Strength and core workouts play an essential role in health and consistency for runners. Whether you’ve been training hard and racing for years, or you’re new to running, core strength is key to helping your body handle the repetitive impact of a run.
When you think about a core workout, you probably think of six-pack abs and endless crunches, but core work for runners is about the deeper strength and function behind those muscles and includes more body parts than you might expect.
So why is a strong core so valuable to runners?
It may seem far less important than leg strength when you’re pushing hard in a race, but a strong core is constantly at work behind the scenes, helping your body work more efficiently.
Your core is the foundation for all of your movement. If that foundation isn’t stable, you can find yourself running less efficiently, especially as you fatigue. Even worse, your body may try to compensate for a weak core, leading to injury.
All levels of runners need core strength, whether you’re a beginner trying to stay healthy and build consistency, or an elite trying to maintain form and delay fatigue in the late stages of a race. While a strong core alone won’t make you faster it does allow for consistent training and improved running efficiency, which translates into higher mileage and faster times
A strong core doesn’t just mean strong abdominal muscles — it also includes your hamstrings, hips, glutes, lower back and chest. If you picture your core as including just about everything from your chest to above your knees, you can better visualize how much of your body it encompasses. For a core workout to be runner specific, you need movements that focus on all these areas.
While core movements should be dynamic, they don’t need to be aerobic. Your running workouts are a much more efficient way to get yourself aerobically fit. Stick with core exercises that challenge you with strength and mobility.
Since your body is constantly in motion during a run, it’s essential to build dynamic stability, or stability that happens while you’re in motion. If it’s easy for your body to topple over at rest, you can imagine how challenging it is to stay strong and stable as you take thousands of steps during a training run or race.
A dynamic movement is the opposite of a static one, which involves holding a stationary position for an extended period. Dynamic stability is an essential component of healthy running, and your core workouts should reflect this. As you’re mastering new movements, however, it can be helpful to practice them in their simplest form before adding more complexity.
Core workouts can always be made more challenging by changing the type of movement, making them more dynamic, or adding weight, time or repetitions. As you build strength, make sure you switch up your routine, so your growth and improvement doesn’t plateau.
There are an endless variety of core exercises that can benefit your running, but the most important part is consistency. A 10–15-minute routine done at least three days each week is ideal. Most exercises require no equipment and can be done just about anywhere, inside or out.
Try incorporating some of these key exercises:
– Planks (there are so many varieties and ways to make them dynamic)
– Supermans and windshield wipers for the lower back and obliques.
– Boat pose (commonly used in yoga)
Core work is a valuable necessity for staying healthy improving your performance, so find the time to make runner-specific, dynamic core workouts part of your long-term training plan.