For runners looking to improve the most commonly overlooked area is the core. Did you know that a strong core is a key to becoming a faster and more powerful runner? It’s true! If you wanted to do one thing that would take less than 15 minutes a day but would improve your running, it would be adding core exercises to your regiment. So if you’re wondering how to strengthen your core, wonder no longer!
That’s right. Notice I didn’t say 30-45 minutes a day. You can make noticeable improvements in short periods of time.
Why Is Core Important for Runners?
✓ Staying Healthy – The number one reason core work is important for runners is it helps us stay healthy. Why? Because the core stabilizes the entire body, which is a key to injury prevention.
✓ Improve Running Economy – Many of us waste movements while running, especially as we fatigue. Core work is one step toward improved form, which can equal a better running economy. And guess what that can equal?
✓ Becoming Faster – As mentioned previously, a strong core can equal faster running. And who doesn’t want to be faster?
How Do I Strengthen My Core For Running?
If you are trying to strengthen your core, there are some basic core exercises for runners that you can do that are sure to yield results.
There are many, many variations of planks. Whether you are doing a traditional plank, straight arm plank, or planks with movements, they are an awesome tool to strengthen your core. If you are new to planks, start with a short period of time. You are better off holding it for only thirty seconds with the correct form than to hang in there for two or three minutes with sloppy form.
Stare slightly ahead or down at your hands with your neck loose. Keep your back flat. Have your arms forming 90-degree angles with the hands in front of you (either directly parallel or slightly pointed in). Stay up on your toes and keep your knees up.
If you need to drop a knee down for a moment’s reprieve, there is no shame in that. Just get your breather and then pop back into your good form.
You can do side planks either from the elbow or using your hand as a base with a straight arm. Plank touches are another common form of torture… oops.. another form of dynamic plank movement. Do planks frequently for a stronger core.
Bridges are another excellent form of core work and, once you get good at them, they almost feel like a break in the core action. Make no mistake, they are helping you to get stronger. You can do a static bridge (as pictured) or one where you drop your butt down close to the floor slowly then start to raise it back up as pictured, with a slight hold at the top.
The key to building strength is in controlling the motion and movement when you dropdown. You should be doing so slowly and with a controlled motion.
Done with a weight, in a Russian twist you are holding your feet off the ground, legs slightly bent, and you are working your obliques as you twist from side to side. Again, these motions should be done slowly and in a controlled motion. These can be done with a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball.
Superman is a core exercise where you balance on your midsection and lift your legs and arms. More challenging than it looks, if you are actually engaging your core and working the stretch, it works!
Done just like the name implies, the bicycle crunch is where you mix a bicycle motion with your legs with a crunch movement. Bringing opposite leg up to meet the elbow, the motion takes getting acclimated to.
Creating a Workout
If you are looking for a basic core workout you can do at home, start with 60 seconds of each of the above five movements. Once you can do the five minutes through without faltering or stopping, and you think you are keeping good form, go through it a second time.
How Often Should Runners Do Core Exercises?
Ideally, you are doing core work four to five times a week. If you are an avid runner who pounds the pavement multiple times a week, consider adding a short core routine to complete after each run. This way you are already in athletic clothes, already sweating, and it just becomes an extension to what you already do.
Start with just five minutes, if you’re nervous. You can easily build your way up to longer ab sessions.
Should You Do Core Before Or After Running?
Experts say you should warm-up, do your core work then run. Why? Because your body will be fresh and you will be most likely to complete the exercises properly.
Regardless of the expert’s assertions that you will yield the best results if you work your core prior to running, I have to be honest; I have always preferred to do my core work after. I think that stems back to my track days when that was just how we did things. Old habits die hard and it seems to have worked for me.
Honestly, as long as you’re doing it, just do what works for you.
How Long Should a Core Workout Last?
If you devote anywhere from 10-15 minutes, 4-5 days a week, to your core, you will be pleased to find yourself getting stronger. And that is just speaking of exercises you can do at home with almost no equipment. It goes without saying that there are also things you can do in the weight room that will also have a positive impact on your core.
If you have a hard time coming up with a workout for yourself, a simple Google search will net you dozens of short ab workouts. There are also excellent apps for your smartphone that will guide you step by step through exercises.
You can find anywhere from five-minute abs to workouts that take 60 minutes! Whatever you’re looking for, someone has already made it for you!