Think about how many thousands of steps you take over the course of a run. Now multiply this number by the number of days a week you run. Now multiply this number by the number of months you run in a year. Not only would you strike the ground an astounding number of times over the course of a run, you would also strike it an astounding number of times over the course of a year.
Each time you strike the ground, you strike it with 2 to 2.5 times your bodyweight. The question is, can your feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back effectively support a force such as this? The answer largely depends on the strength of your core (including glutes, abdominals, hips and lower back).
Let’s say your glutes are inhibited (not firing) or weak. And when you strike the ground, this weakness/inhibition causes your upper leg (femur) to collapse inward, taking your knee and foot along with it. Pronation is a natural part of the running gait. But when it’s excessive for your body and is repeated thousands of times over the course of a run, injury is inevitable. When you neglect your core it is like trying to build a structurally sound house without having laid a solid foundation. At some point, it is going to come crashing down.
However, you can build a rock solid core that will fortify you for the demands of running. And you can do it in less than 15 minutes a few times a week. But building your core isn’t about getting on the floor and banging out a set of crunches or planks. Although those exercises help, your whole core must be worked and it must be worked across all planes of motion (sagittal, transverse, and frontal). The following 15-minute or less adaptive core routine does just that—and you don’t need to go to a gym to do it.
Begin by performing 30 seconds of each exercise and building up to two consecutive minutes of each exercise. Refer to the video for a quick visual how-to on performing each exercise.
Stability Ball Circles
Begin in plank position with your feet hip-width apart and your forearms on a stability ball. Clasp your hands lightly in front of you and tighten your abdominal muscles. Press your forearms into the ball. While keeping the rest of your body steady, draw a circle with your elbows. Complete the desired amount of circles. Switch directions.
Increase the challenge: Perform larger circles.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your feet elevated on a stability ball. Using your glutes, lift your hips so that they are in-line with your ankles. Be sure not to arch your back. While keeping your glutes tight and your body steady, slowly draw your heels towards your butt. Pause for two to three seconds. Roll the ball away from your butt until your legs are outstretched.
Increase the challenge: Perform one-legged stability ball hamstring curls.
Sit and Twists
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. While keeping your back straight, lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Clasp your hands lightly in front of your chest. Slowly rotate round to the right as far as you can, pause, then rotate to the left as far as you can.
Increase the challenge: Lift your feet off the floor or perform the exercise holding a medicine ball or some other weight.
Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Be sure they are just outside your feet. Jump both of your feet back so that you are in plank position. Lower your chest until it touches the floor. Push up to return to plank position. Jump your feet towards your hands. Stand up.
Increase the challenge: After standing up, jump into the air with both hands stretched overhead.
Begin in plank position with your arms extended and your hands wider than shoulder width. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Without lifting your hips, draw one of your knees in towards your chest. As you return to starting position, bring your other knee forward. Your legs should feel like they are skimming the floor. Continue alternating for the desired number of repetitions or time.
Increase the challenge: Increase the speed at which your legs alternate.
Side Plank with Leg Lift
Lie on one side with your legs stacked together and your hand up in the air or on your hips. While squeezing your glutes, raise your hips so that they are in a straight line with your ankles. Your oblique (side) muscles should be tight. While holding steady, raise your leg as high as you can. Pause for 2-3 seconds. Lower your leg slowly until your top foot touches your bottom foot. Repeat.
Increase the challenge: Perform the exercise with your feet on an elevated surface.
Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs outstretched While squeezing your lower back, simultaneously raise your arms, legs and chest off the floor. Hold the position for 1-2 seconds. Lower slowly to the start position. Repeat.
Increase the challenge: Perform the challenge while moving legs in and out in a scissor fashion or perform exercises over stability ball.
One of best things about this routine is that you can use your bodyweight, and you can increase or decrease the challenge of each exercise in a variety of ways. Also you can perform this routine anywhere. You can perform it after a run, in the comfort of your home or even at the office if you have a gym or an empty space to slip away to.
About the Author:
After leaving her home in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, following a devastating hurricane, Lisah discovered running as a way to feel free. Lisah represented the Virgin Islands twice at the World Cross Country Championships. Now she shares her unique approach to running and life through her podcast and website, The Conscious Runner, where she combines mindfulness and sound training principles to help you become a stronger, faster, more injury-resistant runner, and feel fantastic while doing it.