Running is a dynamic forward movement. Unlike walking, at any time there is only one foot on the ground. When we run, for each stride, we need to balance ourselves on one leg, and then stabilize through the various joints, before we take the next stride. While we do this we also experience 3-5 times the body weight. Having insufficient balance on single leg, and not being able to stabilize joints, are both recipes for injury, and have detrimental impact on performance.
Usually we do exercises in camp twice a week. The reason for this is to create a balance in the body, the more balanced we are, the better runners we are. pic.twitter.com/tx8bnjNcCP— Eliud Kipchoge - EGH🇰🇪 (@EliudKipchoge) October 4, 2021
Balance in terms of running means the ability to keep the body’s center of mass within the limits of the base to support i.e., a single leg. Midstance in running is essentially single-leg standing balance.
Lack of balance leads to instability at the ankle, knee, and hip joints, and creates excessive shear forces, which are often the root cause of injuries for beginners. The prerequisite for running stability is to have a good balance. Let us take an example of what insufficient balance can do. In road running, if you step on an irregular patch, loose gravel, or a pot-hole, it can throw you off-balance and can cause a fall or a joint strain. Runners with good balance can stabilize themselves instantly and can continue running. While this is an extreme example, nevertheless conveys the importance of balance.
In this article, we focus on Balance, which is the key underpinning of stability during the running stride.
We use different senses to balance ourselves, collectively known as Proprioception. Some of these key senses that help us to balance while running are :
While running, we use all of these senses both autonomously and voluntarily and connect them to our muscles to create balance. Hence, good balancing ability requires a strong mind-muscle connection also known as Neuromuscular control.
80% of the runners who visit us at RunMechanics lack the ability to balance well. One of the very basic tests that we do is the single-leg balance test. In this test, we switch off one of the senses, which is vision. You can test your balance right now, using the instructions below.
After step 3, one should be able to maintain the balance for at least 10 seconds. The longer you can maintain the better it is.
The video version of the instructions are here
The first step in improving balance is to improve proprioception. Running barefoot is one of the best ways to work on the somatosensory system. It is also one of the reasons to rotate shoes of different stack heights and heel-to-toe drops.
Yoga for Balance
Yoga poses are an another excellent way to improve proprioception and balance. Check out our earlier article Yoga to improve Balance and Proprioception for Runners!
Beyond this, there are several workouts that can help you to get better at single-leg balance with multiple levels of difficulty. Here are our three favorite workouts. All these workouts are featured in our “Workout of the Week” in our free weekly newsletter.
Here are a couple of variations of Single Leg balancing drills to improve proprioception.
Variation A - Resisted Flexion:
Variation B - Folded Arms:
Inline lunge primarily works on improving pelvic stability, thereby allowing you to balance better while running. Lunge on a single line creates a small base and makes you work extra hard to balance yourself.
Single-Leg Deadlift is a unilateral workout to improve the strength of the posterior chain (glutes, core, lower back, and hamstring muscles). Since it is a unilateral workout it is very effective in improving single-leg balance.
This workout requires a kettlebell or dumbbell, and follow the below steps:
Apart from these, In general, most unilateral workouts will help to improve your balance. _You can subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter for weekly running-specific workouts that help you become a better runner. _
Use of Bosu ball, balancing board etc., challenges your propriception and helps you get much better at balancing. Here are a few of our picks from amazon.in (affiliate links).
Courtesy: Team Run Mechanics. This article was first published on runmechanics.in
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