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Have you ever heard “engage your core”?

NO? Well, then let me be the first…

“Engage your core”  is THE MOST favorite expression of any coach…

Why?

Well…read on…

In this post, we have covered why and how to activate your core before running? Benefits and also the exact exercises you may follow. 

Related:

Top 21 Best Beginner Core Exercises For Runners

The 13 Best Hamstring And Glute Strengthening Exercises For Runners

How To Activate Core Before Running HI 2-min

How to Activate Your Core Before Running?

To activate your core before running, perform exercises like Jack-knives, Planks and it’s variations, Crunches, etc. These exercises will help you to have a strong and stable core and will provide you with better results reducing the chances of injuries. Activating the core means waking up your core muscles and engaging them in the activity you are performing. These exercises will target the core, tune them and bring them into action during your running.

So here we dig deeper to learn about the core.

What is the core?

Your core is the set of muscles that forms the middle section of your body.

Your score can be divided into the inner and outer core muscles.

The inner core is made up of:

  • Diaphragm
  • Pelvic floor muscles
  • Multifidus
  • Transverse abdominus

They are the deep core muscles and are less visible.

They provide stability to your trunk.

The outer core is made up of:

  • Rectus abdominus
  • Obliques
  • Erector Spinae

They provide strength and controls the range of motion. 

How To Find Your Core?

I guess by now you would have a fair amount of idea what your core muscles are actually. The outer core muscles are mostly visible. Once you work out, even the results start to show up on the outer core.

The major challenge is with the inner core. The inner core is deeply located under several layers of body muscles. You cannot see them and not touch them directly.

So, how to feel your deep core muscle?

For that, let’s try a fun exercise.

Try wearing a smaller pair of jeans than your usual size…

What do you do?

Squeeze in the tummy and contract your waistline.

There is some sort of tension that builds up all through the back and right from the diaphragm till pelvic.

These are your inner core muscles which are working and trying to hold your posture.


Why should you activate your core before running?

In your body, other than your head and limbs, you have the core.

And here is how it works…

Your entire torso is surrounded by the core muscles.

The core protects the internal organs.

The inner and outer obliques provide flexibility to your body and rotation of your torso.

The abs muscles help to stabilize the body and maintaining the correct posture.

A strong and stable core will help you maintain the correct form and keep you injury-free.

While running or walking have you ever felt the difference when your core is engaged and when it is not?

You can tell from your own experience how engaging the core helps you in running.

When your core is not activated and you are running, you have a sluggish posture, slow speed and not a set breathing pattern.

Once you make your core engaged, belly button towards your spine, you are standing tall and strong.

The posture is correct and you run in the right form.

You are running fast and you can feel your breath.

Now, this does not come overnight.

You have to make a deliberate effort in engaging your core.

Keep telling your abs, “Hey you common, run with me”!!

This takes some time and practice to run with your core engaged.

But, I guarantee you, the feel is so different.

Even if you do not see significant improvement in your speed, you feel you are running more confidently.

This mental boost is an additional benefit.


What is core engagement running?

So by now, you must be comfortable with the essence of core in your daily activities.

Great!!

However, you may still think of how to focus on running and core engagement at the same time.

It’s simple, your core imparts the potential to sustain your running.

The core engagement is the tension that is created in the mid-section of your body (mainly around the abs and waist).

The more is the tension the more the power generated.

Once you squeeze your tummy and draw your belly button towards the spine, that’s where you are engaging the core.

As I said earlier, it is difficult to visualize your inner core, you may not see how your body moves when your core is engaged.

But if you have the perfect six-pack and you engage your core and run, you can actually see your muscles moving.

By running this way you are working out your abs as well.

Bonus! 

How To Activate Core Before Running HI-min

10 Exercises to activate your core before running

 

1. Plank Arm Reach

Benefits

Works on the abs and lower back.

Steps

  1. Take the plank forearm position.
  2. Stretch your right arm in front of you parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold this position for 30 sec.
  4. Come back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat it by stretching the left arm.

 

2. Half Crunch

Benefits

Works on the abs mostly on the transverse abdominus.

Steps

  1. Sit on the mat with your back upright.
  2. Keep your knee bent pointing above.
  3. Keep your arms stretched in front of you parallel to the ground.(This is the starting position).
  4. Inhale and incline back such that your body is inclined at 45 degrees.
  5. Exhale and come back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 15 times, 2 sets.

3. Scissors Side Kicks

Benefits

Works on the abs

Steps

  1. Lie on the mat on your back. 
  2. Your hands beneath your hips. 
  3. Keep your legs together and raise a few inches above the ground. This is the starting position.
  4. Push your legs sidewards 1-2 feet apart and then bring it back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat it 15 times, 2 sets.

 

4. High Boat to Low Boat

Benefits

Works on the abs

Steps

  1. Sit on the mat with back upright. Knee bent and feet resting on the ground.
  2. Keep your core engaged and lift your feet at 45 degrees to your torso. Keep the hands stretched outwards parallel to the ground.
  3. This is the high boat. Remain at this position for 2-3 deep breaths.
  4. Lower your legs and torso and make them straight a few inches above the ground.
  5. This is the low boat. Remain at this pose for 2-3 deep breaths.
  6. Repeat the high boat to low boat 3-5 times.

5. Reach-Up

Benefits

Works on the abs

Steps

  1. Lie on the mat on your back.
  2. Bend your knees above the ground and feet should be shoulder-distance apart.
  3. Fix your feet or ask your partner to gently step on them.(This is the starting position)
  4. Inhale and sit-up and raise your hands above your head.
  5. Exhale and come back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat it 10-15 times, 2 sets.
  7. To make it challenging, try holding a dumbbell in your hands.

