If you all are like me and enjoy occasionally people watching as you sit in a public place as a park, I’m sure you have observed a person in the process of what they perceive to be running. Often times in the novice runner early attempts at running may come out looking more like a floppy, uncoordinated, non-rhythmic, painful ordeal instead of the well timed gazelle like movements of a seasoned runner. Apart from proper training a lot of this is due to lack of core muscular tone and endurance. The core muscles include the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus , internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis) especially the longissimus thoracis, diaphragm, latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, trapezius, and the hip flexors.
These muscle groups are often ignored mainly because you probably never knew they existed, but developing these muscles can greatly improve your running form and ease of running. These muscle groups are collectively the center of all human locomotion. These muscles support the spinal column and pelvis keeping everything in proper alignment during motion. This will help you to avoid injury during athletic activity and an added benefit of looking cooler and not look so much like a floppy air dancer that are outside of used car dealerships. As a college athlete running for speed and explosiveness I began noticing my athletic performance increasing in leaps and bounds when I began dedicating significant time to core strength training with my strength and conditioning coach. I was able to see that my running movements were more efficient, quicker, and I was able to cover more ground in a stride with less energy expenditure.
In terms of strengthening of these core muscles exercises can be separated into two types static vs dynamic. I believe a combination of the two types of exercises are essential. A simple example of a static core exercise would be planks or wall sits. These exercises can be done with body weight alone or extra weight can be added by use of a weight vest for added difficulty. An example of a dynamic core exercise would be a crunches or leg raises. These exercises require the muscles go through and lengthening/contraction often against gravity or external weight as resistance.
Finally flexibility is the second component toward the goal of better running. Strength training alone will build stronger and larger muscle groups but will also lead to loss of flexibility and muscles tendon unit length. If this is not address as part of training process then this too will contribute to injury and inefficient running. The more flexible you are the better joint range of motion which equates to in long more efficient strides which cover more ground with less energy. Yoga is an excellent means of gaining flexibility over a period of time.
Overall becoming a better runner is a balance of these two disciplines strength and flexibility. So lace up your sneakers and get to training. Below you will find links to core building exercises. Good luck and happy trails
By: Aaron Haire, DPM
The Foot Institute, LLC
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