Running Benefits to having a Strong Core

The muscles involved in the side plank. Theagonist (active) muscles are highlighted.

Most of us when we think “core,” we think abs (abdominal muscles) and envision the ideal six-pack and harbor dreams of tone, ripped, lean stomach muscles that make us proud and others jealous. I mean who doesn’t want that? I’ll tell you who..no. one. ever. And while I’m super crazy about ripped abs, core muscles are much more than that and I’m more crazy about what they can do; what amazing powers or secrets do they hold. Word on the street is that they’re magic to your running and really that’s all a runner girl needs to hear.

Before we dive into the magic stuff, let’s get rid of any misinformation as it pertains to your core muscles. The core consists of the abdominal, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back (active.com). I know! I wasn’t quite aware it was all that but the truth is you can see how it makes sense, since all these muscles can work together to make you stronger and faster. The aesthetics is purely a pleasant by-product of paying attention to these areas.
Thus, the main benefit of having a strong core is a stronger body with less potential for injuries.  Workouts targeting the core areas outlined above strengthen the muscles, which translates into better performance or running efficiency. The concept of a well-oiled machine can be applied here as the body, tried and tested, continuously strives for optimal performance. A number of the injuries that runners fall prone to such as : Achilles problems, Hamstring issues and lower-back pain, result from bad pelvic alignment (runnersworld.com). Additionally, there are issues of over and under pronation and inefficient cadence; a strong core can help to greatly reduce your risks, if not eliminate these issues altogether resulting in increased running economy.
So enough already with trying to get you on board, if you’re not there by now.. let’s just say you’re missing out on some sexy summer pics 😉 . On the other hand, if you’re sold, here are five of my favorite core exercises that you can include in your daily workout:
Planks – Basic and Side Planks can be done in separate workouts or can be alternated. On your toes, legs a few inches apart and elbows resting on the floor (below shoulders) hold position. Start small and work your way up increasing reps and duration. For example, from reps of 20 seconds to 1 minute with rest intervals in-between from 10-30 seconds depending on length of rep.
Abdominal Crunches – The basic crunch with feet planted on the floor or hyper-extended at right angles to the floor with a twist to do what is termed the bicycle twist gives you two options. You can start with 4 reps of 15 with 30 second rest intervals, gradually increasing reps each workout.
The Superman Pose – Lying stomach to the floor extend arms and legs full out raising first one leg and opposite arm about 4 inches off the floor, hold for an initial 10 seconds and rest, alternating sides and increasing the hold position slightly each workout.
The Bridge – Lie on the floor, hands extended in a cross position with feet planted on the floor right below knees. Slowly lift torso and upper legs until it’s in a straight line and you’re resting on shoulders and pressing down with feet. Extend left leg straight while keeping back straight, so it’s off the floor and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat with right leg. Do 5 or six reps with the option to increase duration and reps each workout.
Russian Twists – Using a ball or weights, I use 10-15 pound weight, sit  straight up on the floor with legs extended and slightly raised, lean back until abs are engaged and twist and pick up weight, keep twisting right to left with weight and reaching as far behind you on the twists as you can. Do 4 reps of 10-15 to start.
What’s super cool about these is that you can work them into any workout, on any given day, and they can be done indoors or outdoors with minimum fuss. You can also combine as few as or as much of these core exercises as you like. Pretty flexible right? Feel no pressure to get a crunch on..only that summer in all its bikini-clad glory will soon be here. 😜
Sources: active.com, competitor.com, runnersworld.com
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