This was a conversation between me and my husband two weeks after I ran my first ultra in November:
Me: I don’t think I’m in very good shape right now.
Hubby (with a look of bewilderment): You just ran a 37.2 mile race and finished with a 9:10 pace. I would say you are in pretty good shape.
Me: Ok. Let me rephrase. I’m in “running shape.” But my overall fitness level is not where it needs to be. My legs are strong, but the rest of my body is not.
Have you ever said this to yourself?
How did I let this happen?
I got into a very bad habit of just running in August…I stopped doing core work on a frequent basis because my concentration was on increasing my miles for the NYC Marathon and the Knickerbocker 60k (both in November). At the time, we didn’t have a treadmill, so I would run either early in the morning (5am) or during one of my son’s naps if a family member was able to babysit. (Note: I would LOVE to do more stroller ruins with my little guy, but he has never enjoyed just sitting in the stroller.) I would run up until the last possible moment – whether it was a phone call to tell me my son was up or it was time for my husband to go to work – then return home to shower and start the day/afternoon with my son.
I did not have make time for my core.
After stopping for a few weeks, it was hard to begin a routine of core work. I started making excuses why I couldn’t. My focus had to be on my quality workouts..I didn’t want to be sore for my daily runs..I didn’t have time.
Training for my spring marathon began a few weeks ago. In order to run a 12 min PR (sub-3:10), I am making some key changes to how I am training. I am pushing the pace on long runs. I am doing more speedwork. But at the top of the list is doing core work a minimum of 3x days/week.
Why do core work?
Your core – abs, hips, lower back – are the first muscles used when you move.
Experts agree that you can’t run your best without a strong core – it provides the stability, power, and endurance that runners need for powering up hills, sprinting to the finish, and maintaining efficient form mile after mile.
Strengthening your core has innumerable benefits, to include:
- Greater efficiency of movement
- Improved body control, balance and stability
- Increased power output from both the core musculature and peripheral muscles such as the shoulders, arms and legs
- Reduced risk of injury (the core muscles are the body’s shock absorbers)
- Improved athletic performance (Source)
Having a strong core has benefits. But even more importantly, a weak core can result in injuries to your lower back, hamstrings, and knees (according to Tim Hilden, an exercise physiologist specializing in running mechanics).
Quality core work can be done in as little as 15-20 min/day, a few days/week. Doesn’t seem like much time to spend on something that helps your performance AND prevents you from being injured. Don’t you agree?
Do you focus on core work? How often?
Check back soon for a follow-up post on some of my favorite core workouts!!
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