With all the time that I haven’t been running, I have been working on building up my core muscles in the process. Again, another muscle area where I am lacking.
But, why are strong core muscles important for runners? There are a number of reasons:
- Strengthens muscles and joints
- Stability, power and endurance —> extremely important when tackling hills
- Help prevent muscle imbalances
- Ability to hold proper running form longer, even when you get tired in a run
- Mentally helps you feel stronger
In building a core workout, it’s important that you add in a few different types of exercises to target different muscles… and variety is the spice of life, it helps keep it interesting and not that boring. Some people like to have a few “core” exercises that they rely on, rotating them instead of doing the same ones over and over again. Variation helps keeps your muscles intrigued, too, which means better results in the long run. <— no pun intended, haha.
The best part of core is that you can do a lot of them without any equipment — just your body weight! Makes it easy to do if you are traveling or if you don’t have easy access to a gym.
Some exercises to add when building a core workout for runners:
1. Butterfly kicks
These babies look easy but I promise you, they are so. hard. They kill me every time. As you can see in the picture, it’s just moving your legs up and down — nothing drastic, but you can feel it in your lower core muscles.
I usually feel these for days after doing them.
2. Planks, planks and more planks
Planks are the latest and greatest in ab work. And it’s no wonder why… a standard plank works all of these muscles:
On top of that, you can do so many variations. Side planks to work the obliques. You can do shoulder taps to work the abs harder. Or leg lifts, which helps work more muscles than just your abs.
The plank challenge is a great way to quickly work your abs on a daily basis. The idea is that you drop into a standard plank and hold it as long as you can. Over time, you will build up your ability and strength. It’s cool to see how much you can progress… just by spending as little as a minute on your abs!
3. Reverse crunches
If you are stuck on the crunches bandwagon, try reverse crunches.
It’s a really simple move, but trust me… it will make your lower core muscles work and you will feel it the next day.
Feel like a super hero with these… like seriously. I want to put a cape on my back when I do these.
The thing I love most about these is they feel really easy. All you do is basically lie on your stomach and raise your arms and your legs in a cohesive manner:
Easy… right?! Drop, repeat, and continue until you start to feel the burn.
5. Reverse plank leg lifts
In addition to working your core muscles, reverse planks build your hamstrings and glutes. Both really important muscle groups for runners! To make it a little bit more challenging, engage in leg lifts.
It increases the intensity and helps strengthen your muscles even more than just the classic move. However, if your abs aren’t really strong, work yourself up to being able to do the leg lifts as you hold the reverse plank.
6. Ab slides
When C first showed these to me, I was like whatever… no problem. But literally? I did one and was done. It was the hardest move I have ever done in my life.
So to do these you don’t need fancy equipment (but you can invest in some if you would like). You can use a towel and just place your hands on that:
So, you start on your hands and knees, with your back a flat plane. Then you use your abs to slide your hands forward, until you are extended as far forward as you can go. Then (this is the tough part), you bring yourself back. That’s one slide. If you are more experienced, you can ditch the knees and do it on your toes.
So how many to do? This is the tough part to figure out, especially knowing how far to push yourself. At the point when you think you can’t do anymore, push yourself to do three extra. Or five more seconds. I like to do ab workouts in a circuit training (i.e., 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest for four rounds) to push myself and measure improvement over time.
What are your favorite core exercises?
How do you stay motivated to do a core workout after running or other activity? <— honestly, this is what I struggle with. I know it’s only a few minutes, but I just want to be done after running (no bueno).
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