Today’s post is the next piece of the running pie after previously discussing why strength training is so crucial to a runner’s routine. What is stabilization training you ask? It’s the glue and duct tape which maintains good posture and uses energy efficiently while we run. If you are unstable while running, you ask your muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, etc. to do a lot more work than they are designed to do and eventually they are going to be exhausted and quit (i.e injury and pain). I’ve seen runners who run ultra-marathons, but they can’t stand on one foot for 30 seconds! Seems strange right? These are the folks who tend to be chronically injured during their training or don’t see significant improvements in performance because they aren’t as efficient as they could be. So, back to the question…what is stabilization training? It’s basically the ability to control your body movements and use the correct tissues in the correct way. Balance is a great way to start working on stability and you don’t even need any equipment at first. I recommend everyone start with being able to balance on one leg for at least a minute then progress from there. Examples of how to progress are:
1) Close your eyes
2) Stand on a pillow, cushion, BOSU ball, etc (anything that is a little wobbly yet safe to stand on of course)
4) Perform upper body exercises while balancing on one foot
5) Try to rotate side to side while balancing on one foot
This is not an exhaustive list of progressions and often you can be creative when increasing the difficulty of balance. Plyometric drills are another great way to work on stability especially because they are dynamic movements, which is what running is: a dynamic activity. Plyometrics are basically jumping-type movements such as line jumps, box jumps, skips, etc. When first starting, I always recommend going slowly to learn the movement correctly and then increase speed once you get good at the movement. I love and HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing Jay Dicharry’s book, Anatomy for Runners, not only to learn more variations of stabilization training, but also why stability is so crucial to a healthy and long running career.
Incorporating stability training into your routine 1-2 times a week will go a long way for not only improving your movement and efficiency, but possibly reducing the occurrence of injury especially with running. The other nice thing about incorporating stability training into your routine is that it doesn’t take long to see improvements because it’s a neuromuscular re-education exercise (meaning you’re making your body smarter by re-wiring the way you move). Improvements usually are seen within a few weeks or less and then it’s a matter of continuing to work on stability and balance so you maintain those improvements and are able to use them when running. As I mentioned with strength training, runners have to do more than just run if they want to stay injury-free and improve their performance. So start with these balance exercises and you’ll never need glue or duct tape again!
“Train your brain to train your body”
1. Jay Dicharry-Anatomy of Runners: Unlocking your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention.