Once upon a time, the words “core exercises” used to make me cringe. One of my clients still remembers me telling her, “You are not an apple,” when she first told me she really wanted to work on her core. To work on your “core” to me brought forth countless infuriating articles in women’s health and fitness magazines, with their hundreds of variations of crunches and their thinly veiled suggestion that if you just did enough of those crunches, you’d spot reduce your belly to a tight, defined six-pack of abs.
Delineating what the core exactly is when it comes to the human body was something I had a hard time getting my head around too. Our bodies don’t move in a way that isolates one group of muscles and some of my favorite exercises – deadlifts, squats, lunges – all of these utilize your abdominals and back muscles. But…if there’s something I’ve learned in years of being a trainer, you should always leave yourself open-minded enough to listen to the ‘buts’.
BUT strong abdominals assist with maintaining posture as you tire during endurance running.
BUT having strong back muscles help draw your shoulders back, opening up your chest to breathe better and improve posture.
BUT strong glutes help drive you uphill and power your run.
And that right there is the runner’s core. Focus on your abs, your back muscles and your glutes as the cornerstone of your workout and you’ll be building yourself up as a stronger, more powerful runner. And to help you out, today is my favorite post of the month, the monthly workout round-up with Angela, Laura, Allie, Nellie and Sarah. So I have not one, but six fantastic core workouts for runners for you to add to your strength training.
Let’s start with my core workout for runners. Try two sets of 15 – 20 repetitions.
3 SETS of 15 – 20 REPS
If you have a lot of space you can do traveling inchworms: Start in a plank position, then inch your feet up to a down dog position. Then, inch your hands forward until you’re back in a plank. Continue on, alternating feet to arms if you have room.
If you only have the space of your mat, you can modify for space, by inching feet up into down dog, then back to plank position and repeat.
On all fours with a neutral spine, extend one arm and the opposite leg out as far as you can, then slowly return to starting position. Alternate sides and focus on keeping your spine neutral, without rolling from side to side to maintain balance.
PLANK FLUTTER JACKS
Get into either a forearm or hand plank, lift one straight leg up, then the other (that’s the ‘flutter’), then jump your feet out and back in (that’s the ‘jack’). That is one repetition.
ELEVATED PUSH UP TO DONKEY KICK
Use a bench (or a couch) to get into an elevated hand plank position. Keeping your abs tight and a neutral spine, do a push up, come back to hand plank, then pull one knee into your chest and push it up behind you into a donkey kick. Repeat the kick on the other side and YES that’s one rep! 🙂 You’re welcome.
BENTOVER NARROW ROW TO GOOD MORNING
Lets get those lovely postural muscles in your back firing. Get into a bentover deadlift position, then use dumbbells for a narrow (elbows in) row. With weights at the shoulder position, then come up into a good morning (basically a hip hinge up to standing position).
REVERSE LUNGE TO KNEE UP
Step back into a reverse lunge, then drive your knee up as you come up from the lunge. To make this even more runner specific, you can hold dumbbells in each hand and mimic running arms as you lunge and drive your knee.
AX CHOP LOW TO HIGH
This is such a great full body movement – one of my favorite moves for sure. With a wide stance, holding a medicine ball, lean into one side, then raise the ball with straight arms up and over the opposite shoulder, ensuring your hip and foot follows the movement of the weight.
In addition to this workout, I suggest taking one run a week (an easy run, or your long run) and use some of your time to really focus on your posture and breathing. Notice how your chest, diaphragm and abdominals work in unison as you breathe. Try a few minutes of running while you’re tightening your abs, tucking your tailbone under, and drawing your shoulder blades back to open your chest. Just notice how this feels as you run and how it affects your form. When you’re running uphill, squeeze your glutes and imagine them firing to drive you up the hill.
Okay, ready for more great core workouts for runners? Check out my fabulous running blogger friends’ workouts below!
Allie from Vita Train for Life has put together an awesome video workout for you! Check it out (and subscribe to her channel while you’re at it.)
Nellie from Brooklyn Active Mama has a great core workout for everyone, but is something that anyone with diastasis recti will particularly find helpful (separation of your abdominal wall – common for postpartum mamas).
Angela from Happy Fit Mama is a woman after my own heart with her emphasis on planks (remember when I gave you a workout entirely made up of planks??), plus Angela’s workout is great for upper body strength as well:
Laura from This Runner’s Recipes incorporates some Pilates moves and an exercise I love (yes, that means my clients hate it), stability ball passes:
Sarah from Run Far Girl has a simple, effective and deadly core workout for you. Are you guys sensing some planks in your future? I love this workout, I will definitely incorporate it into my strength training: