Want to run and stay injury-free? Then make sure you pencil in some of these exercises that will help build your ‘core’
Running is the most basic form of physical activity. It is ingrained in us. As toddlers, we instinctively start running before we can barely walk. Then, where does it all go wrong? How come we are prone to injury when we try to pick up running at a later age?
What comes naturally to us as children no longer does, courtesy the chair. Most of us are stuck in a chair since the age of 2-3, whether it is to eat food, study, watch the idiot box or just hold a conversation. Being seated most of the time really messes up our posture and muscle balance. Almost any movement seems very awkward after a few years.
After being stuck in a chair till the age of 30-40, we suddenly become conscious of our health and fitness. Since walking and running are activities that can be done anywhere and by anyone, they end up being our choice of physical activities, and rightly so. Even though the intention is to use running to get fit, we first need to be fit to be able to run. Otherwise injuries are waiting to happen.
The most important exercises for runners are core exercises. Even though working on your core muscles is imperative, most people do not really understand what core is. Leave alone the newbie runners, even seasoned runners and gym instructors think of core as the abdominal muscles alone.
The Oxford dictionary defines core as “the part of something that is central to its existence or character”. The same applies to the “core” during the movements in the human body. For example, when we move our arms while running, that energy is intended to translate into moving our legs quicker, and more efficiently.
Mobility, stability and strength go hand in hand. There needs to be a fine balance between all three. Optimal work can happen only when the muscles of the abdomen, back and hips work in synchronization to support and stabilize the spine. This ends up providing a solid foundation for the movements in the legs and arms.
Most people who run in the morning, or even in marathons and ultra marathons, aren’t doing justice to their bodies. There is too much hip sway and shoulder rotation, too little stability between the two, and grossly poor posture. An improved core can make them efficient runners and reduce the chances of injuries.
One exercise all runners must incorporate in their routine is the “plank”. This is a better exercise than sit-ups, which can cause pain in the lower back. A full plank activates core muscles from top to bottom without causing injuries; it also improves sitting, standing and running posture.
Besides the plank, runners (or those looking to start running) must incorporate some basic exercises (see below) to strengthen their core.
Activates the quadricep muscles
Trains the core muscles (gluteus maximus, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, lumbar paraspinal and pelvic floor muscles).
Increases the mobility of the lower back
Latissimus dorsi stretch
Stretches the upper-mid back muscle
Side to side
Stretches the quadratus lumborum muscle
Stretches back of the thigh