If you’re a runner and your pre-workout routine includes simply lacing up your sneakers and heading out the door, hold up. The high-impact, repetitive movement involved in running can be stressful on your body, potentially leading to injury over time. And your body needs a little TLC to help prevent the tightness and pain that can keep you from pounding the pavement at max potential.
Adding just a few simple core exercises to your running routine is an easy way to improve your stability and form. Strengthening your core (the deepest muscles surrounding your trunk) can give you the power, efficiency, and flexibility you need to make your runs more enjoyable—and make you faster than ever!
Pre-Run: Pelvic Curl
The pelvic curl is one of the best exercises runners can do. In one easy move you strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and abdominals, all while increasing core strength. Lie on your back with your feet a few inches from your hips, with knees parallel to each other, about a fist's distance apart. Scooping your abdominals in, curl your tailbone off the floor and lift your hips by pressing one vertebra at a time into the mat until your pelvis comes in line with your knees and shoulders. Hold this bridge for 5 breaths, feeling strong support through the back of your legs to keep hips lifted. Reverse the motion, rolling back down to the floor one vertebra at a time. Repeat.
Tip: Press strongly into your feet as your hips lift, trying not to let your knees roll in our out.
Shoulder Bridge Toe Taps
This variation on the pelvic curl mimics the unilateral movement of running and will help you achieve more core stability and control. Start in your shoulder bridge with knees parallel and hips lifted off the floor. Without rotating your pelvis, shift your weight to your left foot and lift your right knee above your pelvis into a tabletop position. Keeping hips lifted and pelvis totally stable, lower your bent leg toward the floor, then raise back up to tabletop. Repeat 5 to 8 times with the same leg, then repeat on the other side.
Tip: Think about toning the back of the supporting leg to create stability in the pelvis.
Warm up your core and wake up all of your stabilizing muscles with this simple exercise. Start on all fours with hips stacked over knees and shoulders over wrists. Without rotating your shoulders and hips, extend your left arm and right leg away from your center, maintaining your core support. Return the arm and leg back to your start position with just as much control, and repeat on the opposite sides. Alternate side-to-side.
Tip: Draw your shoulder blades down your back and keep lots of space between your shoulders and ears.
This exercise strengthens and lengthens tight hamstrings while improving back strength and posture. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your palms on the floor behind you with fingertips pointing in. Charge up the back of your legs and lift your hips up, in line with your heels and shoulders, keeping your spine in one long line. Hold for a breath at the top, pressing your hips high. Hinge at the hip, slowly lowering your pelvis back down to the floor. Repeat.
Tip: To get your gluten and hamstrings to initiate this movement, imagine a string running from your heels to your sitting bones tightening as you lift your hips up.
Post-Run: Hip Flexor Lunge
Take one minute at the end of your run to do this active stretch, which will lengthen your muscles and prevent tightness in overworked hip flexors and hamstrings. Come into a lunge with your left foot in front of you and your right knee on the floor underneath your hips. Place both hands on your right thigh for support. Scoop your pelvis forward by drawing your navel in deeply to your spine, then lower your hips down toward the floor. Keep the movement small and really focus on rotating the pelvis forward to create a big stretch through the front of the left hip and thigh. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Increase the stretch by raising your right arm overhead (as pictured) and then side-bending to the left.