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Improve Your Running By Becoming A Better Athlete

  • By Caitlin Chock
  • Published Sep. 19, 2013
  • Updated Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM UTC
Core strength is an important component to finishing strong at the end of a race. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Flexibility And Core Strength

“The biggest reason runners need to gain flexibility is to stay healthy,” says coach Jay Johnson, who coaches both elite and age-group runners. Though, having a greater range of motion also allows a runner to open up their gait, creating a more efficient stride. “There is so much to be gained from a sound flexibility program…good hip mobility is a great insurance policy for runners, even for injuries that are further away from the hip, such as foot and lower leg injuries. But the good news is that when your hips and the muscles that surround them are strong and functional, you’re ready to run faster and stay injury-free.”

Flexibility and a strong core, or general strength for a runner, are also intrinsically linked, “I don’t view flexibility and strength of the minor muscles as separate, but rather an exercise like the clam is good for hip mobility and fantastic for glute medius strength, which is a muscle that is often weak in runners,” Johnson explains. This brings us to a runner’s core. “A strong core allows the runner to have a rigid system from their foot to their upper body when they strike the ground.”

The ability to maintain good form as you tire at the end of a race is done so by having the core strength to stay upright.

Coach Johnson’s Flexibility Routine

When: Before and after your runs; 8-10 reps each leg.

VIDEO: Flexibility Routine

  • Clams
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Forward leg swings
  • Lateral leg swings

Coach Johnson’s Pedestal Core Routine

When: 2-3 times per week. Beginners: 30 second hold each pose. Advanced: 10 lifts each leg per pose.

VIDEO: Pedestal Core Routine

  • Plank
  • Reverse Plank
  • Side Plank (both sides)

Building on Pedestal:

  • Overhead Squat: “The progression would be to do this with just body weight, then move to a light weight like an 8 lb. medicine ball, then eventually an athlete may be able to perform this exercise with a 45 lb. squat bar.” Sets of 10; start with one, work up to three.

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About The Author: 

Caitlin Chock set the then-national high school 5k record (15:52.88) in 2004. Still an avid runner, she works as a freelance writer and artist.

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