I did a hill run this morning. It was 10km of up and down, some steep, some not so steep. I got to thinking, during one of my pelting, hurtling, downward dashes on a steep descent that often an area of niggle to strike a runner is the lower back. Often an injury occurs when running downhill. Often this injury is caused by weak core and stabilising muscles. Which made me start thinking about how important these muscles are when running.
Often people take up running and omit to do any other type of exercise. It is vitally important to work on core strength and stability in conjunction with your running programme. Through my work I have come across many people who have a weak core area from spending their days hunched over a desk, on a computer. The first thing I do is assess their core strength and programme core activation exercises to strengthen these areas. We all have a transverse abdominis (TA), and a lot of our bodies have forgotten how to use it. So our erector spinae (the long muscles next to our spine) take over and they’re not supposed to be doing that job. So it’s no wonder they get fatigued, grumpy and injured. Add to the mix some crazy downhill running and bingo! Ouch!
If you have found yourself plagued by a grumpy lower back here is a simple exercise to do. This can be done anywhere so you have no excuse. Take a big breath into your belly (it must inflate) and then exhale until you have expelled all the air. The TA will then activate at the end of the breath. This is called diaphragmatic breathing and will teach the TA to once again remember what it is supposed to do. Do this a few times, several times throughout the day.
There are many exercises that can assist with core strengthening, so once you find where your TA is and you feel stronger, you can start a progressive core strengthening programme. Always remember to take it slowly, because if your body is not used to utilising the correct muscles for a movement, the other muscles may take over. Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning and retrain them. And while you are out running and you start heading downhill, make a conscious effort to activate that TA, so you hold your core strong while you pelt, hurtle and dash down that hill!