Inner Strength: building your core
The ultimate goals of every runner, whether they are a first timer or seasoned pro, are to become better, faster and stronger. Although we like to acknowledge the fact that practice, usually does, make perfect, there are other ways to increase your performance aside from running more.
Strengthening your core can have a multitude of benefits for all athletes; especially runners. Your core muscles lie deep within your abdomen and connect the spine, pelvis and shoulders. By strengthening them, your ability to control muscles, movements, posture and balance will improve – ultimately improving your running form and efficiency. On top of all this, a stronger core will also reduce your risks of picking up an injury.
There are lots of exercises you can do to get conditioned. We’ve picked our top three to show you – they can all be done at home without any equipment, all you’ll need is a little perseverance!
The side plank will help improve the stability of your spine, pelvis and hips; all very important elements for a runner! Lie on your side with your legs straight and your ankles together. Prop your torso up with your upper arm; your hand and elbow should still be on the floor. Lift your hips upwards until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, making sure your hips don’t drop. Switch to the other side and repeat. It’s a great idea to use a mirror for this one to check your hips don’t sag!
The glute bridge is a great exercise to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. Lie on your back with your arms relaxed and your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your neck to your knees. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, remembering to keep your glutes switched on. Return to the start position and repeat for up to 10 repetitions.
This is a great exercise for strengthening your back and core muscles to help improve the stability of your spine, pelvis and hips when you run. Start on all fours. Squeezing your glute and keeping your core muscles switched on, slowly extend one leg and the opposite arm. Keep the back and the hips level. Return to the starting position with control and repeat using the other arm and leg. Aim for 5-10 repetitions on each side. This is another good one to do in front of a mirror.
If you are struggling with technique, you’ll find lots of helpful videos online. If you’re a member of a gym, have a chat with an instructor or personal trainer and get them to help with your technique; they’re bound to have other more challenging exercises too!