The first time I was introduced to this type of exercise, it was to rehabilitate a sprained ankle. One purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the tendons and ligaments in the ankle. That’s just the beginning.
You can also use these exercises to build strength in the ankles to help prevent serious ankle sprains. Sure, at one time or another you’ll rollan ankle, but having strong tendons and ligaments might keep an otherwise minor sprain from being a bigger problem. You can also build some strength in all of the stabilizing muscles in the lower leg.
In addition to strength, you need balance. As a runner you do land on each foot and that foot is expected to hold your body weight and keep you balanced until the other foot takes over. As a skier, particularly a Nordic skier, you must commit your body weight to a foot and glide on that foot (ski) for more than the brief moment. In fact in contrast to skiers, the fastest runners want to spend the least amount of time touching the ground. The fastest skiers get the most glide from each ski placement which requires a sort of strength and balance endurance. It doesn't matter whether you walk, run or ski, these exercises can help you.
(A view from Shock Hill at Breckenridge Nordic Center 12-30-11)
Boiled down, you stand on one foot. Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? I’ve never met anyone that could “easily” (never tapping the airborne foot down to secure balance) do these exercises the first time. Below are four variations of standing on one foot to build strength and balance. Start with the first one and progress as you gain skill.
- Looking forward, stand on one foot and count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. Switch feet. Repeat five to 10 times. The non-weight-bearing foot can be anywhere – begin with it close to the ground. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
- Looking forward, stand on one foot and count to five. Remain on that foot, look over your right shoulder and count to five. Remaining on that foot, look over your left shoulder and count to five. (The weight-bearing foot gets a count of 15 total before resting.) Switch feet. Repeat each foot five to 10 times.
- Do progression number 2 with your eyes closed.Tougher than you thought, eh?
- While standing on one foot, raise your knee until your femur is parallel to the ground. Count to five. Repeat five to 10 times. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
If you’re following one of my training plans, you can easily add one of the exercises below into your strength training session, starting as early as the Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase. If your plan doesn’t call for strength training, do the exercise before you do a cycling or running session.
Doing just one variation of these exercises one to three times per week can make a difference. If you do it, let me know how it goes and the changes you notice. (You can comment on my Facebook link, but not yet on Active due to hackers.)
PS…I’m guessing you will need to try this right now, just to prove I’m wrong and that you are special and can easily balance on one leg with your eyes closed and move your head and airborne leg anywhere you please. You won't prove me wrong.