What can you do to 1) prevent injury, 2) feel stronger, 3) improve your running efficiency and form when fatigued, and 4) run faster? Runner core exercise! Realizing this is not breakthrough news, it bears repeating. As runners, we tend to focus on running to get faster, and ignore the other key components that help improve our performance. But, core work is critical to make you fitter, faster, and a stronger runner. Who doesn’t want that?!
Why a Strong Core Matters
Before diving into the how, a brief explanation on why core exercise is important for a runner. In short, a strong core can improve running speed and posture because the strength in your limbs (arms/legs) are tied to torso strength. The torso sets the foundation for those moving limbs. A stabilized torso (through core strength) allows your hips, pelvis and lower back to work more efficiently/smoothly. Efficiency = less energy expended = less effort = less fatigue with increased distance. This is important at the end of long endurance runs/races when fatigue sets in, potentially impacting form.
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Runner Core Exercise – No Gym Required
Building your core is important, but it doesn’t require a gym membership. Using your body weight is often sufficient, and that allows you to get it done almost anywhere, anytime. AKA no excuses! There are great resources available online with various core work exercises. It is important to select a routine you can perform with GOOD form that hits the required core muscles. Meaning, the exercises should include muscles of your abdomen, back and pelvis.
The Nuts & Bolts
A well rounded runner core work out is this particular exercise regimen. Consistency matters; performing twice per week will help see results more quickly. If not possible, aim for once per week to start. After one-two weeks, increase your sets or duration (start with two sets with 30 seconds each). Again, good form is a must, so do not continue exercise duration if your form begins to break down.
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Variety, The Spice of Runner Core Exercise
Variety matters, too. Once you know a routine by heart, change it. Your body will know it well, too, and is less challenged by the same exercises. Therefore, either switch up a few exercises, or try a different routine. Incorporating a medicine ball to add resistance, an inflated exercise ball, or even TRX exercises are also good options. All listed require more strength, balance and coordination so allow you to challenge yourself as you get stronger (and keep boredom at bay).
We often minimize or skip those habits that will keep us healthy – stretching, foam rolling, strength training, and core work. Don’t let that be you! Take time on prevention, or be forced to take time with rehab? Don’t choose the latter — you will be a healthier, happier, and quite likely a faster runner.