Simply put running doesn’t make you strong, elastic, or flexible. In fact, if you want to run better, faster, more efficiently while remaining injury-free then you might want to consider a different approach to training. Since we need our core to react to movement, we really don’t want to train statically. Rather we want to train our muscles to respond to 3-dimensional movement. We need to be able to move forward, laterally, as well as rotationally. Since muscles tend to act like springs, it’s important to train them dynamically.
The purpose of core or dynamic stabilization is actually two-fold: a strong core allows us to function better without getting injured and it allows us to function more efficiently and expend less energy for the same amount of work. Running requires that our muscles are stiff and strong but still having elasticity and mobility.
Strength + Stiffness: During the stance phase of running (or when your feet make contact with the ground), the energy needed to help propel you forward can be lost or absorbed by the body. Having strong and stiff/responsive legs and a strong core that doesn’t collapse during ground contact is key to running strong and efficiently. Any energy that is lost will mean that your heart will have to work harder while your speed either stays the same or even drops.
Elasticity and Mobility: To run well and stay injury-free, you also need to absorb the stress of foot strike. Flexibility and mobility is key for full range of motion. Any decrease in the elasticity of your legs and the mobility of your hips can result in a shortened stride length as well as an increase in the ground reaction force to the body. This means that you actually will be running slower for the same effort. Plus your risk of injury will increase dramatically.
What Happens When We Run? All muscles have a natural stiffness or resting tension. Our central nervous system continually alters this set-point of muscle tension in response to changing loads (active tension). Nearly half of the energy that’s needed for running comes directly from elastic energy return of our muscles or how well our muscles snap back and return energy to our legs to help propel us forward.
Simply put, running by itself, won’t reward you with the strength or elasticity you need. To build and maintain a strong, balanced and elastic body, you will need to supplement your running program with core stability exercises and dynamic stabilization. I’ll show you some of these key exercises in my next newsletter.