Six things runners need to know about core work
When I hired my first coach one of the first things she taught me was the value of core work. Now, as a running coach myself, it’s something I prescribe to all of my athletes.
There is no doubt that in order to improve as a runner, one needs to run consistently. Additionally, runners who consistently do proper core routines improve because their strong cores create stability, increase their power and key their endurance.
A well-developed core is instrumental when it comes to a runner successfully running longer, faster and more efficiently.
The Internet is full of core routines for runners. Instead of recommending specific exercises to pursue, here are six things to know about adding or refocusing core routine to aid your running progress.
1. More than your abs. The abdominal muscles are an important part of the core — but not the only part. The lower back, hamstrings, hips, obliques and glutes are also considered part of your core. As you determine the best core exercises for you, focus on those that strengthen these key areas.
2. Core work wards off injuries. A strong core helps a runner by maintaining a neutral pelvis, allowing the runner to power up hills and maintaining good form even as fatigue sets in.
3. Become more efficient. It stands to reason that stronger muscles help you run faster while not using as much energy. That’s where the core comes in. A well-developed core allows your body to use more muscle fibers to speed you along. Without those additional muscle fibers, a runner will keep using the same muscles, which in turn, will mean fatigue will set in more quickly. 4. Got speed? To run faster, you will need to recruit muscles to extend your stride, and quicken your leg turnover. The stronger and more stable these muscles are, the more force and speed runners can generate as they accelerate.
5. Focus on consistency. So you’ve bought into core work. Good. A common question is about the frequency needed to improve one’s core. There are various approaches to scheduling core work. Some coaches target a brief routine every day while others simply want a weekly workout. For most of my athletes, I prescribe twice-weekly core workouts, around 20 to 30 minutes each. The exercises target the aforementioned areas that should help runners stay immune from injuries while improving their running economy, and therefore performance.
6. One more thing about injuries. Athletes sometimes forsake a core routine for another run. But as you increase mileage and/or speed, the more stress you put on your hamstring, knees, back and other key areas, the more likely it will be for an injury to occur. The increased workload could lead to muscles becoming inflamed, strained or torn. Some injuries require extensive rehabilitation.
This article is not meant to dispense medical advice. If you experience pain during your workouts, stop, treat the area and consult your doctor.
With proper core work, your chances for injuries are reduced while the opportunities for improvement are greater as you compile weeks, months and years of consistent training.