stability

How To Get Strong Enough To Run

Strength Training For Running 101 - Trunk Stability

In-person and online distance coaching clients included, many of my lovelies like to use running as a means for improving fitness. It’s an economic and effective choice.. Running is what we call in the industry a “low-barrier-of-entry sport,” - i.e. something that requires small financial investment and little or no facility/equipment requirements. That sounds great, right? Fitness should be available to all.

HOWEVER, the ease with which we have access to running sometimes tricks us into believing there’s no major pre-requisites in terms of skill either. And unfortunately, that just ain’t true.

In order to withstand the repeated stress of running and reap all the potential benefits—and yes, there are many reasons to run—your body needs to be strong in all the right places. There are certain strengths REQUIRED before starting a running regimen.

Getting stronger in order to run better is an easy concept to grasp. “But, strong in what ways,” you may ask? Well, that my dear is a very good question. Cause you certainly don’t need to go wasting your time with bicep curls and tricep push-downs, as I see lots of cardio queens toiling over in the weight room.

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You need to focus on developing certain qualities that will have better impact on your readiness for running like plyometric and deceleration training. You’ll also benefit from lower body mobility and strength training.

We can get into those concepts more at a later time(shout me out @ashleighkast if you have interest), but right now we’re gonna talk about the most important quality you should work on first - the one that is going to influence your success through all the others - and that is trunk stability.

I'm going to give you one bit of magic that will help you increase your trunk stability - which by the way is important for EVERYONE, not just runners - but first, let's talk about what it is.

Ok, what is trunk stability?

Trunk stability is what you may really be imagining when you think about “core training." You know that your trunk is your body—your torso without the appendages. So trunk stability is then defined as your ability to keep your torso stable throughout any given movement—moving with integrity and honoring the way the joints work there.

Why is this so important to me? 

Well, for our purposes, we’re going to focus on the lower part of your spine. As you run, you need to be able to keep your lumbar spine and your pelvis stable…

To Improve Your Mobility

Proximal Stability Leads To Distal Mobility. What leads to what? Ok. let’s break this loaded statement down. Cause it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds. When we say “proximal” we mean towards the midline of your body i.e. your trunk. When we say “distal” we are referring to joints further away from your midline, like in this particular case - your hips.

So what we’re saying is:

If you can create a more stabile environment throughout your trunk, you can gain better mobility through your hips without doing a single isolated stretch. 

And that increased mobility can potentially lead to a WAY more efficient stride. With a more efficient stride, you’ll be able to run faster with less effort. That sounds good, right?

To Breathe More Efficiently

Your diaphragm is primarily a respiratory muscle. Everyone knows that. However, the diaphragm also plays a significant role in your postural stability, including the lumbo-pelvic complex we’re focusing on. As you engage in more strenuous workouts, the priority of the diaphragm needs to shift to that cardio focus. But you’ll need to have enough strength in other supporting muscles like the pelvic floor and the transverse abdomens in order to continue breathing optimally as the threshold shifts. 

So what we’re saying here is:

If you can challenge your trunk stability and in turn strengthen all those muscles involved in that task, you can be more efficient with your breathing pattern as you run.

With a better breathing pattern, you can run at higher speeds and you can run for extended time. 

To Lessen Your Risk Of Injury

We mentioned this before, but you need to honor the way you were made to move and therefore respect the function of your joints. As we said, your lumbar spine and your pelvis need to be more stabile and your hips need to be more mobile. Dishonoring of that relationship will result in unnecessary stress on joints that can't handle it. And more than likely, you'll run into lower back stiffness or pain first.

So what we’re saying is:

If you can challenge your trunk stability and strengthen your joints PROPERLY, you can build the capacity in your trunk and lower body to withstand the stress of running.

With the right strength, you can ensure your benefit is higher than your cost, and get better every year without being sidelined.

How can I start working on my trunk stability?

You can start building better core strength for running right now by training in the half-kneeling position. This posture works great because it not only mirrors what happens when you run (putting one hip in flexion and one in extension), but it's also simply difficult to screw up. You'll know if you're not getting it right because you will lose your balance and fall over. That doesn't sound nice. But the results from challenging half-kneeling are VERY NICE.

Start with these three:

Half Kneeling Chop

Chop the cable down and across your body as you keep your hips unmoving.

Half Kneeling Lift

Lift the cable up and across your body as you keep hips unmoving.

Half Kneeling Belly Press

Press the cable straight in front of you while keeping hips unmoving.

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How Do I Train My Core?

And What Does That Really Mean, Anyway?

I always make it a point to sit down with new clients and talk about their goals. And in the past, the most frequent request of my lovely ladies was, as you can easily imagine, weight loss. They’d look down at their already beautiful bodies and point to this or that stubborn spot and anxiously ask, ”How do I get rid of this?

