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When we run, our body moves asymmetrically.

When you move your right foot forward, your upper torso rotates and moves your left arm forward. When you take the next step, the opposite arm moves forward. The part of your body that has to remain stable in order for this natural movement to occur is your core.

Many times, runners get fatigued fast because they have an inefficient running form. They are unable to produce enough force during the toe-off stance, or they drop one side of their hip during the swing phase of their stride. These are all common signs of having a weak core.

Here are 5 core exercises that will help to strengthen your core muscles and stabilize your body when you run. Do them twice a week for about 30 minutes each time, and next thing you know, you’ll be posting faster run times on your social media platforms!

  • High Plank

This age-old exercise has been proven to help us in almost any activity, from just walking to doing cross country skiing. For runners, the high plank, performed on the palms of your hands rather than your elbows, is a must-do if you want to ensure a stable core during your run.

How do we do a perfect high plank?

Lie face down on the exercise mat, with your toes tucked underneath your ankles at a 90° angle. Your feet should be about hip-width apart. Place your hands next to your chest, about 1 to 2 inches away from your body. Using your arms, push your body up as if you’re performing a push-up, suck your belly button in to engage your core, and hold that position. You can strengthen the plank by locking your knees in, squeezing your bum to activate your glutes, and breathe regularly. Hold the plank for a minimum of 20 seconds if this is your first time. If you can go on for longer, target 45 seconds, but no more than a minute. Then, lower your body to the mat to rest. Do this 3 times.

  • Russian Twists

The Russian Twist is an exercise that will work the oblique muscles, which are the sides of your abs. For runners, this is just as critical to strengthening as the front abs as they function as hip joint stabilizers during the swing phase of your run.

How do we do Russian Twists?

Sit down on the mat. Bend your knees in front of you and lean your upper body back slightly. You may sit on a towel, or use a small pillow to cushion your tail bone. Clasp your hands together and bring your arms down to your right side, touching your fingers on the floor next to you. Your upper body should be rotating to the right as you do this. Repeat the same action to your left side. You should keep your gaze straight in front of you, and your spine straight. A rotation to the right and left is counted as one rep. Perform at least 12 reps of this exercise before taking a short break. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. For a more advanced exercise, you can gently lift your feet about 3 inches above the ground, and perform the entire set with your feet in mid-air. 

  • Superman Swims

The Superman exercise has many variations and it targets the lower back and glute muscles in your body. These are key muscles used in running and are most definitely a part of your core.

How do we do Superman Swims?

Lie face down on the mat with your arms stretched out in front of your head. Engage your core by sucking in your belly button, then lift your upper body and your legs slightly above the ground, making a boat shape with your whole body. While keeping your upper body above the ground, start pedaling your legs from your thighs downwards as if you’re swimming the front crawl stroke. You may use a timer for this. Try to “swim” for 30 seconds before taking a break. Do this 3 times.

  • Burpee

The Burpee is a word that always seems to scare people away. However, it is an amazing strength as well as aerobic exercise that will bring runners a wealth of benefits. It works out our whole body, with an emphasis on strengthening our core muscles. For us women, we can opt for the Modified Burpee, to focus more on strengthening the abs.

How do we do the Burpee?

Stand almost at the top of the mat. Then put your hands with your palms flat down on the mat in front of your feet about shoulder-width apart. Engage your core by sucking in your belly button, then jump both legs out behind you to get into a plank position. Check to see that your shoulders are directly above your hands to ensure you did not over-jump too far back. Your hips should be in line with your shoulders and ankles, rather than in a pike position or a concave position. Breathe, then jump both legs back in, landing your feet close to your arms. Stand up straight. This is counted as one rep. Do this 12 times before taking a break. Aim to do 3 sets of 12 reps.

  • V-Ups

The V-Up is an advanced version of sit-ups or crunches. It is a classic core exercise that aims to strengthen the main abdominal muscle.

How do we do the V-Up?

Lie down on your back. Have your feet and arms slightly wider apart, making a star shape. Breathe in, engage your core, and as you exhale, lift your upper body and lower body up simultaneously, forming a V-shape. Aim to touch your fingers to your toes if you can. Then lower your body down again. Do 12 reps of this before taking a break. Aim to do 3 sets of 12 reps.

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