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This challenge is all about balance exercises. The task is to walk from one end of a narrow surface to the other without looking down, walk backward to the starting point, then finally walk to the middle of your imaginary “balance beam,” squat down as low as you can, and rise back up to standing. After you’ve mastered this, do it all again with your eyes closed.
Muscles worked: Balance work strengthens your hip stabilizer muscles, including your glutes and deep core muscles. It also improves function of your proprioceptors, sensors in your muscles and tendons that help your body respond to position and movement.
How it helps your running: Improved proprioception wards off injury by telling your muscles to fire to keep you from slipping or rolling your ankle on uneven terrain. Strong hip stabilizer muscles are also key to preventing low back, hip, knee, and ankle injuries that can occur because of inefficient pelvic and hip stabilization.
How to do it: For these balance exercises, you’ll need a surface no more than four inches wide and at least 15 feet long. Two 8-foot-long 2x4s work well, or you can use a narrow curb.
1. Start at one end and begin walking, heel to toe, one foot after another until you reach the other end. Keep your gaze straight ahead and keep your arms relaxed at your sides.
2. Then walk backward to the starting point, again keeping your eyes straight ahead.
3. Finally, walk forward to return to the middle of the “beam” and pivot so that you’re standing on the balls of your feet. Slowly lower down into a squat and pause here for a few seconds. Then rise back to standing.
4. Repeat until you can comfortably complete the challenge without losing your balance. Then try it with your eyes closed.
You can also practice walking lunges, split squats, and other locomotor movements such as walking with high knees or leg swings. A 2×4 is a great tool for adding challenge to lower body stability exercises and honing your balance skills.