Friday, July 27, 2012

My Core 5 Workout

I love to run. Even when it's 100 degrees out, I love to run.  Even if I'm exhausted, I love to run.  Even if something hurts, or it's raining, night or day.  I love to run!

I HATE core work!   There's nothing I like about it.  It sucks!  Given the choice of ... well basically anything else and core work ... I'll take anything else!  I HATE core work!!!

But one of the key components to running over 3,000 miles the last two years (and 2,500 the year before that) has been increased core strength.  It has simply made those late miles in a long run much easier when I'm not fighting stomach or back pain, and still holding good running form.  Yeah, as much as I hate it, I force myself to do it ... because it works.

Over the last year, I have started doing what I call my CORE 5 workout every weekday before my run.  I don't do core work on the weekends.  It takes anywhere from 20-45 minutes depending on how much I do that day.  It consists of 5 groups of core exercises that have really made a difference in my endurance and just my overall strength and conditioning.

Group One ... Hip Bridges
The hip bridge builds glute, hamstring, and lower back strength.  I do two sets of 2 minutes each.  This was one of the key exercises that helped get my upper hamstring and lower glute tendinitis better.   

Group Two ... Crunch Combo
From left to right, top to bottom: Crunch good for upper abs, Knee Raises - isolates lower abs, Bicycle Crunches - upper and lower abs, Ab Wheel - works total core including arms, shoulders, abs, glutes, hips, and hamstrings, Superman Pose - isolates lower back and glutes, Side Crunch - works the obliques 

I don't spend a ton of time on actual crunches - they are good for a 6-pack beach effect - but there are better exercises that work that the total core for runners.  I'll do 200 reps of a combination of this group.  For example, I'll typically do 40-50 crunches, 40-50 knee raises, 40-50 bicycle crunches, 10-20 ab wheels, 40-50 Supermans, and finish with 50-60 side crunches.  This will vary quite a bit - but I usually try to do 200 reps total.

Group Three ... Planks
From left to right: Side Plank, Front Plank, Reverse Plank.  This is BY FAR the single best core exercise for me.  In my opinion, if a runner can only do one core exercise ... it should be planks.

When I started doing planks, I could only do about 15-20 seconds of each of these.  But since the beginning of the year, I tried to make it a goal that my butt never touched the floor during my sets of planks.  I will start on my left side with 1:00-1:15, then go right into a front plank without stopping or my butt touching the ground.  Front plank for 1:00-1:15, then the right side - same thing, no touching, followed up with a reverse plank for 1:00-1:15.  This totals 4-5 minutes without stopping.  That's the first set.  I always do two sets, no rest in between for 8-10 minutes.  Some days I'll do three sets ... all without my butt ever touching the ground.  My record is 20 continuous minutes.  Some days I'll add variations like knee lifts, but mostly it's just like this.

Group Four ... Push Ups
Nothing glamorous with this one ... just do these so I don't look like a total Ethiopian ... no offense to the Ethiopian community of course!  Typically I do two sets of 30, but some days do three sets of 25

Group Five ... Shoulders & Arms 
Again - this is simply a vanity exercise to try to keep my arms and deltoids with some sort of shape as I get older.  But honestly, it's getting tougher and tougher to keep the old man skin from hanging around the arms.  Usually I'll do 2 sets of deltoid work, all with resistance bands, on front back and side.  Then I'll follow it up with 2 sets of 40-50 bicep curls with bands, and finish with 2 sets of 25 tricep dips.

So that's it ... my CORE 5 as I call it.  If you don't incorporate core work into your normal routine, I would really encourage it ... it has made a huge difference for me and kept me much healthier.  Have a great weekend.
... be great today!


  1. It was fun to see what you do for the's not something I prefer to spend my time on either, but's necessary. Now if I can just be faithful to it!

  2. I could not get myself to do core work at home and started going to Pilates Reformer classes twice a week. It totally changed my running for the better! But I know what you mesn - I will keep putting it off! When I don't go to pilates I at least to planks and sit ups.
    Good for you!

  3. You are one dedicated runner Jim! I think your abs should be found on the cover of Runners World any day now. :)

    See you in Pokey! And you dam well better be on pace for the sub -3:10 or I'm chasing after you dressed in a potatoe suit. :-)

  4. You are a monster Jim. I'm not sure if anyone else out there (including professional runners) cares more about running than you do. Props to you for that type of dedication.

    I try to do core work at least twice a week through either yoga or my rehab exercises, I need to keep on that routine or increase it to 3x/week.

  5. Dude, you are "hardcore!" C'mon, somebody had to say it...
    Okay, seriously, these exercises are awesome and I'm super impressed by your dedication. I do core work and strength training a few days a week and totally agree that the plank is my favorite. I do a variation of yours, but I've never made it to 20 minutes!! Thanks for posting this!

  6. that is a LOT
    I to work on this
    a lot more.
    I am now paying the price of skipping core workout...yep I got injured. and the PT said Core is a must...well I HATE it. more than you I bet.
    but I have started doing it and I will continue..I believe you when you say it makes a difference.

  7. I love love love hip bridges! I think I'll add them in to the core class I'm teaching tonight!


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