While squats, leg presses, lunges, and deadlifts can certainly strengthen the legs, they cannot be completed properly without a certain amount of core strength. In the same light, a runner can run out of steam, run the risk of injury, or cross the finish line in that “crouched, hunched over, let’s get this over with” posture sometimes seen at the end of races. To combat this and achieve the ever sought after “tall and proud” posture at the finish line, here are some core strengthening exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere, and as often as you want!
Most runners who cross train are familiar with the traditional plank, Russian twists, leg lifts, and crunches or sit-ups. These are wonderful and dynamic exercises, but I encourage my clients, runners and non-runners alike to start from the core of the core. The traverse abdominis or TVA is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle running between the ribs and pelvis. Its main functions are to stabilize the lumbar spine or lower back, to flatten the abdominal wall, to support internal organs, and to expel air as you exhale. The TVA, when strong, can keep the pelvis from tipping forward which creates an inward curve in the lower back. Keeping the pelvis properly aligned prevents lower back injury and maintains health in the lower half of the kinetic chain. Since lower back, hip, knee, ankle, and foot pain are common complaints from runners, it’s safe to say a strong TVA makes for a healthy, strong runner. Of course, if you suffer from any of the above injuries, it is always smart to consult your health care provider first to rule out any other serious injury.
So how do we strengthen our transverse abdominis? I can honestly say this is an EASY and CONVENIENT process that can be integrated into EVERYONE’S schedule without changing your daily routine. TVA Activation exercises can be done while seated or standing and require no equipment, extra space, and you can even do them in work clothes…no need to change! Of course, I encourage you to continue strengthening the different muscles of your core through other exercises as your core is dynamic and reactive and should be trained as such. However, the TVA itself can be easily trained at your desk or while watching TV (BONUS!). Simply sit or stand in an upright posture (no slouching). Brace your core, creating the “corset” effect by pulling your belly button to your spine, as if you were about to receive a punch to the gut or lift something heavy. Hold in that braced position for 6-10 seconds and release, repeating 10-15 times. Essentially it feels like you are giving yourself a “hug” with your core. Who doesn’t like hugs?
When done often enough and properly, this simple exercise can effectively improve your posture (both sedentary and while out running), your strength training form, and can help you achieve lower body health and stay on track with your running goals! Remember, a strong core is a strong runner!
Meghan Ross is a personal trainer and group exercise manager at Anytime Fitness – Midvale. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about personal training or her group fitness class schedule.