Happy Sunday (and Mothers Day)!
This week we’ll talk about an often misunderstood and ignored area for runners and triathletes alike: core training. Like any good OCD athlete… we tend to focus more on the mileage we’re putting in on a weekly basis than doing core training. If we're short on time, the first thing to go is usually our core workout - ADMIT IT. This week we'll do our best to convince you that it is better to cut your run short by 15 minutes and work on your core than to completely skip it! Julia: I would estimate that about half of my clients are not doing enough core strength workouts – so don’t feel bad if you’re not doing them… Just read on to get motivated to do them.
Why You Need It
A strong core will help to prevent injuries, run with proper technique, and achieve your maximum running potential. Do you feel like you’re going to spontaneously combust from the sheer pain you feel when you roll your iliotibial (IT) bands? After a long run, does your lower back ache and feel like you’re one wrong move from being in traction for the rest of the week? These are usually symptoms of a weak core.
Pelvis Lacks Stability if Core Muscles are Weak (hip-dip)
As we go for longer and longer runs, we tend to lose the lateral strength and rotational range of motion that proper running form requires. Proper running form starts at the pelvis, if the pelvis is stable, more force is naturally applied from the foot to the ground upon each foot strike. If the pelvis lacks stability, the force from the ground is allowed to travel to your lower back, knees and other joints - this is commonly known as "hip-dip" and it's NOT what you want. Additionally, once our running form starts to deteriorate, we start to unnecessarily over-burden certain muscles which then results in the infamous “overuse” injuries and imbalances in core and leg muscle strength. In short, you need strong core muscles so that you can maintain proper running form for longer durations - your goal is to always maintain proper form no matter how long your run is. Proper running form means you can run longer, faster, and injury free… are you motivated now?
What are Core Muscles?
The six-pack “vanity” muscles you see on the front of every health & exercise magazine are really sexy but they aren’t what we’re talking about here. Core muscles include your abs but they're much more than that – they are comprised of all the muscles that stabilize your spine and pelvis, they start at your glutes and include everything up to, but not including, your pectoral muscles.
The muscles from your “hips to your nips” need to be strong enough to handle your body’s fight with gravity. In running, this load can increase from 1.5 times your body weight when jogging to 3 times your body weight when sprinting. A body without a sufficient foundation of core strength will not be able to perform and maintain proper technique under such a load.
If you weigh 200 pounds, that means you need to make your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones strong enough to handle loads from 300 to 600 pounds for each foot strike.
How To Strengthen Your Core
There is a ton of information on core workouts out there – our recent search of YouTube brought back more than 40 thousand results. So instead of prescribing yet another core workout routine, we’ll point to a few of our favorites and give you some general guidelines.
Don’t use machines. Machines only target specific muscles and limit all surrounding stabilizing muscles from being engaged. You want functional body weight exercises in order to engage all core muscles simultaneously.
Focus on correct form that starts at the pelvis. Keep your hips stable by engaging your glutes and don’t let them rotate or swivel to the left or right. Draw your lower spine toward your belly button to bring your hips forward and activate your abdominal muscles.
Maintain good alignment, so that a straight line could be drawn from the ball of your foot through your hip and shoulder joint to your head. Pull the crown of your head to the sky to straighten your spine and have a more erect posture. Keep this posture even if you're doing horizontal exercises.
Frequency and duration. Add specific core conditioning to your routines at least twice a week. 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.
Our Favorite Core Routines:
We love YouTube videos for these workouts because you can play them on your phone to have a guided workout. If you've been ignoring your core workouts, start with the beginner sessions below and after they start to become less challenging, progress to the intermediate and advanced sessions - see frequency and duration above. If you've been doing at least 15 minutes of core work twice a week already, jump to the intermediate sessions and progress to advanced as you master them.
- Beginner Rouine #1
- Beginner Routine #2
- Intermediate Routine #1
- Intermediate Routine #2
- Advanced Routine #1
- Advanced Routine #2
That's all for this week's post on the benefits of a strong core. Remember, a strong core is essential to running efficiently – and if you’re running efficiently, you burn less energy so that you can run longer, faster and injury free - who doesn't want that?
Keep on Running!
Julia, Patrick & Jo-Jo
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