Most runners know that they need to do more than just run in order to improve, or even maintain. But even with cross training and interval training sessions mixed in to their weekly running schedule, many runners are still overlooking a crucial component of training.
See, running is a plyometric movement that requires a person to bound from one leg to the other with short contact times. You’re either airborne or have only one foot on the ground for a short period of time, and your center of gravity, or balance point, is continuously moving forward. Your body is using its energy not only to move forward, but to stay upright.
Stability and balance are two different things but they work very much in harmony to keep you from falling down. Stability is achieved when the muscles align the body properly to prevent the joints from collapsing on impact. Balance is the neuromuscular skill of activating the muscles that adjust body alignment. It requires the ability to anticipate, and react, to challenges to the body’s upright equilibrium.
Stability is often the main focus in most runners’ routines while balance training is overlooked. They incorporate strength and interval training, wear the right shoes, perfect their form. Increasing stability does mean less energy is required to focus on balance, but stability and balance work interdependently and in order to maintain good running health, one should include balance training.
If a runner has poor balance (maybe they can’t stand on one leg for a considerable amount of time), it could lead to injury, primarily ankle sprains. In fact, research shows that balance training can be used to prevent and treat acute ankle sprains, and also reduce the chances of ankle injuries in the future.
So that’s the why, here’s the how.
There are several exercises you can do to increase your balance. One direct approach is simply picking up a balancing tool like a Bosu ball, a Dyna Disk or a balance board of some kind. Incorporating a couple of yoga practices a week is another great approach (with added mental and breathing benefits).
However, balancing tools, toys and classes aren’t necessary, especially for beginning balance training. There are also incredibly simple exercises you can do each day–while reading your mail even–to improve your balance. Easy peasy.
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