Prevent common injuries with a BOSU Ball
The transition from pavement to trails is exhilarating, but making the common mistake of "too much too soon" ...
Photo by Duane Raleigh
The transition from pavement to trails is exhilarating, but making the common mistake of "too much too soon" can cause unwanted injuries -- like a sprained ankle, patellofemoral pain or plantar fasciitis. Since our foot is the first thing to hit the trail, and it must respond to constantly changing trail conditions (like rocks, roots or trail embankments) in microseconds, ankle stability is essential for trail running.
Stability is all about controlling movement, or eccentric muscle contraction. This is when muscle fibers are lengthening while contracting (as opposed to concentric, which is when the muscle shortens as it contracts). Eccentric contraction is used for decelerating a body part. Take a bicep curl, for example; as you bend your elbow and lift a dumbbell, your bicep muscle is concentrically contracting, but as you lower the weight back down in a controlled manner, your bicep is eccentrically contracting. If your bicep did not contract eccentrically, it would collapse at your side.
This is the same process that happens to your ankle when your foot hits the trail. It starts to roll toward the inside, and the lateral muscles of you lower leg and ankle decelerate the motion to avoid excessive movement that would otherwise cause an ankle sprain.
Proprioception also plays a role in ankle stabilization. This is the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of your body and its parts. Since your body is constantly having to make immediate small adjustments on the trail, developing good proprioception helps keep your ankles stable.
Great news for a beginner: ankle stability and proprioception can be improved with practice. One of the best pieces of equipment for this is the BOSU (stands for Both Sides Up) ball. The BOSU ball has a solid platform on one side and half of a stability ball on the other. The BOSU forces you to balance on one of two unstable surfaces, challenging the strength and reaction time of your ankle, as well as your core. We've included four BOSU exercises and a pre-requisite exercise below. The goal with each is your ability to stay steady, balanced and relaxed.