Highway to Health

Core Strengthening

Strengthening your core sucks. It’s a stone drag. In fact, performing any peripheral exercises that improve your running experience is a complete and utter bummer. 

Photography & Video: Ben Murphy

Model:  Nina

Take push-ups. If you run a lot, you should probably do push-ups to maintain upper-body strength because—get this—running will eat away your arm muscles and leave you looking like Kermit the Frog with a muffin top. You’d think your body would choose to erode the fat on your hips before attacking your shoulders and arms, but no, it’s saving those gorgeous blubbery love handles just in case it needs them when your biceps are gone and you look like a fucking puppet. So stupid. Anyway, we’ll bitch about push-ups next time. Today, we’re here to talk about strengthening your core.

So, why should you strengthen your core? It’s so dumb, but apparently, building core strength will help you run faster by improving your posture and overall running form. I say apparently, but it is a fact: a stronger core will make you run more efficiently, powerfully, and speed... fully. You might say, ‘Hang on, my guy, doesn’t the act of running strengthen your core already?’ And to that, I’d say, ‘If you ever call me “my guy” again, I’ll come after you with a length of bamboo.’ But then I’d calm down and explain that while running does strengthen some of the muscles in and around your core—a little—it doesn’t directly target the core, and then I’d apologize for the bamboo thing.

There’s no way around it. A stronger core will make you run faster and more efficiently, and maybe that knowledge will make it easier for you to get down on the floor and do the exercises we’re recommending below. These are by no means the ‘ultimate, best-in-the-world core exercises,’ but they work, and they’re slightly less sucky than most. We recommend doing this at least twice weekly for fast results.

*As always, check with your GP before doing any of this stuff and giving yourself a hernia.

...you should probably do push-ups to maintain upper-body strength because—get this—running will eat away your arm muscles and leave you looking like Kermit the Frog with a muffin top.

Elbow Plank

Planks. There’s nothing worse. Actually, do you remember that ‘planking’ craze that took off around 2009? That was much worse. But planking as a strength exercise also blows. Here’s how you do it. Lay face down on the floor as though you were a flat piece of timbre. Press your toes, knees, thighs, and glutes together, and place your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders. Push yourself up to a full arm extension. Now, carefully bring your forearms to the floor, elbows directly beneath your shoulders (you can just start on your elbows if you want; whatever feels good). 

Your forearms, elbows, hands, and toes should now be the only things touching the floor. Feel free to bring your hands together and interlace your fingers, or you can curl them into fists. Stare at the floor and try to keep a straight line running down your back and through your legs to your feet. Don’t let your hips sag down, and don’t allow your butt to sit up too high. Hold this pose for 9 hours, 38 minutes, and 48 seconds to beat world record holder Josef Šálek.

Side Plank With Knee To Chest

Oh man, this one is even worse. It’s the plank we just described, only you do it on your side with only one arm to hold your balance. Guh. Get on the floor again and roll onto your side. Stack your legs on top of each other and bring yourself up on one elbow (positioned beneath your shoulder or thereabouts). When you feel balanced, raise your free arm, open your chest, and raise your top leg up and away from the bottom leg—HOLD—and then slowly bring your knee towards your chest without falling over. Then straighten that leg again. Then bring that knee to your chest again, and so on. Repeat this on both sides as many times as you can before you get really annoyed with how annoying it is.

Push-Ups With Oblique Squeeze

This one is fucked. Push-ups with an added bit of spicy bullshit at the top, as if the push-up didn’t already suck ass to begin with. Push-ups work your core while building muscle in your pathetic Kermit arms, but throwing in the oblique squeeze is going to brick up the sides of your abdominal wall and put hair on your chest. If you’re a female reading this, it will not put hair on your chest. Here’s what you do. Standard push-up position one, face down on the floor, hands beneath the shoulders—BOOM—push up, full arm extension, and then bring one knee up to its corresponding elbow; you should feel a squeeze in your flank, then return the foot, and lower your body. Repeat on each side for as many push-ups as you can without hurting yourself. If you want to be a real psycho, you can bring the knee up and then kick it out through the other side while balancing on one hand and singing Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ at the top of your lungs, but why bother?

Russian Twist

This is another one to hit the obliques, the classic, pain-in-the-ass Russian Twist. At least this is straightforward enough that you barely need any instruction. Sit on the floor with your ankles and knees pressed together, then slowly lean back and extend your legs so that your feet are slightly off the floor (feet and knees still pressed together), and then, either holding a weight or just clasping your fingers, rotate your trunk as far as you can back and forth, side to side. Ideally, you want to bring your elbows close to the floor with each rotation without overbalancing and falling on your side like a jerk-off. You also want to exhale on each twist and inhale as you come back to the center. Or you can just go nuts and see what happens. Who cares.

These have been four exercises to strengthen your core and make you a better runner. Again, they’re not the only core strengthening exercises in the world, so feel free to look around for other recommendations. Perhaps you’ll discover a resource that doesn’t threaten to whip you with bamboo. Good luck.