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. Here are a few recommended workouts for your midsection and abs that can help improve your running form and economy.
The Hip Twist
Lie down on your mat facing upwards and your palms flat on the ground. Now extend both legs together upwards with your toes pointing to the ceiling. Keeping your big toes in contact with each other, tip your legs to the right by about 18-20 inches, so that your left buttock is off the ground. You have to maintain your balance and stability through your abs and oblique muscles. Hold the pose for a bit and then return your legs to their perpendicular position. Do about 8-10 repetitions for both sides.
What it does: Hip twists strengthen your abs and obliques—muscles that keep you from excessive trunk rotation during running.
Lie on the mat with your face down and arm and legs extended. Slowly, raise your head, followed by your right art and left leg till they’re about 5 inches off the floor. Hold the pose for a few seconds and then return to your original position. Do about 10 -15 repetitions for both sides.
What it does: This workout strengthens your deep abs and lower back, add stability to your midsection and allow more efficient power distribution during runs. Remember not to raise your shoulders too much.
Supine Bicycle Crunches
Lie flat on your back and cross your arms behind your head like you would for normal crunches. Now, bring your right knee and left elbow together until they touch, straightening out your left leg as you do so. Keep your left leg elevated off the floor at an angle above hip height. Continue working both legs like on a bicycle pedal with alternate elbows and shoulders. Do about 10-15 repetitions.
What it does: This routine strengthens the ab muscles and controls the rotation of the trunk.
Start from a push-up position by keeping your forearms on the ground and elbows in line with your shoulders. Hold this for a moment; now turn to one side, with your elbows still directly below the shoulders. Lift the hip so your body stays in a straight line. You can also extend the opposite arm towards the ceiling. Hold and then repeat the same with the other side. Do about 8-10 reps at the beginning.
What it does: The side plank strengthens the arms, abdomen and legs, improves your send of balance and tones your cores with a focus on your obliques.
Distance runner Lauren Fleshman demonstrates her custom made abs routine that helped her get back into running shape after pregnancy.
So get down to it, and start working on your cores for better endurance, stamina and improved muscle coordination.