By Physiotherapist Cailen Gothard
So you’re a runner.
Maybe you’re the kind who enjoys a morning jog along the river in the morning, or maybe you’re gearing up for your first (or fourteenth) marathon. No matter your level of experience, there’s one thing we all have in common: a desire to “go one better”. There are plenty of ways of doing this… expensive new socks, fancy running pants… but what about strength training?
Over the past few years, new research has been coming out to support the use of stability and resistance training as a way of improving running performance.
So much so, that when compared side-by-side with a control group, runners who also completed a stability program focusing on core strength had an improvement in their 5k time of 47 seconds (compared with 17 seconds).
Okay, have I got your attention yet? Great.
“Core stability” is a term that gets thrown around fairly frequently in the exercise world, but what does it mean in the running world?
The “core” refers to a corset-like band of muscles that supports your trunk and pelvis. It might also be referred to as your “lower abs”, “T-Zone”, or “deep stabiliser muscles”. In runners, this is particularly important as it helps to reduce excessive pelvic movement. If you find that your hips move from side-to-side when you run, or you get sore on the outsides of your legs, this likely applies to you! As well as being less efficient (since your body is creating unnecessary movement), a weak core also leaves you at risk of injuries as your surrounding muscles work to make up for the lack of stability from your purpose-built postural muscles.
So now that you know WHY runners should be building strength into their programs, HOW should you go about doing this?
Check out the exercises below for a basic introduction to core and glute work, but for the best results go check in with your local Physio or Exercise Professional to build a tailored program more suited to you!
Activating your “Core Muscles”
Before you can start performing core exercises, it’s important to learn how to effectively “turn on” the right muscles.
Lie down on your back, with your legs bent so that your feet are flat on the floor.
To find your deep stabilisers, place your fingers on the bony parts of your hips, then move inwards about one inch and you should feel a “sling” of muscles.
Try taking a big belly breath in, and gently breathe out while trying to gently flatten your back against the floor.
The key word here is GENTLY! If this doesn’t work, try imagining stopping going to the bathroom, or trying to lift your pelvic floor.
Lie on your side, with your legs bent so that your shoulders, hips and feet are all in one line.
Keep your feet together, and slowly lift your top knee up towards the ceiling.
Keep your hips stacked on top of each other, don’t let your top hip roll backwards!
Feeling unsteady? Squeeze your bottom and turn on those core muscles!
Please note, these are generic exercises to give you an introduction into the world of core stability!
If you have any pre-existing injuries or other medical conditions, consult a Health Professional before attempting any of these on your own.
See you on the track!