There’s no doubt that distance runners need to strengthen their core and properly warm-up for a run. But the days of crunches and pre-run static stretching are over. High school kids, Division I runners, and professional athletes are all spending more time getting ready to run with dynamic warm-ups and core exercises.
I used to skip the gym because I just didn’t like to lift. I still don’t really enjoy it so my gym workouts are short, to the
Dominate Your Core Workouts
point, and only once per week. These days, I spend a lot of time doing dynamic stretches, range of motion exercises, and running specific core routines.
I consider them absolutely essential to my training. They don’t necessarily make me faster, but they allow me to train at a high level. By getting me ready to run, they help me avoid injury and stay consistent with putting in mileage and workouts. If you need visual demonstrations of exercises, check out the Rebel Fitness Guide.
Most core and dynamic exercises serve multiple functions as well. They not only strengthen your body, but they increase your heart rate, range of motion, and prepare you for running. The flip side of this coin is that doing them after a run serves as a great warm-down.
I have several routines that I do before my runs that you may have seen in past training logs. By increasing strength and flexibility without being too challenging, these workouts are incredibly versatile and can be done before or after your run. Many of these exercises also make you more efficient by improving your running form.
The majority of these workouts were lifted from Jay Johnson, an ex-Colorado runner who now coaches several elites in Boulder. His Myrtl Routine focuses on the hip region and is great for anybody with tight hip flexors, groin, or glutes. The Lunge Matrix is something that I incorporate before most runs and prepares the body very well for running.
I consider his Cannonball Routine comprehensive and I usually only do it before harder workouts or long runs. It incorporates 15 exercises and can take nearly 15 minutes to complete if you are not familiar with the order of exercises. Nevertheless, you will feel warm, loose, and ready to run after completing it. Lately I have been adding in an abbreviated version of the Lunge Matrix after this routine.
I created a short warm-up to do before my easy runs that I simply call my “Standard Warm-Up.” I will do this 3-4 times per week and sometimes as a quick warm-down if I am not doing more challenging strength work. Most of these exercises are in Jay Johnson’s routines so I won’t detail them out. This usually takes me about 8 minutes and it consists of:
Core exercises will improve your form and efficiency while staving off fatigue at the end of a race. Crunches might have been the “core” of your Dad’s track team, but these days the workouts are more functional and effective. Since the end of my college days I have been doing a simple six exercise core circuit that is absolutely incredible. I know that we got the routine online but I just can’t find it now. If somebody knows, please let me know! I call it my “standard core” circuit.
This circuit is fairly comprehensive and targets your obliques, upper and lower abdominals, lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. I go through the exercise for one minute and immediately transition to the next. I like to do 2-3 sets and take about two minutes of rest between each. In order, the circuit is:
This core routine is general and covers every muscle from your upper abdominals to your hamstrings. If you were to pick one core or strength circuit to do in your training program, this standard core routine is your choice.
As some may know, my last injury was a major IT Band problem after the New York Marathon. After seeing several physical therapists and countless hours online researching the best treatment programs, I developed my ITB Rehab Routine which strengthens the glutes, hips, and quadriceps.
This routine is more focused in nature but I still do it because I think hip strength is very important in runners. New research is coming out that weak hips are to blame for lower leg injuries. The ITB Rehab Routine consists of seven exercises done in a row with minimal rest. I don’t do more than one set.
Both the Standard Core and ITB Rehab Routine are more strength oriented and I save them for after runs.
Let’s put this all together in a training program. Once you have done the dynamic warm-up routines several times and are comfortable with them, you can do them before your runs. If you run five days per week, my suggestion is to warm-up with the Standard Warm-up twice, Cannonball twice, and the full Lunge Matrix once.
After you run, perform the Standard Core Routine twice, ITB Rehab Routine once, Myrtl Routine once, and then alternate between the Pedestal and Back routines. You will increase strength, flexibility, and feel much better during your runs. Instead of sitting on the couch after a workout, doing a core or strength routine helps you recover by keeping your heart rate up without any impact.
I recently read that elite runners spend twice the amount of time on strength, flexibility, and drills than they do on actually running. Start doing more of this type of general strength work and you will absolutely become a better runner.
If you’re ready for real accountability, a new challenge, or want to focus on getting stronger before starting a running program (good idea!) then check out the Rebel Fitness Guide. It also includes a Diet Guide, Food Fighter, and videos of every exercise. With a 90 day, 100% money-back guarantee this guide kicks ass. Check it out if you are ready to change your life.
I love this stuff, so please leave comments about your favorite core or strength workouts!
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