Monthly Challenge for Runners: Balance
Balance plays a vital role in our daily lives and athletic endeavors. Balance is the component that allows us to stay upright against gravity and therefore balance is essential in running. There is a big difference between walking and running. Walking is a 2 point activity meaning both feet have contact with the ground whereas running is a 1 point activity in which one foot is on the ground at a time. When you decrease your base of support, your balance is sure to be challenged. This is why training your balance with exercises in addition to a following your running program will ultimately help you to become a better athlete.
Here at RunnerClick, we have created a monthly challenge for runners to target balance exercises. Beginning with more stable to progressively more dynamic, you will hit many aspects of shifting your center of gravity to get the balance receptors in your joints (proprioceptors) to engage more quickly for better reaction times and to help in preventing falls. If at any point you find you need extra support, feel free to do the exercises near a countertop or wall. The concept is to try a different daily balance exercise, 5 per week with 2 rest days, so that’s 20 different exercises over the course of the month. You may find some are easy while others are more challenging and hopefully at the end, you’ll find some favorites that you can incorporate into your regular strengthening and stretching routine.
Single Leg Stance (SLS): Start by standing on one leg, keeping pelvis level (don’t let the hip drop of the elevated leg). Hold balance for 30 seconds each leg. Do for 2-3 sets.
SLS with Eyes Closed: Start in SLS, but this time close your eyes. Work up to holding for 30 seconds each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
SLS 3 Way: With eyes open start in SLS, but this time with the elevated leg slowly kick it out straight in front of you with the foot off the floor and hold for 5 seconds. Then gradually and slowly without trying to lose balance, swing the straight leg out to the side and hold for 5 seconds. Lastly, swing the straight leg slowly behind you and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
SLS with Weighted Figure 8: Start in SLS while holding a small weight or ball with both hands. While balancing on one leg, form a figure 8 with the weight with your hands in front of your torso 10 times. Repeat on the other leg. Do 2-3 sets.
SLS with Reach: Start in SLS, now with the opposite hand of the weight bearing leg, slowly bend your knee to reach with the opposite hand towards the outside of the standing foot. Come back to standing by using the standing legs glutes. Repeat 5-10 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
Knee to Chest: Start in SLS as you bring the other knee towards your chest. Hold the knee up with both hands and maintain balance for 30 seconds. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.
Big Toe Grab: Start with a knee to chest then take the same hand as the elevated leg and grab the foot or big toe and try to extend the leg out in front of you. You can work in many angles away from the body and even out to the side of the body with the leg remaining as straight as you can tolerate while keeping the trunk upright. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.
Tree Pose: Start in SLS and grab the foot of the other leg and place the bottom of the foot on the inside of the standing leg while pushing the knee out away from the body. Hands can be in a prayer position in front of the chest, down by the sides or up overhead to challenge yourself more. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.
Figure 4 Chair: Start as in tree position but instead of placing a foot on inside of standing thigh, place the foot on the quad above the standing knee. Then slowly, with control, bend the standing leg as if to sit in a chair while maintaining a flat back. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.
Royal Dancer: Start in SLS and bend the other knee to bring the foot behind. With the same side hand as the elevated leg, reach back to the inside foot and grab the foot. While gently pushing the foot into the hand, start to elevate the leg higher behind you as you hinge forward at the hips and the opposite free arm extends out in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.
Sliders: Start in SLS and kick the elevated leg straight out and slightly in front of you, as in SLS 3 way, however, this time bend the standing leg to reach the leg out even further in front of you. Return to single leg stance and slowly swing the extended leg out to the side of the body and repeat with the standing leg bending and return to single leg stance. Then repeat with the elevated leg reaching straight behind you while again bending the standing leg. Hold each position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
Lunge into Knee to Chest: Step back into a reverse lunge. With the front leg, push your weight up to standing position while bringing the back leg into a knee to chest and pause. Then repeat the lunge. Do 10 times for 2-3 sets on each leg.
SLS Hop: Start in SLS then jump off the standing leg up into the air and try to land back on the single leg softly without letting the knee collapse inward. Repeat 10 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
3 Step into Knee to Chest: Start in SLS with a knee to chest. Then take 3 quick steps to the side and pausing on the other leg for another balance into a knee to chest. Repeat back and forth for 10 reps. Do 2-3 sets.
Warrior 3: Start in SLS and slowly extend the elevated leg behind you. Begin to hinge at the waist to bend forward while continuing to lift the elevated leg up at the same time as extending both arms overhead to create a straight line from fingers to toes, parallel to the ground. Hold for 5 seconds and come back to SLS. Do 10 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
Leap and Bound: Start in standing and leap onto one leg out in front of you and try to stick the landing while pausing briefly. Repeat onto the other leg. Repeat for 10 leaps. Do 2-3 sets.
SLS Lateral Hop: Start in single leg stance. Use an imaginary line or piece of tape to hop from side to side over the line with the single foot. Repeat 10 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
Lunge Plyo Switch: Start in a lunge. Jump up straight from the lunge position while quickly switching leg position to land in a lunge with the opposite leg in front. Repeat 10 times. Do 2-3 sets.
Squat jump into SLS: Start in a hip-width squat. Jump up from the squat and transition to land on one leg softly. Step back into a squat and jump to repeating the landing on the other foot. Repeat 10 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
Box jump to SLS: Find a small box or some stable steps. Start in a hip-width squat. Jump up from the squat and transition to land on one leg softly. Step back down into a squat and jump to repeating the landing on the other foot. Repeat 5 times on each leg. Do 2-3 sets.
Are you looking for a new challenge to help you improve your running, athletic, or everyday activities? Our balance challenge blog will show you how.