Core, Blimey: Exercises for Runners

22 January 2016

What do you need core exercises for? You’re a runner, and the only thing runners need are a good pair of legs, right? Wrong! Sure, you wouldn’t be a very good runner if you neglected your legs, but you’ll never be a great runner if you neglect your core!

Don’t be tricked into thinking running is all it takes to be a great of the sport – you think marathon champions and Olympic legends never spend time in the gym?  While you don’t need to be perfecting your deadlifts or knocking the stuffing out of a punch bag, a few floor exercises can make all the difference between staying at your current level and graduating to the next.

Core-rect Me If I’m Wrong...

But the core doesn’t even move, right? Correct, the core isn’t a prime mover so far as your muscles are concerned but the strength of it will dictate how effective the rest of your movement is. While many gym-goers work the core to get it chiselled to beach-ready perfection,  athletes who prize performance over the perfect six-pack (don’t worry, you’ll get that too) won’t even have to hit the gym to add effective core exercises to their routine.

Vital to balance and stability during motion, a strong core will be able to better control the forces you generate through running. Strengthened in the correct way, a well trained core makes for better running form, allowing you to run faster, last longer, reduce chances of injury and push through to a better PB. Our easy additions to your current routine require only a few spare minutes to perform and zero extra equipment, so you have no excuse to not to give them a go!

In-core-redible Workouts

Decided a better core is for you? Then have a go at the following exercises, all of them are easily completed at home or even outside as part of your running warm-down. See? Told you it was easy.

Planks: Easier said than done. The plank may look simple enough, but it requires a good amount of strength and control to be able to maintain this position. Start by laying face down with your elbows rested on the ground, your shoulders directly above your elbows and your feet slightly apart. Push yourself up much like a press-up and hold it there for 50 seconds. The stronger your core becomes, the easier it will be to maintain your position for longer periods.

The Side Plank: The classic plank with a twist. Same rules apply but you’ll be lying horizontal, lifting up on one elbow while the other arm stretches towards the ceiling, with one foot resting on top of the other.

Hip Thrusts: The proper way to perform a hip thrust (for running, anyway) is to lay on your back with your legs bent at the knee, placing your weight on your upper back. Lift one leg so your weight is on the other, lifting your hips. Repeat on the other leg.

Fire Hydrant: Start on all fours and raise one leg, while keeping its bent angle unchanged, until it is parallel with your upper body. This stretch basically impersonates a dog visiting his favourite fire hydrant, but we don’t advise you include the final stage in your re-enactment.

Sliding Pike: Ok we lied, you need one piece of equipment for this, a towel, and also an uncarpeted floor. Beginning in the plank position, the towel should be folded and placed under your feet to make what happens next possible: sliding your feet forwards. This is achieved by raising your hips, your feet should slide easily with the motion leaving you in a pike position, with your hips and rear being held higher than your head.

Crunches: The most common go-to core exercise is also one of the easiest. Lie on your back with your legs bent and your hands behind your head. Raise your head and shoulders towards your knees, your lower back should remain on the mat.

Russian Twist: Lay on the floor and raise bent legs in the air, your position should resemble a seated position, except you’re on your back and not on a chair. Now twist from your waist so your legs stretch to the left, you should not lose your position, your legs should move but not separate. Bring them back to the centre and now twist to the right.  

Bodyweight Squats: Sometimes your best workout tool is you. These squats use your bodyweight to challenge the core muscles and strengthen them. Start with your feet in line with your hips and your arms held straight out in front of you. Now pick a particularly interesting patch of wall, you want to keep your eye on this focus point to help you maintain steady balance and to ensure your head isn’t moving up or down during your squat. Lower yourself as if going to sit in a chair, you want your hips to pass your knees, don’t rush this exercise or your body won’t thank you. Take your time and concentrate on balance, and slowly return to standing with feet always firmly kept on the ground. A successful squat targets nearly every muscle group you have and are one of the best ways to get you in tip-top running condition.

The Superman Pose: Actually a yoga pose, this stretch sees you impersonate the world’s greatest superhero. Lie stomach-down and slowly raise one arm, then a leg, the final stage of the pose is to have both arms and legs in the air, but being able to achieve this straight away can be an optimistic expectation. A successful superman will see all your limbs raised with only your trunk against the floor.

The Hollow Rock: Realise your dreams of becoming a human rocking chair with this bizarre yet effective exercise. Start by lying on your back and raise your arms and legs in the air. Now move back and forth until you are rocking. You can also pull legs together and bend them and continue to rock for a bit of variety, but don’t be cocky about getting rocky, perfecting this exercise is a whole lot trickier than it looks!

More Than the Floor for Your Core

Getting the hang of the above exercises might be a challenge, but you’ll soon be reaping the rewards. If you feel like getting creative with your core routine,  why not try some of our helpful accessories? The Sissel Pilates Core Trainer is a gentle way to introduce core exercises to your routine, helping you hold the key stretches you need to work the muscle group. The Escape Fitness Core Momentum Trainer has made a momentous impact on the fitness world thanks to its unique design.  Offering a truly rigorous workout to your core muscles, this innovative exerciser will have you conditioned to running perfection in no time. Rope training has been used for hundreds of years in Asia as a simple but hugely beneficial way of strengthening the whole body. A few slams of the Battle Rope will see your blood pumping and your core well challenged.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and if you’re happy with sticking to our simple floor routine then we’re happy for you, but you might want to take a look at our selection of exercise mats, to make sure your routine is as comfortable and safe as possible.

Visit our online store for a whole range of core-conditioning gear to take your running to the next level!