In this Olympic summer it is hard not to be inspired by all the athletes breaking records and making dreams come true. In the words of the under-two-hour marathoner Eluid Kipchoge, it really does feel like “No human is limited”.
And it shouldn’t just inspire young athletes with Olympic dreams, You and me and all of us should be inspired to learn how far dedication and consistency, discipline and the courage to dream big, can take you.
For my summer challenge, I will embark on new running territory (a slightly longer distance of 27 km) and, while I feel capable of running my known distances (up to 21K), it does feel scary just to add a few more kms. Do you have summer goals in mind? If you do, I’ll offer you two pieces of advice:
Aside from having a training plan (which you should always have when going for a goal) –
1)Find your tribe: These are people who will support you to reach your goal. Some might have experience you can learn from. Others will offer moral support. Either can be important, especially on the days where it feels progress is stalling and training is boring.
2) By the same token, ignore the people who live to eat dreams: These are people who discourage or doubt you. Most often they will just take your energy and focus from your goal, and won’t offer anything in return. Ignore and avoid, and if you cant avoid, just stop discussing your goal with them.
To run well – and to do a lot of other sports well – a strong core, both physically and mentally, is needed. A strong core is necessary to keep balance, move fast (and move in general), to take a punch, deliver a kick or throw a fast ball.
So to help you reach your goals or inspire you to find one to pursue, I’m sharing with you my simple core regiment, which I do after my runs a few days a week. This includes exercises you can do in the comfort of your home without any equipment. To change the level of intensity, you can add more time or more repetitions/sets to each exercise. Remember that the last two repetitions/5-10 seconds should feel harder to complete. If it’s too easy, it won’t move the needle and if it’s too hard, it won’t inspire you to come back for more. Finding a balance, where training progresses without being too hard, can take time but is worth finding.
The Side Plank is an isometric core strength exercise, meaning the core muscles are contracting and held active but are not moving (a static exercise). It helps on building abs and back strength (core) while protecting your back. The Side Plank activates three different muscle groups (shoulders, hips and side of core).
1. Lie on your right side with your legs straight and feet placed on top of each other. Place your right elbow under your right shoulder with your hand pointing away from you.
2. Keep your head neutral, breathe out and brace your core.
3. Lift your hips off the floor so that you’re supporting your weight on your elbow and the side of your right foot. Your body should be in a straight line from your ankles to your head. Think of a plank lying on top you from toes to head.
4. Hold this position for the duration of the exercise. Depending on your fitness level, aim for between 10 to 60 seconds.
5. Control the motion going back to the floor, turn and repeat on your left side.
6. Do 3 sets (one set: left + right) with 30-60 seconds break between. If it feels too easy, stay in the plank longer or add more sets. If it’s too hard, take off a few seconds.
Single Leg Deadlift
This is a great exercise for runners, as it targets core, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and ankles. In short, this is just what your jeans ordered. You can add weight to this exercise by holding a weight in your hand(s), but bodyweight will also give good results.
Stand with both feet under hips/shoulders. Shift your weight to the right leg, and keep your knee in a soft bend. Begin to lift your left foot back and up like you’re stamping the bottom of your foot on the wall behind you (think of a back kicking horse). Keep your leg straight. Simultaneously, hinge/bend at the waist, tipping your torso forward until it’s parallel to the floor (or as much as close as you can. Imagine you have a glass of water on your lower back to help you keep the form). Keep your arms straight, at shoulder height, and parallel to the floor at all times (think of an aeroplane). At the end of the position, your body should be in a straight line from your head to your left foot.
To get back to start position, begin pulling your left leg forward while keeping it straight, and lift your torso until you’re standing upright again.
For a start do 5-10 repetitions (each side) of 3 sets. Either add more repetitions, more time at the ‘Fly’ position or weights to make this exercise harder.
A hip bridge or hip thrust is another great core exercise for runners (and everyone else), as it targets core and glutes. If you thrust down from your heels at the top (end) of the exercise, you’ll activate your hamstrings more than inner thighs and quads.
1. Start by lying flat on your back with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle and feet placed flat on the ground, toes pointed forward and your thighs are parallel to each other.
2. Breathe in, ‘lock’ your belly button to your spine (imagine this is a real button). Drive down through your feet and push your hips up. Keep your core in line with your thighs (think a straight line going down from knees to shoulders. Don’t overextend your spine). You should feel this variation fatiguing the inside of your thighs and on quads. If you drive with your heels, you’ll target the hamstrings more.
3. In a controlled motion, breathe out and let your hips sink back down towards the ground.
As per my normal suggestions: 10 repetitions and 3 sets. Hold the top position for a few seconds to add to the exercise, or place a weight (sandbag, book, water bottle, kettlebell etc) on your core. You can also add repetitions and sets of course.
I hope you find these inspiring in setting a goal or to start adding core exercises to your routine. Questions and comments are as always very welcome to either: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram: www.instagram.com/trainwithadane (@trainwithadane)