How do you improve your run? Run more! Duh!
Though that is true, it's not the only way. Strengthening your core is extremely important. These muscles are used in more then just sports, but everyday to help do simple tasks such as sitting in a chair, bending down to tie your shoe, and even standing still.
When it comes to running, maintaining a strong core will help with balance, proper form, and avoiding injuries. Think of it as the connector within the kinetic chain of your body. The more core strength you have, the more stable everything “connected” to the core will be, such as your hips and knees.
Maintaining proper running form can get harder as you fatigue. When the form goes, it creates compensation along the kinetic chain and eventually may cause injury. This can be avoided by having a stronger core to support proper form.
Below are 5 great core strengthening exercises that will help runners maintain proper form and avoid injury.
To get into a plank position, place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders (push-up position). Lift your knees off the ground, rise up onto your toes and hold for 20 seconds. Make sure to squeeze your glutes and tighten your core to neutralize your spine and neck. Keep your body straight and look between your hands at the floor. Gradually increase the amount of time you hold the plank, focusing on good form and breathing. (You may also do this on your forearms.)
Lay on your stomach with knees straight and arms extended in front of you. Simultaneously lift your legs, arms, and chest off the ground while tightening your glutes, squeezing your shoulder blades together, and engaging your lower back. Hold this position for 2-5 seconds and repeat.
3. Side Plank
Lie on the ground on either your left or right side. Prop yourself up onto your elbow and forearm, keeping the elbow directly in line with the shoulder. Stack your feet one on top of another and slowly raise your hips up off the ground by tightening your core. Your body should form a straight line from feet to shoulders. Hold this plank for 20 seconds and switch to the opposite side.
4. Modified Bird Dog
Start in a table-top position with hands on the floor under shoulders, knees under hips, and a flat back. (Like a table-top!) While tightening your abdominals raise your left leg off the ground trying to make it parallel to the floor (Try not to raise it too high to avoid hip rotation). Next, lift your right arm off the ground straight in front of you until it is also parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds and lower back to table-top position. Next, switch sides and lift your right leg and left arm.
5. Reverse Plank
Start in a seated position with your legs out in front of you. Place your hands near your butt directly under the shoulders with fingers spread wide. Tighten your core, keep your elbows straight, and lift your butt and torso up towards the ceiling. Make sure your head stays in line with your spine and hold. For an extra challenge try adding a leg raise. While in the plank, slowly lift one leg keeping it as straight as possible. Hold for a few seconds and then switch.
As you go through these exercises, slowly work towards the more advanced versions, hold for more time, and/or do more reps. Ultimately, this will strengthen your core which will help you avoid injuries and improve those running skills!