But the tides, they are a'turning. A shift has been made. The mainstream fitness industry is beginning to push the importance of moving better and getting strong. Now my potential prospects are pointing to the exact same areas and proclaiming, with even more uncertainty, I think I need to work on my core?

Not unlike fat loss, core training is somewhat confusing. There’s tons of available information and all of it seems to be quite conflicting.

The only difference being, we don’t seem to come across a decent definition of what core stability actually is as we scroll through our feeds.

There are however, endless random lists of exercises that appear to challenge our midsections….or something like that?

Core stability... That’s like working on my abs, right?

And that assumption is not untrue. Go ahead, girl. You’re on to something with that statement. It’s just not the complete story. There’s a little bit more to the definition.

 

What Is Core Stability?

Core stability refers to your ability to tie yourself together, to connect the different segments of your body and maintain your posture through a given position or movement.

It’s your ability to hold that position, to stand your ground against resistance. 

So it involves your abs and your midsection yes, as much of your success is dependent on your ability to breathe through the positions and harness that power. 

But it’s oh so much more than that. 

Mainly because, not unlike fat loss, the reason for the mystery surrounding core stability is that it’s situation specific. Or position specific to be exact. 

Meaning, your ability to maintain core stability in a squat, is quite independent of your ability to maintain core stability in a row, or even say something as similar as a squat on one leg. You might look really poised and pretty on two legs, and then not so much on one.

And everyone has different core strengths and weaknesses. Things we are inherently good at and things we may need a little more confidence with.

There’s plenty of reasons why that could be. Maybe you’ve had more practice with squats, so your posture looks lovely. You’ve had more experience and training to refine the movement.

But maybe you sit at a desk for long hours during the day and now your rowing posture is not quite as pretty. 

Not to worry, my dear! You just have some practicing to do.

 

Regress to Progress

Just as you attack any other skill, you’ll need to start with the basics. All exercises have regressions and progressions. There are unlimited ways to make them easier or harder. A deadlift can turn into a swing. A split squat can turn into a lunge.

You will, however, need to start at the very beginning of the path to learn the requisite skills you’ll need later. So that as the challenges get more complicated, you can move through the next progressions successfully. You can progress to that lunge without pain or compensation. Which is really a nicer way of saying you’re doing it wrong. Let’s get it right. 

The very first step for most exercises is to bring them to the floor and turn them into isometrics, or static holds, rather than dynamic movements.

And that my friend, is why you think of core work as that ab stuff on the mat. You learn to use your breath to connect to your body and it certainly does feel like a lot of abs. Mostly abs. All of the abs.

We said that core strength is specific to the movement in question. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that in the gym, your movements are generally broken up into six or seven different categories. You push and pull. You squat and bend. You rotate. And you stand on a single leg. I say seven because I believe the split stance is it's own thing. Respect the lunge. Anyways...

The Best Basic Core Routine

So, I’m going to give you five different foundational exercises(the single leg consideration is built in) and a breathing exercise, that will serve as your core warm-up for any workout you may have planned. Or they can also be used as the workout if you are just getting back into the gym. 

Breathing From Child's Pose

Finding neutral spine can be difficult when you are stuck in lumbar extension. Stress, sitting at a desk, indigestion, periods, and wearing heels can all cause your back to stiffen up. What we're referring to here is that excessive curvature in your lower back that feels painful and makes ab stuff impossible. Not everyone deals with it, but a lot of us do. In this video, I instruct you to complete one round of five breaths. But you may need more rounds on tough days to experience relief.

Even if your back is perfectly painless, it's a great idea to still start with some breathing first. You're going to need to create large amounts of tension for these exercises while still managing to control your breath. Practice without the tension, first.

 

Prone Cobra

What we're preparing for: pulling motions - Deadlifts, rows, carries 

***For all exercises, be sure to read the cues and troubleshooting tips below the videos! You'll find them in the description section if you click the little YouTube icon to the bottom right.

 

Prone Plank

What we're preparing for: pushing motions - Squats, Bench Press, Sleds

 

Hurdle Hold

What we're preparing for: squatting motions/single leg motions - Squats, Step-Ups

 

Leg Lock Bridge

What we're preparing for: bending motions, lunging motions - Deadlifts, Split Squats, Step-Ups

 

Side Plank

What we're preparing for: rotating motions - Get-Ups, RoTational and Anti-Rotational Exercises

The Routine

1. Breathing From Child's Pose 1 - 3 rounds of 5 breaths

2. Prone Cobra x 30sec

3. Prone Plank x 30sec

4. Hurdle Hold x 30sec

5. Leg Lock Bridge x 30sec

6. Side Plank x 30sec

And don't forget about the carry-over! When you advance to more difficult movements or move to the strength portion of your day, look to apply the same principles to the progressions. Breathe through your loaded movements while creating tension and focusing on maintaining stability. 

Stand your ground, girl!