If running is your thing, this post is for you!! Although I am sure a lot of this applies to other sports as well. The secret to running your best is to strengthen your core! Evidence has revealed that core strength training improves your running and you simply cannot run your best without a strong core. Evidence published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, showed that core strength training not only made the core trained runners run faster, but it also helped reduce pain, injuries and helped them stay strong on long runs.
What the experts say
Did you know that for elite runners, strengthening their core is practically mandatory, according to Runners World. Super marathon runner and world record holder Paula Radcliffe says that “it’s so important. The stronger your core, the more likely you are to hold your form and less likely to get injured”.
Elite running coach Greg McMillan says that “it’s the foundation for all of your movement, no matter what level of running you are doing”.
According to running expert Tim Hilden, “running required the coordinated effort of multiple muscles of the stomach, lower back and hips, all working to create a stable pelvis. He says that “these muscles anchor your whole body as you run, and you can’t make a strong push without them”.
Training your core muscles correctly is key. Lots of people think they are doing core work, but so often they are not engaging or using their core muscles. If you want to strengthen your core correctly, you need to do the right exercises and learn the correct technique for activating the right muscles, concentrate on your technique and movement, work on your form and then practise, practise, practice to get stronger. The good news is that strengthening your core is a very effective way to improve your running, and you only need to do 15-20 minutes a few times per week and it’s an in investment in your time that will pay dividends in your running!!
How your core work for you when you run
Having a strong core will help you to maintain good form and posture as you run and also help you to run more efficiently. Often at the end of a run, fatigue sets in and our posture goes and we end up slouching or even shuffling our legs, putting too much stress on the spine, knees, hips and shins. With a strong core you can maintain good form throughout your run.
Did you know that your core muscles come into play when you extend your stride or quicken your pace? The stronger these muscles are, the more force you have to propel yourself forward, generating more speed as you push off from the ground.
The glute muscles and your lower abs support your hips and pelvis and help you to get up a hill. When your glutes and core are strong, you have more stability for your legs to push you up the hill.
We often think of downhills as the easy bit, but when you run downhill you need strong glute muscles and core muscles to help counter the momentum of the forward motion, control the movement, and to help you absorb the impact of propelling forwards and downwards.
Ever been on a run and had to quickly dodge a dog or a hole or uneven ground? If your core and obliques are weak then when you take that lateral movement you can put excess weight and strain on the joints of your feet and legs. A strong core and oblique muscles will keep you stable if you suddenly move to the side.
My Personal Experience
I use to do a lot of running, prior to finding yoga and Pilates; I still enjoy running and I try to go for a run every Sunday to clear my head and get those endorphins. I use to get knee and hip pain when I ran, and I have totally forgotten that I use to get these pains, because I don’t get them any more ha! If we get an injury or have an ache or a pain, it’s our body’s way of communicating to us. Which is why, when the pain stops, we often neglect to do the things that helped us get better.
I swear that I don’t get injuries, pains or niggles any more because of my yoga and Pilates practice. Since I was serious about my yoga and Pilates practice, the following has happened:
- I have gained a very strong core which stabilises my hips and back and helps me to hold good running form and posture.
- My yoga and Pilates practice has strengthened my leg muscles, which supports my knee and hip joints.
- I have worked hard on strengthening my glutes as they were weak and my hamstrings were over working. I now get so much more power in my run from my glutes and don’t overuse my hamstrings.
- I regularly stretch, both dynamically and statically, which has resolved the muscle imbalances I have that can cause pain at the knee and hip and helped improve my mobility and flexibility.
- I feel I have a really strong core from which I get a lot of power and stability to drive my arms and legs forwards.
Exercises you can you do at home to improve your running
Most of my classes have a combo of core work, dynamic stretching and static stretching (at different ratios depending on the class and what we are working towards), so just doing those classes will benefit you. Plus, in every class we strengthen your postural muscles, which help you to hold good form when you run. But if you want to do exercises that specifically benefit your running, these are the key ones I would do:
Focused core exercises.
Shoulder bridge variations.
All fours swimming.
Mini blank balance.
Plank with a ball.
Side plank with a ball.
Lying side oyster with added obliques and core.
Chest openers (helps you to breathe better).
Pilates reverse lunges
Leg lifts with stability.
Videos on the Membership to improve your running
There are so many workouts and videos on the Membership that will benefit your running! Here are just some that I would recommend you start with:
The Core Series
Bridge Pose (Stage 1)
Bridge Pose (Stage 2)
Pilates Side Lying Glutes & Core
Shape Up Series (Video 13)
Improving Your Balance
Dynamic Pilates Standing Leg & Hip Workout
Yoga For Your Legs & Hips
Post Run Stretch
Relaxed Leg Stretches
I will soon upload a Dynamic Pre-Run Warm-up Routine for you and if there are any other videos you would like, please let me know.
Thanks for reading and please get in contact if you have any comments or questions.