December 19, 2011

A six pack for Christmas

A six pack, really? Yes, though I realize I won't get rock-hard abs in one week, strenghtening my core is a key goal for the coming four months. Vanity has nothing to do with it, it's all about performance. A strong core is important for runners, and can help speed up times.
When I run, I can tell that my core is unstable, i.e. not strong enough. I know that my form deteriorates in the latter stages of a marathon. As I am hoping to pull out all the stops by ramping up my training volume to a record, I also should look at this important aspect of training that I have thought about adding to my routine but haven't done in a consistent manner so far.

In the past I have had, and followed for short periods of time, great advice from coaches and physios on strength workouts, both as a triathlete and as a runner. Twice I followed a great weight training program from Paul Huddle and Roch Frey's Start to Finish, and was amazed at the improvement in as little as six weeks.

Huddle and Frey write, "With a race desperate to exhaust your muscles from nearly every imaginable direction, having logged proper gym rat time is an integral defense... [T]wo smartly scheduled weight training workouts per week, during the first three phases of your buildup will pay off big in power, injury prevention, and in the fluidity of your race day transitions."

Without a gym membership and access to weights, I have yet to find a routine at home I'll stick with. An important barrier is that I simply haven't made the extra time. As you can imagine, time and energy are always in short supply when you are training for a marathon. A stronger core might make a key difference on race day, so it's time to commit to a short routine that strenghtens it.
As I am getting ready to start an 18-week schedule from Advanced Marathoning, I am looking at following their guidance on strenghtening my core, too. Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas write: "When you run, your trunk acts as a fixed base while your legs work as levers relative to that base to propel you forward. If the torso and pelvic muscles that form your fixed base are weak or fatigue quickly, then you can't maintain an efficient body position while running."

The book includes two core strength training programs, of which I'll aim to follow the first; it has five exercises, recommending you do two sets of these three times a week.


Karl said...

Awesome, I've read many places having a solid core helps running. I have the same advanced marathoning book and just started doing the core workouts - all though I am lazier than you so I really only do it once a week on Sunday while I'm watching football :)

Jeroen said...

Wondering about the magic of those 5 exercises

Anthony said...

As a Pilates devotee, I can attest to the fact that a strong core really does help your running. But a strong core is more than just 6 pack muscles. You have to get in deep.