By Amanda Loudin
from March 2011 Iron Girl e-newsletter
Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds? Now try it again, but with your eyes closed. I'm guessing the answer is probably no.
Why is this important to you? If you're a runner, you participate in a sport that requires the ability to balance on one leg over and over again, up to 180 times each minute. So, you'd better be able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds!
Unfortunately for most women, balance is not a strong suit. Years of wearing ill-fitting shoes that destabilize our feet, sitting at desks for long periods of time and neglecting to strengthen key muscles can all add up to a poor sense of balance.
The good news is-with a few very simple additions to your daily routine, you can improve your balance rather quickly. With this will come a decrease in the likelihood of running injuries and potentially an increase in your running speed. A good deal, if you ask me!
Improving your balance really doesn't require much time, but it does require a concerted effort. One of the easiest ways to work on balance is to sneak in chances to stand on one leg throughout the day. Standing in the grocery line? Spend alternating 30 second sessions on one leg or the other. The same holds true for time brushing your teeth, time in the shower or time prepping food in the kitchen.
Another good way is to incorporate balance training into your strength routine. Some portion of your strength routine probably involves standing up, perhaps doing curls or overhead presses, etc. Try doing them on one foot for a challenge to your balance.
You can take it a step further by adding in a Bosu ball. These unsteady platforms look like half a ball stuck onto a wooden platform. Turn the board onto the ball side and stand on it while you perform strength exercises.
Another tool is a balance board. Again, a wooden surface on top of a wobbly base, a balance board is fun to play with. You need nothing more than a few minutes per day of trying to level this unsteady platform and you'll quickly see improvements.
If you're a mom, you can make balance exercises a fun game with your kids, too. You'll likely find that they are much better at it than you! Try playing hopscotch, seeing who can stand on one leg the longest or throwing a ball back and forth to your kids while on one leg. All are great and simple ways to accomplish a better sense of balance.
Before long, you'll be able to see a difference in your balance. That's not only good for your running, but for your everyday quality of life as well.
Amanda Loudin is a Maryland-based freelance writer, runner, triathlete and certified RRCA running coach. She's completed seven marathons, including Boston, and countless triathlons ranging from sprints to Ironman distance. You can follow her adventures at www.misszippy1.blogspot.com.