I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been figuring out how to use my core when I’m running which prompted some of you to ask “how??” So I’ll tell you. Well, I’ll attempt to tell you. Because I think that it really helps. It just makes you more efficient and makes the movement much lighter.
Like I’ve said before I’ve been going to yoga a fair amount and I think, actually I know and can see in the mirror, that it has made my core a lot stronger which has resulted in better overall posture and even better posture when running. I think what’s so good, though not unique, about yoga is that it doesn’t work your abs for the sake of a 6-pack, but it also works your entire core which results in functional strength. What I’ve gained is actually useful. And looks good!
The main thing I’ve done to use my core while running is to practice on easy runs. It’s easy just to zone out on easy days, and that’s okay sometimes but I do like to work on something when I don’t have a specific workout scheduled. I’ve been told by several people and you can see it when you look at elite athletes that it’s best to form a straight line with your body that leans slightly forward. Good runners don’t slouch, hunch their shoulders or look sloppy when they run. Seriously, go watch a track meet- they look like little gazelles!
Little known fact about me: I also did ballet for about 12 years, and a big part of ballet is using your core. You simply can’t do what you need to do without it so I feel lucky to have learned how to work on using my whole body from an early age.
So on to mechanics! To begin you should stand tall and engage the muscles in the front and back of your body. The best way to describe is that you lift everything in the front of your body up, and everything in the back of your body down. So belly in, shoulders back, tailbone slightly under. Practice good posture. It should feel like a string from the top of your head to the bottom of your tailbone is pulling you up, up, up.
When I run I can actually feel when my core is engaged- you feel lighter and there’s a grace to your movement that isn’t there when it’s relaxed. But in order to get the feeling, you have to have a strong core. I think the best way to gain strength quickly is to do a lot of planks. Front, side, low, forearm and full arm. It works the entire abdominal wall and really doesn’t take long. Just make sure that you aren’t just doing baby crunches all the time- you want your full lower and upper abs to get stronger and your back too!
When I’m running intervals I focus on engaging the core which stabilizes the entire pelvis and prevents injuries- particularly those of the IT band. I often repeat myself that to go down and push off with power I need to go up and forward when running. So I focus on using my core to push off and forward, like my body is a lever.
Hopefully this is all helpful and make sense. Go do planks!