Shanghai Running Magazine Volume 3 - Page 13

TRAINING Core Training for Runners Ever wondered what all the fuss over core training is about? For as long as workouts have been around, there seems to have been abdominal training. But in more recent times, the emphasis has shifted from talking about ‘abs’ to talking about the core. Is there any difference? As a runner, should you be concerned about your core? To understand the term core training, it’s useful to know a little about the history of strength training and how it has evolved over time. The gym industry only really got started in the 1970s when bodybuilding became popular as a sport and iconic figures such as the great Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed the human physique to extremes never before witnessed. Although responsible for kick-starting the whole gym industry, bodybuilding also popularized training muscles which are visible, as opposed to muscles which actually help the body function properly. One specific example of this was the development of abdominal workouts designed to isolate the rectus abdominis, the muscle on the surface of the belly responsible for producing the so called ‘six pack’. As sports science evolved, realisation spread that doing thousands of ab crunches wasn’t actually helpful in developing a strong, injury-free body. The real function of the core, which includes the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae (lower back), and gluteal muscles (your butt), is to stabilise the pelvis and lower back to protect the body from injury whilst performing daily activities such as running, jumping, and carrying loads. But when performing ab crunches, there is no requirement for the pelvis and lower back to be stabilised since they are being supported by the floor. And so the language began to shift from abdominal training, which came to be regarded as dysfunctional and purely for show, to core training, which is now considered de rigeur for any half serious athletes. A strong core is vital for runners because it helps stabilize the pelvis when you push off the ground so that the full force of your stride goes into taking you forwards. If your core is weak, you may not only suffer from imbalances in your running which slow you down, such as overstriding, or excess swinging of the pelvis from side to side, but you will be more prone to injury as well. The best core exercises for runners are those that mimic the specific stresses that the core muscles are under during running. This rules out any exercise where you are lying on the floor, like ab crunches, or any static holds, like planks. Here’s three of my personal favourites: 1. Single-leg deadlifts. Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand on your left foot. Lift your right foot behind you. Bend forward at your hips, and slowly lower your body as far as you can. Pause, then push your body back to the starting position. As you come up, think about using your glutes to push your hips forward instead of lifting from your © Shanghai Running 2014 back. Keep core engaged and chest up during the entire movement. Repeat on the opposite side. 2. Russian twists. Grab a medicine ball or dumbbell and sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees. Hold the weight straight out in front of you and keep your back straight – your torso should be at about 45 degrees to the floor. Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left, and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right. 3. Hay bale. With your feet about shoulder width apart, squat down and bounce a medicine ball in front of your body. Catch the ball as you squat back up and lift the medicine ball over one shoulder and rotate your torso like you’re throwing a hay bale behind you. Repeat on the opposite side. Core training is important for runners. Not for giving you a sexy six pack for when you tear off your shirt at the finish line. But for enhancing your running performance and protecting you from injury. Be sure to make it a central part of your strength training. Victor Rowse is fitness researcher and general manager at Prime Fitness www.primefitness. cn a personal training studio in the former French concession 13