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Stabilization exercises should be at the heart of any fitness program for runners. If you have
lower back problems or weak muscles in the lower torso, these can help as well, but you should
consult your doctor or physical therapist before you start.

Importance of stable core:

Whatever your level of fitness, a strong, stable core will help you avoid injury and maximize the
benefits of an exercise program. If you’re a distance or endurance runner, you’re even more prone
to injury. If you’re starting out with a fitness program, a stable core will stabilize your spine as
you grow stronger. A stable core is critical to avoid injury. Pelvic stability is key to preventing
running-related injuries, including leg strains, back pain, and IT band and piriformis syndrome.

Stabilization exercises:

You might not have heard of your Transverse Abdominus, but you should familiarize yourself
with it. It’s a critical part of proper stabilization. It’s a deep abdominal muscle that stabilizes your
spine. If you suffer from lower back pain, pay special attention to engaging this muscle during
exercise because the Transverse Abdominus helps ensure the spine is stabilized correctly.
Below are four easy-to-do exercises to help you strengthen and stabilize your core. We
recommend doing them no less than three times a week, more often if you’re advanced. Keep in
mind that maintaining proper form is more important than how many you do.

Clam:

  • Lie on your side with your legs bent.
  • Hips should be straight and knees at 90-degree angles and stacked on top of each other.
  • Keep ankles together while opening your legs by raising your top knee up as you
    squeeze your top glute muscle (gluteus medius). It’s one of the primary hip stabilization
    muscles that is especially important for distance runners.
  • Keep your hips stable through the motion of opening leg (like a clam), and avoid rotating
    your torso or top hip as you lift your knee. It’s fine if you need to limit the opening or
    motion to avoid rotating torso or top hip.

Two sets of 10-12 on each leg; progress to two sets of 30

Step-Ups:

You will need a step or a very stable box. The higher off the floor, the more intense or advanced
the workout. This is a very simple exercise that can strengthen your legs, glutes, and core.

  • Step onto the box or step with one foot.
  • The thigh of that leg will be parallel to the floor for a second as you boost yourself onto
    the box. Keep the knee stable.
  • Step the remaining leg up onto the box so that you’re standing on both feet.
  • Be sure to use the first leg to raise yourself up rather than pushing off the ground with the
    second foot.
  • Be careful to keep both knees stable throughout the exercise.
  • Two advanced versions:
    1. While standing on one foot on the box or step, bring up the second leg but maintain it in
    the air behind you as if in a running position.
    2. While on the first leg, raise your second leg to a high-knee motion in front of you as if in
    a running position. Then, lower back down so that both feet are together.

Be certain to use your core to stabilize throughout the exercise, especially if you’re doing the
more advanced version!

Two sets of six-eight on each leg; progress to two sets of 12

Single-leg Bridge:

This a variation of a two-legged bridge, and it’s good for your hamstrings and glutes.

  • Lie flat on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Grab one knee with your hands and pull it toward your chest while keeping the other foot
    on the ground.
  • Engage the glute of the leg on the ground.
  • While keeping your glute engaged, push through the heel to lift your hips into the air into
    a bridge position.
  • Hold the position for one to two seconds before lowering back to the ground.

Two sets of eight-ten; progress to two sets of 15

Squats:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Begin the squat with your hips by sitting back as if lowering into a chair.
  • Keep head up and the plane of your back level and flat.
  • Keep your weight on your heels, and do not allow your knees to go past your toes.
  • You should almost feel as if you’re going to fall into the chair, except the range of motion
    of the hamstrings and hip will keep you from falling back.

Two sets of eight-ten; progress to two sets of 15

If you’re ready to launch into 2020 and into a fitness program to help you strengthen and stabilize
your car, these four exercises can get you started! If you’re new to exercising, or have a weak
core, start by doing them twice weekly and building up from there as you get stronger.

Consult your doctor before you begin any fitness or exercise program or if you are having any
new pain or discomfort.

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