I won’t call it a trend because, running has always been one of the most common forms of exercise. However, I do believe that running is more popular then ever. Almost every week there is some form of “race” (be it a 5k, marathon/half marathon, color run, etc). In the city of Baltimore not only do we have tens of thousands of participants in these races but people pay good money to do so and train hard in preparation. The whole concept of running has gone way beyond a form of exercise, it is an event, a lifestyle, a community, and a way of life.
The purpose of this blog is to talk about the importance of core training to a runner. At this point almost all experts recognize the importance of core strength to runners. There is really no need to site several sources, simply go to Google and type any one of the following search terms: “is core strength important for runners” “injury prevention for runners” “alternative workouts for runners”. You would find countless articles explaining in depth why it is important to work your core and improve flexibility. After all, it is the core that keeps your body standing and powers your hips to stride. When your foot hits the ground, the core holds your trunk solid as kinetic energy transmits to the hamstring, up the back and down into the other foot. A conditioned core prevents wiggling in the torso and prevents deflecting energy, so that you run faster. With each stride its only normal for your muscles, joints, and connective tissues to get weary from absorbing the shock. As a result of a weak core, you have a higher chance of experiencing some of the injuries common among runners.
I will not go into to detail about some of the common injuries caused by running, but again, with only a few minutes of research on Google you will find plenty of examples. When you hear the word “core” your programmed to think abs, but the core is not just the abdominal. Your entire core consists of your abdominal area (including the obliques), your lower back, hips, glutes, and your hamstrings. Many foot and ankle injuries are actually the result of weak hips, and poor hamstring flexibility can cause knee problems.
The good news is you can quickly “nip” these problems in the butt (no pun intended). By simply dedicating one day a week to an alternative form of training other then running you can build a more functional body. Set your running schedule as usual but replace one day of running with core or cross training. You will quickly discover that as you improve your range of motion with dynamic stretches you will prevent injuries and even soreness. The cross training will also help rebuild muscle that is lost from lots of running.
As I mentioned earlier the core is made up of abs, back, hips, glutes and your hamstrings. Planks and supermans are great exercises to strengthen your abs and back. Focus on dynamic stretches that will loosen the hamstrings. Also focus on workouts that will loosen the hips and build power in your hip abductor (look up hip circles and windmills). Incorporate resistance bands to your workout which will improve overall muscular endurance. Use wide leg squats to develop strong hamstrings and use lunges for your glutes.
Now that you understand how crucial it is for a runner to invest in a strong core, go ahead and start incorporating some type of training into your weekly routine. You have tons of resources at your disposal to find new ways to improve your core. Below is a link to a video with a quick and easy workout you could do right from your house a couple times a week. I strongly you recommend you consider throwing in some form of cross training as well.
By Chris Nissley, Knockout Fitness