Core training plays an important role in the endurance runner’s overall training programme. It improves running form and overall athletic performance and reduces the risk of injury.
The core is much more than just the abs. It includes all the muscles that stabilize and support the pelvis, spine, and trunk.
Core training should generally take place three times per week. Whether you run before or after work, schedule your core training at the opposite side of the day or during lunchtime, so that it won’t detract from your running.
Follow the sequence of exercises, do it twice. Make sure you fully recover between the two sets, rest 15 – 20 secs between exercises. Start with the following repetitions but increase it as you progress:

Abdominal crunch

20 repetitions

Leg pushaway

20 repetitions

Lying bridge

6 repetitions of 5 seconds each – squeeze the glutes when bringing the hips up

Swan
12 repetitions

Back extension
12 repetitions

Plank

4 repetitions of 14 seconds each

Side plank

3 repetitions of 10 seconds each

Standing knee hold

20 seconds on each leg

Bringing the science of high intensity interval training (HIIT) into everyday life could be the key to helping unfit, overweight people get more of the exercise they need to improve their health, according to an international research team.

From washing the car to climbing stairs or carrying groceries, each of these activities is an opportunity for short sharp bursts of ‘High Intensity Incidental Physical Activity’, HIIPA for short.

In an editorial, published today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Emmanuel Stamatakis and colleagues argue that when considering differences in physical capabilities by age, sex and weight, many daily tasks can be classified as ‘high intensity’ physical activity. That is, the kind of activity that gets you out of breath enough to boost your fitness.

They say incorporating these kinds of activities into routines a few times a day will see significant health benefits for the majority of adults.

For the typical middle-aged woman, 60 percent of whom are overweight and/or unfit activities like running and playing with children at children’s pace, walking uphill or riding home from work all expend well over six times as much energy per minute than when at rest, which is the standard measure for high intensity activity.

The authors suggest over the course of the day these activities could be used in the same way that the popular high intensity interval training (HIIT) works by repeating short sessions of high intensity exercise with rests in between.

There is a lot of research telling us that any type of HIIT, irrespective of the duration and number of repetitions is one of the most effective ways to rapidly improve fitness and cardiovascular health and HIIPA works on the same idea.

The authors propose that significant health benefits could be gained by doing three to five brief HIIPA sessions totalling as little as five to 10 minutes a day, most days of the week.

We know from several large studies of middle aged and older adults that doing vigorous exercise has great long-term health benefits, but many people find it very difficult to start and stick to an exercise program.

The beauty of HIIPA and the idea of using activities we are already doing as part of everyday life is that it is much more realistic and achievable for most people.

Other practical advantages are nil costs, no need for equipment and no concerns about a lack of skill or fitness.

It’s just about making good decisions like parking the car at the edge of the carpark and carrying shopping for 50 or 100 metres.”

The editorial, co-authored by academics from the University of Sydney, Loughborough University, University College London, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (Denmark), was prompted by recent changes to the 2018 US Physical Activity Guidelines, the most comprehensive review of physical activity and health.

With many recreational runners ramping up their training in hopes of getting a personal best, a new measure of stress in the body demonstrates that more isn’t better when it comes to endurance sport training.

A University of Guelph study is the first to show that overload training may alter firing in the body’s sympathetic nerve fibres, which could hinder performance.

The study revealed that muscle sympathetic nerve activity, which constricts the muscle’s blood vessels and indicates stress in the body, increased in over-trained athletes.

Athletes who follow a consistent training regime don’t have the same overload stress and demonstrate improvements in their overall fitness and other markers of cardiovascular health.

Published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, this is the first study to investigate the impact of overload training on muscle sympathetic nerve activity.

Previous studies have measured indirect physiological factors, such as heart rate variability, but examining muscle nerve fibre activity provides a direct measure of the nervous system’s response.

The researchers discovered sympathetic nerve activity increased in the overtrained athletes after the three-week period of overload training. Generally, sympathetic nerve activity stays pretty consistent day to day.

Recreational athletes who follow a regular balanced training programme showed no jump in nerve activity. Instead, they demonstrated improved cardiac reflex sensitivity and heart rate variability – signs of improved physical health.

Athletes who do overload training do not experience this same level of improved health. They don’t get worse, but they don’t get any better either, and their sympathetic nerve activity went up. It appears the overtraining negate some of the beneficial effects of regular training.

Think state-of-the-art shoes, performance diets and well-thought-out racing strategies are only for elite runners?

Think again.

In reality, the slower you are, the more such measures improve your finish times, suggests new University of Colorado Boulder research.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, takes a mathematical approach to answer a question that has perplexed exercise physiologists for years: How much does improving your body’s “running economy” – or the number of calories burned per second at an aerobic pace – really improve your speed?

