Core Confusion

At the conclusion of the weekly Lululemon Run Club run I lead everyone through a brief series of simple core exercises.  I'm pretty sure most of you know that training your core is important, but I just want you to know WHY you're doing it and WHAT the "core" actually is. Let's focus on what the core actually is.  I recently read a great post on visualizing the core and the author likened the core to a balloon.  You can read the post here.  The take home point is that just like a balloon, your core is more complex than a 6-pack, low back, and obliques.  You aren't a series of parts.  What you do to one part of your core will affect what happens to another part.

Press into a balloon and the rest of the balloon expands.  Hollow out the front of your abdomen and the lower back starts to bulge outward and/or your diaphragm can't function properly...

So, since you aren't a series of parts, it's time to start training that way.  This means choosing exercises that train your core in the same way that you rely on your core during movement.  And since we run, I'd like to pose a question:

When, during the running movement pattern, do we round our spine and 'crunch'?  I mean, besides running to the sink to hurl or something, you shouldn't be running while looking like a hunchback!

So no more crunches, K?

Now we use exercises that challenge us to PREVENT spinal movement.

In other words, we want to choose appropriate plank exercises that challenge us to maintain a neutral spine position -despite gravity trying its best to pull us out of that position.  Don't be tempted to try a more intense version of an exercise unless you OWN the beginner version.  Can you keep your head/shoulders/tailbone in alignment?  Or are you sagging at the low back?  Has your head begun to sink?

A strong core means you can transfer power from your arms to your legs efficiently.  Jog in place.  Now pump your arms really fast.  What happens?  Yep, your legs move faster.  They have no choice because you are not a series of parts.  Everything is connected and if your core is strong then you'll use less energy to run the same pace.  Cool, huh?

And hopefully in the final 100m of your next race, you'll be the one who is maintaining form all the way to the finish, pumping those arms furiously and transferring all of that power to your legs.

You won't be injured due to form breakdown and you'll pass that annoying guy that was threatening to take your glory for the last 1/2 mile.

Although, I gotta give it to the girl in the video. Never Give Up!