Charles Allen: A strong core is essential for runners...but be careful how you go about getting it

Head of Physical Performance at Walk To Run, Charles Allen. Picture: Supplied

Head of Physical Performance at Walk To Run, Charles Allen. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

Head of Physical Performance at Walk to Run, Charles Allen, discusses the importance of maintaining a strong core for runners.

Last weekend, in a classroom full of fitness professionals, lead biomechanics coaches and therapists, I was offered the opportunity to have my core tested. Something I had not done since my early 20's.

Now, at age 41, I thought it would be a good idea. It may not have turned out quite how I expected but it did show me that it's time to do some homework of my own.

The core can best be described as the muscles which stabilise or support the body whilst other muscles carry out movement.

So, if any of the muscles that make up the core are unable to function, this results in your body becoming unstable.

MORE: Why runners should pay special attention to the pelvisMany of us will have experienced an indication that our core needs strengthening. We may get a feeling of asymmetry and have difficulty in bridging and planking type movements. As we rack up the miles on our runs we may find that the back and upper body starts aching. This is because the core is unable to keep the trunk straight.

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So, what is the solution? People often decide to hit the gym or undertake core strengthening classes and 'feel the burn'.

In some cases, the results can be amazing, but for many this is just too aggressive. Any plan to improve core strength needs careful thought in order to avoid potentially making the problem worse.

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The first thing I like to check is whether clients are able to engage their core properly.

Before asking them to load their core I want to check how they do this because it is important to learn to 'brace' rather than 'hollow'.

MORE: What to do if you're suffering from knee painThe next step is to assess whether clients are dominant or balanced in the core – whether all the muscles are working effectively. Only when we are certain of this can we start increasing functional stability. This is where we start using active motions on the limbs to increase variety of loading on the core. So for me, my homework is all about going back to balancing my core for a while. The advanced stuff will have to wait a few weeks.

If you would like to have your core tested by us, please contact or

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