Running has become very popular in recent years. Marathons in particular are growing in popularity. A marathon by definition is a 26.2 mile road race. Races like the Chicago and New York Marathons host between 45 and 50,000 runners on an annual basis. It has become increasingly difficult to gain entrance into some of the events. The Chicago and New York Marathons now rely on a lottery system to gain entry into their events. In order to participate in the prestigious Boston Marathon for instance, one must qualify based on standards set forth by the Boston Athletic Association. For Example, a 30 year old male must finish a qualifying marathon with a time of 3 hours and 5 mins or better, and that doesn’t technically guarantee entry! With the increase in people running, there is a greater chance for injury. The focus of this article is to review the importance of core strengthening exercises and its role in injury prevention.
Most running injuries can be prevented; however, runners need to understand the importance of cross-training. Cross-training is a form of exercise other than your chosen sport or activity. Running is obviously one form of vigorous exercise and a source of competition, but in order to improve your strength and running form, the athlete needs to participate in cross-training activities. This will improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury.
One area that most runners tend to ignore is their core. The core is a group muscles that support and stabilize the hips and spine. According to an article by Thomas Fuchs, a writer for Runner’s World Magazine, ignoring the core muscles is considered one of the runners “10 Bad Habits”. The author refers to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. They basically found that runners who participated in core strengthening 4 times per week for 6 weeks, ran a 5K (3.1 miles) 30 sec faster than those who didn’t.
Not only does core strengthening make you a more efficient runner, but it can help prevent low back pain. It is widely accepted that core weakness is correlated to low back pain. While runners can appear to be very fit and strong individuals, they still suffer from back pain on occasion. With the increased distance and frequency of training for marathons, the risk of injury increases. Based on the article by Runner’s World Magazine, it would seem as though core weakness is becoming fairly common among runners.
Low back pain should not be ignored. The runner should consider some alternative activities while recovering from low back pain, like swimming or biking. Avoid bed rest. As always you should consult your physician, or spine care specialists at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute. We can perform a comprehensive spine examination and recommend the proper course of action. Our physical therapy department can offer some suggestions to get you back on the road to recovery and reaching your goals. While the core muscles may be one area to subject to weakness, the injured runner may have other muscular imbalances. These imbalances should be identified by a qualified physical therapist.
About The Author: Jeremy W. Przybylo, PT, DPT, DMT is the Prairie Spine and Pain Institute’s lead physical therapist. He is a key component of our integrated care program. Jeremy works one-on-one with patients to perform an initial evaluation that allows him to design a comprehensive treatment program tailored to each individual. He typically works with patients weekly, utilizing a combination of hands on manual therapeutic techniques and a scientific approach to rehabilitative exercise.