A few years ago when at the physio to have my shin splints treated, I was told that I had a strong core but didn’t use it. That statement puzzled me somewhat.
More recently one of our club coaches asked me if I do a lot of core work based on what he could see of my running.
When I came away from the physio that day I started thinking about what using my core as opposed to just training it meant.
Our core muscles are the fundamental reason why we are able to sit upright, walk upright and keep good posture; they work as a stabiliser for the whole body.
A strong core takes the pressure off other parts of the body. This is particularly important when exercising, be it when working with weights in the gym or when out running for example. In the gym the core muscles will help to keep good posture when lifting weights, thus helping us to stay injury free. In running they also help us to keep good posture and form which in turn means that we can run in a more controlled and efficient way and therefore will tire less.
Having a regular routine of doing a few simple core exercises several times a week will help to strengthen the core muscles. It is also good to remind yourself to engage your core muscles on a regular basis – be it when you are sitting at your desk (by sitting upright and tightening your abs) or standing at the bus stop for example (again by tightening your abs and clenching your butt cheeks a bit). The same should be done when exercising: Just occasionally when you are running, swimming or cycling consciously engage your core muscles.
In running you might notice yourself straightening up and feeling lighter. In swimming you are likely to notice that your body straightens up a bit and drifts to the surface making you more streamlined.
I have noticed the big difference a strong core has made to my training but I do regularly have to remind myself to engage my core muscles.