Over the past five years core training has become the buzz word of the fitness world. But what exactly is your "core"? Your core consists of 29 pairs of muscles that synchronize to control the motion at your trunk. It is literally the foundation for your running machine - the control center for running. Most core training or testing programs focus primarily on the abdominal muscles. While this is helpful, there is much more that can be done.
Core training will improve your running times, improve your running form, improve your running efficiency, reduce your risk of injury and speed recovery. Several studies have been published over the past 8 years that demonstrate the importance of core training in both recovering from injury and improving recovery. So, if you are currently injured view this as the perfect opportunity to either start a core training program or refine the program you currently use.
We recommend testing your core strength. When I test runners at my physical therapy clinic they are often amazed at the imbalances they have developed. Measuring your core fitness level will help you set goals, focus your training and monitor progress. You can view the exact testing approach I use at Core Fitness Test for the Running Athlete .
Should you use an exercise ball or enroll in a pilates program? Each of these approaches (and many more) have the potential to provide you with challenging exercises that will improve your core strength. However, if the program doesn't train the four regions of core muscles (abs, back, right side, left side) you will be missing out.
Our favorite picks are:
A Balanced Solution for running specific, functional core training.
Kettlebell Training for the Running Athlete for dynamic, running specific, functional core training.
Or, for a simple, no frills appoach, you can use the Plank exercises pictured below.