Want a great way to improve running efficiency and prevent injuries? Consider working on your core strength. Improving core strength will let you to run for longer without suffering from fatigue and will also decrease your risk of suffering an injury. Improving the strength of your core muscles will involve some time and effort, but fortunately it does not require any heavy weight work.
I believe some core strength work should feature in ALL runner’s training programs.
But What Exactly is my “core”?
While not a text-book definition, your “core” is defined as your body minus legs and arms. Most of your core muscles are found in the mid and lower back regions, the belly and some of your hip region.
In more technical terms, the major muscles areas include:
- Internal and External Obliques
- Erector Spinae
- Transversus Abdominis
- The Pelvic Floor muscles; and
- Rectus Abdominis
Why Build My Core? Shouldn’t I Just Train To Get Faster?
Yes, it is true that the best form of training for running is the pure act of running itself, but there are many additional benefits to be hand from incorporating some core strength work into your program in addition to a schedule of pure running training.
Runners tend to focus on activities they think will return direct and obvious benefits from. Typically this means piling on as many kilometers as possible in a given week. I purport a broader and more balanced approach to all training factors will give you more consist performances in the long term, plus reducing your chance of injury.
I believe that all runners do at least some basic core strength work on a regular basis, say on a fortnightly basis at least.
Some direct benefits of core strength include:
- Improved balance – balance is an important factor for a runner in all situations, but especially when running off-road in rough terrain
- Better posture – the core muscles play a major role in improving posture, which in turn will improve your running technique which will in turn further reduce the chance of injury.
- Improved efficiency – you will be more comfortable in your stride and more efficient which means you will increase your endurance potential and not get so tired
- Increased stability – a more stable frame will result in less wear-and-tear on muscles, further reducing injury risk
How to improve core strength
Improving core strength is about selecting the right exercises for your individual needs.
You are a unique individual, so your program will vary from the next runner, but a good fitness instructor can set you down the right path.
Don’t expect to see instantaneous results, you will more likely see a slow improvement over time, but if you are persistent and stick to a regular schedule you will most likely be feeling a lot better sooner rather than later, not only in terms of your running, but in your general health and well-being too.
Some ideas to get started:
Yoga or Pilates
Work your balance, flexibility and torso strength. Pilates involves, stretching and calisthenics. Many moves in this discipline involve holding your torso in place while moving limbs in different directions. The practice of Yoga involves postures improving well-being, vitality and body flexibility. Plus Yoga gives you an excuse to try out those yoga pants 🙂
At a gym you can find a personal fitness instructor to set you a program or give you feedback. This can only be a good thing as core strength is very much an individual process, but like dating, it’s worth spending some time finding one who is a match. A personal trainer will identify exercises for target specific muscle groups and will set you a custom program.
Floor exercises are highly recommended, not only are they easy to do, but don’t require equipment, so you can do them in the privacy of your home. You will need to have a good understanding of exercises are the most effective for the muscle groups you are trying to target. If you are not sure you should see a fitness instructor, at least for an initial consultation.
Running by itself is not the most effective way of improving core strength, so participating in another sport might appeal to you. Just ensure you do it sensibly as some dynamic sports (like skiing) increase your chance of injury. I don’t do a lot of cross training as I prefer my activity to be event-specific. If you are keen to do some cross training, following the general principles of running is helpful. That is start off slowly when trying a new type of training that works muscle groups that aren’t normally used.