Core Strength - How to get your midsection strong and why it's great for runners.
Why is core strength so important? You run with your legs, and not your stomach, right? Yes and no. Your midsection keeps everything stable when you run. If you want to keep your form together, especially on longer runs or fast workouts, you better have that strong core.
Now some people think that you get great abdominal muscles just by running. Running helps you burn off the fat that might have been hiding your abs, but it doesn't make them extremely strong. Matter of fact, I suggest that all runners should do some sort of core work to help with their running form, and to help prevent the dreaded side stitch. Here is a great site with loads of core strength exercises for you.
For my cross country team, every practice we do a core strengthening routine that takes less than 10 minutes. Here is a brief outline of this program. If you want more information on each step, keep on reading after the list. All of these exercises are done laying on your back.
1. Crunches - 20 to 40
2. Side to Side Crunches - 20 to 40
3. Bicycles - 40 to 80
4. Half Jackknife (opposite arm, opposite leg)- 10 to 20
5. Full Jackknife (both arms and legs)- 5 to 10
6. Lateral Leg Rotations - 10 to 20
Don't know what how to do each core strength exercise I listed. No problem. I'll explain!
1. Crunches are like a sit up except you put curl up both of your legs. Put your hands behind your head and then curl your body up making your elbows touch your knee caps. Go back down and repeat!
2. Side to side crunches have you curl up and touch your right elbow to your left knee cap. Go back down, and curl back up to touch your left elbow and right knee cap. Repeat!
3. The bicycle is like a superfast side to side crunch. You pedal your legs fast while going back and forth with your elbows. This really will make you feel it in your core!
4. Half Jackknives are where you lay on your back making the touchdown motion (Your body should look like a capital letter "H"). With your right arm and left leg straight, raise them up together simultaneously. Your hand and leg should meet in the middle. I can't keep my legs perfectly straight for this exercise (my hamstrings are permanently tight), but keep them straight if you can.
5. Full Jackknives. Raise up both arms and both legs at the same time. Hands and legs should meet in the middle. Ideally, only your lower back will be touching the ground when you reach up to touch your arms and legs together. This is extremely hard to do. Just try it at least five times. After a couple weeks of working at it, you will be able to do at least five!
6. Lateral Leg Rotations are something I made up. Lay on your back, put your arms out wide making the capital letter "T." Now raise both legs up straight perpendicular to your body. Now your upper body and legs should make the capital letter "L." Now start rotating your legs down towards your hand. Touch your feet to your hands. Rotate your legs 180 degrees to your other hand. It is hard to do, but your core will get wicked strong!
That's all of them. We do these exercises, and the core strength of our team improves phenominally. After about three weeks of practice no one gets a side stitch anymore. No one! Trust me. Do the work and you will be glad you did.
If you find any one of these exercises not to your liking, try a different routine. Just do something for your core. It helps in more ways than just for running. Strong abs can help prevent lower back pain, and improve your posture. Think about it. This part of your body keeps everything in the correct position.
Stronger in the middle means stronger everywhere. No more excuses. Now get on the ground and get to it!
- Written by David Tiefenthaler
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