You will often hear the term ‘The ABC’s of running’ used and it can mean many different things but today we are going to go back to basics and focus on Agility Balance and Coordination.
You will see some runners who glide, like they are floating on air. This may be down to natural ability, but often it is down to them spending time working on other aspects of their running technique and conditioning and getting the basics right.
Quite often coaches will use the term the fundamentals of running and these fundamentals cover the ABC’s. These ABC’s assist in preventing injury, progression to further distance or better pace, why? Because as you do more and you become fatigued your form will suffer, if your basics aren’t there.
Whilst these maybe the basics of running, they can’t be changed overnight, so they will need to become part of your regular training, but the good news is it will make your sessions more fun and the exercises will be quick, if not easy to master at first!.
Agility is the ability to change direction and position of the body quickly and efficiently. It can be influenced by balance, coordination, the position of the centre of gravity, and running speed and skill. It is a key competent in sport and can be improved with specific training drills, such as using an agility ladder, cones or hurdles; but also by improving balance and co-ordination amongst other things. Agility is particularly important if you are looking to head off the roads and onto the trails as it will enable you to change direction quickly to avoid stones and rocks and leap over obstacles such as tree roots and even puddles!
Balance is the ability to maintain stability when stationary or moving (i.e. not to fall over) and can be split into two areas, static and dynamic Balance.
To be well-balanced you need to have your centre of mass (around your belly button) directly above the point where you touch the ground and you can practice this by standing with your feet facing forwards, around shoulder-width apart and with your centre of mass directly on top of them. You should be balanced in that position. To test this out you can bring your feet in together and then sway gently from side to side. You will see that you can only sway a little way before you are in danger of toppling over. Next put your feet wide apart and gently sway front to back and again you will see that you can only go a little way before you are in danger of toppling over.
Once you have found your best balanced position start to introduce walking and running and think carefully about keeping your centre of mass over your feet as they touch the ground.
Next start to think about posture. Stand tall, as if a helium balloon is attached to a string that is attached to the top of your head and is gently pulling you upward. Again your feet should be shoulder-width apart and pointing straight forward. Think about your hips and pelvis area imagine them as a bucket, if they are tipped back the water in the bucket would spill out so pull everything up and forward so the bucket is straight and the water won’t spill. Pull your shoulders back and downward while keeping your arms relaxed. Again, start to introduce movement. Start slowly by walking and then try some running with the balloon still ‘attached’ to your head.
A good way test your balance is to try the one leg stand test. Firstly find a nice flat surface and preferably somewhere with a full length mirror. With your trainers on stand on your right leg, knee slightly soft and your left leg bent at about 90 degree at the knee behind you. Your arms should be bent as if imitating the running position. This replicates the mid stance of running. Now start a stop watch, if you make it to 60 seconds without your foot or knee twitching or your arms or shoulders flinching then you have done very well. Now try it on the other side, is there a difference and finally repeat the process with no shoes on as this will demonstrate how dependent you are on the support and cushioning provided by you shoes.
The balance is a big part of the bodies’ equilibrium and without a good level of stability your body will tire as it constantly tries to stabilise itself. Therefore improving your balance creates a stronger foundation for injury free running. You can practice this exercise daily and challenge yourself once you get stronger by using a wobble board, BOSU ball, a cushion or even with your eyes shut, just make sure you have plenty of space around you!
Now who remembers trying to pat their head whilst rubbing their tummy? Not as easy as it first seems, but fun all the same
Running coordination is a functional skill that has a direct impact on your training. It can make you more powerful and efficient and provides us with the ability to organise your limbs in sequence. The best way to do this is to play! You will be having so much fun that you won’t even realise that you are improving your coordination.
Re-visit your childhood and get back in touch with games such as hopscotch, windmills with your arms where one arm turns forwards and the other turns backwards or the grapevine. Start by doing these slowly then increase your pace. If you can’t remember how to do these exercises or games a quick search on the internet will help you out.
If you want to combine all of these things then why not go to your local park and work out an obstacle course using the natural features such as steps, benches and fallen trees to improve coordination, balance and speed all at the same time so you will be on your way to becoming as agile as the runners in the lead pack!
Shelby Williams – BIO
After standing watching the New York Marathon back in 2004, Shelby decided to renew her love of running. Since then she has gone on to complete several marathons and half marathons and to complete her running leaders and coaching courses. Shelby’s big running passion is introducing new people into running and helping them achieve their goals and potential. When not running Shelby likes to bake, which she says is why she needs to run!