Balance and Running

Well, this week I’ve come to terms with the fact that I definitely have a balance problem.  Throughout the last few years, I’ve attempted to do some strength exercises that require balance – and failed miserably.  So, I stopped attempting.  No one wants to be a failure, right?

Last week, I met with a PT basically to talk about my knee issues.  I slipped last fall and have been having issues on and off since.  Nothing stabbing – just an annoying ache at times.  The PT visit and eval was certainly enlightening.

My balance is totally out of whack.  My left leg is better than my right – but, many moves I have to have to something to support myself.  So, my PT gave me some exercises to do that will help.

Here’s one of them:


Now, I know that wasn’t real pretty – but, I’m much better than I was the first time I tried – and I know that I’ll get better.

But, speaking of balance – it’s more important for runners than you may think.  Ron Lawrence, M.D., a neurologist and marathoner, says that balance naturally declines if age if you don’t actively work on it and that you can lose as much as 75% of your balance ability between the ages of 25 and 75.

Balance IS important to runners.  Think about it.  You are always on one foot or the other.  Both feet are never on the ground at the same time.  As a runner, if you are out of balance – you are at an increased risk of injury of tripping or falling. Imbalances also cause overuse injuries when certain muscles are forced to overcompensate for others being weak.

According to physical therapist Kevin McGuinness, who practices at Washington Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, numerous factors can cause runners to be off balance – poor motor patterns inner ear problems, visual problems or core strength weakness.  He also says that age, too, can be a factor affecting sense of balance.  Age-related changes to the visual and the vestibular system, in addition to muscle weakness and stiffness as we get older, can affect the brain’s ability to make these kinds of adjustments as we run or, in some instances, walk, he said.

However, as gloomy as all of that sounds – balance can be helped by exercise and working on the problem.  You can train your balance system.  Which brings me back to my video.  That is one of the exercises that my PT has me doing to improve my balance.

And, I’ll happily do these exercises.  I’ve been running for almost 40 years and plan on running 40+ more.  Anything I can do to help me stay on the roads happily and healthy I’ll gladly do!

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