As a runner, it is easy to focus on strengthening your legs, heart and lungs. Isn’t that all that really matters when you are only trying to propel yourself forward without falling over with exhaustion? This is a mistake made by many runners, myself included. When I first started running I was only running. I might have done a bit of weight training, but I was pretty intimidated by the weight room and I really had no idea what I was doing. I avoided the elliptical and the stationary bike because I never felt like they were good enough substitutes for running. The idea of cross-training just didn’t make any sense to me. I assumed that I only needed to run more in order to become a better runner.
Then I couldn’t run anymore. I could barely even walk. My leg hurt so bad… the piercing pain radiating from my hip to my knee. It sucked. Not being able to run was the worst feeling in the world. I went to the doctor because I knew that was the only way to fix the problem. After a few tests, I learned that I had a protruding disk that was pushing on the nerve that ran down my leg. Physical therapy was the best way to fix the problem so I did what I needed to do. I avoided running for 3 months (well, every now and then I would make a failed attempt) and I attended my weekly therapy sessions. The ultimate goal: to strengthen my core in order to keep that disk in check. That seemed easy enough. Why didn’t I think of that before? I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.
When most people think of their core they think of their abs. Well, your core isn’t just your abs. It is also your back, your hips and your cute little glutes. All of those combined parts make up your core. Doing crunches all day long isn’t going to help you much. You need to focus on all components in order to get it right.
My physical therapist incorporated pilates into my sessions. I glanced through a pilates book at the library and it had photos of old ladies doing pilates. I wasn’t so sure about pilates, but I felt like I was working harder doing pilates than I ever was when I tried yoga. Pilates was actually difficult when I started doing it. My stomach felt like it was on fire. Pilates and I are now good friends.
I remember the first time I did a plank. I was lucky if I could hold the position for 10 seconds. After many months of hard work, I can now hold a plank for quite a long time. Did you know that there are at least a hundred different versions of a plank? You can do a plank with your feet on a ball or on a bench. You can do a plank with one arm or one leg held up. You can move sideways during a plank or rock front to back on your toes. The list is endless. The plank works your entire core and you don’t even need any equipment in order to do it! You can even do it while you are watching t.v.!
I was saved when I found my inner core. I could run again. Now I know how VERY important it is to keep your core strong. Core exercises are always part of my routine regardless of time constraints. It is the only way for me to remain injury free. My next blog post will be dedicated to a few of my favorite core exercises so stay tuned…