We’re all busy. Although I’m a huge advocate for dedicating a day or two to runner-specific strength training, some weeks are simply harder than others. Shuffling long hours at the office and/or caring for an expanding family can cause you to back burner your strength program. I, like you, know that running will always win the battle for exercise. The choice between logging 30 minutes of strength or a few miles is an easy one. Run.
It’s easy to let the momentum of a missed workout snowball into a week or longer. Luckily, small tricks can keep you from unraveling your commitment to stay strong and healthy. As far as I know, the concept of adding core strength as discussed below has not been mentioned elsewhere. I’ve used this technique successfully for both my athletes and in my own training. The techniques below serve a far greater purpose than just adding strength. They’ll teach you to better control your breathing, too.
Core and Breathing
“Don’t forget to breathe.” The amount of time I spend telling patients bright with a red hue is astounding. No, they’re not embarrassed, they just equate core contraction with holding their breath. Contracting your ore doesn’t equate to becoming a vapor lock. Doing so increases intra-abdominal pressure and is simply not functional. It’s overwhelmingly common, though. Athletes and non-athletes have difficulty with proper firing patterns. It’s not local to core contraction, either. Handfuls of runners tend to choose movement patterns that inhibit their butt muscles and activate their quads.
This is where the beauty of adding core strength to runs makes sense. It’s effective and efficient. It will teach you to dissociate your breath from a core contraction—an important piece for when you breathing becomes labored. Sure, I’d rather have you work a multi-faceted strength program (like our BaseSix Workout), but with limited time we’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck: core strength.
Bang for Your Buck
Do you have five minutes post run? (The answer is yes) A stable spine can hold a plank for 60 seconds and trust me… you want a stable spine. In a previous article I discuss how to progress your planks to reach the base 60 second hold. Once you’ve established some base strength you’ll be looking to incorporate planks quickly in one of two ways: post run and/or during track workouts.
#1. Four Minute Post Run Plan
The first and simplest way is to spend a few minutes post run working through your planking program. Yes, the goal is to hold for one minute, but you may need to start with shorter holds before progressing the holy grail of 60 seconds. For those who are unsure how to properly plank or simply can’t hold a 60 second plank (yet), take a look at this article. If you’re going to spend your time planking you might as well do them correctly, right?
Here’s the play-by-play: stop your run, plank 60 seconds, side plank (right and left) 60 seconds, bridge (60 seconds). Total time: 4 minutes. This assumes you can hold all three positions for one minute. No skipping the side planks, either. I know they’re hard.. that doesn’t mean you can skip them.
#2. Staying on (the) Track
Another effective means to maintaining good core strength and endurance is to incorporate planking into your interval training. During your rest intervals at the track, spend 20 to 30 seconds holding a plank –preferably a Level 2 or Level 3 that’s outlined in my 60 Second Core Program. You’ll continue to recover aerobically; however, you’ll teach your body how to maintain a strong, sturdy core in the presence of fatigue. Also, you’ll be forced to lock into a strong core with labored breathing, an effective way to teach you how to breath while holding your midsection taut. Sustaining a strong core contraction in the presence of fatigue can also help immolate race conditions, possibly holding the ship together as your muscles and run form begin to waiver.
For anyone looking to build core endurance, check out my 60 Second Core Program. 60 Second Core is an eBook + Video that will teach you the best practices for building core endurance. You can choose to download the program by clicking here, or stream it OnDemand through membership (which also includes my run form program and over 18 hours of strength workouts). Click here to learn more about membership and to get started for $1.