Runners, don't forget to work the core; here are some exercises to help
Running is a great workout. Not only does it build endurance and stamina, but running also builds lean muscle. However, runners whose only workout is the run itself are neglecting exercises that will help improve running performance and reduce risk of injury.
One of the most important areas of the body for any runner to work is the core. The core includes the abdominal muscles and the sides, called oblique muscles, and the back. The core stabilizes the body while running. A strong core will help improve posture and running form. The core is the power center for running and a stable core will increase the efficiency of each stride, while helping reduce muscle imbalances that increase risk of injury.
Here are a few exercises that can help increase overall core strength:
1. Plank: The plank strengthens the entire core area. Lay on your stomach. Place your elbows and forearms on the floor, with the elbows directly underneath the shoulders. Curl the toes under and bring your body up so that it is parallel to the floor. Make sure that you are looking slightly forward so as not to put strain on the neck. Hold for time. Start with 15 seconds and increase as you gain strength. A modification is to drop one or both knees to the floor.
Photo courtesy of attrice.wordpress.com
2. Side plank: The side plank is another version of the plank. Side plank works the core and focuses on the oblique muscles. Lay on your right side with your body straight. Bring the right elbow underneath the right shoulder, with the forearm facing perpendicular to the body on the ground. Slowly lift your body up, keeping the hips in line with the rest of the body. Hold for time and repeat on the other side.
3. Leg raises: Leg raises work the lower abdominal muscles and the hip flexors. Lay with your back on the ground, hands underneath the lower back for extra support. Raise the legs up perpendicular to the floor, and slowly lower down then back up.
4. Locust pose: This yoga pose is great for strengthening the lower back. Lay on your stomach on the floor, with arms forward in front of you. Raise both the arms and legs off of the ground simultaneously. You can hold for time or do repetitions of this exercise.
Photo courtesy of 30dayyogi.wordpress.com
These exercises are just a few of many that help strengthen the core. If you are unsure how to complete a position, make sure to ask a fitness professional for help. These exercises will help increase core strength and improve running strength and efficiency.
Chelsea Earls is a personal trainer and runner who works at Running Fit in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.