Lesson 9 of 19
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Balance and agility training

In the world of trail running, the terrain is your playground, and mastering the art of balance and agility can transform your experience from challenging to exhilarating. Imagine navigating steep ascents with grace, swiftly descending rocky paths, and leaping over obstacles with confidence. These skills not only enhance your performance but also significantly reduce the risk of injury, allowing you to push your limits and explore the trails with newfound freedom.

In this chapter, we’ll delve deep into the fundamental importance of balance and agility for trail runners. Having a strong core is important for every type of runner, but especially for trail runners to be able to run strong over uneven terrain and agility will enable you to adapt seamlessly to the ever-changing trail. Beyond the physical aspects, we’ll also focus on the mental aspect of balance and agility. Trail running demands acute focus, quick decision-making, and the ability to read the trail ahead.

Lets first dive into some specifics about agility & balane that will help you master these skills:

What does balance mean in the trail running world?

= runner’s ability to maintain stability and equilibrium while navigating the often uneven and challenging terrain found on trails. This typically involves a combination of physical condition and practice to master this skill. Some ways to improve your balance are through the strengthening of your core (see my strength training program designed for trail runners), lower body muscles and proprioception (your body’s awareness of its position in space)

What does agility mean in the trail running world?

= runner’s ability to move quickly, easily, and with coordination through different types of terrain and challenging trail conditions. Agility is a multifaceted skill that encompasses various aspects of a runner’s physical and mental abilitie such as quick decision-making, coordination, swift footwork, balance in motion, trail reading, explosive power and the power of adaptation to different terrain.

Benefits of Improved Balance and Agility:

  • Injury prevention: Enhanced balance reduces the risk of sprains and falls, while agility helps you navigate tricky sections without stumbling.
  • Efficiency: Better balance allows for more efficient use of energy, leading to improved overall performance and endurance.
  • Confidence: Mastering these skills boosts your confidence, enabling you to tackle challenging trails without hesitation.

Master your balance

As said before, strengthening your core is key to ensure a proper body balance. Your core is the middle of your body and a lot of energy can come from this spot, but you can also lose a lot of energy. If you don’t know where to start, I would highly recommend taking a look at my strength program designed for trail runners.

The next step would be to also train your proprioception & balance. Some exercises that can help you with this are:

  • Exercises where you stand on one leg (with your eyes closed) to improve your body’s awareness of its position, enhancing balance. If you notice you are becoming better in this, you can ‘level-up’ this exercise by standing on a pillow or a bosu ball.
  • Using a balance board challenges your stability, forcing your muscles to work harder and improving balance over time. If you don’t have this type of board, check out this link to make your own.

Master your agility

Training your agility has two aspects: the physical part (training your body to react swiftly) and a mental part (improving your focus and decision-making skills).

How to train the physical part, you can find back in this video:

& tips for improving your mental agility you can find back here:

  • Trail reading: Learn to read the trail ahead, anticipating obstacles and planning your footwork in advance.
  • Mindfulness practice: Mindfulness techniques improve your focus and decision-making skills, helping you react swiftly to changing trail conditions.