Balance Training for Better Running Performance
Goals for running can differ greatly from athlete to athlete. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast running on the treadmill to warm up for a gym work out, a couch to 5K participant raising funds for charity, or a competitive marathon runner, there is one thing that holds true -- you must put in the miles and cross-training time to improve! The foundation for efficient running technique always starts with good biomechanics.These biomechanics are supported by cross-training that includes stability, mobility and balance. Biomechanically, running is a repetitive motion with cardiovascular demand (regardless of terrain), and just putting in the miles is not enough to improve. Cross-training is ultimately needed to improve performance, avoid injury and ensure longevity in any runner’s career. Adding the BOSU® Balance Trainer to your training equation can increase training options, regardless of your fitness level, and provide results!
Before you do your next run or cross-training workout, consider these four exercises that include a dynamic warm up, lower body and core strength movements using the BOSU® Balance Trainer.
1) BOSU® World’s Greatest
One of the biggest mistakes runners make is overlooking or skipping a proper warm up due to shortage of time or not understanding the importance of warming up the body. The “World’s Greatest” mobility exercise is famous with athletes, especially for runners. It covers three key areas as it mobilizes ankles, hips, and thoracic spine. This warm up exercise is enhanced with several options when using a BOSU® Balance Trainer, so it is great, even if you have limitations in flexibility.
Step 1: Step forward with your left leg and lower your body into a lunge. As you go down, place your right hand on the floor so it’s even with your left foot.
Option One - Right knee remains on the Balance Trainer.
Option Two - Right foot balanced on top of the Balance Trainer.
Step 2: Now move your left elbow or left hand inside your left foot, and rest it on the floor. Square your hips so you feel a stretch on both sides, and try to keep your back as neutral as possible. Hold for 3 slow breaths.
Step 3: Move your right hand inside your left foot, and twist to reach for the sky with your left arm.
Perform 3 – 5 reps, then repeat on the other side.
2) BOSU® Hip Bridge with Over / Under Pass
A common issue for runners is a lack of glute strength. Strong glutes help with core stability to assist anti-rotational movement to ensure effective running technique. The basic bridge is synergistic as it strengthens your glutes and hamstrings. When done correctly, the move also targets core abdominal muscles as well as the lower back and hips. Adding the BOSU® Balance Trainer to the bridge movement will ramp up the stability element of this exercise.
Step 1: Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, feet flat on the Balance Trainer directly under your knees.
Step 2: Raise your hips into a bridge to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
Option One - Hold for 30 seconds.
Option Two - Pass a resistance product (Med Ball or Kettle Bell) under and over your trunk 3 - 5 times and reverse the other direction.
Repeat either option 3 – 5 times.
3. BOSU® Lateral Lunge
Running is a repetitive forward motion where most of the time is spent working in the sagittal plane. For overall health and strength of the hips, a runner must also train in multiple planes. Lateral lunges in the frontal plane strengthen abductor and glute muscles while providing an active stretch for the adductors.
Step 1: Begin by standing with your feet hip width apart, holding a kettle bell.
Step 2: Step out to the right and shift your body weight over your right leg, placing the right foot on the dome of the Balance Trainer. Lunge to a 90-degree angle with the right knee, maintaining a neutral spine.
Option One - Hold kettle bell mid chest.
Option Two – Hold kettle bell in front of body, arms straight down. Touch the kettle bell to the top of the dome as you lunge while maintaining neutral spine.
Step 3: Press the right foot into the Balance Trainer and push off to get back to the starting position with feet on the floor hip width apart.
Perform 10 - 12 reps, then repeat on the other side
4. BOSU® Single Leg RDL with Hip Swing
Efficient running requires balanced anterior and posterior muscular structure. Runners tend to have a stronger anterior muscular structure and generally benefit from developing posterior chain muscle groups, including the erector spinae, gluteus maximus, hamstrings and adductors. These muscles are powerful hip extensors and play a key role in running.Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) are an efficient multi-muscle exercise that targets both the core and the lower body simultaneously. The addition of the BOSU® Balance Trainer and a forward leg swing increases stability and dynamic flexibility demands.
Step 1: Stand with your right foot centered on the dome of the Balance Trainer and left foot off to the side. Slightly flex the knee of your standing/support leg to activate the glutes.
Step 2: Without changing the flex in your knee and keeping your back neutral, hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Briefly pause at the bottom.
Step 3: To return to starting position, simultaneously squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and raise your torso back to a standing position.
Step 4: Swing your left leg forward to challenge dynamic flexibility. Attempt to increase range of motion on each kick while balancing.
Option One - Complete exercise with body weight only and work on balance and range of motion of the leg swing.
Option Two - When you’re ready, add a dumbbell or kettle bell. Start off light and progressively work your way up. Be sure to hold the weight in the hand opposite to your working leg.
Perform 10 - 12 reps, then repeat on the other side
Adding the BOSU® Balance Trainer to your cross training will increase your training options and provide results. Bottom line, every runner who cross-trains with a BOSU® Balance Trainer can ultimately improve performance and help avoid injury -- ensuring longevity in your running career!
Doris Thews is an international award winning fitness educator and avid runner. She is the CEO of Team Thews Fitness, which consults for several leading fitness brands and is a member of the BOSU® Master Trainer and Development team. Her greatest running accomplishment to date is running 4 of the 6 world major marathons with her husband Bob.