Teen Runners: Importance of Core Strength
Do you want to get faster and feel more stable when you run? Of course you do. However, you may not be considering the avenue for achieving this: your core.
Having a strong core is pivotal to becoming a stronger and faster runner. Your core is the engine behind all running- sprints, middle and endurance events. Think of your core as the transmission of a car. If you have a sub-par transmission in your car, you can still go. Changing gears may be a little sticky but nonetheless, you will be able to go. However, you definitely will be able to tell a difference in the performance of your car when the shotty transmission is replaced. If you have a weak core, granted, you will still be able to run and log long distances. If you build your core, you will run these distances more smoothly, efficiently and with better posture.
Increased core strength provides stabilization in your torso. Have you ever ran a 5K or longer and during the last mile (or earlier) you felt unbalanced? Almost as if you couldn’t stay upright? That is due to fatigue in your core. Once you lose that stabilization in your core, you begin to rock or slump when you run. You may feel off-balanced and begin to wobble or shuffle. As a result you begin to run less efficiently and that last mile (or more) feels like the most taxing mile of your life. Not to mention it is slow due to the inefficiency of your gait.
Strengthening your core yields results that go outside of the sphere of running. While feeling stronger, balanced, being more efficient during your runs are all great, a strong core is beneficial in your everyday life. Core strength is vital in maintaining good posture. Have any lower back pain that you’d like to get rid of? Core strength could help rid you of that pain you’re experiencing. Having a strong core can help aid in injury prevention as well. Whether you’re lifting something heavy, rotating or twisting, having a strong core sets a strong foundation for you to move well on and off the track.
You likely fall in one of the three camps: 1) I don’t do any core strengthening exercises, 2) I have a core routine that I follow occasionally or 3) I always incorporate core exercises into my workouts. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, I’d like to share a couple of exercises with you to either spice up your training or get you off on the right foot. It’s important to target all parts of your core- upper, lower, obliques and your back. That being said, try the following exercises before or after an upcoming run.
A plank is a great exercise to kick things off. Try holding this for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This exercise incorporates many of the muscles needed to run from your core to your hamstrings. If a plank hold is too easy, try a plank march. For this exercise, you still maintain the plank hold. However, for the march- cycle through extending one arm straight out and bringing it back under your chest to support your weight and alternating to the other arm. Again, if the plank hold is too easy, try this for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Hollow Body Hold
Moving on with stabilization exercises, the hollow body hold is next. For this exercise, lay on your back with your legs together and extended and try to lift your shoulders off of the ground. You should feel tension in your core and specifically your lower abs. Once your shoulders are off the ground, hold this position. This gymnastics move is a stronghold. You can play around with the tension of the movement by raising your feet higher to lessen the tension or by lowering your shoulders. If the holds are too easy, try hollow body rocks. Maintain the same position as the hold- strong core and upper body and tight lower body and simply rock up and down- bringing your feet as close to the floor as you can without touching. This is a slight move- not kicking your feet over your head. Shoot to hold this exercise for 30 seconds or as long as you can.
Shift from the hollow body position to a superman position by rolling over onto your stomach. This position is the opposite of the hollow body so this movement will be targeting your lower back. Extend your arms straight out while laying on your stomach. Engage the muscles in your arms, legs, core and back to lift your arms and legs off of the ground. Your legs and arms should be straight- no bending your elbows or knees. You can either hold here for as long as you can or cycle through 10-12 reps of raising and lowering.
For the final movement of the circuit- lay on your back and extend your legs up to make an “L” shape. Keep your back flat on the floor and with your legs raised, lower your legs down to the left, up and back to the middle, down to the right and back up to the middle- mirroring a windshield wiper. Complete 10-16 reps for this movement.
Give this circuit a spin and try to incorporate core training into your regimen at least once a week and you will certainly notice the difference in your performance and health on and off of the course.