Pune’s Taru Mateti is often called the podium queen because she almost never fails to win the top three spots in every marathon she participates in. Without any prior athletic background or training it has been an arduous and equally enjoyable journey for Taru with more than 40 podium finishes to her name.

For a runner, their core muscles – essentially, the hips, glutes, abs and lower back – work overtime to keep the body in running form. By strengthening their cores, athletes are able to bring stability to their run and reduce chances of injury and run stronger and faster like a well-oiled machine. Core workouts are an integral part of a runner’s routine, they provide the power and endurance needed for powering up hills, racing to the finish, and maintaining efficient form mile after mile.

Your abs, for example, bear the brunt of the weight as you shift your energy from one leg to another. Consequently, the stronger your abs are, the faster and more efficient are your strides. Taru has three favorite exercises when it comes to strengthening her core. She does a set of Leg Raises, Scissors and Padvritasana for the midsection and abs, which also help improve her running form and economy.

Leg Raises

The leg raise is the perfect exercise for lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors.

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you, a toe’s width apart. Make sure to keep your hands down flat on the ground near your sides.
  • Bend your knees and raise your legs. Your calves should be parallel to the ground, while your thighs are perpendicular. Keep your toes pointed while you do this, drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
  • Straighten your legs until your feet are pointed at the ceiling. Keep your toes pointed and raise your legs as slowly as possible. Remember not to let your lower back arch off the ground, or you may injure yourself.
  • Slowly lower your legs. Bring them down as far as you can while keeping your back flat against the floor. Your goal is to reach about an inch off the floor. Hold your arms in the same place, but use them for strength and support as you lower your legs.

Scissors

This is a great exercise for those who suffer from lower back pain and looking for a way to also strengthen your abs. Scissors also strengthen your quads and loosen tight hips and hamstrings.

  • Start by lying flat on your back. Position your arms in such a way that they are at the side of your torso. You can also place them under your head for support.
  • Next, bend your knees and draw them towards your chest. Slowly lift both legs toward the ceiling and press your lower back into the floor.
  • Keeping your core strong, lower your right leg toward the ground while keeping the left leg up.
  • Begin scissoring your legs, so you lift your right leg back up as you lower your left leg down towards the ground.
  • Repeat this for 20-30 times till you start feeling the burn. Remember to keep your core engaged the entire time and your lower back pressed into the floor.

Padvritasana

This asana involves single or double leg rotations that help slim down the waist and maintain the hip flexors.

  • Lie down flat on your back on the floor. Your arms and shoulders should rest along the sides of your torso, with the palms facing downwards.
  • Raise both your legs by bending your hips and keeping your lower body pressed into the floor.
  • Slowly start rotating your hips (and legs) in a clockwise direction. Make 5-10 full circles and then bring your legs back to the ground.
  • Repeat the same movement in an anti-clockwise direction for another 5-10 circles.

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