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I’m an ultrarunner — which means I want to run… and run… and run… run far… run further. I just want to run! You know, like Forrest Gump.
It took some time before I was convinced that the “other stuff” would help me run better, further and extend the longevity of my running pursuits and interests.
So, let’s talk core. Here’s the main thing you need to know:
Strong Core = Better Running
The point of this article is to convince you to start core strengthening today. You’ll be glad you did.
Why Ultrarunners Need A Strong Core
Runners are constantly told to strengthen their core. This is especially true for those running ultra distances.
Short-distance runners might be able to squeak by with a weaker core — because your race is finished before you lose your form.
But if you’re running 50 miles or multi-day races, your body must be trained to maintain a fluid stride, good posture and efficient mechanics for many hours.
As runners, we tend to focus on building a strong heart/cardio system and strong legs, but often neglect the in-between areas. That’s the “other stuff.” It’s a big mistake to overlook it.
A mechanical structure is only as good as its weakest link, and weak core muscles can lead to injuries and sub-par race efforts.
Running requires the combined effort of prime moving muscles (calves, quads) along with stabilizer muscles running from the hips to the trunk.
Research has shown that hip and core strength, or lack thereof, strongly correlates with running injuries. By strengthening the core, you can develop the foundational strength in your running muscles to support your increased training demands and Forrest Gump running.
Planks & Sit-Ups Won’t Cut It
Ahem! Core strengthening in not synonymous with developing 6-pack abs.
Your core muscles function to support the hips and spine in correct alignment from front to back, side to side, and up and down.
The “core” houses more than 20 muscles and includes the following categories:
- low-back stabilizers
- lateral stabilizers (obliques)
- hip flexors and hip extensors (gluteal muscles and hamstrings)
The traditional core strengthening exercises of planks and sit-ups are not adequate for doing the kind of core work needed for ultra running.
Core-Strenthening Exercises For Runners
Some of the benefits of a strong core for long-distance running include:
- Maintaining a fluid running stride
- Efficient generation of force by the legs, arms, and torso
- Stabilized center of gravity for running uneven or hilly terrain
- Lowering pressure on discs in the back
- Lower risk of injury
- Strong trunk for powering up hills
There are many effective core strengthening routines that you can incorporate into your ultramarathon training.
Typically, we’re talking about core work 2-3 days a week, 20-30 minutes per session.
It’s common for runners to do their core work on days they have shorter runs, and doing it after their run since they are adequately warmed up.
An effective and simple core strengthening routine could be performing the following exercises:
In the recent issue of Runner’s World the following core strengthening exercises are recommended:
Here’s the point. It’s not rocket science. You have core muscles that need strengthened to support your ultrarunning interests. Choose a plan and do it.
There are many alternatives to consider. Here are a few:
- 12 Exercises to Build Your Running Body
- Basic Core Routine for Runners
- 10-Minute Core Workout for Ultra Runners
- Core Workout for Runners by Jane Cullis
- 13 Essential Core Exercises for Runners
Strengthen your core muscles, and you’ll run smoother and faster, with fewer injuries. (Yes, and you will have awesome abs.)
What’s there not to like about this? It’s a small time investment and a huge payoff.
Here’s my challenge you. Do you want to run farther? Then strengthen your core! Start today.
I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons… even ultramarathons.