People don't often realize that the foundation of running is balance. "Running is literally a one-leg sport," says Casey Green, a trainer with Charge Running. "You're either gliding through the air or balancing or propelling off of one leg at a time. Without that good body control and kinesthetic awareness, you can't actually run efficiently at all and will probably spend more time falling over." Besides the fact that you're on one leg throughout your run, outdoor runs in particular require balancing skills. "Runners tend to be on uneven surfaces constantly, so you want to be able to maintain your balance if you are ever changing direction or terrain," says Peloton instructor Adrian Williams, who's on the #BreakthroughCrew in the new Pelothon challenge.
So balancing, with regard to running, is the ability to stay upright as you move. "It's that anticipation of being off-balance and correcting yourself to adjust and hold yourself up," says Green. "Balancing exercises are a great way for our bodies to help recognize and control movement, and increases your body's awareness of its position during movement," adds Williams, noting that it also aids in your overall coordination.
To activate your balancing skills before you run, it's all about single-leg moves. "Single-leg warmup drills are a really easy way to warm up your muscles and mix in balance and stability work," says Green. Of course, these should be dynamic exercises, not static, since you're dealing with cold muscles before you work out. "Doing some type of balance warmup in motion is the best way to get your body the level of awareness it needs in order to be efficient when you're moving," he says. Keep scrolling for the warmup moves that experts recommend.
Balancing exercises for runners
1. Single-leg balance drill: "This is relatively the most basic, but it's very effective for all levels," says Williams. Stand with your feet pointing straight forward. Lift your leg off of the ground and bring it to about 90 degrees. Maintain a neutral posture as you hold with your foot flexed for about 30 seconds, then switch legs.
2. Single-leg squat and reach: Williams likes this exercise for improving balance as well as waking up the hips and glutes. Stand on one leg slightly, leaving your toes on the ground. As you drive your hips back while keeping a neutral spine and head position, squat toward the ground, reaching with the opposite hand of the leg you're using.
3. Walking calf raise: Green recommends walking calf raises to warm up your calf muscles and Achilles as well as to improve your balance. Raise one knee up to 90 degrees and do a quick calf raise with the standing leg. Lower back down, take your next step, and repeat. Do this five to 10 times.
4. Walking knee pull: After calf raises, Green likes doing walking knee pulls to also stretch out the hip flexors, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Pull one knee into your chest while balancing on the other leg, then step and repeat.
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