october 18, 2014
By Coach Eladio Valdez III
In addition to getting stronger, improving balance is a safe and effective way to improve your running. With every foot strike, you place 20% of your weight of force on both sides of your body. The better your balance is, the less energy you’ll waste trying to hold yourself upright and the lower your risk of injury will be from areas of weakness. This translates into going faster for a given effort.
Simple exercises like standing on 1 leg for 15-30 seconds can be done before you head out the door or while you do other things like brushing your teeth or when you take a break from sitting at your desk. For both balance and strength benefits, move the non-standing leg forward and backward in a circular motion (like riding a bike with 1 leg) or activate those glutes by bending your knee and pushing your foot back against an imaginary wall. You can even add a balance component to some of your strengthening exercises by standing on one leg instead of two while pushing dumbbells up over your head. If you can, try to balance without your shoes for an even greater exercise.
Getting off the pavement to run on grass, dirt, snow or sand will also activate your balancing muscles more. Another way to strengthen your balance includes running in different directions such as backwards, side to side or diagonal forward and backward. You can do multi-directional running during your warm up or on your recovery runs. Barefoot running is also a great way to improve your balance. A little goes a long way as just minutes a week of these types of things will suffice. A few interesting studies have shown that it isn’t the hardness of the pavement that increases the risk of injury – it’s the sameness, or unchanging nature of pavement that causes you to stay in one biomechanic position for too long. Therefore, spice up the surfaces, terrain and direction to improve your running while lowering the risk of injury.
I invite you to attend a free clinic on Running Form & Minimalist Shoes by running form expert Jack Cady. It will be held on March 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ward Parkway Garry Gribble’s Running Sports store. RSVP to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of two $25 GGRS gift certificates.
You’re also invited to enjoy a complimentary run anytime with my group, The Runner’s Edge (www.runnersedgekc.com). We’ll have a mid-Spring program that starts March 29 and goes until June 14. Contact me if interested and I’ll be happy to provide the details.