Four Core Strengthening Exercises to Improve Your Running

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You may have heard us say ‘never use your legs for propulsion.’ And you probably wonder: ‘How does this work?’.

Because of course, everyone must use their legs to run, however, what many don’t understand is that we don’t have to rely on them as much as we think. ChiRunning is built around the concept of falling forward in a slight lean so that you’re using the pull of gravity for your running propulsion instead of your legs. The trick is in your core strength. Building a strong core increases agility, efficiency and your ability to balance yourself in a gentle forward fall while running.

A strong core allows you to relax your legs and balance in your “window of lean” with ease. And, with practice, you will be able to move from first gear to second and third with greater ease and confidence. Also, if you’re looking to improve your speed, a strong core is necessary.

A strong core also improves balance and coordination on technical terrain. When on the running course, whether it’s road or trail, runners should strive to be nimble. A runner with exceptionally large quadriceps, hamstrings and calves may appear to be a more “serious” runner at first glance, but those large muscles actually decrease mobility and dexterity. You’ve probably noticed that a person with exceptionally strong legs has large quads, but someone with a strong core and abs doesn’t have a large belly. Bottom line: the bigger the muscle, the less mobile it becomes.

The first few times you practice engaging your core and relaxing your legs while running, you’ll most likely experience soreness in your abdominals the next day. This is a good sign! By relaxing your legs, you decrease the build-up of lactic acid in those muscles, which means little to no recovery time, and you can start off every run with fresh legs.

It’s also essential that as you work to strengthen your core, you acknowledge it as your center, or your guiding force. The saying “go with your gut” means just that. With a physically and emotionally healthy core, your centeredness, sense of balance, and self-confidence will guide you through all decisions and bring you a feeling of stability that you may not have felt before.

We have 4 videos on our YouTube Channel that demonstrate safe and effective Core Strengthening Exercises. By incorporating these core exercises into your daily ChiRunning or ChiWalking workout routine, you are giving yourself the gift of proper pain-free running mechanics, which will support you through years of running, walking and pain-free movement.

The Ball/Chair Exercise: This exercise does a number of things for your core and for fine-tuning your pain-free ChiRunning technique. From practicing the one-legged posture stance, to feeling pelvic rotation, to stretching hip flexors and quads – all while strengthening your core.

The Bridge Exercise: This exercise strengthens your core and helps add stability to your pelvis so that it can maintain holding a level position. Danny suggests working up to 10 reps and holding the position for 10-30 seconds each.

The Leg Lift: Danny demonstrates this simple exercise and shows the how-to’s of doing it safely. By practicing this, you will strengthen your lower abs, which will support the leveling of your pelvis in all areas of your running technique.

The Butt Walk: Don’t let the name deceive you! This exercise will strengthen your core while teaching you to rotate your pelvis and hold your upper body still at the same time.  One of Danny’s favorites!

Resources to help you master the ChiRunning basics:
ChiRunning Book: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless Injury-Free Running
ChiRunning DVD: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless Injury-Free Running
The ChiRunning School: Learn ChiRunning in an ongoing Weekly video format