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Techniques like the ones displayed in this video are the exact reason why runners get so many injuries.

Balance is not something you can teach your body by “squeezing”, “engaging” or “screwing” your muscles to make them switch “on”. In fact, just by trying, you’re actually teaching your body to use methods that exert far more effort than natural methods would, which goes against the law of nature called “the conservation of energy”.

Human beings, just like every other living thing on the planet, are hard wired to use as little energy as possible to do anything. That includes balance and running.

In order to use less energy, and absorb the forces of the ground when running, our muscles need to be relaxed and soft, ready to fire when they’re needed. Relaxed, soft muscles in the foot will lengthen to allow the bones the spread when making contact with the ground, and then as your body weight travels over the foot, the muscles get released from this lengthened state back to their shorter, more natural position, creating forces that drive us forwards.

In running, when the lateral hip muscles are relaxed, they can lengthen to allow the transfer of weight into the centre of the foot (making balance much easier and reducing the effort required from the adductors), then when they are released, they provide energy that propels us towards our opposite foot. This actively helps us run both for longer and faster.

When attempting the practice of balancing on one foot, the hip should travel far enough sideways so that the centre of gravity is over the centre of the standing foot, with the rest of the body relaxed. In this position, the foot is free to move into both inversion (standing on the outside edge of the foot) and eversion (pushing the arch to the ground) as it makes the necessary adjustments to keep you balanced.

“Engaging” the muscles from the foot all the way up the leg whilst trying to balance only serves to put more strain on the leg muscles, forcing the body to make the necessary adjustments using the shoulders and upper body.

If the purpose of practicing balance is to help your body get better at making these adjustments, to adapt to the surface you’re running on, then I’d argue that forcing your foot muscles to practice being rigid is not the best way to go about it.

This video explains the sideways hip shift and demonstrates a VERY different way of practicing balance.

Why not give both a go and let me know in the comments how you got on?

For more ways to help your body use it’s natural capabilities to help you improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury, grab my FREE Super 12 Warm-Up video here

2 Replies to “The WORST Way to Build Balance For Running?”

  1. Francis Riley says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I watched both videos and I believe there are some good points in each one that novices could take seriously that would improve their understanding of running posture. Nobody would disagree with a shift in the center of gravity (and neither coaches do!), it happens naturally. Both give good basic advice on balance, movement and stability; however, you state:
    “Techniques like the ones displayed in this video are the exact reason why runners get so many injuries.”
    No it’s not. There are multiple reasons why runners get injured and the most common is that they do little else other than run. Focusing for a while on the key points you both address would definitely bring improvements to most runners. I am a big fan of natural movement and your “Wiggling” approach can give a positive understanding of the forces involved, the muscles to use and reduce the risk of injury. However, the forces generated by jogging, running or sprinting, are of such a different magnitude that they require much more understanding of what’s happening and what’s involved in the action as you progressively run faster. The point I’m making is that there’s a lot more going on than balance, such as range of movement, joint stability, muscle engagement and release. Trying your warm-up videos would be a good place for many runners to start 🙂

    1. sarahjpitts says:

      Thanks for your comment Francis.

      I agree there’s much more going on than just balance, but all the points you mention are directly related to the muscle tension created when the body is working too hard to create movement (or in this case, balance). The tension down the inside of the leg created when testing balance with “engaged” muscles reduces range of movement in the hip, knee and ankle. Over time this will lead to a shift in joint position which in turn reduces joint stability, muscle engagement and release. It also reduces the shock absorption capabilities of the joints and much more.

      Injuries don’t happen over night and it’s the repetitive nature of our lives and sports, compounded by the excessive tension caused by “engaging” muscles that contributes most to development of these issues.

      Thanks for you support and taking the time to comment 🙂

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