Every runner knows the importance a strong heart (cardio vascular system), but often neglected is the importance of muscular strength to go with it. A strong heart will get us through the miles without fatigue, but in order to maintain the same gait at mile 10 or 25 as we had in mile 1, we must recruit the help of our muscles.
The two most common areas neglected are the glutes and core. Core-strength is needed in training because it can both increase running efficiency and help prevent injury. This happens because the strengthening of the core muscles will enable an athlete to run with better posture and increased muscle power which will lead to the ability to run faster.
Glute strength will help prevent injury by providing stability for the pelvis and knees. Since your glutes are responsible for hip extension, which channels the energy you generate with your leg swing into motion moving you forward, they will also determine the power of your stride.
Adding one or two half hour strength training session to your weekly routine will help with this, but adding some exercises in to your running warm up will ensure that you switch on the muscles you want working.
Here are a few exercises that don’t require any equipment that will help engage and strengthen the core and glutes.
Bear crawls: Come to a table top position, pick your knees up off the floor and crawl forwards keeping your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
Plank jacks: Come to a plank position, hands under shoulders, pushing away from the ground, hips tucked under and head in neutral. Walk one leg out to the side, one at a time, or jump both feet out together then in again to the start position. Repeat!
Slow mountain climbers: Come to a plank position, bring your right knee to your right elbow and hold there for 2 or 3 seconds, come back to plank position and repeat on the left side.
Crab walks: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and hands on the ground behind your back, lift the bum off the ground so that it is in line with your shoulders and knees. Try to make sure that your shoulders are over your wrists and knees are over your ankles. Then take 5 steps forwards, and 5 steps back, repeat.
Single leg glute bridge: Lie on your back, knees up and feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg up, foot flexed, and then lift the bum as high as it’ll go and bring it back the floor, repeat on both sides.
Squat walk: With your feet shoulder width apart, turned out to 10 and 2 o’clock, send your hips back and down until they’re in line with your knees (try to push your knees out). Take a step to the left with your left foot, staying low, bring your right knee in, back to the squat position. Repeat on both sides.