"Swimming" my way to a strong core. / Photo: J. Booth
Strong core = strong running.
A strong core increases a runner's efficiency, endurance, and balance, and decreases fatigue and strain, as detailed in A strong core makes a strong runner (March 2010). Finding the time and motivation to work the various muscles that make up the core can be a challenge. The Jersey City Running Fitness Examiner is devoted to creative ways to improve running performance and make the most of available resources.
An as-seen-on-TV solution.
In other words, I'm too lazy for the few minutes needed to pop in a fitness DVD and I'd never spend the money anyway. Surprisingly, my television provided a solution: Comcast's On Demand Sports & Fitness channel offers workouts organized by categories, including "Abs" -- and hope of reigning in my expanding midsection and grumbling about the extra expense of digital service. There are at least twenty workout options from which to choose and selections change about monthly. Brief descriptions provide information on instructor, style (e.g., pilates-, yoga-, and dance-inspired workouts), and duration (from 10 to 30 minutes). Ab workouts on my time and in my own living room meant no more excuses, so I committed to doing one 10- or 20-minute workout daily before running.
There are many worthy workouts available but the Incredible Abs series led by Cindy Whitmarsh ranks high. The seven 20-minute workouts require only floor space and an optional hand weight (though workout #7 requires a stability ball) and work all sections of the core with moves much more inspired than endless on-the-floor crunches (e.g., simulated "swimming" while maintaining the plank position, as pictured above). The challenging pace of the cardio and toning intervals means efficient calorie burning and muscle strengthening in 20 minutes. Cindy Whitmarsh's cheer is motivating without being annoying -- important when performing hard-core exercises meant to "shred" your core (my numerous "Ugh"s and "Are you kidding?" confirm the intensity).
The series is also available online at the Excercise TV site, along with many other workouts. I, of course, will continue to view them on my television, every day before I run.