels are soft tissue that run through, along, and around muscles. When we sit on a hard surface, we smash the soft tissue between our seat and the bones in our backside and legs. A quality turkey vest with a cushioned seat can decrease the pressure and therefore allow us to sit still longer.
Nerve flossing will ensure our legs do not fall asleep. Flossing nerves keeps the nerve mobile and is similar to stretching a muscle. Nerve flossing allows us to stretch and gently move the nerve to increases blood flow.
While flossing the nerves in our legs requires some movement, it can be subtly done in a blind or even on the ground. Nerve flossing is effective even if completed before the hunt to decrease the risk of paresthesia.
From a seated position, look down then extend a leg out straight in front of you. Move your foot up and down slowly as if tapping your toes to the music. Begin by pulling your toes up towards you. You may feel tightness in the back of your leg and some tingling could occur; hold this position for three to five seconds. Then slowly push your toe down as if mashing on a gas pedal. Hold the bottom position for three to five seconds, then raise toes back up slowly. Repeat ten times.
What are we to do when the big gobbler and several hens are slowly making their way toward us and we feel our legs falling asleep? We cannot move our legs without their keen eyes picking up on the slightest movement.
Isometrics for Glutes and Legs
Isometrics is flexing a muscle without movement. Isometrics can help keep our legs from falling asleep, by increasing blood flow.
The heart pumps blood to all extremities of the body, but in order for the proper return of the blood, our body uses muscle contraction. Without muscle contraction, blood can pool and decrease blood and nutrition from reaching our extremities. Isometrics allows us to contract our muscles without movement. This increased blood flow provides the nerves and muscles the vital nutrients they need to allow us to pop up and chase down a bird.
Squeezing our glutes keeps the blood flowing to our lower half while decreasing the pressure on our backside and giving the nerves much needed relief. Squeeze your backside together. If you squeeze hard, the movement can raise you slightly. But gently squeezing, we get muscle activation without whole body movement.
The upper leg is the most muscular part of the body and has a great amount of blood supply and nerves. Activate the back of your legs by pulling the heel into the ground with your knee bent or straight. Simply dig your heel into the ground for a few seconds to get the hamstrings firing and blood flowing.
For the muscles in the front of the leg, there are two effective methods. For straight leg, push your knee back and into the ground, tightening your quadriceps. For bent leg, gently squeeze your quadricep as if pulling your knee to your chest.
Lastly, for the lower leg and foot we can perform a few ankle pumps, but to eliminate movement and activate our lower leg isometrically, beginning with our feet flat we push our toes into the dirt. This will activate our calves, increasing blood flow to our lower leg and feet.
We can also wiggle our toes inside our boots to improve blood flow and keep our legs from falling asleep.
Keep your legs awake and ready to chase down that big gobbler.
Turkey hunting is not just about sitting in one place. You may need to crawl, climb or hold your gun steady for longer than your arm can bear. It's important to be physically ready to hunt turkeys.