The Importance of Balance
For Runners: The Importance of Balance
One big difference between running and walking is that when we walk, there is a period of time when both our feet are in contact with the ground. Whereas when we run, only one foot is ever in contact with the ground at a time. A runner can have a force of up to four times their body weight through their foot when it impacts the ground.
Running is essentially one single leg squat and bound after another. Therefore, a runner needs to be strong in this position and have sufficient single leg balance, in order to avoid injury.
The abdominal and low back muscles, (also known as the core), in addition to the muscles surrounding the hip, are largely responsible for helping us maintain balance, especially in a single leg position. When these muscles become weak, too tense, or fatigued, they are not able to fully control our torso and hip position while we stand on one leg. This causes us to sway, which in turn can cause excess movement and strain in regions lower down the leg, such as the knee and ankle. A great deal of scientific research has found that knee or foot pain can often be linked to a dysfunction in the hip or core muscles.
In order to strengthen the core and hip muscles, and reduce your risk of running injury, it is best to use a combination of exercises. Exercises that include specific, slow, single-joint movements are recommended to isolate the individual muscle you are trying to strengthen. While larger, multi-joint, functional movements are best used to train the targeted muscle to work in coordination with other muscles. Functional movements replicate how you want your muscles to optimally work while running!
Written by Bridget Pyke, physiotherapist. Bridget can be contacted at email@example.com