Abs And Running
While many recreational runners don’t include ab workouts such as crunches or planks in their routine, the vast majority of competitive runners make sure to work their abs several times a week. Why is this? What do the pros know that the rest of us don’t?
First things first. Let’s clarify just exactly what we mean when we say “abs.” The group of abdominal muscles that play the most crucial role in supporting running form and efficiency are the internal obliques and the transversus abdominis or TVA. These two muscle groups form what are referred to as the deep abs and serve to translate leg power into forward motion.
Running experts agree: most issues that arise in terms of bad running form stem from weak abs. Translation: if you have weak abs, you will not run as powerfully, gracefully, quickly or efficiently as you would with a well-toned core!
You may be thinking, “Well, I don’t care about my form. None of that stuff matters to me.” Think again. A good, efficient running form not only propels you quicker through space, it also protects you against injury and keeps you out on the roads when others are home on the mend.
Good running form starts with your pelvis. Without strong abs holding it in place, your pelvis wants to tilt on its axis – either forward or backward depending on you unique physiology. A strong core keeps the pelvis in a more neutral position enabling your body to take full advantage of all the power your legs provide to push you forward. So a neutral pelvis is a powerful and efficient pelvis and a neutral pelvis is obtained with the help of strong deep abs.
Chances are a good portion of your day is spent sitting – either commuting, working at a desk or just hanging out after a long run. Unfortunately, most of us don’t sit with good posture and our slouch on the couch lifestyle deactivates the deep abs and leads to muscle weakening or atrophy.
Luckily there is something you can do. Make sure to sit with good posture. Sit erect. Consciously engage your abs when you sit. Focus on your breath, expanding your diaphragm when you inhale and pushing it back toward your ribs when you exhale. Do this every time you sit until it becomes your norm. You’ll notice a difference in the strength of your abs in a very short time if you are consistent and focused.
The next thing to do is work some ab exercises into your routine. Warm up your abs as part of your pre-run dynamic exercises. As you warm up, focus on your abs. Make sure they’re engaged and carrying their load rather than having your legs do all the work. Take it easy at first, but as you gain strength, add exercises like crunches and planks (Google these if you’re unfamiliar with what they are and how to perform them!) into your week.
The benefits of working your abs are endless. You’ll have better overall posture – not just while running, but throughout your day. You’ll develop a more pleasing and useful midsection. You’ll run with greater efficiency, less stress, fewer injuries – and you’ll probably be just a bit faster, too!
Now get out there and enjoy some winter running!
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QUESTION: DO YOU INCLUDE ABS EXERCISE EVERY TIME YOU RUN?