Hitting the gym for regular workouts is important if you want to improve your performance in athletic events such as running races. Such workouts can help you gain an edge over your opponents, but in some circumstances, pre-competition workouts can be detrimental. For example, if you schedule a core workout too close to your race, you may find that the exercise actually reduces your ability to perform well. Always consult your doctor before starting any workout program.
Function of Core in Running
When you look at someone running, it may not be obvious that the core plays a role in the activity. However, your core plays a central -- no pun intended -- role in running. Your core muscles help to stabilize your body from the jarring effect of hitting the ground with each stride. Additionally, a strong core will keep your form intact, providing the most efficient stride and cutting down on wasted energy.
Disadvantages of Cutting it Too Close
Since strengthening your core is beneficial, it may seem logical that training your core muscles as much as possible would provide for the best performance. But if you don't leave enough time to rest between your workout and your race, your muscles won't have time to recover and will be weaker. You may also feel sore and get tired more quickly, as your body needs time and nutrition to repair your muscles from the trauma of workouts. A weaker core might mean you have sloppy form and waste energy, making you more tired and reducing the efficiency of your stride. You might also be more susceptible to injury, as weaker core muscles can result in poor alignment and increased stress on joints.
Latest Day for Core Work
When it comes to athletic performance, erring on the side of caution can prevent you from being too tired to perform. But you don't need to do anything drastic like eliminate all activity the week prior to a race. A study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and McMaster University indicates that the muscle recovery process takes about 36 hours, so performing core workouts 1 1/2 days before your race is the latest point at which you can safely exercise.
Beneficial Core Exercises
Not every workout is going to benefit your body; you need to perform the right exercises to improve your strength. Your core includes muscles in your lower back, abdominal and oblique areas and your hip flexors. So to get a strong, sexy core you can perform lying leg raises, crunches, planks, side planks and reverse crunches. Bicycle crunches and the oblique rotation machine can be beneficial as well. To avoid interfering with your race performance, be sure to perform these exercises at least 36 hours prior to your race.
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