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Maximize Your Time: The 4 Best Core Exercises for Beginner Runners with Busy Schedules

Raise your hand if you've ever assumed you needed a million and 1 core exercises to build a strong, injury-proof core for running?

If it's only me raising my hand over here, things about to get reeeeaal awkward.

But this truth is: I know I'm not the only runner.

It's mega-misleading see video after video of core-torching exercises on the internet, all pretty much done by super lean runners (or more likely enough, figure competitors or gym girlies).

The truth: that's....not a lot of us runners.

Most of us are running for our sanity, so we can show up as our best for our families, work, and ourselves.

Our core work goals: to STAY RUNNING and not worry about injury, not necessarily to look like a marvel super hero (although it could be fun some days...).

So let me hand you an effective, fast core circuit designed for YOU:

A busy, beginner or newish runner who has just enough time to squeeze in 8-10 mins of core work while the kids are distracted on an ipad or the dog isn't trying come in, come out, come in through the back door...

You get it.

But I don't want the advanced, road-hardened runner veterans to peace out.

There's something about coming returning to basics occasionally to double check that our foundation is as strong as we assume it is.

Let's jump in a find out.



3-4 sets each // Medium-Heavy weight (just 1!)

Bear Crawl Shoulder Taps

  • as many as possible during 30-40secs

1/2 Kneeling Power Lift with Free Weight

  • 6 Reps ea side (ex: R knee up, weight starts at L hip // L knee up; weight starts at R hip)

Sprinter Plank

  • 5 Reps ea side

Up-Down Plank

  • as many as possible3 during 30-40s


Bear Crawl Shoulder Taps

  • Trust me: these are often harder than they look. and here's why....

  • THE CATCH: you butt should not wiggle. As adults, we don't spend much time on our hands and knees anymore. But it's actually a crazy effective, no-equipment way to strengthen our core without spending the world's longest minute in a plank.

  • Your back shoulder stay flat, your butt in one place, and your knees only inches from the ground! By taking one hand away to tap your opposite shoulder, you're challenging your body with what we call "anti-rotation". Meaning, if you're core isn't strong enough to hold you up, you may face plant (but I know you won't; your reflexes will catch you). But it does paint the picture ;)

1/2 Kneeling Power Lift (with free weight)

  • You can definitely see how this one looks like running, right? Pretty cool!

  • ONE of my FAVORITES: the key here is not be afraid to move the weight FAST. You can take your time learning the exercise, but once you've got the movement down, it's time to go to work. By moving the weight quickly, you create momentum. Stopping the weight by your ear (and not letting go lol) forces your core to CONTROL the power you've created.

  • This is something most runners COMPLETELY miss. We're constantly working towards faster paces, but we don't necessarily train our body how to handle them once we get there. This exercise is key to helping you reduce risk of injury by actively preparing your body for your end goal: running faster, better, stronger.

Sprinter Plank

  • This is the exercise my runners love to hate ;)

  • THE PROBLEM: it's so dang effective, they can't NOT do it. No, it doesn't give you instant abs. But does instantly teach you just how coordinated (or not coordinated)your arms, legs and core in a position that literally has you running towards the ground.

  • This is another exercise that directly works anti-rotation, or your core's ability to resist a twisting motion.

  • WHY THIS MATTERS: every stride you take, your hips spin one direction and your shoulder spin the opposite. Hard to visualize? Google a picture of Olympic sprinters and you'll see what I mean. Even marathon runners experience this core rotation with every stride they take. It's this sprinter plank exercise that helps you build that strong core that will directly improve your stride and core, making both stronger.

Up-Down Plank

  • I know what you're thinking: this exercise isn't new or shiny or....

  • THE SECRET: there's a reason I made this exercise time based. It's humbling. It's also a multi-tasker, working not only your core but your upper body (you're welcome). My personal story: I kept ending up with nagging right-sided groin tweaks from running slippery, wet trails. THIS was one of the exercises that finally helped clear it up because of how pushing up with my Left arm made my Right adductor and core fire and work together. (yes, our inner thigh muscles and core work directly together.)

  • I'd rather you do super effective exercises that are hard in short bursts, than a million easy-peasy exercises that don't directly relate to your sport and improve your running.


Solid, effective core exercises for runners doesn't have to look like endless planks and crunches.

(Because who really wants to do those?)

The TRUTH: we're much more likely to do exercises that at least hold our attention.

Are these hard? yes!

Will core work still be a bit of a struggle? Probably!

But it goes a looooong way with self-motivation when you know, see, and feel how your hard work with your core workouts is paying off, leaving you feeling stronger on your next hill workout or speed session.

If you're looking for ways to strength train like a runner, check out all my running FREEBIES here on my website.

And maybe you've been trying out these exercises for a hot minute and you're wondering if there's more?

You're in luck. ;)

You can sign up for the waitlist to get more information on RACE READY: my 16 week strength program for runners who want strength exercises designed for runners that compliment their training plan, giving them their strongest, best, injury-free race yet!

Until next time running fit fam

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

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