Balance Exercises For Runners – Single-Leg Balance Exercises
Stability and balance are fundamentals in running that shouldn’t be forgotten. Regular balance workouts like single leg balance exercises are a great way to side-step injuries.
However, many runners tend to focus on building strength. While building strength has its own benefits, regular balance exercises shouldn’t be forgotten.
Since running is an intricate one-footed balancing act, improving your balance can help you to be more steady on your feet and reduce the forces through the spine.
In. this article we discuss the best single leg balance exercises for runners and other balance exercises you can introduce into your training plan. Keep reading to find out more.
What Are Balance Exercises?
Balance exercises are a form of exercise or movement that works on the muscles in your core, lower back, and legs. When combined with strength training it can provide the best prevention to injuries.
Even though balancing exercises can be difficult when starting, gradually they become easier as you increase the number of repetitions.
However, most balancing exercises for runners can be modified to suit each individual. That means you can increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise.
Practicing balance exercise allows you to improve the control of your body when running. You will end up improving your stability, coordination, and mobility in the process.
Below are some examples of balance exercises for runners:
The single-leg balance exercise is a great way to improve balance, stability and work smaller muscles in your hips, back and lower legs.
Start by standing on stable ground. Then move your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands next to your hips and then lift your right leg off the floor while bending it at the knee. Lift it until you start to lose balance slightly and then hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the left leg.
The leg swing balance exercise helps focus on the swinging portion of your gait. Start by standing next to a doorway with one hand against the door frame for balance. Then stand on your right leg, and swing the left leg 10-20 degrees forward and backward. Build this swing up until you reach 30-40 degrees.
Once you have mastered the swing, move away from the door and use your balance instead of the door frame to stabilize your body.
It’s important when doing this exercise that you control the knee and don’t allow it to rotate inward or outward.
Pay attention to your knees, and try to avoid inward and outward rotation during the movement. For a challenge, swing the opposite arm to meet the swinging leg in its forward position.
Other balancing exercises include:
– Exercises that shift your weight from side to side
– Walking heel to toe
– Use of a balance board or a stability board
– Yoga or Pilates exercises
Any form of exercise that requires the body to balance and try to stabilize the body can be considered a balance exercise. However, different exercises will suit different people depending on the sport they do and the muscles engaged during that sport or exercise.
Why Should You Do Balance Exercises?
There are many reasons why balance exercises are important for runners. Balance naturally declines with age if you don’t consistently work on it. Studies have shown that you can lose up to 75 percent of your balance ability after 25.
Since running taxes your proprioceptors ( helps sense changes in your body position), it is important to train your balance. If done correctly, it can help to increase the ability of the proprioceptors in the lower legs to anticipate movement changes in the feet and legs when you are out running.
However, to train your proprioceptors, constant balance exercises must be incorporated into your training. This is even more important for runners aged over 25, as your balance starts to decrease.
Balance exercises also help to strengthen small muscles throughout the body, especially in the core, hips, ankles, and back. Since many strength training exercises don’t work these so well, balance exercises can help to strengthen the smaller muscles by rotating your core and counterbalancing the upper and lower body all at once.
Single-Leg Balance Exercises
Single leg balance exercises are one of the best forms of balance training for a runner. They teach you to isolate and strengthen specific balance muscles while improving your reaction time.
Below are a few examples of single-leg balance exercises that can benefit the runner:
Single-Leg Bend And Reach
The single-le bend and reach exercise is a great way to increase strength in your glutes, hamstrings, and core while improving your balance in the process.
To do this exercise start by placing a tennis ball or object about three feet in front of you. Stand up straight and then balance on your right leg. Bend from the hip and reach towards the object. Repeat on the other leg and do this multiple times. As your balance gets better you can try to move the object further away.
Single-leg bounding is one of the best ways to test your balance as a runner. To do single-leg bounding, start by positioning yourself in a runner’s stance and on your left leg. Now leap onto the opposite leg, so you land in an identical position. This movement should involve you jumping from your left leg onto your right leg, and in this process, your left arm should be swinging. Once you land on the ground, hold this position. Keep your knees straight and pelvis level.
You can also try different bounding movements. Back to front, side to side, and diagonally are other variations you can utilize.