When trying to improve your running, it is very easy to get caught up in the numbers. The distance; the duration; the speed; the elevation; and when you start to get a bit more serious, the heart rate and the cadence. While these components should be on your mind, it is important not to ignore other forms of exercise, especially core strength training.
Put simply, having a strong core can improve your posture while you run, leading to greater running efficiency. This increased stabilisation through your torso minimises any inefficient movements and rotation of your body as you swing your arms and stride your legs.
The further you run, the more important core strength becomes. Towards the end of a long training run or race when fatigue is setting in, your running form and posture begins to diminish. This will not only affect your performance, but it will also increase the possibility of injury drastically.
There are a plethora of strength building exercises, but as a bit of a recap, and for those who could not make this week's city Perth Run Collective, here are four of my favourites and reasons why they are important. I encourage you to have a go and find some that work for you.
How to do it:
1. Place your elbows directly under the shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width apart) and keep your elbows at 90 degrees.
2. Go up onto your toes and squeeze your glutes and core to stabilise your body.
3. Keep your neck and spine neutral by looking at a spot on the floor just past your hands. Your head, neck and back should all be aligned.
4. Hold the position for sets of 30 seconds.
Why do it: Planks do it all. They strengthen the upper body, lower body, the core and all the stabiliser muscles.
Tips: Don't have your hips too high, or let them sag. Your body should look like a plank.
Hello’s (aka Scapula Wall Slides)
How to do it:
1. Stand upright with your palms facing out and elbows at 90 degrees.
2. While focusing on keeping your shoulder blades back, slide your arms up until your arms reach full extension.
3. Continuing to squeeze your shoulder blades, slide your arms back down and bring your elbows to your body.
4. Repeat the process either for multiple reps, or time.
Why do it: Hello's will improve your posture dramatically, especially if you are an office worker. They will help strengthen your upper back and keep you running tall.
Tips: Do them slow and controlled. Remember to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
How to do it:
1. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Spread your arms to your sides for stability.
2. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes, lift up your hips and hold for a second or two before lowering back down.
3. Repeat the process for either multiple reps, or for time.
Why do it: Hip thrusts work your glute muscles. Strong glutes help to take the stress off your lower back and improve the mechanics of your hips, knees and ankles.
Tips: Squeeze your glutes hard as you are pushing up. Keep your neck neutral.
Single Leg Balance Work
How to do it:
1. Start by standing on one leg, and lifting your other leg straight toward the 12 o’clock position.
2. Gently move your raised leg back to its neutral position (whilst keeping it off the ground)
3. Move your leg to the 3 o'clock position, and back to neutral.
4. Move your leg back to the 6 o'clock position, and back to neutral.
5. Move your leg to the 3 o'clock position and back to neutral.
6. Repeat 10 to 15 times each leg.
Why do it: Single leg balance exercises work all of your stabilising muscles and help activate your arch to allow for good foot and ankle alignment.
Tips: Keep your lifted leg off the ground for the duration of the activity.
Honourable mentions - Exercises that we also did on Tuesday
Bodyweight squats, static squats, clamshells, mountain climbers.
Exercises that are still good, but didn’t make the cut for Tuesday
Hollow rocks, superman, bird dogs, lunges, walking hands.