Core work is a must if you’re going to be a successful marathoner. It’s such an important topic that I’m getting ready to do an entire podcast episode on The Case for Core Training.
It provides your body with a solid foundation, giving your legs more strength and increases your running efficiency.
So in this post I want to share three rules and six simple moves you can start implementing today to strengthen your core.
Effective Core Training for Runners
1. Focus on correct posture and allignment
For example, in squats, your knees should track over your ankles and not extend beyond your toes. In lunge positions your back knee should track under your spine while your front knee should stay in line with your ankle. Twists and reaches should start at the waist, including the whole torso, not just the arms or shoulders.
Proper alignment will feel strong. If you find that your form is slipping during an exercise then stop to rest a few seconds and reset. For example, if you’re new to doing plank and find that this puts too much strain on your lower back you can always do plank from your knees until you build up strength.
Focus on holding perfect posture when you train and throughout the day. This will naturally engage your torso, lengthen your spine, and position your body for athletic movement. Sit and stand tall from your hips with your shoulders comfortably back and down so your chest is lifted. Place your hand a few inches above your head. Now move your head closer to your hand only by lengthening your spine. This is what “tall” feels like. If you stay tall like this, as if your spine is hanging from a hook at the top of your head, then your abs should tense naturally.
Standing more than you sit means that your core will be engaged better. When you do have to sit, stay tall in your chair at work. Practice being tall when you walk to your car and tall when you’re running or performing other exercises. Staying tall in everything you do is one of the easiest ways to look, feel and perform better, with more energy and less risk for pain.
2. Focus on tight abdominals
Don’t let your abdominals relax. Contract your abs and focus on bringing your navel to your spine. But don’t confuse tight abs with holding your breath! It’s very important to continue breathing through the exercise motions. Avoid slouching or over-arching your back and sticking your butt out. Focus on keeping the hips forward in a neutral position.
In order to practice how this should feel, stand with your feet hip width apart. Reach both arms over head and reach the fingers toward the sky. As you do this your hips will naturally move forward into neutral hip position under your center of gravity.
3. Remember, it should feel difficult
The instability generated during core training builds better balance and encourages your core to stay engaged. You can work further on balance by doing movements that lengthen the body (instead of just doing crunches for abdominal work).
Three dimensional movements, both loaded (with weights) and unloaded (only body weight) also strengthen core muscles and balance. When all your muscles from hips to shoulders work together it results in improved strength, power and coordination.
The key is to start with simple core exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as you adapt. As you get stronger core exercises can be performed on a stability ball, Bosu ball, or by using a medicine ball or kettle bell. Engaging your core muscles while lifting weights is also effective.
Add some specific core conditioning to your routines at least twice a week to increase running efficiency and help avoid injury.
All it takes to start is 15 minutes on non-consecutive days. Start with 30-60 seconds of each exercise at first and work your way up.
Focused core training helps you look and feel better as you develop stronger muscles, more muscle tone, and a flatter stomach. 🙂