Balance training for runners

 

Most runners wouldn't consider balance training as an important component of their training program. That’s what gymnasts and dancers do – not runners. I was of the same opinion until I met Sandy. Sandy was a 35-year-old recreational runner that had not been able to run for over three years following a knee injury. She had discovered that she could swim, cycle, train on an elliptical and occasionally participate in an aerobics class without much knee pain. However; she wanted to be able to get back to running a couple times per week, so she went to see an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon took x-rays and even an MRI but didn't see anything unusual. Sandy was then referred for physical therapy.

 

Over the years I have developed a routine for evaluating runners that assess their training program, running style, biomechanics, flexibility, core endurance (four endurance tests), leg strength, myofacial restriction and balance. Usually when I assess a runner there are a number of deficits that appear in the course of this comprehensive evaluation and treatment is then based on correcting each of the deficits.

 

Sandy was unique in that all of her tests were normal - even exceptionally good – with the exception of her balance. Usually I have runners stand on one leg and balance for 30 seconds and assess how much they wobble. Sandy wobbled a little more on her injured leg than the other leg. I decided to test this a little more and had her perform some balance drills with a resistance cord. The results were dramatic - Sandy was astounded at the difference between her left and right leg (I was also). I gave Sandy a few dynamic balance exercises with resistance and asked her to come back in a month.

 

When Sandy returned she was ecstatic! She had been able to run for the past two weeks without any pain and her balanced had improved substantially. Three months later I saw her at a local 5k – the first she had been able to participate in for over three years. Since meeting Sandy I have been more vigilant in assessing and treating balance in running athletes and have been absolutely amazed. Balance training brings core training, lower body strengthening, flexibility, and myofacial mobility together into an integrated whole. Each step we take while running is a controlled fall – balance training is the neuromuscular link that allows us to improves this control. Don't wait for an injury to motivate you to improve your balance, begin now and watch your form, fitness and enjoyment of running improve!

 

You can start by viewing our balance training video or consider our DVDs “Balanced Solution” and “Kettlebell Training for Runners”.

 

 

Bryan Whitesides MPT, OCS

Physical Therapist

www.betterrunner.com

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