Core work is essential to any workout regimen, but when it comes to running, it’s critical that you put work into your core. When you’re nearing the end of a hard workout or race, your running form deteriorates. Having a strong core helps slow that deterioration and gets you to the finish line with a better time (and without falling over). Having a strong core is one of the building blocks to keep a runner consistent and healthy.
Many people think that their “core” is just their abs and so they do crunches to exhaustion, but your core is so much more. Your core includes everything from your glutes and hips to your lower back and hamstrings. The book Foundation: Redefine Your Core is a great resource that dives deep into this topic. A good core routine is one that focuses on different parts of your core. Either throughout the week or within the same workout. For runners, we recommend doing core 3-5 times per week and doing it before you go for a run. The challenge with doing it after is that it’s too tempting to skip it when you’re done running and are tired.
Shawn of The Final Turn has been doing this oblique core routine for several years and it’s helped him build a balanced set of core muscles.
Oblique Core Routine
This routine primarily focuses on your obliques. Depending on how many reps you do in each set, this routine will take you anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
To start -- try to do 10 reps on each side and work your way up to 20 reps on each side. Each of these movements are unilateral meaning you work each side of your obliques individually. So, if you want to start with 10, you do 10 on your left side and then 10 on your right side. There are no breaks between the exercises until you get to the burnout.
Reps: 10 - 20 each side
Break between exercises: None
Do these slowly. Make sure you get your elbow touching the opposite knee, pause for two seconds, and then switch. You’ll feel the burn on these, but that’s the point!
Lay on the ground with your feet spread about 6 inches off the ground. Crunch up, lift one leg up in the air, and touch your foot (if possible) with the opposite hand. Repeat on the other side until you’ve completed all the reps for the set.
Alternating toe touches
Lay on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs crunched in a v-shape (like you’re doing a crunch). Reach your one hand toward your foot and then alternate to the other side.
Plank - Knee to elbow (Spiderman Crunch)
In a plank position take your one leg and crunch out attempting to have your knee touch your elbow (same side). Repeat for the other side until you hit the desired number of reps. If you can’t fully touch your elbow to your knee, that’s ok. Go through the motion and work towards that as your goal.
Plank - Crunch to twist
In the same plank position crunch, move one leg toward your chest and then rotate in toward the opposite elbow. Repeat on the other side.
Side plank - Hip dips
Switch over to your side and go into a slide plank position. Your forearm should be perpendicular to your body and your legs stretched out. Dip your hip down and back up. Once you've completed the correct number of reps, switch to the other side.
Choose a side and lay perpendicular to the floor. Place one arm parallel to the floor and the other behind your head. Crunch your elbow (the one touching your head) toward your knee while lifting both sides up, hold for one second. Continue doing that until you’ve reached the number of desired reps and repeat on the other side.
On your back, lift your legs about 6 inches off the ground. In a clockwise position, make a ~6-inch circle with your feet. Once you’re done, do it in the counter-clockwise position. Don’t drop your legs! Tip: Find something that you can ‘pin’ to (e.g. the top of a chair, a desk, etc.) so you know how high you should aim for each time.
30 second break
Take this time to wipe your face, grab a sip of water, and prepare for the burnout!
Burnout - Pop-overs & V-hold
Lay on your back and hold your legs 6-inches off the ground. “Pop” (lift up legs to one side, drop, lift up again, drop to the other side) your legs from side to side. Each side counts as one. When you’ve completed the reps, don’t drop your legs. Go into a v-hold and hold steady for the desired amount of time.
Beginner: 30 pop-overs (15 each side); 21 second v-hold
Intermediate: 60 pop-overs (30 each side); 1 minute v-hold
Advanced: 120 pop-overs (60 each side); 2 minute v-hold
This is a great routine to do twice a week. In between this routine, you can do other core routines that are focused on other parts of your core and abs like lower abs, or upper abs. Ultimately, this routine coupled with the others will make you a better, faster, and stronger runner.