A few months ago I was facing nagging niggles and chronic aches. I asked my strength coach to design a short pre-run muscle activation routine to get the right muscles firing before I head out the door.
I expected lunges, squats and hip openers. They’re the moves typically recommended for opening up glutes. While his suggestions included those exercises, I was surprised that his pre-run routine emphasizing the core, a muscle group runners frequently overlook.
But emphasizing the core makes perfect sense. The core is central to human movement. It holds the pelvis, abdominals, hips and back together and makes synchronization of moving parts possible. Fluidity of hip and pelvic movement is an essential factor of a runner’s capabilities.
During a running stride, you plant your foot down in front of you and step out. In a single step, your body receives a load that is several times your body weight. This energy is transferred through your entire body, allowing us to propel forward, push off and land and start the next stride.
With a stable core, you can transfer the energy from that load instead of losing it. Energy lost means a slower pace.
Remember: the core is more than just abdominal muscles. It also includes the back, hip flexors and the pelvis. By maintaining the stability of your torso, a strong core helps your body use that energy efficiently and keep you from getting hurt. When your body is aligned by a strong core, the body maintains proper posture that helps disperse the impact of running and prevents injury.
Here are the three core exercises I do before every run:
How to do them: Lie down flat on your back with both legs straight in the air, feet flexed and arches facing the ceiling. Slowly lower one leg down towards the ground, feet still flexed, until your leg is hovering one-inch from the floor. Don’t let your leg touch the ground. Then slowly raise your leg up to meet the other. Repeat on the other side and complete fifteen leg drops on each side.
How to do them: Find yourself on the floor in a high plank, straight arms, shoulders over the wrist, toes tucked and feet flexed. Once you’re holding a solid plank, reach one arm up towards the ceiling while the other stays rooted. While reaching for the ceiling, make sure the rest of your body stays firm and doesn’t twist with the rest of your body. Return to high plank, repeat on the other side and complete ten rotations on each side.
How to do them: Start on your side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder. Contract your core and raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from head to feet. Hold the position without letting your hips drop for thirty seconds, then repeat on the other side.