Tuesdays on the Run with Patty from My No-Guilt Life, Erika from MCM Mama Runs and I is all about core strength for runners. It’s amazing how important a strong core is to help you run strong and injury-free. First of all, what are the “core” muscles? Typically people think of core strength as six-pack abs and thousands of crunches or planks. Here’s what core strength really involves:
- Abdominal muscles – the rectus abdominis (six pack area), the obliques (your side muscles) and the transverse abdominis (the belt of muscles around your waist).
- Gluteus muscles – the gluteus maximus, minimus and medius (hip and butt muscles).
- Pelvic floor muscles.
- Spine and shoulder muscles.
Core strength provides:
- Stability – this is so important to runners as an unstable gait can lead to all kinds of running injuries. One of my biggest injuries that was hardest to treat was a hip problem caused by instability in my hips left over from my pregnancy. Once I strengthened the muscles in that area, the problem never came back.
- Posture – the importance of a strong core and its relation to posture is evident towards the end of any distance event. As runners get tired, their posture suffers visibly. Shoulders hunch forward causing inefficient breathing, spines start slouching leading to discomfort and maybe even injury. A strong core will keep your posture aligned even when you’re on mile 12 (or 24).
- Efficient movements – when your posture is good and your core is stable, running is more efficient. Efficient running is just so much easier. Each stride takes less energy, so you can run faster and further without as much effort. And that’s a great thing in my book.
Simple ways to strengthen your core (and remember the definition of core extends beyond your abs):
- Stability ball exercises (crunches, planks, etc).
- Squats and lunges (I’ve found that lunges really make a huge difference to my running stability). Use free weights to add to the benefits as you get stronger.
- Pilates and yoga.
Another thing that can help is to be cognizant of your core throughout the day. Fix your posture, suck your abs in and up and get up from your chair and just walk around from time to time (sitting at a desk all day is awful for your whole body!).
What’s your favorite core workout?