I started the You Run… But Are You Really Fit? series last summer to help provide ideas and inspiration for movements that runners (and everyone else) should be doing to create a balanced training plan.
Many people have a different definition for the word “core,” and it is definitely not an anatomical body part. Regardless of what you prefer to call it, strengthening the muscles that support your torso (and hips and shoulders depending on who you ask) is vitally important for overall fitness.
Many runners (myself included) don’t love strength training so it becomes a chore and is not always performed as often as it should. You can see an example of a whole body strength circuit for runners here.
Abdominals and (sometimes) back stabilizers like the multifidus make-up what most people think of as the “core.”
An extremely important muscle called the Transverse Abdominis (TA) is responsible for a majority of spine stabilization (a stable spine can help reduce back pain)… and when it is strong and activated, it can give your torso a more pulled-in/elongated look (let’s be honest, unless you are currently experiencing back pain, the waist-shrinking benefits are all you really care about).
Here is a sample “core” strengthening circuit that will help activate and strengthen your TA, help reduce back pain and make your tummy look tighter!
Remember: While I am an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, I can’t make specific recommendations for your body without meeting with you in person. This post is meant to provide ideas and inspiration for ways to improve your training.
Start with one set of each exercises. Once you get stronger and you are not sore afterwards, move to 2 rounds of the circuit.
Elbow Plank x 1 minute- Make sure your hips don’t sag and your butt doesn’t lift into the air. Build up to 1 minute if you are new to this exercise or if you start to lose the correct form.
Dead Bug x 20- Lay down on your back, lift your feet and bend your knees at a 90 degree angle. Next, extend your left leg straight out and lower it towards the floor while your right arm extends overhead. Return back to the starting position and switch sides (continue alternating). While you are performing this exercise, don’t let your mid-lower back arch up off the floor. The lower you extend your leg towards the floor, the harder this is, so do a smaller range of motion if needed. Your movements should be slow and controlled.
Reagan insisted on being in all of the pictures.
Elbow Side Plank x 1 minute (each side)- Your elbow should be lined up directly under your shoulder. Keep your whole body in a straight line, as if you had your back against a wall.
Leg Circles x 20 (10 each direction)- Lay down on your back, bring your feet together and extend your legs towards the ceiling. Keep your feet together and slowly circle your legs as if your feet were drawing circles on the ceiling. Again, don’t let your back arch up off the floor. The larger the circles, the harder the exercise. Start with small circles if your back is arching up and/or if you are new to this exercise.
Slow Mountain Climbers x 20- Start in plank position on your hands, your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Slowly bend your right knee and bring it in towards your chest. Pause and slowly return to the starting position. Switch legs and continue alternating. Your hips should stay as stable as possible, so make sure they are not swinging from side to side. Build up to 20 reps if you are new to this exercise or if you start to lose the correct form.
Try these exercises before and/or after your next run, first thing in the morning … or make them part of your whole body strength circuit!
I have been reading a lot about gratitude lately. The rumor is that expressing gratitude daily can help you feel calmer, happier and more at peace with your life.
I have tried “practicing” gratitude for a long time, but never noticed a big change in my overall well-being. Then, this blog recommended writing down what you are grateful for (and why) first thing in the morning.
I started writing things down on scratch pieces of paper, but once I ran out of room to write they would either get thrown away or create clutter around the house. Plus, I felt crazy having all of these scratch pieces of paper with random gratitude brainstorms floating around the universe. Even though it’s a positive exercise, I still feel awkward writing notes to myself… like a walking self-help book.
Despite feeling slightly insane, I decided to continue with my lists because the act of physically writing down the things for which I am grateful feels more powerful than just thinking about them.
So, my solution to the scratch paper conundrum has been to start keeping my gratitude lists in a journal. This way, I can go back and read them from time to time and I have a more organized way of being a walking self-help book. Plus, I can use the journal for brainstorming other ideas and creating “to-do-tomorrow” lists to help quiet my mind when trying to fall asleep.
Keeping this journal has made me realize the importance of establishing consistent habits that benefit mental health. I don’t know why I never understood this before, but “exercising” for mental health is just as important as physical exercise. If I suddenly stopped exercising regularly, and just sporadically threw in a workout every now and then, I would not be very healthy or fit. Apparently, the same goes for mental health. It is very difficult to feel calm, happy and at peace without consistently “exercising” the part of your brain that makes you feel grateful, positive, creative and inspired.
I have not had a journal since I was a little kid, and I think that’s part of what I like about having one now. It feels sort of… vintage.
Who writes things down anymore? I’m sure there is an app for this, but I am sticking with the regular pen and paper because it feels more real.
My only point is that I never really felt the benefit of practicing gratitude until I started writing it down. So, if you are feeling like you need more positive vibes in your life, maybe this activity will help you too.
It is very sad that this beer is seasonal because it is amazing and would be great to drink any time of year. You are in luck IF you can still find Dogfish Head Aprihop! It is not too sweet for a fruit beer and not too hoppy for an IPA… which makes it a perfect combination for a late spring/early summer evening. This beer is the reason I learned to brew my own- I wanted to be able to make a similar beer all year long since Aprihop is only available in the spring.