Running is far from simple. Factors such as posture, heart rate and behind the scenes work such as diet and stretches are at the forefront of a runner’s lifestyle, making it more than just one foot in front of the other.
In this complex world, the slightest of false moves can force a runner out for months, with all their hard work dissappearing in a flash. The truth is, these injuries are very often completely preventable, as all it takes is awareness, patience and above all a strong core.
One of the clues to the importance of the core is in its name. The core contains the central energy and power of a runner’s vital joints, therefore, if the core is weak, then so are those joints.
With a healthy and conditioned core, the knees, spine, lower back and hips can ultimately fall in sync with each other, which not only reduces the chances of injury, but also allows runners to gain a faster pace, requiring less effort and less strain.
This makes the torso stable, allowing all the muscles to do their individual jobs during running, which means there is no extensive energy being deflected around your body.
Equally important are the times spent not exercising, as a strong core will prevent muscles from becoming tight and fatigued, meaning that extensive hours sitting down will not take their toll on running performance.
As long as these muscles are stretched worked regularly, the core will continue to strenghten, requiring many important stretches and exercises to maintain and improve its efficiency.
Many often use sit-ups and press ups for this, however, these can often generate excessive force to the spine, resuting in further injury.
A popular and useful exercise is the body plank, which requires the body to be fully stretched out, with the upper arms and toes holding you up. You can also try the bird dog stretch, in which you simply get on your hands and knees, lift up your arm into a vertical position and do the same with the leg on the opposite side, stretching them as much as possible.
Usually these require at least 3 reps of 30 seconds, with an equal rest inbetween each rep, however once you get used to them the rep times must increase to ensure the core strength also does.
The superman stretch is also an incredibly useful core exercise. In this stretch, you must lie on your stomach with your head facing forwards, then lifting both you arms and legs into the air and ensuring they are exteded outwards to gain a superman pose, but more importantly, to work the muscles in your back.
Ideally these stretches are to be done in your own time, preferably at home. They will require clear focus and discipline but as long as they are done frequently then the changes will be noticeable in a very short time.