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What I tried this week: Consistent core work

Core planks

Core planks

One of the first things that goes by the wayside for me in the summer is strength training. I still do it, though I lack consistency and specificity. Historically, I am too busy logging miles, swimming in pools and catching sun before Canada turns back to the polar vortex to focus on squats and lunges.

Interestingly (however not surprisingly) enough, I am almost always sidelined by November with some injury or another. I spend a couple months regrouping, resting, strengthening and strategizing my next year of training and head out in the new year, full of ambition and niggling muscle imbalances.

This trend stops now. More specifically, it stops this week. I was challenged by my coach to add a minimum of five minutes of core work into my routine for December, making it a habit and a basic part of my training plan going forward.

There is no shortage of research proving that core strength is beneficial to runners but too often fear of adding bulk during racing season or lack of time causes you to set aside even the best intentions. I know myself well enough to know that I need to make it a non-negotiable part of my run or it won’t be happening consistently.

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Kettlebells

How I plan to do it:

Make it a part of my routine – I don’t go to bed until my strength session is complete. It doesn’t matter what time of day I am doing it, as long as it gets done. This week, I did planks at 5 a.m. and wall sits at 10 p.m.

Have accountability – I am doing this challenge with my run club. Every day we log on and share our workouts in detail. Knowing someone will notice if I miss a day is enough motivation to make sure it is done. Runners are competitive people, so find a friend, ask your run team or coworker and commit to doing a minimum of five minutes of strength work each day.

Change it up. Every day, I do something different. I do the exercises I want to do. I’m researching fun, unusual and challenging core exercises to keep it as interesting and motivating as possible.

Keep it short. Lengthy strength training sessions don’t appeal to me as an endurance athlete. Keeping it short and specific helps target muscle weaknesses and ensures I fit it in.

What I am doing:

I prefer to do my core work after a workout so, before I head for the shower, I stop and do five minutes. Here is what some of my sessions have looked like so far:

Session 1: 1 minute plank, 1 minute side plank with dips (on both sides), 1 minute mountain climbers, 1 minute weighted bridge.

Session 2: 1 minute wall sit, 1 minute bicycle crunches, 1 minute crunches, 1 minute reverse crunches, 1 minute earth quake.

Because planks can get repetitive after a while, I find Googling pilates core work provides some fun, unusual exercises along with some crazy names to go with it.

Bottom line? Five minutes of core work a day keeps training injuries away.