As promoted in disciplines such as yoga, Pilates, dance and martial arts, the key component to moving efficiently, safely and with grace and poise is core strength. The core is the centre from which the legs and arms are able to move. It is the body’s power hub and needs to be strong for stability and flexible to permit movement. Regardless of the sport, a strong core, is a must for optimum athletic performance. One of the first times we made the connection between core and athletics is when learning to throw a ball. Rather than throwing the ball from the arm, we are encouraged to ‘put our weight’ behind the ball for greater power and further distance. Examining the actions related to running, the moving parts are the legs and, to a lesser degree, the arms. However, the power behind the movement comes from the core. A strong core stabilizes the torso, eliminates unnecessary movements and allows the legs and arms to move with greater efficiency and ease. In essence, a strong core supports the movement of the legs, creating a lightness so they can more easily propel the body forward.
More efficiency in the running stride results in less fatigue, greater endurance, less injuries, faster running times and happier runs. A strong core is essential for strong running.
Effective core strengthening uses many muscles to co-ordinate movement. Unlike weight lifting where a muscle or joint is worked in isolation, core strength in yoga is an integrated approach combining strength, flexibility and often balance. Many muscle groups work at the same time, some contracting and some stretching to perform their function in supporting the pose. Depending on the pose this can include muscles of the abdominals, back, shoulders, chest, arms and legs. One’s own body weight provides the weight bearing component – how simple is that.
Headstands are an excellent example of the entire body working in an integrated fashion to produce stability. Contrary to what the name of the pose implies, a small amount of weight is on the head. The remainder of the weight is held through the upper body, core (front & back) with the arms serving as the bridge between the ground and the trunk. Rather than adding to the weight, the legs strongly extend upwards to help reduce the effect of gravity and doing their part to reduce the weight on the head. A stable headstand requires a blend of strength, flexibility and balance but chiefly a strong and stable core. Amazingly, once the body is in alignment, stable and balanced, it is virtually effortless to be upside down. One can appreciate how the body is working as an integrated unit, combining strength with ease so that the pose can be held for several minutes. As the muscles of the upper body and core support the spine when we are upside down, as in a headstand, these same muscles serve us well when we are on our feet. They will stabilize the torso, support our upright body carriage, improve posture and facilitate all functional movements, including running. As I often remind my students often: strong core = strong runner!!
Christine Felstead www.yogaforrunners.com Christine Felsteadhas successfully married her twin passions for yoga and running to develop something unique, tested and effective: a yoga program designed specifically for runners. Christine pioneered the development of Yoga for Runners and today is the leading authority on the practice. She presents at international conferences and has appeared in numerous publications. Through her best-selling DVDs, The Essentials: Beginner Program and Intermediate Program, and her teacher training program her work has spread globally. Her much anticipated book, Yoga for Runners was released in Fall 2013. Copyright © 2015 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order from Human Kinetics Canada atwww.HumanKinetics.com or by calling 1-800-465-7301.