Whether it’s raining or sunny, on the treadmill or road, you’re running miles one way or another to prep for your next race.
However, you don’t need to log mile after mile to improve your run performance.
To keep your body strong and prevent fatigue, cross training — specifically core work — will help get your body strong, improve your form and boost your performance.
“The importance of core strength far exceeds the look of a washboard stomach. Adding core-strengthening exercises into your training helps boost form, as well as stability and balance,” shares Ryan Hall, former American Long-Distance Runner.
“When we run with good form, we use less energy and in turn run faster and further,” Hall adds.
The key to any successful training program is consistency. Add the following four moves into your routine, plus a few extra tricks that Hall suggests to run strong during your next event.
The Core Moves
A strong core reduces the odds of all sorts of injuries, ranging from common running injuries like pulled muscles and side stitches, to those that are considered a normal part of the aging process.
“I do one minute in a traditional plank, one minute in a side plank on the left and then on the right, and keep rotating through for about six minutes,” says Hall.
Begin in a push-up position. Bend your elbows to the ground so your weight is on your forearms, not your hands. Keep your body in a straight line, from neck to ankles. Engage your core and hold. Hold for one minute.
Lie on your left side in a straight line. Place your left elbow under your right shoulder. Shift your weight onto your left forearm and lift your body off the ground. Engage your core and hold.
“I’ll do four sets of five squats, but whatever suits your fitness level is fine,” expresses Hall.
Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart. Begin to sit back like sitting in a chair. Arch your lower back slightly as you descend. Press your weight back into your heels as you lower down. Thighs as parallel to the floor as possible, with knees over your ankles. Push through your heels to return to standing. Repeat.
“I like to use the machine in my local gym to complete four sets of 10,” shares Hall.
Stand tall, feet hip-width apart.
Lift your heels off the floor, keeping your toes on the floor and your knees straight.
Lower your heels to the ground and repeat.
“I use a box that is about 18-inches high, grab a barbell/dumbbell with an appropriate amount of weight for me, and do four sets of five on each leg,” says Hall.
Find a bench, chair or box. Holding your weights, place your right foot on the step. Press through your right heel as you step onto the bench, pressing your weight onto your heel. Bring your left foot to meet your right so you’re standing on the bench. Step down to beginning position with the right foot, then the left foot. Repeat the movement.
In addition to core-strength work, Hall suggests a proper warm-up and cool down is vital to any running program.
“I have a warm-up routine to ensure my body is ready for the challenge ahead. This includes a dynamic flexibility routine — basically any stretch you like done by activating the opposing muscle group (for example, standing front leg swings),” says Hall.
In addition to a warm-up, he likes to track his workouts with his Fitbit Surge, which lets him know he’s spending proper amount of time warming up before his run.
“I’ll do some self-massage on a softball or foam roller, then I’ll head out for my 20-minute easy jog prior to starting my hard workout,” adds Hall.
Recovery is something that’s key to racing, and really, any fitness plan.
“After any run, I immediately refuel with simple carbohydrates, like sugary treats or literally candy sometimes, and at least 20 grams of Muscle Milk whey protein,” shares Hall.
“The first 30 minutes after any hard workout is when your body is most open to absorbing carbs and protein without turning them into fat so use this window to kick off your recovery. Additionally, get in enough water to start hydrating,” Hall continues.
Blood flow is the master healer and the best way to do this is to lightly use the muscles you just worked. Foam rolling and light stretching will help flush out lactic acid and prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
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