For the past several weeks, I have been trying to stay on a pretty consistent routine as far as my workouts. Some sort of weights circuit on Monday, run Tuesday, weights circuit Wednesday, recovery/light day Thursday, Flywheel Friday-Sunday. I used to think that doing straight cardio all of the time was the most efficient and effective way to burn calories while also keeping me in shape to compete at a high level in races. I have realized over time that not incorporating some sort of strength workouts into my routine can cause injury as well as decrease my performance. I will be the first to tell you that since I incorporated some of these mini strength training circuits into my day, I feel better, I fit into my clothes better, and this is the first time since before I was married that I haven’t had a knee or foot injury from running (knock on wood!).
With the Boston Marathon happening earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal had a great article in the Life and Culture section about this topic (See full article). The article details the types of pain that marathon runners experience as they begin to “hit the wall”. The article argues that although this pain cannot be totally prevented, it can be delayed until later in the race through strength training. By strength training, we aren’t talking Olympic power lifting moves, but rather, exercises as easy as squats, planks, sit ups and push-ups.
Most runners don’t realize how important the “core” is to their performance. In fact, when most people hear the word “core” they think of the abs. The core really reaches from the trunk to the torso and includes the abs, obliques, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and several other tiny muscles that you probably don’t even realize that you use. All powerful movements originate from the center of the body out, so the more stable the core, the more powerful the movement.
When I did pole vault in college, we did our running and lifting workouts with the sprinters. Pole vaulting requires a significant amount of speed and power. After every sprint workout, we ended with several hundred sets of abs and core exercises. I will never forget the sprint coaching reiterating how important the core is to being a faster runner. The motion of your arm movement, which helps drive your turnover, originates in your core.
Now I know that most people reading this post are not collegiate sprinters/pole vaulters, but this applies to everyone. Outside of making your athletic performance better, a strong core can also make everyday tasks easier (like the yard work that I did a few weeks ago). The hardest part is adjusting your mindset to place these exercises as high in importance as the actual run (or other workout) itself and doing the exercises correctly. If you are unsure of where to start, Charlotte is fortunate enough to have several options of studios to work core muscle groups, including several barre studios and recently opened SmartCore Fitness. I will be stopping by sometime in the next week to check this place out. Without spoiling the details, Denise Duffy has transformed the typical personal training session into a core intense circuit workout. Be on the lookout for a write up on my first visit to her studio!