The maxim "there's always room for improvement" is as true in life as it is for your runs. Even if you consider yourself an expert, it's all too easy to fall into a running rut and stop maintaining your posture and core strength. And for those just starting out, you may find it initially difficult to build up steam while working certain muscles for the first time. Fortunately, for runners at any level, there are strength-training exercises that can help fortify your key running muscles and correct any posture issues you experience.
Core strength-training and stabilization is incredibly important for runners, and it plays a vital role when you're trying to keep pace on longer runs. The leg lift is a very simple and effective core exercise that will target your lower abs. Simply lay down on your back on any flat surface with your legs straight and your arms by your sides. Next, lift your legs into the air, forming a 90-degree angle to your body. Make sure to keep your knees as straight as possible and your lower back flat on the ground. Then, slowly lower your legs back down and repeat for continued reps.
The hollow rock is a core exercise designed to increase your midline stabilization. Runners need a strong spine to maintain posture, which in turn averts injury and promotes greater lung capacity. To perform the hollow rock, lay flat on your back. You may want to use a yoga mat or softer surface for comfort. Raise your legs to a 45-degree angle, keeping your knees straight and lower back tight. Raise your arms above your head and symmetrically match the 45 degrees of your legs. Once you find yourself in a crescent shape, rock back and forth; each full motion will count as one rep. This exercise can be pretty intense on your core and may take time to perfect, but you can't argue with the results.
For a runner, leg strength is critical. Your lower body is your foundation, and taking time to augment these muscles will bolster your stamina and balance. The squat is a phenomenal exercise to help build your lower-body muscular structure, plus it's easily performed and can be quickly modified to increase or decrease intensity. Simply stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then slowly start to drop your hips to the ground. Stop when your shins and quads form a 90-degree angle and begin to rise again. For added intensity, you can explode upward into a jump and land right back into the squat. This brings in a level of plyometrics that can really get the heart rate going.
To improve, runners need to do more than just run. Strengthening your core, spine and legs — the muscles you rely on most — should be a crucial part of your training regimen. After you add these exercises to your routine, you will feel stronger and see solid gains where it counts: on your runs.