Incorporating core exercises is a great way to help prevent injury while maximizing performance as you train for the United Airlines NYC Half. Strength-training exercises that focus on improving stability and muscular endurance of the postural core muscles and hips can increase running efficiency, which allows you to run faster and easier! Running is a very linear sport, which means that in general, you move in a straight line. Because of this, the lateral muscles that stabilize the hips and core can become weaker over time, resulting in inefficiency, slower times, and possible injury. It is important to dedicate two to three days per week to work on exercises to strengthen these muscles. It can really help!
Basic exercises like planks and side planks will help stabilize the lower spine. Always focus on good form and control. If planks and side planks are too difficult a starting point, they can be modified to kneeling planks and side planks and gradually upgraded to standard planks. Start with 10 seconds for two or three sets and gradually increase over a couple weeks. These exercises are also a great way to activate the core stabilizers before you run and can be done during your warm-up.
Working on glute strength and control will help stabilize the hips when moving from one foot to the other as you run. Exercises like monster walks, clocks, and glute bridges are great for building muscular strength and endurance around the hip. Improving your balance and single-leg strength is critical in keeping great hip, knee, and foot alignment when running. Exercises such as single-leg balance drills, single-leg Romanian dead lifts, and high box step-ups will improve overall power and strength as well as stability and control.
In all these exercises, focus on good form. Start easy and gradually work up to more challenging exercises. Just as you wouldn’t go out and run 15 miles if you had not run for a while, you need to build up your routine of strength training and core exercises!
Jamie Osmak is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a member of the Sports Rehabilitation team at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance Center. He is also a USA Track and Field Level 1 coach and corrective exercise specialist with a degree in exercise science from Rutgers University.