Marathon Training: It’s all about the core!
You’ve bought your running shoes. You’ve downloaded a marathon training plan. And you have finally mustered up the courage and confidence to sign up for a marathon – a whopping 26.2 miles. Well done.
This is an incredible journey that thousands embark on annually. However, as the weeks of training go on, and the mileage creeps up, many drop out of their races. More often than not, runners are unable to complete the training because of injury. So the question stands: how does one stay healthy during intense marathon training?
Most runners are aware of the basic ways to stay healthy during marathon training. Things like stretching, extended sleep, clean nutrition, hydration, room for recovery, etc. But did you know that building core strength is essential to your health during your marathon training? Here is a closer look at just how critical core strength is to marathon training.
How core strength effects your distance running:
In short, your core strength determines your stabilisation throughout your runs. When you have a weak core, you have weak stabilisation. And, especially for distance runners, your lack of stabilisation could mean poor running form. Poor form can easily lead to injury. Your body then compensates for the unnecessary pressures you exert on your bones and muscles (Herbst, 2014).
Core Strength & Your Running Form
Think about it: your legs and arms are all connected to your core. Your core muscles, or your torso, such as abs, back, obliques, and chest are what keep your posture upright when you go for a run (Herbst, 2014). If these muscles are weak, your posture will suffer and so will your form. It’s a vicious cycle if left unattended.
Core Strength & Your Running Efficiency
The strength of your core will also determine how well your pelvis, legs, and hips work together to make the motion of running smooth and effective(K.C. Hung, 2019). When the core is strong, you are more stable. There is less wobbling and rocking. And this means less energy is expended, and more energy is saved for the actual distance itself.
Core Strength & Your Balance
Your balance is essential to staying healthy during your marathon training as it saves you from potential injury if you misstep (K.C. Hung, 2019). Whether you’re dodging a big puddle, or suddenly find your self running through uneven ground, your balance stems from your core and will enable your body to acclimate to these slight missteps and keep you from injury.
While there are some simple exercises that you can do to help strengthen your core, a few practices to strongly consider are Yoga and Pilates.
Yoga and Marathon Running:
Yoga is an incredible choice of exercise for your cross training days because it is kind to your body (no impact) while it concentrates on strengthening your core. The Guardian suggests Yoga for Marathon runners in an interview with Beth Shaw, yoga instructor and creator of Yogafit she describes yoga’s effects on the core, “Yoga conditions the abdominal region for movement and stability and, more than anything, for balance and strength.” Not only does it build your core strength, but it also stimulates the muscles in your feet and core that are underused when running, all while stretching and recovering the muscles that are overused in running.
Pilates Vs. Yoga
Yoga often involves the spiritual elements of core exercise, whereas Pilates has all of the benefits of Yoga (minus the spiritual) and offers even more concentration on spinal alignment, lengthening, strength, and breath.
Pilates on the Mat and Reformer Pilates
In short, Pilates on the mat focuses on balance and stabilisation through the strengthening of your core. Reformer Pilates is everything that pilates is plus – through the use of its own unique piece of equipment called “The Reformer Bed” – it focuses on spine alignment (critical to posture), lengthening, and allows for far more variation in resistance exercises.
How Pilates harnesses the power of breath:
When choosing between Pilates and Yoga as a runner, you might want to consider Pilates because of its utilisation of breath. In order to be able to do some of the moves within Pilates, you are taught to activate and engage your diaphragm, and consciously fill the lower lobes of your lungs. By focusing on breathing into the side of your ribs, you are preventing shallow breathing. And when you are stuck in a shallow breathing pattern, it not only keeps you from giving your body the oxygen it needs to continue, but it causes your shoulder and neck muscles to tense up, lending additional strain and discomfort while running. Learning and rehearsing how to use the entirety of your lungs through Pilates could give you that extra advantage throughout your training.
What will it be?
So, it is not a question of whether core strength will help keep you healthy throughout your training, it is more a question of which techniques, practices and classes you will choose to build and maintain this core strength. Taking care of your body through intense, high-impact, cardiovascular workouts is absolutely imperative to a long and healthy life. If you don’t know where to start, check out our private Reformer Pilates Studio here.
Strengthen that core, and run on!