Core strength is essential for all athletes. It is the true foundation and support for all movement, as well as posture. Strengthening and stretching the abdominal muscles in the core not only help you to perform better while playing sports but also to accomplish daily activities more efficiently. Athletes such as marathoners, who are naturally more focused on running, may not think about the importance of keeping core muscles fit, but strong core support can help marathoners win races and minimize injury risk. If you’re a marathon runner, it’s especially important to develop core power so that you can better endure longer distances and run them faster. You can choose from a wide variety of exercise routines to get helpful core workouts for marathoners, but holistic fitness programs, such as yoga, pilates and tai chi, can help you to create a finely tuned and complete core muscle system.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis not only improves core flexibility but also strength, which is especially important during marathon races. Avoid injuries and gain running prowess with basic yoga core poses, such as plank pose2 and downward-facing dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana. Plank pose is part of a typical Sun Salutation routine that also includes downward-facing dog.3
Perform plank pose by holding in the “up” position of a push-up, and perform downward-facing dog by making an upside-down “V” shape with your body while extending your arms out in front on you with hands flat on the floor and extending your legs behind you.
More intense core poses include the Cat Pose, or Marjaryasana, and Dolphin Plank Pose and Dolphin Pose.1 Using a mat or thick towel on the floor, get down on your hands and knees for Cat Pose. With your head facing down, alternate between arching your back and releasing it. Control your core muscles through each move. Pull your abdominal muscles in as your arch and stretch your stomach muscles as you release. Hold each position for a few seconds. Dolphin Plank Pose is similar to regular Plank Pose except that instead of using your arms for support hold yourself up with your forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Dolphin Pose is similar to Downward-Facing Dog, except that you balance on your forearms also instead of your hands.
Similar to yoga, many exercises in pilates strengthen and stretch the core muscles. Some pilates core workout ideas for marathon runners include practicing the “100s” exercise and roll-ups.
For the “100s” exercise, start from a supine position on your mat or towel and lift your legs up evenly in front of you to a 90-degree angle. Your arms rest beside you. Breathe in and as you exhale, lift your head, chest and arms upward. With your arms slightly lifted and straight beside you, begin pumping them up and down as if you’re patting water with your hands. Remember to breathe in rhythm with your movements. Pump your arms 100 times.
Roll-ups are similar to sit-ups, except that you don’t place your hands behind your neck, and it’s important to avoid jerking your body up for a sit-up or only lifting it high enough to perform crunches. Instead start from a supine position with arms extended above your head. First, gently lift your arms straight up above your face and slowly begin lifting your head, shoulders and chest upward. Next, lift your upper body into a seated position with your hands extended straight up in the air above your head. In a continuous movement, begin reaching for your toes. Your legs remain straight during roll-ups. Control your core as your move through roll-ups. Release your body slowly in a reverse pattern until you are flat on the floor again. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Roll-ups are advantageous because they work and stretch all core muscles and don’t just isolate certain abdominal muscles for strengthening. Marathoners benefit by maintaining whole core support for running.
Like other types of martial arts, tai chi relies on core strength and support for all movements. Tai chi especially teaches you to be aware of not only your body and its parts but also the details of your immediate environment. Tai chi is an ancient martial art “designed to move the entire body in fluid and meditative movements,” says the 4-Minute Fitness website.5 Since interconnectedness is at the heart of tai chi philosophy and movements, it’s difficult to isolate individual tai chi core exercises, but practicing tai chi on a regular basis is one of the best core workouts for marathoners. All tai chi movements encourage movements that gently but efficiently rotate and stretch the spine, according to 4-Minute Fitness.5 Tai chi continuously works back muscles and deep abdominal muscles that make up the core.
- Yoga Journal: Core Poses
- Yoga Journal: Core Curriculum
- YouTube: Ashtanga Yoga Poses: Sun Salutation A
- YouTube: The Best Pilates Core Workout Video by Diet.com
- 4-Minute Fitness: Easy Tai Chi