A strong core is a must for runners. While washboard abs may be aesthetically desirable, a strong midsection can take your running up to the next level.
If you’ve ever suffered from low back pain or have had your form fall apart towards the end of a long run or race, a strong core can prevent that from happening again. Strengthening the abdominal, hip, and back muscles will help you maintain good posture throughout the duration of a run, which can reduce the risk of injuries and — you guessed it – even make you run faster.
Follow these tips to get a stronger core by summer. Who knows, you may even look better in your bathing suit, too!
1. Do weekly core work sessions
Regularly schedule core work like you would training runs. Dedicate one or two workouts per week to the stomach, hip, and low back muscles. Any exercises that target the core are beneficial. Take an ab burner class at your gym, stream a core workout on your computer, or do several sets of the following moves:
- Plank. Get into a push-up position while keeping your ab muscles tight, back parallel to the ground, and arms extended. Hold the pose for as long as you can. Or do a plank with your elbows resting on the ground instead of your hands. Once you feel confident doing the plank, try this hardcore plank workout.
- Bicycle. Work your way into a sit-up position with your knees bent, back, head, and bottoms of your feet resting on the floor, and hands behind your head. Do a basic crunch while lifting one foot from the floor and bringing your knee up to your chest. At the same time, use your abs to try to lift your opposite shoulder to meet that knee. Repeat on the other side. Do several repetitions in a slow but fluid motion.
- Superman. Lay flat on your stomach with your legs together and arms rested at your sides, parallel to your body, with your palms flat on the ground. Lift your legs and shoulders up as high as you can, and hold the pose.
2. Mind your diet.
If you want to whittle your middle, you need to eat healthy. It doesn’t matter how many miles you run or how long you can hold a plank, you won’t get a flatter stomach without sound eating habits, too.
Build your diet around wholesome, nutritious foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, and lean sources of protein. Limit processed foods and foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugar. Keep meal sizes in check and eat sensible snacks, such as nuts, green smoothies, and hard-boiled eggs. And don’t forget to watch what you drink, too. Coffee beverages, sports drinks, and alcohol are not low in calories, so drink them only in moderation.
3. Keep up the cardio.
Getting a strong, enviable midsection involves a three-pronged approach: core exercises, good nutrition, and fat-burning cardio. We probably don’t have to remind you guys to keep running, but we thought we would anyway. Do interval runs to torch more calories and do running drills to target muscles that you don’t normally use. Try high knees, skier jumps, and other plyometric exercises.
Written by Jen Matz.