Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Think about how many thousands of steps you take over the course of a run. Now multiply this number by the number of days a week you run. Now multiply this number by the number of months you run in a year. Not only would you strike the ground an astounding number of times over the course of a run, you would also strike it an astounding number of times over the course of a year.
Each time you strike the ground, you strike it with 2 to 2.5 times your bodyweight. The question is, can your feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back effectively support a force such as this? The answer largely depends on the strength of your core (including glutes, abdominals, hips and lower back).
Let’s say your glutes are inhibited (not firing) or weak. And when you strike the ground, this weakness/inhibition causes your upper leg (femur) to collapse inward, taking your knee and foot along with it. Pronation is a natural part of the running gait. But when it’s excessive for your body and is repeated thousands of times over the course of a run, injury is inevitable. When you neglect your core it is like trying to build a structurally sound house without having laid a solid foundation. At some point, it is going to come crashing down.
However, you can build a rock solid core that will fortify you for the demands of running. And you can do it in less than 15 minutes a few times a week. But building your core isn’t about getting on the floor and banging out a set of crunches or planks. Although those exercises help, your whole core must be worked and it must be worked across all planes of motion (sagittal, transverse, and frontal). The following 15-minute or less adaptive core routine does just that—and you don’t need to go to a gym to do it.
Begin by performing 30 seconds of each exercise and building up to two consecutive minutes of each exercise. Refer to the video for a quick visual how-to on performing each exercise.
Stability Ball Circles
Begin in plank position with your feet hip-width apart and your forearms on a stability ball. Clasp your hands lightly in front of you and tighten your abdominal muscles. Press your forearms into the ball. While keeping the rest of your body steady, draw a circle with your elbows. Complete the desired amount of circles. Switch directions.
Increase the challenge: Perform larger circles.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your feet elevated on a stability ball. Using your glutes, lift your hips so that they are in-line with your ankles. Be sure not to arch your back. While keeping your glutes tight and your body steady, slowly draw your heels towards your butt. Pause for two to three seconds. Roll the ball away from your butt until your legs are outstretched.
Increase the challenge: Perform one-legged stability ball hamstring curls.
Sit and Twists
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. While keeping your back straight, lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Clasp your hands lightly in front of your chest. Slowly rotate round to the right as far as you can, pause, then rotate to the left as far as you can.
Increase the challenge: Lift your feet off the floor or perform the exercise holding a medicine ball or some other weight.