Core strength is CRUCIAL, not just for training for a marathon but really for any kind of running. Think of your deep core as a natural corset to support your spine, providing a strong foundation to support your body through high-impact activities like running and to help your body perform at a higher level. Having a strong core will make you a more efficient runner, help prevent injuries and pain, and reduce stress to other parts of your body as you run.
And it isn’t about just targeting the front side of your body—a complete core strengthening program also involves your gluteal muscles and the muscles that make up your back.
Ideally, you would start a core strengthening program three times a week, even before you start training for the marathon. When you get closer to the event and start to run more frequently and at longer distances, it becomes more difficult to fit core strengthening exercise into your schedule, so having that base established ahead of time is extremely helpful.
Side stitches and cramps have more to do with breathing correctly and staying hydrated. Make sure that you’re breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth as you run, and that you’re getting enough water not just during your run but throughout your day.
However, better core strength can help with general muscle cramping, since working on your core stability and endurance will help prevent overcompensation from other muscles as you run longer distances.
Erin Corbo, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center. She is a lifelong runner and has completed one marathon and numerous half-marathons. Erin specializes in runners’ injuries, as well as general orthopedic injuries.