Contributed by Dana Brown PTA - Fit For Life Physical Therapy
When it comes to strengthening, many runners think the way to become a stronger runner is to run more. Yes, it is important to strengthen your heart, lungs, and legs by running more. However, to become a stronger runner it is important to strengthen the foundation of the body, which is your core. The stronger your core is, the more stable your hips, knees, ankles, and feet will become.
Did you know the core includes more than just your abdominal muscles? The core involves all of the muscles located between your rib cage and your pelvis. This includes the abdominal muscles, the low back muscles, and the muscles of the hips, buttocks, and pelvis.
When these muscles are weak, your running form suffers. This is especially important for long distance runners because your form can start to suffer the longer you run. Poor form leads to a slower running pace and can make you more susceptible to injuries. Our modern sedentary lifestyle plays a role in this as well. As we sit in a desk all day long, we tend to slouch because our core is weak and can’t maintain an erect posture. Therefore, a strong core is vital to stabilizing the body during both work and play.
Symptoms of a weak core include:
- Low back pain
- Poor posture (forward head, rounded shoulders)
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis
- Poor balance
- General weakness
The best way to strengthen your core is to engage your deep core muscles, such as your transverse abdominis. These deeper muscles are rarely engaged in your typical “ab exercises” such as crunches. One example of an exercise that will strengthen your core are toe taps.
First, start by laying down on your back. Bend your hips and knees in the air so that they are both at 90 degrees. You may notice there is a space between your back and the floor. Close this space by keeping your back against the floor. This may be difficult for some, so we suggest holding the position for about 10 seconds, and doing this 10 times prior to starting the toe taps.
Next, while keeping your back flat against the floor, slowly lower one foot towards the floor and tap. Just as slowly, bring it back up. Now gradually bring your other foot towards the floor, tap, and bring it back up. If you notice there is a gap between your back and the floor, take a moment to reset into the proper position. It is crucial to not arch your back and to keep it flat against the floor.
Perform 15 toe taps on each leg and take breaks as needed. Start with one set, then progress to two per leg as your body adjusts. One more thing: when you’re done with these exercises, get out there and go for a run!
If we can assist you with injury prevention, maintenance, or rehabilitation, please feel free to contact Fit For Life Physical Therapy at (614) 981-1979 or www.fitforlifephysicaltherapy.com