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Best FULL BODY Core Exercises for Runners: FAST, effective Holiday Workout

Raise your hand if you rely on your workouts to keep you SANE during the holiday season?

(don't worry; you're not the only one)

I personally love the holiday season and I go all out for Christmas.

But I understand (especially this year) the struggle of traveling.

Not having your gym or your equipment with you.
And having your regular schedule scattered to the four winds.

Not to mention, the sitting.

That was the single, most brought up "ugh" moment when I was doing the 1-on-1 calls that are a part of Race Ready, my 16 week strength program for runners.

I asked every runner if they wanted to or planned on training through the holiday seasons coming up.


"yes, I need to for my sanity"

"yes! because I know we're going to be sitting around the rest of the day"

yes! I need SOMETHING to do!"

So I promise, if you've got ants in your pants and you need a healthy outlet that doesn't involve 12 more cookies...I wanted to give you a Christmas gift.

This week's circuit is adapted from Day 3 of RACE READY.

It's a little longer than my normal circuits, but it gives you a taste of what my full programs feel like: an emphasis always on challenging your strength in new ways PLUS building true, hypertrophy strength to prevent injury.

But it's short enough that you an easily fit it in after a run, too ;)
Because don't be skipping that strength work ;)

Let's go.

FULL Body Core Workout for Runners: Minimal Equipment

Circuits adapted from Day 3 of RACE READY: 16 week strength plan for marathon runers

Circuit 1: Corrective Core & Injury Prevention

2-3 rounds // Body weight + medium weight

Bear crawl shoulder taps

  • 20 total (L shoulder = 1, R shoulder = 2, L shoulder = 3)

Sprinter Plank

  • 5 Reps ea side

1/2 kneeling med ball chop/lift

  • 16 reps total per round:

  • 8 with R knee + 8 with L knee up

Circuit 2: HYPERTROPHY Strength

4 sets of 8 @ RPE 6-8 // HEAVY weights

Single leg bridge with OH weight

  • 1 set = 8 reps with R knee up + 8 reps with L knee up

Walking lunges backwards holding weights in B hands (down by side)

  • Step back with L = 1, step back with R = 2, etc

How Full Body CORE EXERCISES for Runners Help You Not Lose your Fitness over Holidays

Normally I'd give you a quick break down and explanation of each exercise, but I'm afraid if I did that with these circuits, this blog post would become a novel. So let's try it a different way.


  • THE MAIN TAKEAWAY: if you watched the YouTube video, you've got a visual already. ;) All 3 of these full body core exercises not only look like running, but they specifically target ANTI-ROTATION core strength, a type of core stability that is paramount for runners to address in order to avoid injury.

  • What is ANTI-ROTATION core strength? Imagine taking your dog (or a friend's dog) on a walk. Suddenly and dramatically, Spot breaks right, sprinting towards a squirrel. Your core in that moment is resisting Spot pulling hard to the right, trying to ROTATE you in that direction. In that instant, your core is resisting and engaged in anti-rotation.

  • Why this matters: with every stride you take, your core is actually engaged in resisting a similar anti-rotation force. Without getting too technical, there's a lot of rotation occurring through your spine with every stride, but what keeps that constant rotation in check and under control? Your core.

  • So while planks are great, this is why eventually you need to get more specific with your core strength as you get ready to tackle harder, longer, or faster races.


  • THE SECRET: can you see how both of these strength exercises look like running? Especially the single leg bridge and how that looks like running on your back and how backwards walking lunges replicate your running stride?

  • Both of these exercises address single leg strength, specifically targeting glutes + hamstrings while also challenging your core stability and improving your single leg balance. (not sure about the core part? the backwards lunges will let you know;) )

  • The "sneaky" part in all of these (and I think the fun part), is how both of these leg and core exercises also engage your upper body at the same time with a functional PUSH (weights overhead during the bridge) and then a functional CARRY (carrying the weights down by your side with the walking lunges).

  • The lesson here: work smarter not harder and let your exercises look like running ;)


If you finish this workout saying "wow, that was too easy, this isn't working, or worth it, and there's no way that was effective…"

I'm (gently ;) calling you out.

Pick up a heavier weight.

Try it again.

Remember: aim for that RPE (rate of perceived exertion) is 6-8.

Which means:

RPE 6: you could do 4 more reps

RPE 7: you could do 3 more reps

RPE 8: you could do 2 more reps

Because the TRUTH: it's actually MORE difficult to lift heavy than we think it is.

(trust me, I'm still working on it too)

We instinctively don't want to lift heavy stuff, do hard things etc, because our brains and bodies always want to conserve energy (because that's definitely the reason right? not that we ate 12 extra cookies and had 1 too many glasses of eggnog...)

So to factually find that correct RPE of "I can only do X many more reps" genuinely just takes practice.

Time and practice.

So give yourself that grace.

And try again ;)

Looking for more ways to practice?

Grab my FREE Strength Guide for Runners here filled with strength exercises that are specific to what you need as a runner.

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. treat yourself! the strength guide is FREE ;)

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