By Meghan Reynolds
Having a strong core is a major component to becoming a stronger, healthier runner. At Hot Bird Running, we give every runner 3-5 days of core exercises within their weekly plan. This is both preventative and strength building.
The core, comprised of the transverse abdominal muscles (deep abs), obliques, erector spinea (lower back muscles), and gluteal muscles (your butt), provides you with stability, power and endurance. If your core is weak, it can lead to poor running patterns, i.e. overstriding, understriding, or a pelvis that swings from side to side, and eventually injury. As a result, you are more susceptible to lower back, hamstring and knee injuries with a weak core.
The moves below help prevent injury, make you a stronger runner, and help make running more enjoyable. Aim for two sets of each exercise 3-5 times a week.
Strengthens: Deep abs, lower back
How to do: Begin by lying face down, resting on your forearms. Push off the floor, rising up onto toes and forearms so your body is parallel to the floor and in a straight line from your head to your heels. Make sure you are looking slightly forward so as not to put strain on the neck.
How much: 20-60 seconds
Make it harder: Extend the hold time or try lifting one foot off the ground.
Strengthens: Obliques, deep abs, lower back, hips, and glutes
How to do: Lie on your right side. Keep right forearm flat on the floor, elbow under your shoulder and your feet stacked on top of each other. Lift up so your body is parallel to the floor. Aim for a straight line between your head and feet. Rest your left arm by your side or lift it straight up.
How much: 15-60 seconds
Make it harder: Extend the hold time or try lowering your hips toward the ground and lifting back up.
Strengthens: Glutes, hamstrings and lower abdominals
How to do: Start in the top of a bridge lift and extend one leg out, keeping the knees in line and the hips stable. Hold for 3 seconds and switch legs.
How much: 60 seconds
Make it harder: Lift up higher and/or extend the hold on each side.
Strengthens: Deep abs and lower back
How to do: Lie face down with your head down and arms extended by your ears. Raise your head, your left arm, and right leg off the ground, about 5 inches, hold for three counts and lower. Repeat with your right arm and left leg.
How much: 60 seconds
Make it harder: Lift both legs and arms off the ground at the same time.
Strengthens: Obliques, deep abs, lower back
How to do: Kneel on all fours with your back in a neutral position. Extend the left arm and right leg out simultaneously. Squeeze your abs as you bring your left elbow and right knee towards each other (ultimately to touch) by curling your back. Hold for 2-3 seconds.
How much: 30 seconds on each side
Make it harder: Extend the count on the pull in – requires more balance.
Want to feel how a strong, engaged core makes a difference in your running? Do a set of the exercises above before each run for one week. A strong core equals a more effortless run!