Core strength & flexibility workout to prep you for the fall running season


Couple running in the park during the fall

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It's time to get back to the grind this fall, and to your running schedule. But before you hit the concrete, make sure your body is ready. Julie Erickson, recently named Boston Magazine’s Best Trainer and owner of Endurance Pilates and Yoga in Arlington, Massachusetts, shares a quick, 10-minute core strength and flexibility workout.

Don’t bother with static stretching before and after your run. Instead focus on the following two workouts: five minutes of core and hip mobility exercises before your run, and five minutes of increased flexibility and core reinforcement post-run.
Before your run, focus on the range of motion at the hip joint and the stability of the lower abdominals and back extensors to stay safe and strong during the run with the following exercises:

Hip flexor active stretch

From standing position, step your right foot forward and keep your torso upright, ensuring that your toes stay facing forward. Pull your pelvis under the torso using the lower ab muscles, glutes and hamstrings. Bend both knees to pull into a deeper stretch at the front of the thighs, holding for a moment. Lower your knee to the floor and hold for a moment. Curl your toes under to lift knee and step forward. Repeat on other side. Continue with five on each side.

Hundreds challenge

Get those abs turned on, connect the inner thighs and use the back of the legs to open the front.

While on your back lift your head and shoulders lifted, with arms reaching long and legs hovering so that toes are in line with the nose. Pull belly in and lift the lower back slightly above the mat. Keeping the legs still, lengthen the lower back to the mat five times. Then, keeping the lower back lifted, lengthen the legs to touch the mat five times. Try both the legs reaching and lower back touching the mat at the same time five times. Repeat. This is very challenging so you’ll only need to do a couple of sets.

After your run, you’ll want to open the chest and keep a safe level of stretch in the hips. It is extremely important to remember that increasing flexibility in a stretch should be done actively, especially post-workout. You need opposing and support muscles to support a range of motion that is increased while the muscle is warm!

Chest expansion

This move opens the pecs, uses the back of your arm and middle back muscles to stretch across the front of the chest. 

Knee down with or without a flexband — you can also use a towel or T-shirt. Use the hamstrings and glutes to pull your pelvis directly under your ribcage. Reach the arms in front of the chest, pulling the band wide. Pull the band to the thighs and then press the arms back behind the line of the body and slightly externally rotate the shoulders to pull the front of the arm and chest a little more open. Hold for a breath, turning the head to stretch the neck in one direction, then the other. Repeat four times, keeping the legs and abs supporting the stretch through the front of the thighs.

Hip extension

This move uses the glutes and hamstrings to extend the quads and hip flexors — the lowest part of the abdominals — to support the torso and to keep the lower back safe. It also helps to keep a safe range of motion at the hip so that you will use the best possible mechanics and length of stride when you're out running.

Standing with hands on a wall or chair, extend the right leg so that it is as perpendicular to the floor as possible.  With the ankle flexed, keeping the torso absolutely still, use the back of the leg to very slightly lift the entire leg an inch or two, ensuring that the lower back does not move. Repeat 10 times with ankle flexed and with toes reaching. Switch sides. Keep the motion in complete control at all times.