August 3, 2012

Fitness Friday: Is there more to running than just running?


While there are many ways to improve your running economy, one of the best ways is by thoroughly strengthening your core. Keyword: thoroughly. And I say that because many people correlate core with abs. And while this is true, it’s also painfully limited. In essence, your core consists of all the muscles from your knees to just below your chest. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

Abdominals: If there’s one thing we all share—it’s our desire for lean and mean abs. Here are some steps for earning them:
  • Plank (Hold for 1 minute): Get into a push up position, except with your elbows and forearms on the ground. Keep your booty down and your back straight. Hold.
  • V-Ups (20 repetitions): On your back, spread your arms north and your legs south. Come up in a V-position and touch your toes.
  • Leg Lifts (20 repetitions): On your back. Keep your arms to the ground, keep your legs straight and lift.
  • Bicycles (20 repetitions): Step 1: lie on your back and put your hands behind your ears (so you don’t pull your neck). Step 2: Lift both legs a few inches off the floor. Step 3: Bring one knee into the chest and lift the opposite shoulder off the floor. so if you bring in your left knee, you should lift your right shoulder up. Step 4: Switch to the other side.
  • Scissor Kicks (20 repetitions): On your back, lift your legs off the ground, and do over-under, over-under with your legs.
Obliques: These are the lateral parts of your abdominals.
  • Crossover crunches (50 repetitions): Crunch to the right, crunch to the left.
  • Side planks (1 minute, each side): Plank position, but this time you’re on your side.
Adductor/ Abductor: Those are just fancy terms for your inner and outer thighs.
  • Body Squats (10-20 repetitions): Perform squats with no additional weight. Focus on maintaining good form.
  • Inner Thigh Lift (20 repetitions): Lay on your side and pulse your inner thigh medially. For an added challenge, add ankle weights.
  • Outer Thigh Lifts (20 repetitions): Lay on your side and lift your leg laterally. For an added challenge, add ankle weights or change the angle of your foot.
  • Side Shuffle (20 shuffles to each side): Get into a squat position and shuffle to the left, and then to the right.
  • Fire Hydrants (20 repetitions on each side): Pretend you’re a dog marking your territory on a fire hydrant.
  • Clams (20 repetitions on each side):  Lay on your side and lift open your legs like a clam.
Booty: It may sound silly, but your booty may be the answer to all of your running goals and/or problems. Many people assume runners only need strong hamstrings and thighs—not true. You need a strong butt if you want to train longer, harder, and faster. Many injuries can be avoided by building glute strength.  
  • Lunges (20 repetitions): For an added challenge, perform them on an incline and/or with added weight.
  • Squat Jacks (20 repetitions): If you haven’t tried these, you’re missing out!
    • Step 1: Get into a squat position (back straight, legs at a 90 degree angle)
    • Step 2: Start doing jumping jacks while maintaining the squatted position.
  • One legged squat (20 repetitions on each side): Perform squat repetitions while balancing on one foot.
Lower Back: Your lower back is lonely—I guarantee it. Don't quote me on this, but it's probably one of the most neglected muscle groups in the world. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Improving lower back strength is an awesome way to improve posture, increase core strength, and prevent all types of injuries.
  • Superman (30 second-1 minute hold): Once you do this exercise, you’ll understand why it’s called “Superman”.
    • Step 1: Lay on your belly
    • Step 2: Keep your arms above your head (like a referee cueing  a field goal)
    • Step 3: Lift your legs and arms off the ground to where your belly is the only thing touching the earth. Hold this position for 45 seconds to 1 minute. For an added challenge, start pulsing your right hand and left leg, then switch.
  • Good Mornings (20-30 repetitions): These can be performed with or without weight. Similar to bowing, all you do is bend your torso forward (keeping your back straight) and then come back up again.
So there you have it--18 non-running exercises that will improve your running. Aim to work all of these muscle groups several times per week to develop and maintain strength. And keep it interesting! There are tons of exercises within each of these categories, so do a little research and try out some new moves. If you don't understand some of the exercises I provided, check em' out on YouTube!

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