As if you needed 1 more reason to do your core work, right?
But do you do it?
I mean really do it.
Not just stare at the workout on your phone or hang out on a foam roller exhausted from your run.
Just me? Well then…this is awkward.
All jokes aside, a strong core does more than just hold you upright, prevent low back pain, make you a stronger runner, etc. Those are ALL valid reasons to do core work. But let me explain ANOTHER advantage of doing a core workout regularly.
The Core Basics
We all know having a strong core means having a strong foundation for any activity or sport. But I think as runners we fail to understand just how specifically core work benefits us.
Running by nature is an endurance sport, whether it's a short distance like a 100m or a marathon, you must first be able to complete said distance, yes?
Then, add in the element of speed. You must be able to complete a specific distance at a specific speed, regardless of that speed changing.
How do you accomplish this? Through a strong core that is built for endurance to last out over any speed or distance. Our power as runners comes from our core and hips working together to generate power to propel us over that distance. I realize this can start to sound like I'm over explaining…so let's flip this scenario.
What happens with a weak core? Well, something else, another part of your body, has to hold you upright! That was your core's job, until it reached a point where it tapped out. But your body doesn't just stop-you don't just fall over like a marshmallow. Another team member, another part of your body, picks up that slack to hold you upright. Mainly your hips, or your low back, or… You start to get the picture. Compensations start to happen.
But why jump right away to hips? Mostly because the hips are designed to help hold you upright. Quick fast and furious anatomy lesson: your pelvis was designed as a bowl and your femurs plug into that bowl creating what we call the hip joint. Those hip joints begin to "stiffen up" in response to poor core use and the demands of you asking your body to continue running.
Relating this back to mobility, when your core works correctly, those hips are able to move smoothly, freely and generate the power for your legs that they were designed to do.
So what SHOULD core work look like for runners?
Planks are an excellent place to start as they build pure core endurance. So think, regular elbow plank and side planks. Challenge yourself to hold each of these for 1 min.
But our core work CANNOT stop there.
Have you ever binge watched any profession or Olympic track and field event? Not only are they freaking fast, but there's 1 specific comminality amongst all the winners. You can actually start to predict which runners will quickly drop to the rear of the pack and which runners will be making a run for gold.
As I watched the Olympic trials the winners always demonstrated this iron determination, this easy-looking glide to the finish line, and this powerful rotation through their core that held them up in an upright posture.
What do I mean by that…
Think of the runners that came in 4th or 5th. The ones clawing they're way up to the front! They were pushing and pulling with their arms, trying to eek out any last bit of speed! But they started to tip, bend, and falter at their core. They cannot hold themselves "tall and easy" in an upright, powerful position. All of this to say, we as runners place unique demands on our obliques. Another fast and furious anatomy lesson: our abdominal obliques run diagonal and criss-cross around our rib cage. They look and act like a washcloth being rung out. These specific abdominal muscles as part of our core are responsible for providing stability and power during rotational movements, aka the upper body rotation that occurs relatively to lower legs with sprinting. A picture definitely helps make the point here.
So while planks are helpful, they don't always involve the transverse plane of motion aka that rotation. They're excellent for building endurance in a static, or not moving position. But rotation is constantly occuring when running! And our core work should reflect that.
So what does this look like?
Here are a few of my favorites.
SL bridge -watch out for your hips wobbling!
High plank knees to elbows
For a nice core workout, do 2-3 rounds of 20 of each exercise.
But please, modify as needed.
You want your core to go the distance with you and be able to meet whatever challenge you give it. Brave enough to give it a try? Put a comment down below-I'll keep you accountable ;)
As always, running fit fam…Run Strong.
Marie Whitt // @dr.whitt.fit
P.S Looking to learn more? Be sure to grab my FREE running guide: Finding The Missing Link In Your Running