The Secret to Faster, Injury-Free Running: Your Core

Many runners make the critical mistake of shunning strength training. “I’m a runner,” they tell themselves. “My chest doesn’t run. My abs don’t run. It’s my feet and legs, and perhaps my glutes, that I have to be concerned with. It doesn’t matter what my upper body is like, and besides I’ll keep my whole body in good shape by burning off unwanted fat through running.”

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This is wrong thinking, unfortunately for them. Having a strong upper body core is quite important for the runner. There’s a reason why you don’t see any scrawny sprinters.

Increased core strength means increased endurance. When your body is more muscular, it is a more efficient fuel-burning machine.

More muscle means greater resistance to fatigue, as well. (We’re not talking about getting bulky if you are a competitive runner, because that negates the advantages of muscular strength with too much weight.)

Your core climbs hills. If you have a weak core, you won’t be running up hills as fast as you could with a strong core. Strong abs actually help you pull yourself up a steep incline, and a strong lower back helps push you up that same incline.

A strong core resists injury. Strong abs let you have better posture when you run. This not only speeds up your pace, it lets you resist nagging lower back injuries that result from poor posture. Likewise, a strong core absorbs impact energy better, which takes more of the burden from your feet, ankles, and legs’ tendons.

Getting good running shoes. Running shoes that are high quality and are well suited for your feet is what you need to be a good runner.

And then…thin ain’t in. “Skinny” isn’t sexy, especially not for a man. A strong core means for you that you look (not to mention feel) fitter and more energized.

Some Core Strength Building Suggestions

Note: Crunches are not healthy. They can strain your neck and injure your lower back. Crunches are glorified but they are totally unnecessary for core strength building.

Ab-wheel. This is a dirt-cheap piece of equipment (you don’t need the elaborate kind). You get on your knees holding the wheel in front of you on the floor, and then you simply let your upper body roll forward while holding the wheel, keeping your knees on the floor. When your torso is parallel to the floor, you roll the wheel backwards into your starting position. It’s simple and strengthens your abs, your chest, and your back all at once in smooth motions. The drawback to the ab-wheel is that it’s monotonous. Music is highly recommended.

Floor windmills. Lie flat on your back. Your arms can be behind your head or they can be extended out in front of you. Put your legs together and raise them, while keeping your back flat on the floor, until they’re at or close to a 90 degree angle to the floor. Then, slowly lower your legs to one side of your body as your back and shoulders remain touching the floor. When you get as low as you can, raise your legs back up and then lower them slowly to the opposite side.

Straight legged V-flexes. For this, you need another dirt-cheap piece of equipment: an inflatable medicine ball. Put your hands flat on the floor and rest your feet, with your legs straight out, on top of the medicine ball. Flex your hips so that you roll the ball closer to your body, then roll it back out. You should feel your hips raising toward the ceiling. This is a hard exercise and it will strengthen your abs and your gluteus maximus.

Play medicine ball catch. You need a partner for this fun one. Simply throw the medicine ball back and forth (trying not to drop it). If you’re by yourself, you can simply lay on your back and toss the ball up toward the ceiling, catching it as it comes back down. You can even watch sports while you do this.

You can look up other core strength building methods, too. Go core crazy and be an improved runner.

Ashley Porter is a professional blogger that shares fitness and nutrition tips. She writes for Fitness 19, an affordable fitness center with locations nationwide.