Rounding out my favorite exercises is core workouts. I have a love/hate relationship with these. I do them on an almost daily basis because I both love and despise that burn. Working your core is essential for bringing out the best runner in you. A strong core will also help keep you healthy and avoid injuries during trainning. It is also necessary for keeping proper form, especially as you tire on longer runs.
If you have ever run with me or taken a class with me, you know that I LOVE planks. I am the dork that does them in the morning while I watch the news and at night while I watch “The Biggest Loser.” I love them in all sorts of variations. Planks work more parts of your abdominals and get deeper into the muscles than just about any other exercise. They require no equipment and very little time. You should seriously be doing this if not any other exercise I recommend. Try to start with a 30 second plank and work up to one minute at a time. Mix it up by holding a plank for 30 seconds and then switch to a side plank for 30 seconds. Return to your regular plank for 30 seconds and then roll to the other side for 30 seconds.
These are fun and get deep down into the lower abs as well pretty much your entire core. Try using paper plates on a smooth surface for an added kick. Hold your plank position and quickly bring one knee up to the corresponding armpit and repeat with the other side. You will look and feel like you are doing a climbing motion. By using the plates on the floor you can use a sliding motion. Make sure you keep your booty down. A butt in the air is a serious cheat on this one! Try to start with 30 seconds or around 30-40 climbs.
This is a great one for the lower abs and obliques. As an added bonus it does work the upper back a bit too! Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Hold a kettlebell on the floor to one side of you and lift and reach up towards the other direction just above your shoulder. Repeat 10-20 times and then switch to the other side. There should be a slight twist and reach motion with this exercise.
Medicine Ball Taps:
This is one that hurts so good and requires some balance which gets deeper into your core! Sit on a mat with your feet elevated off of the floor in Boat Pose. Hold a medicine ball in your arms and reach to your right side and tap the ball on the floor. Lift it up and to the center then repeat to the left. Keep those feet off of the floor and continue repeating side to side. This can be modified with your feet on the floor as you begin. Try to do at least 10 taps on each side and aim for 4 sets of these a few times per week.
Note: Both the Kettlebell Reaches and Medicine Ball Taps can be done with a simple hand weight or even a liter of water. Always look around your home for things that can be used for these exercises if you don’t have the equipment on hand. Almost anything can be replicated.
Ab Toe Taps:
This is a recent addition and one that I love. Lay on your back with knees bent and legs hovering over the floor. Extend your right leg out and then tap that heel to the ground, while the left leg remains in the starting position. Return the right leg up and then repeat with the left leg. You will feel this all the way from the top to the bottom of your belly muscles. This one will leave you feeling that burn! Make sure you are only using your legs and abs, do not lift your back off of the floor. Place your hands on the ground by your lower back to ensure that it stays in place.