As runners, we love to run. The feeling of wind through our hair, the rhythmic sound of footfalls, and the satisfying completion of a tough interval workout are what keep us coming back for more every day. If we wanted to be softball players, gym junkies or cyclists we’d do that instead, right?

But if the only form of exercise you’re getting is running, you’re missing out on a variety of benefits that could actually help your running. Strength and core exercises are the perfect complement to running. They optimize your running so you can keep going without injuries, and even race faster.

Instead of relying only on running to get in shape, read on for three simple—but powerful—reasons why you should be doing regular core workouts during your training.

Core Work Helps You Stay Healthy

Injury prevention is a top goal for every runner. And if core workouts can help you run more consistently without injuries, who in their right mind wouldn’t do them?

Core strength plays a vital role in stabilizing your entire body during running by maintaining a neutral pelvis, and delaying the breakdown in your form when you’re fatigued.

Think of your body like a car. If you put a Ferrari engine (your lungs and heart) in the chassis of a compact economy car (your muscles, ligaments and bones), what’s going to happen?

If you guessed that your powerful engine will rip apart the car and cause a malfunction, you’re right! It’s critical for injury prevention to strengthen that chassis and develop the muscular strength you need to support that strong heart and lungs.

Strength Exercises Improve Your Running Economy

Not only does core work strengthen your body and prevent injuries, but it also helps improve your running economy (or in other words, your efficiency). Stronger muscles—particularly in the legs—help you run faster and use less energy at the same time. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Core workouts do this by allowing your body to use more muscle fibers during any given workout. Sometimes your body can’t recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. Using the same muscles over and over again means you get tired more quickly.

But if you have a larger pool of muscle fibers to work with, you can delay fatigue and run faster.

At this point it’s important to remember that your “core” is more than just your abdominal muscles. The core includes your hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back. Basically, the core includes every muscle between your knees and nipples.

Core Workouts Can Help You Race Faster

So let’s put these two powerful benefits of doing strength exercises together. What happens when you combine injury prevention with higher efficiency? You get a faster runner.

Injury prevention is the real key to getting faster because when you can string together weeks, months and even years of consistent training, then you’ll see dramatic improvement in your race times.

Indeed, long-term success (in other words, improvement) in distance running is all about consistency.

It’s so important that I like to call it the “secret sauce” of good training—it helps your marathon pace this year become your easy pace next year. Consistency is what allows your 5K pace to soon become your 10K pace (or even your half-marathon pace) as your new 5K pace becomes faster.

Core workouts might be the missing link in your training that can help you become a more consistent, injury-proof, economical runner.

Take an extra 10 minutes every day and do a core workout that will help you achieve your running goals. There’s no better investment in your training.

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