If you are a runner and are work with me, you may notice me asking you many questions during our session. This is because I want to be sure you are doing everything possible to prevent muscular imbalance and injury. It seems runners just want to run, however, let’s face it, you must do your homework as well. Balance and lower leg/foot strength ( along with massage and foam rolling) are some of the key ingredients to improving AND keeping muscle tissue healthy. Runners who have an impaired sense of balance are at an increased risk of injury by tripping and falling, says Kevin McGuinness at Washington Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. If you have an impaired sense of balance or compensation due to overuse it may cause injury. If you are having issues simply balancing on one leg while just standing, imagine how much more difficult it is on your body while bounding from one leg to the next! Need to be further convinced to improve your balance?
Here are 4 reasons:
- Who doesn’t want Herculean ankle strength?!
- It will also improve your sense of awareness and proprioception.
- It will improve your single leg balance (aka run).
- This does not require much equipment, if any.
Some ideas for strengthening feet for balance:
- Ditch your shoes. Start by walking around your house barefoot, and once you gain strength there then work your way up to some barefoot exercises.
- Running in sand to work through joint articulation in the feet and increase strength and flexibility.
- Walking on rocks. This will get the proprioceptive nerves in your feet going and will help prevent back pain.
- Roll out the three arches of your foot. You can use a lacrosse ball frozen water bottle etc. Here be sure to include your lateral (outside) arch, transverse (center) arch, and medial (inside) arch. You will most likely feel pain in your transverse arch taking extra care when you move close to the heel as this area may be very sensitive.
- Use balance boards, bands and balance trainers. The picture below is an example of an exercise I recommend frequently to my running clients for muscular balance in the lower leg. You may also place your ankles on a foam roller or a throw pillow to lift your heels off of the ground. Attach the other end of the band to heavy furniture or weights or have someone stand on it.
Since running involves dynamic movement it makes sense for us to improve our dynamic balance training. Check out these videos below for some examples of dynamic balance training that requires absolutely no equipment:
- This exercise may prove to be tougher than it looks for some. Try to keep control on one leg and stabilize the foot, ankle, knee and hip while drawing the letters of the alphabet A all the way through Z by dynamically moving the arms.
- If you have mastered the previous exercise then you may want to attempt the single leg “hop and “hold” for more difficult single leg dynamic stability.
You will find that this article will provide you with many additional ideas for exercises to improve run strength. This includes improving optimal power, core strength, lateral movement, upper body strength, leg strength, stabilization and posture.
Focusing on some of the exercises presented above a few times per week in addition to your runs will aid in injury prevention, keep muscle tissue healthy and will even improve overall strength and the quality of your runs. If you are looking for any additional ideas for balance exercises I am happy to share more of them with you during our next massage therapy session. Stay balanced!!!
References (Retrieved 10/4/16)
This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.
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