The question has piqued the interest of the broader running community since July, 2017 when Nike introduced its Zoom Vaporfly 4% – a shoe that, according to previous CU research, improves running economy by 4 percent on average.

Members of the media, recreational athletes and some researchers have since assumed that meant runners wearing the shoes could cross the finish line 4 percent faster. With such savings, many predicted, a sub-2-hour marathon was well within reach.

But, according to the new study, the math is more complicated than that.

For the paper, the researchers re-examined treadmill studies of runners dating back decades, re-crunching the numbers to account for things like air resistance and oxygen uptake velocity (which both increase the faster you run).

They concluded that for runners moving slower than 9 minutes per mile, any percent improvement in running economy (due to better footwear, nutritional supplements, a tailwind, drafting or other measures) translates to an even higher percentage improvement in pace.

For instance, a 1 percent improvement in running economy for a 4:30:00 marathoner would make him or her 1.17 percent faster, dropping a significant 3 minutes and 7 seconds off their finish time.

On the flip side, for those who run faster than 9 minutes per mile, each percent improvement in the body’s gas mileage results in less than that percentage improvement in pace. For instance, that same 1 percent improvement in a 2:03:00 marathoner would enable him to run only .65 percent faster, a mere 47 second improvement.

All this is good news for recreational runners, say the authors.

A lot of times recreational runners assume these things are just going to benefit elite athletes when the reality is they can benefit even more than the elites.

A slower runner, slipping on a pair of shoes which improve running economy by 4 percent could actually translate to as much as a 5 percent improvement in finish times. Meanwhile, other measures to boost metabolic efficiency, such as drinking beet juice, drafting behind another runner, or doing plyometric exercises can also add up to boost speed.

For those at the upper end of the competitive spectrum however, the new paper elucidates something many intuitively know already: The faster you are, the harder it is to get faster.

Since the introduction of the 4% shoe, the authors note, the marathon world record has only improved by a relatively small 1.03 percent.

Shalaya Kipp, left, conducts a treadmill test in the Locomotion Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. (photo: CU Boulder)

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset. Distance training during this period can be taxing on the runner.

What you can or can’t do will depend on your ability and current form. Some runners can train as usual, others might have to adjust their program to be able to cope with fasting and training. The following information is mostly for the benefit of the latter.

As with running in general my suggestion for Ramadan is also to run at the end of the day, but try to time your run so the ending coincides with iftar. You don’t want to wait around dehydrated after your run. Make sure your meal is prepared ahead of time. You don’t need the extra stress of having to prepare food after a run. Be sure to include plenty of water and fruit juice. If you’re going to the mosque, remember to take water, and drink as often as possible.

Make sure to get as much sleep as possible after your run, but also the night before your run. Your body will need this to help it recover enough to get the full benefit of your program.

Try to stick to a flat route on your run. Your body might not be able to cope with the extra effort required by a hilly course. If it is very hot outside, do your running on a treadmill – if possible.

You may want to avoid training at your VO2 max or to make your runs longer than one hour.

Your morning meal on the day of the run is also very important. Try to include foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. You will also need to make sure you get adequate protein. The balance of your meal should be vegetables, fruit, water, and then some more water. Avoid foods that will make you thirsty.

Here are examples of the start of a Half Marathon and Marathon program, adjusted for Ramadan:

Day Half Marathon Marathon
Monday 3 x 800 m Easy 3 x 800 m Easy pace
Tuesday 6 km Endurance pace 7 km Endurance pace
Wednesday    
Thursday 5 km Easy 5 km Easy pace
Friday    
Saturday   8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 6 km Easy 8 km Fatigue Threshold
Tuesday   6 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 6 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 7 km Easy 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday   8 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 10 x 100 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday 5 x 800 m Fatigue Threshold 6 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 10 x 150 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday 5 x 900 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Wednesday   8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 10 km Easy 12 km Endurance pace
Sunday    

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A new study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center examines what may cause chronic back pain in runners and the exercises to help prevent it.

The study, published in the Journal of Biomechanics, suggests that runners with weak deep core muscles are at higher risk of developing low back pain. And, unfortunately, most people’s deep core muscles aren’t nearly as strong as they should be.

To examine the role of the superficial and deep core muscles, researchers used motion detection technology and force-measuring floor plates to estimate muscle movements during activity.

What they found is that weak deep core muscles force more superficial muscles like the abs to work harder and reach fatigue faster. When those superficial muscles are doing the work the deep core should be doing, there are often painful consequences.

When your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run lie normal. But that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.

Experts say it’s common for even well-conditioned athletes to neglect their deep core, and there is a lot of misinformation online and in fitness magazines about core strength. Traditional ab exercises with a large range of motion, such as sit-ups or back extensions, will not give you the strong core needed to be a better runner.

Instead, Chaudhari says exercises such as planks that focus on stabilizing the core, especially on unstable surfaces, are what’s really going to make you a better runner.