6. Butterfly Sit-ups

Benefits

Works on abs and pelvic floor muscles.

Steps

  1. Lie on the mat on your back.
  2. Keep your hands stretched overhead. 
  3. Keep your legs in the butterfly pose (knee bent on each side and feet joint). This is the starting position.
  4. Exhale and sit upright and try to touch the toes with your hand.
  5. Inhale and go back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat it 15 counts, 2 sets.

7. Panther Shoulder Tap

Benefits

Works on the abs and the lower back

Steps

  1. Sit on the mat on your fours. Your wrist is below the shoulder and back is flat.
  2. Lift your knee 2-3 inches above the ground. This is the starting position.
  3. Engage your core and tap your right shoulder with the left hand.
  4. Come back to the starting position.
  5. Then touch your left shoulder with your right hand.
  6. Repeat tapping 10 times each shoulder, 2 sets.

8. Dead Bug

Benefits

Works on the inner and outer ab muscles

Steps

  1. Lie on the mat on your back.
  2. Keep your legs at the table-top position and hands stretched upwards. This is the starting position.
  3. Keep your core engaged and bring the right leg down making it straight. Bring your left arm down overhead. Keep them a few inches above the ground.
  4. Come back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat it with the left leg and right hand.
  6. Repeat 10 times each sides, 2 sets.

9. Hip-Dip

Benefits

Works on the abs and obliques.

Steps

  1. Come on the forearm plank position (this is the starting position).
  2. Rotate your hip on the left side and try to touch the ground.
  3. Come back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the same by rotating your hip on the right side.
  5. Repeat it 10 times each side, 2 sets.

10. Low Kicks

Benefits

Works on the abs and the glutes

Steps

  1. Sit on the mat with your back upright, legs in the table-top position and hands by your side.
  2. Press your palm on the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale and kick your legs as low as possible, do not touch the ground.
  4. Inhale and come back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat it 15 times, 2 sets

 

Related

What is bracing your core?

When it comes to “the core” you must have heard several terms –  bracing, tightening, stiffening, etc.

It’s all very mind-boggling and confusing.

Do they really mean the same or are they different in any way?

Well, to be precise, they are similar also and at the same time, it’s different.

Technically, by bracing the core, we mean to tighten the core muscles.

Once you contract the abdomina( specifically the transversus abdminis muscles), the erector spinae muscles come into action and support from the back.

This helps to maintain the neutral spine position.

So you see in all the 3 cases (tightening, stiffening and bracing) you need to contract your abdomina.

Now you must be wondering how are they different?

So when it is the case of tightening your abdomina, you contract your stomach with low intensity.

Let’s say on a scale of 1-10, the intensity is 2 -3.

You are able to breathe and talk, like how you perform a cardio workout.

With bracing the intensity of contraction is a bit higher, let’s say 5 or 6.

You are able to breathe but it is challenging.

Something like how you are performing an advance plank or light-weight lift.

In the case of stiffening, the intensity is much higher.

You have almost held your breath.

Just in the case of heavy-weight lifts, where your back needs the maximum support.

Is bracing core the same as engaging core?

Engaging your core refers to as contracting your core.

So when you contract, you can go from a minimum contraction where you have slightly pulled in your belly button to a maximum level where you are holding the core so hard that you cannot even breathe.

Bracing is a level of engaging your core where the intensity lies somewhere in between.

In the case of bracing, you are holding your muscles lose to move freely but at the same time, they are strong to make you breathe slowly.

Here is a simple exercise to practice bracing.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart.
  2. Keep your hands joined in front of you.
  3. Ask a trainer or a partner to push your hands to one side.
  4. Try to resist this and maintain your hands at the center as much as possible.
  5. You can feel the tension in your abs growing. Try to maintain it as much as possible.

Bracing is extremely helpful to the athletes.

It helps to maintain a neutral spine position, hence helps to give you a better form while running.

This is helpful in maintaining a good speed and keep you injury-free.

Is it better to engage or relax your core during running?

So far we have seen that engaging the core is a boon for the runners.

You get stability, better form, better speed, and the result is better performance.

Great!!

But can you brace your abs for hours together?

So, keeping your core tensed or relaxed greatly depends on the distance you are running.

If you are running a sprint, you need power, speed, and better impact.

You need to hold your core tight and run with your maximum potential.

If you are running a 5k, you can keep your core tensed and pull the trigger when it is required.

While running a marathon, you cannot run with a braced core.

You have to run long and keeping your core braced will cause fatigue.

It is better to relax your muscles and run.

So judge the core engagement depending on the situation.

Well, whatever be the race you are preparing for, never ignore the core training.

What is Tranverse Abdominis Muscle? How is it related to running?

The Transverse Abdominis Muscles also termed as the TVA is the deepest of the core muscles.

It wraps around the center acting as an internal weight belt.

The major functions of the TVA are

  • Rotation and bending of the body
  • Engaged in activities like breathing, coughing, sneezing, laughing.
  • Pulling in the abdomina otherwise, you will end up having a rounded belly.

When the TVA is compressed, it compresses the chest cavity and increases the internal pressure.

Because of this, the upper and lower body is bonded more strongly.

Your body is more stable and co-ordinated.

The TVA also reduces lower back pain and prevents leg injuries.

How To Activate Core Before Running. Use these core strengthening exercises to activate your core.

How To Activate Core Before Running. Use these core strengthening exercises to activate your core.

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