Perhaps the last thing on your mind when running is your core. But I’m here to tell you that you should rethink your assessment. Attention is often paid to stride length, mileage logged, time splits, recovery and hydration. All of those factors are important, but in my opinion, you’re missing the most important variable—core strength.
Just stop and think about this for a second. You come winding down a straightaway on a road and are about to hit a moderate sized hill. The strength in your legs is only going to get you so far. Your legs will eventually gas out. It’s the strength of your core that will get you up that hill with grace and elegance.
That tip right there my friend is what creates dust between leaders of races and their competitors. The leaders know the importance of a strong core and they also know how to use it to their advantage. Think of it as a nitrous oxide boost.
I have some friends back home who were wizards with engines. They used to rig up nitrous oxide buttons on their snowmobiles. I specifically remember finding an open straightaway or field where we would race each other for fun.
We’d be side by side 50 yards off the start and out of my periphery, I can feel them glaring at me with a smirk on their face. The next thing I knew, they’d zip 10 feet ahead of me like they were shot out of a cannon. It was because they hit that bloody nitrous oxide button!
A strong core can work the same way with your running. There are times that you can save your energy and go into hibernation mode, such as on a flat stretch. Then in times like hills, passing people and trying to sneak past a victim at the finish line, you can flip the nitrous oxide switch.
You see, the power you use in running does not necessarily come from your legs. It comes from your core too. I always tell people; run with your core and let your legs just guide you where you want to go.
Not only will a strong core give you more running power, but it will also keep you more erect and give you better posture. Any time you have good posture, you will be less likely to suffer injuries and your running will be less arduous.
As far as strengthening your core goes, you want to work on your recuts abdominis, obliques and erector spinae. These are the muscles that wrap all the way around your midsection. I would suggest spending a good three days a week working on these areas.
Exercises like hanging leg raises, kettlebell Turkish get-ups, side dips, bicycle crunches and alternating supermans will work all the key areas of your core. Always execute proper form too. Move through a full range of motion, never use momentum and follow a rep scheme that is right in the sweet spot. This will depend on the exercise you are doing.
Full hanging leg raises on a pull-up bar for example, are very tough. Your goal is to get your toes or the front of your ankles to touch the bar. Don’t try to crank out 15 reps just for the sake of doing it. You are better served doing five sets of five with really good, clean form.
Hopefully, a lot of what I said has sunk in. If you should need any more pointers of tips, feel free to give me a shout any time. Now go outside and practice running with your core and watch what happens. You may be shocked at how fast your performance improves.