STABLISE YOUR CORE
Engaging the right muscles can improve your overall run, explains
A strong core will keep you injury free and efficient as you run.
When we run, our legs are working hard in time with pumping arms. This is because it’s the most economical way of focusing your energy on moving forwards. The more economical you become, the more you can do, whether your goal is further or faster, so it’s naturally desirable to be as economical as possible.
To improve running economy, the obvious place to look is the legs, then the arms. However, it’s important to note that it’s your core which is holding your body upright and keeping the chest open, so your lungs can take in air.
The core muscles stabilise the hips, hold you upright and are the source of good posture.
Bending at the hips by relaxing the core shortens this body shape, but a slight forward lean with the whole body can be beneficial. This ‘off balanced’ position is what you should aim to adopt, keeping legs and arms working hard creating enough momentum to not fall over. Even a slight forward bend from the hips can tighten muscles in the lower back and hip flexors, leading to aggravated hamstrings, tight calves and poor pelvic posture. Here are some ways to help engage your core for running:
• DO EXERCISES
There are hundreds of core stability exercises you can do. The best ones require you to work each side of the body independently. It’s important to have a variety of exercises. Pilates is a good way to strengthen the core with dynamic movements.
• USE CUE WORDS
Remind yourself to ‘stand tall’ and keep your ‘chest big’ when running. It’s amazing what a good mental attitude can do.
Practise getting your posture in place before beginning your run. Stand up straight, draw your shoulder blades back and down. Keep your head in neutral alignment. You could practise initially with elbows at 90 degrees, raising your knee forward with the opposite arm. If you do this, stay focused on your posture and try not to wobble.
A good way to practise run technique and initiate the correct movements from the core, is to do drills. Drills should be done perfectly. Don’t spend too long on each one, so as to avoid fatigue. The idea is for a drill to improve an area of technique when you next run, not tire yourself out so that you can’t perform the drill itself.
• PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
At the end of the day, variety is the spice of life. The tips listed above are all great ways to engage your core to improve your running. Why not put it all together? Instead of your weekly 6km run, why not warm up with some focused posture work and drills, then head out for a shorter 2-3km run focusing on quality, using your cue words to help you keep your core engaged. After, get out the mat and finish with 15 minutes of Pilates or a variety of core exercises.