The role of core strength in running is crucial and often underestimated. When runners mention ‘core,’ they refer to the full span of muscles and joints extending from slightly under the rib cage to the top of the hip region.
Our specialized training plans for runners lay heavy emphasis on core strengthening, recognizing that a resilient core stabilizes the hips and helps to generate surplus power. Think of it as compressing a stiff spring versus a slinky; you want your energy to efficiently transfer from the ground, up your body, rather than dissipating along the way.
During running, it’s crucial to activate your core by sustaining some level of tension in your abdominal area. Envision drawing your belly button gently toward your spine to assist core engagement. This is similar to the defensive reflex in boxers or martial artists when they anticipate a stomach punch. They master the art of ‘breathing behind the wall,’ indicating that even while maintaining tension, one must continue to breathe.
This technique gains particular importance in downhill running. A forceful landing can disrupt your breathing rhythm unexpectedly, which not only burns more energy but also adds to mental stress as you scramble to regulate your breath, thereby slowing your downhill pace.
Kettlebell swings are a particularly effective exercise in this regard. They assist athletes in aligning their breathing rhythm and mastering the ‘breathing behind the wall’ technique. This practice has a strong correlation with ‘kinesthetic awareness,’ or the understanding of one’s body movements and positioning. Kinesthetic awareness is not a temporary skill; instead, it’s a perpetual endeavor that contributes significantly to maintaining mindfulness throughout training.
By building a robust core and learning to maintain a steady breathing rhythm, even while running downhill, you can achieve a heightened sense of control. This control translates into more efficient downhill running, enabling you to reach faster speeds while expending less energy.