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!
What does mindfulness have to do with your overall health and fitness?
Mindfulness is described in many different ways, but the definition I like best is: maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
After reading that definition, you may think, “mindfulness is easy” or “I do that all the time.”
Then, spend the next hour attempting to stay “mindful” and notice how often your attention darts from thoughts about the past to thoughts about the future.
Now, think about your most recent fitness goal (or create a new goal if you don’t have one). Maybe it’s something about your body you wish to improve on. Maybe it’s that you wish you could run longer or faster. You may want to improve your posture because you are tight and tense from sitting at your office desk all day. You may want to lose some weight so you will have more energy.
Consider how you feel when your mind is racing beyond the present moment. What are your thoughts doing? What is your body doing?
If your goal is to lose weight, you will likely find that it’s difficult to make healthy meal choices when your mind and body are worn out and in need of comfort food because of the stress-inducing thoughts of your day.
If your goal is to improve your posture, you might have trouble finding the motivation to take regular exercise breaks when you are in a daze from staring at a screen all day.
Mindfulness does not help you meet your health and fitness goals. Rather, mindfulness IS your health and fitness goals. You will find that it is near impossible to lose weight, exercise more, reduce stress, run faster, etc. without some level of mindfulness practice integrated into your daily routine.
Meditation is one of the most common ways to practice mindfulness, but if you aren’t interested in meditating, this article provides alternative ways to become more mindful. Some of the tips include:
Walking Meditation- Practice being present and aware while you go for a walk… I find that the simple act of walking can be more mindful than running, so now I make sure to walk (not run) at least once a week.
Give Your Time To Someone Else- Studies have shown that we have a perception of more free time when we do something kind for someone else. When I read this, I thought it was brilliant! Think about the last time you sat down to write a thoughtful note or carefully wrapped a present for a friend’s birthday. When doing those activities, time slows down and you are living in the moment.
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.