How Proprioception Can Help Your Marathon

I'm all about supplemental training - whether I am training an elite runner or someone who is just starting, there are always a few common things I would incorporate into their running programs to help stay injury free. One being proprioception training. 


Proprioception is the internal sense that tells you where your body parts are without your having to look at them.(consciously or unconsciously) This internal body awareness relies on receptors in your joints, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue (Both sensory and motor nerves that send and receive impulses to and from the central nervous system )


- Walking down a flight of stairs at night when the lights are off. 
- Hitting a baseball without looking at your arm 
- Running without looking down at your feet. 

Proprioception exercises CAN:
- Rehab an existing injury, as well as reduce the risk of injury ( By teaching the body to react appropriately to sudden changes in an everyday environment)

Proprioception involves balance, stability, coordination and agility. Think of running 26 miles... you are making countless repetitions with the ground but you rarely have to look at your feet to see where you are landing. This is proprioception at its finest! Your bodies natural ability to make adjustments in space to make sure you are on proper footing and not running into any obstacles. 


There are loads of equipment on the market today that is designed to improve this. I think many are great, but that doesn't mean you need them nor start off with them. Please do not go out and buy and Indo board and expect to be a surf star on your first try! 

Start off with just you and your floor (a solid/flat surface). It is important to consider your baseline level of skill. I wouldn't make a person run a marathon if they've never run a mile. There is a progression to follow, starting with static balance activities, then progressing to dynamic balance activities, and finally advancing to agility/coordination training. Remember to start simple and slowly increase the complexity.
Static Balance Activity Example: 
  - Stork Stance: Stand on one leg (No shoes). Place the hands on the hips, then position the non-supporting foot against the inside knee of the supporting leg. Hold this pose for 15 seconds and switch sides - repeat 3 times.
Dynamic Balance Activity Example:
On a flat/stable floor, stand on one leg and with the other leg -> 
-> Extend Your Leg Forwards
-> Extend Your Leg Sideways
-> Extend Your Leg Backward

- When you are able to perform those easily with each leg, progress to doing this with your eyes closed.
When you can perform the dynamic balance movements on flat ground, you can advance the difficulty by moving to an unstable surface. (Like a bosu ball) 

Agility & Coordination Activity Example:

Using the Agility Ladder. The main objective of agility ladder drills are to promote a wide range of different foot and movement patterns.  



It's always important to consider:
- The person performing these movements their age, body weight, level of competition and footwear.
- Using correct technique when performing all of the proprioceptive exercises
- Performing the exercises before the regular training session, before fatigue has set in or performing after to allow your body to make those adjustments.
- Being in a safe environment and/or with a partner/coach.
Proprioception exercises are beneficial for runners of all ages, experience levels and racing abilities! It's never too late to add something to the arsenal or switch things up with your injury prevention protocol.
Happy Running,
- Justin Horneker
"Good things come slow----especially in distance running." - Bill Dillinger,