Before I became a runner, I was obsessed with ab exercises like crunches (that didn’t give me a 6 pack anyway). But as I became a more well informed runner and triathlete, I learnt about the value of core strength. When I asked experienced runners and coaches what else I could do to improve my running, their answer was yoga/pilates to strengthen my core.

Benefits of a Strong Core

A strong core can improve running posture. While running longer distances, core strength is especially important to hold up posture towards the end of the race when fatigue takes over.

The core holds up your upper body and also allows your lower body to move efficiently.

As my misadventures with my rolled ankle showed, core strength also improves balance and that makes it quicker to recover when you step wrong.

Exercises for a strong core

There are plenty of core exercises including the very commonly recommended planks. I’m not going to write about them today. For a fun plank workout, try these 47 different variations on a plank from the Greatist.

Core, Hips and Pelvis

When I went to my sports chiropractor, he checked me for my mobility, extension and some core strength. What he noticed was that I wasn’t extending my hips even though I had plenty of extension.

What does that mean?

It meant that my core muscles are weak and not strong enough to keep my pelvis and hips aligned. And even though I might have *some* core, the core muscles are not engaging. Without that core engaging, my running is not benefiting from any of the core strengthening exercises I’m doing.

Engaging the Core

I took heart when the Dr. said that most of the time the core muscles just need to be taught how to fire and engage. It might take a few tries, it might take a few weeks or months but that is something I should be working on along with the core strengthening.
Engaging your core is basically holding your ab muscles tight and pulled in, but one that includes your back, glutes, and pelvic muscles.

To know what that feels like -Stand against the wall and try to press your lower back into the wall. Watch what happens to your pelvis. You have to engage your lower abdominal muscles in a vertical crunch movement. Remember that feeling in your body and try to maintain it as you run.

Exercises to Engage the Core

Bird Dog

This is a great all-round exercise that I incorporate in my hips and gluten routine. An easy way to make sure that your core is engaged is to place a water bottle on your back and lift to bird dog and make sure that the water bottle doesn’t fall off.

Leg Lift

Lie on the floor with knees bent. Put your hand under your back so you can feel the movement. Pull your belly button in and tuck your pelvis – the core engaging movement. You’ll know you are doing it right when your back presses into your hand. In this engaged position, pull one knee in to your chest slowly and breathe through it. Put it back down and repeat with the other leg. Make sure that you don’t let go the core when you switch legs.

Both these exercises take less than 10 minutes and can easily be incorporated into your everyday core routine.

What’s your core routine?
Do you actively work on engaging your core along with strengthening it? How do you work it in while  running?

 

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These are some of the weekly linkups hosted by great bloggers. Check out some of the posts in the linkups.

Monday
Meatless Monday – Confessions of a Mother Runner and A Whisk and Two Wands
Tuesday
Tunes Tuesday (first Tuesday of the month) – KookyRunnerRun With No Regrets and RunSteffRun
Tuesdays on the Run –No Guilt LifeMCM Mama RunsMarcia’s Healthy Slice
Wednesday
Running Coaches Corner – Running on HappySuz LyfeCrazy Running Girl and Coach Debbie Runs
Friday
Friday Five 2.0 –Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness
Sunday
Weekly Wrap up – HoHoRuns  and Taking the Long Way Home

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What does it mean to “engage your core”?
  • This is a topic that my trainer and I talk about a lot. It’s so important but not always easy to do

  • I am a daily planker. I have heard crunches are not effective unless they are done with absolute perfection…and that’s difficult. I had not really thought of it, but I don’t find myself tripping/falling as much as before…maybe my core is doing its job in keeping me vertical 😉

  • Rachel

    This is incredibly timely for me. I’m actually working on engaging my core through PT every week. I’m much better at it now. I was always decent at it but not good enough. Great post!

  • Hannah

    Such a great point—it’s hard to

    remember to always engage the core!!

  • Clarinda

    I need to work on this more! Love the water bottle tip. I’m going to try that next time I do some bird dogs!

  • Andrea Signor

    This is SO important for any athlete. I’m going through some diastasis recti correction and doing very similar exercises that you suggest and I’m astonished at how little I’d been engaging!

  • Lisa @ Mile by Mile

    Great info! I’ve heard similar things when seeing PTs and chiros so this is always something I am working on. Certain cues can really make a huge difference!

  • So true! I did bird dogs in PT today. Doing marching bridges while keeping your hips level when you switch legs is another one to test/strengthen your core.

  • You can’t do anything if you don’t have that core! My CrossFit coaches are all about that. And yep, crunches are not the way to strengthen the core!

  • Kathryn Thayer

    Having a strong core is so important for so many aspects of life. Keep at it with engaging that core!