Sunday 27 January 2013

Marathon des Sables training: core work for runners

We all know we should do core exercises to complement cardiovascular work in our training, but there are a few key exercises that are particularly beneficial to runners.

A strong core helps provide power, stability and endurance. Ultra running in particular needs a strong middle to help us go further for longer. Why? A strong core helps to maintain both a good and efficient posture, stride and form meaning less risk of injury or decreased performance.

Core work should include the deep abdominals, back muscles and glutes. I found this brilliant diagrammatic article that shows you how and when the core muscles come into action when you run. Particularly of note to Marathon des Sablers are the uphill (glutes and lower abs needed to support the pelvis to get uphill), endurance (lower abs and back needed to maintain proper form even when fatigued).

I tried to fit in 15 minutes 3x times a week. Easier said than done, even just 15 minutes, as they are painful to do! I found it helped to do the set routine in the gym but friends say they prefer to tag it onto the end of a run instead. These are the exercises I did.

Plank - lie on your stomach and raise yourself up onto your toes and forearms. Keep your body as straight as possible. Hold for 1 minute.

Make it harder?
Raise your left leg up a few inches in the air and hold for 10 seconds. Lower and swap legs.

60 seconds on each. Rest for 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise. After completing all six, take a 3- to 5-minute break, and repeat the entire series. Try to do this routine three times a week.

Side plank - as the plank but lie on one side and lift up onto your foreams and toes, keeping your body in a straight line. Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.

Make it harder? Bring your bottom knee in towards your chest and hold for five seconds. Repeat with the top knee.

Superman - lie on your front with your arms stretched out. Raise your head, left arm and right leg up a few inches. Hold for 5 seconds then lower and repeat on the other side.

Make it harder? Go all out as fast as possible for the minute.

Bridge - lie on your back with your feet on the ground. Raise your hips so your body is in a straight line. Stablise yourself before raising your right knee towards your chest. Keep your hips stable. Return to the bridge position and repeat with the other leg.

Metronome - lie face up with your legs to one side and your arms out to the side. Lift your legs up as high as possible and arc them over and down to the other side. Repeat and return back to your original position.

Make it harder? Don't let your legs touch the ground in between sets.

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