Strong Core Exercises for Runners
Although running is a great overall exercise, many runners, especially beginners, suffer from weak core strength. The core, which includes hips, hamstrings, glutes, and traditional abdominal muscles, is important for helping runners maintain good form late in a run or race and remaining injury free. Many common running injuries, such as knee pain or illiotibial band syndrome, can even be traced back to poor core strength. Listed below are a number of exercises specially designed for runners with weak cores.
Donkey kicks are a great exercise for the runner who has weak hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. Begin on your hands and knees. While keeping your knee bent, slowly raise your right leg until your right thigh parallel to the ground and the sole of your foot is facing the ceiling. Repeat this movement, slowly, 5 – 10 more times on each leg.
Holding a plank position is one of the toughest, but also most rewarding, core exercises. Good form here is crucial. To begin, place yourself into pushup position. Next, lower yourself onto your forearms, which should be spaced shoulder width apart, with elbows directly beneath shoulders. Now, envision your body as a straight line, from the crown of your head to your heels. Tuck in your pelvis to lengthen your back and target the elusive lower abdominal muscles. Hold this position for as long as you can with good form, up to two minutes.
Walking lunges target major and minor muscle groups in the legs, which make this core exercise extremely useful for runners. Starting with your legs hip width apart and your hands on your hips, take a controlled step with your right leg and bend your right knee at a 90o angle while your left knee descends towards the ground. Your ankle and knee on your right leg should be in line with one another, perpendicular from the ground. Avoid having your knee extend past your ankle, as this can lead to injury. To start, do 10 lunges on each leg.
This exercise works upper abdominal muscles, and can help runners who have a tendency to hunch at the end of their run. With arms outstretched straight above your head, take a deep breath in and extend arms and upper torso backwards. Hold this position for 3 seconds, and then bring your body back to the starting position as you exhale. Repeat this movement 5 – 10 more times.
Back extensions are great for the runner who feels pain in his or her lower back while running. To begin, lie on your stomach with your hands behind your head. As you inhale, bring your feet and chest simultaneously off the ground, and hold this position for 3 seconds. As you exhale, return your body to the starting position. Repeat this movement 5 – 10 more times. As you become stronger, repeat each exercise 1 -2 more times.