Introduction to Running Technique And Balance

Early in 2016 I devised a series of “Technique Taster” sessions to introduce members of Witney Road Runners to some basic running technique concepts and tips.  Here’s what the first session had in store:

Session 1: Introduction to Technique & Balance – what do we mean by “running technique” and how balance relates to your running.

After a short group discussion about what the term “running technique” meant to the group I introduced the key principle of the session: Balance.

Running is essentially a series of controlled falls from one single leg balance to another so the better your balance, the less energy you will waste and the stronger your running will be.

We worked through a series of balance exercises that people can make part of their weekly routine to help improve their balance, starting with these static balance exercises:

Single Leg Balance – lift one foot off the ground so you are standing on one leg.  The lifted foot doesn’t need to come high off the ground, leave a little flex in your standing leg and use your arms for added stability.  See if you can balance for 30 seconds.

All single leg exercises should be repeated on both legs.  As well as working both sides equally, it may also reveal a little surprise: most of us have one leg that is more stable than the other.  It’s likely to be the one you’d kick a football with.

Finding standing on one leg easy?  Try closing your eyes.  Is it still so easy?  Your eyes play a major part in helping you balance so my shutting your eyes it increases the challenge of this simple exercise.

Single Leg Squat – lift one foot off the ground by keeping the leg straight in front of you.  Slowly bend your standing leg to sink down, keeping the straight leg out in front of you with your foot off the ground.  Don’t sink too deep to begin with.  The exercise is about balance and control.

For a great video on how to do a single leg squat and how to use different variations to challenge yourself check out this Single Leg Squats video from James Dunne at Kinetic Revolution.  James has a huge amount of great strength, flexibility and rehabilitation videos on his website, http://www.kinetic-revolution.com so check them out.

But as we don’t run standing still so there’s even more benefit if we can practice dynamic balance exercises.  The easiest way to stimulate your balance is to unsettle your centre of gravity.  Some people stand on a pillow or use a balance board but you can do it yourself by moving your own body.

Single Leg Alphabet – stand on one leg and use the other to trace the alphabet in the space in front of you.  The bigger the movements, the more stimulation, the harder you’ll have to work to stay balanced.

Cone Compass – hold a cone (or a plastic bottle will do) while standing on one leg, lean forward to place the cone to “the north” of you (in front of you) and then return to the standing position before leaning down to pick up the cone.  Keep standing on one leg while working round each point of the compass.

To begin with, don’t place the cone too far away from you.  If you feel you want to stretch yourself, try placing it further away.  Another way to build the challenge is to switch from a compass to a clock face – placing the cone around the 12 numbers of a clock face.

Practicing these exercises regularly, along with running-related strength exercises will help improve your balance and make you a stronger runner.

We finished the session with a group run and a cool down, including the 6 basic stretches I encourage all my runners to do at the end of their sessions.

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