By Karin St. Aubin, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, Ultramarathoner
As an endurance runner, it’s easy to focus on improving your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength, but what about your balancing skills? Balance is an often-overlooked component of running, but it’s just as important as any other aspect of training. In fact, a lack of balance can lead to injury and decreased performance.
Let’s start by defining balance. It’s the ability to maintain your body’s center of gravity over your base of support. In running, this means being able to stabilize your body while moving forward. Your body’s ability to maintain balance depends on several factors, including your proprioception (awareness of where your body is in space) and the strength of the muscles in your feet, ankles, and core.
Why is balance important for runners? For starters, a lack of balance can increase your risk of injury. Running requires repetitive impact on your feet, and if your body isn’t stable, your joints will absorb more shock. This can lead to overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and stress fractures. Additionally, when you’re fatigued, your balance can suffer, which can lead to tripping and falling.
Balancing exercises can also help you improve your running form. When you’re stable, your body can move efficiently and with less wasted energy. By improving your balance, you can reduce unnecessary movement, which can help you run faster and with less effort.
So, how can you improve your balancing skills? There are several exercises you can do both on and off the road. Here are a few to get you started:
- Single-leg balance: Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs. You can make this exercise harder by closing your eyes or standing on a wobble board.
- Heel-to-toe walk: Walk heel to toe in a straight line. This exercise will challenge your balance and proprioception.
- Balance board: Stand on a balance board with your feet shoulder-width apart. Try to balance for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for a few minutes.
- Yoga: Practicing yoga can help improve your balance and stability. Poses like tree pose and warrior III are particularly effective for runners.
Incorporating balancing exercises into your training regimen can help improve your overall running performance and reduce your risk of injury. Make sure to add them to your routine a few times a week, and you’ll notice a difference in your stability in no time.
Photo By: Andrea Piacquadio. Obtained via Pexels.com