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Marathon Runners: Build a Strong Core for Injury-Free Long Runs

Updated: May 8

It's like clockwork...

During almost every training cycle you know those long runs are coming and...

It's always around mile 15 or 17 (or higher) that things start to happen.

Little knee twinges

Hamstring tweaks

Plantar fasciitis sass.

Nothing major, but enough to merit a second thought,

and maybe mild concern.

Not to mention: they always like to show up during peak week (which is really peak month).

So what do you do when it happens...

and how do you prevent the back-talk from starting in the first place?


  1. Sprinkle in some eccentric strength training of the muscle groups in question (quads, knees, feet/ankle muscles.)

  2. And add in THIS running-specific CORE STRENGTH training.

Because REAL TALK: running is high impact...and you're doing it for 1-3 HOURS at a time. You have to prepare your core for this kind of endurance!

And what better way than with a core circuit made specifically for marathoners, designed to strengthen your core for long runs, especially during peak weeks ;) CANNOT shy away from this circuit just because "it's hard" or requires you to branch out and maybe try new gym equipment.

If an injury-free training cycle and race are on the other side of this, isn't it worth it?

Let's hop in!



3 sets each // body weight + medium-heavy weights

Bear Crawl Hand to Opposite Toe Taps

  • 20-30 Reps (10-15 ea side)

Elongated Runner's Lunge Power Lift with Machine Cable

  • 8 reps ea side X medium-heavy weight

Sprinter Plank into RDL Runner's Stance

  • 8-10 reps per side X medium weight


Bear Crawl Hand to Opposite Toe Taps

  • Promise: this is the easiest one of the bunch. Don't skip it.

  • THE REASON I LIKE THIS ONE: I know you're tired of planks; I get it. Bear crawls are a different spin on planks but allow you to play within the position to make it look more like running.

  • When you reach for your opposite toes in this bear crawl, you mimic the running motion, almost looking like you're running into the ground.

  • THE STRENGTH YOU'RE BUILDING: more anti-rotation core strength, meaning, resisting face planting into the ground. This anti-rotation is the theme of the ENTIRE circuit because as you run, your core and torsi naturally twists and after so many miles and hours, your muscles get tired of constantly controlling this motion at neck-breaking speeds.

  • You need your core to not only be strong, but balanced and capable of staying solid in a variety of positions to help improve overall endurance-strength.

Elongated Runner's Lunge Power Lift/Chop with Machine Cable

  • Repeat after me: "I will not be scared of trying new gym equipment"

  • PRO TIP: if you don't have a gym near you, you CAN still replicate this with resistance bands at home, but they better be heavy duty!

  • THE SECRET: you're in long lunge position that mimics your running stride, and by powering up quickly, explosively, with power, you're building the same strength you need to reach and then keep the faster paces you're chasing, integrating core strength with lower body stability.

  • Meaning: you're going to feel your core work hard to hoist that weight up and over, but you're also going to feel your lower body fight to stay strong and stable.

  • But that's only HALF the exercise: the remaining half is slowly lowering, with control, the cable or band back to the starting position.

Sprinter Plank into RDL Runner's Stance

  • This exercise can be mind-bender; take your time here!

  • THE KEY: this one is a combination of a sprinter-plank and an RDL, but you chose whether that RDL is weighted at first.

  • A sprinter plank is a great way to test your core strength in how it handles quick, intense movement, specifically the intensity of your running movement pattern. This exercise matters because it challenges your entire body to stabilize your core in a way that looks like running.

  • Adding in the RDL at the end creates both a core, single-leg balance and strength, and extra hamstring challenge. Like I mentioned before, feel free to break this apart at first practicing them separately and when you're ready, put them together. If you want to make it extra spicy, add in a light weight.


These are full body, functional core exercises that will test:

  • your ability to hold positions that look like running

  • under different loads

  • building your overall core endurance strength.

In other words: if you're wanting 6 pack abs from these exercises...these aren't exactly what you're looking for.

But if you're looking for non-plank, no bird dog/dead bug combo core exercises that will teach your muscles how to work together as a team and keep you injury-free're in the right place.

If you want to check out some more strength exercises specifically designed for runners, you're going to want to check out my 14 Day Stronger Runner Challenge!

And if you're looking for your best, strongest, most injury resilient marathon training cycle yet need to get on the waitlist for RACE READY:

  • my 16 week strength program for marathoners that's designed to compliment your running plan so you don't have to piece meal random strength circuits off the internet and hope you're doing it right. ;)

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

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