You don’t need a rock solid six pack to be a good runner, but a strong core does help. Running, like any physical activity, involves coordination among a group of muscles to propel you forward. In fact when you run, your abdominal, lower back, and gluteal muscles (butt muscles) are all activated during the process.
The core itself is not a primary mover, but it acts as a stabiliser, keeping your torso upright, your balance strong, and your arms and legs moving fluidly and in control. When you have a weak core, your posture will suffer, especially as you start to get tired, making your running less efficient and making you more prone to injuries and sub-par race efforts.
Getting a little deeper
Our core muscles include the four abdominal groups (external oblique, internal oblique, rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis), the three main lower back groups (erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidous) as well as the muscles of the buttocks, hips and pelvis.
During the act of running, the pelvis and lower spine serve as the "pivot point" for the lever system that facilitates movement. While the feet and legs may appear to function more dramatically, the trunk is actually performing in a very important way.
Although running is primarily a linear activity, there is a lot of rotation that occurs too. The key is being able to control movement so it’s channelled in the right direction and is efficient. The longer the distance, the more crucial efficiency becomes.
Thus, the main purpose of the core muscles for running is to stabilise the spine and make movement of the extremities as economical as possible, allowing the transfer of power with minimal waste of energy.
How to activate your deep core muscles
Due to our modern and sedentary lifestyle, many people have a weak core because sitting all day leads to slouching, which deactivates the deeps abs. Here’s how you can ensure they are activated when you do ab exercises.
Sit up straight. Put your hands on your low ribs and inhale, feeling them expand (flare out to the sides). Don't raise your shoulders though.
Try to keep your low ribs wide as you exhale by pulling your navel to your spine while keeping your spine still. Think of pushing the air out of your lungs with the action of pulling the deeps abs toward the spine. Repeat for a while until it starts to feel "normal."
Keep practicing this action and not only will you start to strengthen your deep abs, you will increase your ability to breathe deeply by opening up the space between your side and back ribs.
Every time you do any abdominal exercises, you want to focus on the deep abs being active. Warm up your abs before you run or jog. Exercise mindfully and focus on your pelvic stability and keep checking in with your form. This will help stabilise the pelvis during running and other physical activities and to stay injury free.