Runner’s Core for Hire.

I went through this phase in high school where I wanted to get really ripped.  I was a gymnast and naturally quite muscular but, don’t ask me why, I really wanted to be good at the bench press.  I laugh now thinking how I use to get my teammates to go into the weight room with me during practice so they could spot me.

I’m not sure where that girl went because now you’d probably have to give me some type of monetary incentive to go in a weight room.   I get bored and annoyed with the macho guys who sit around checking out their over developed chest and arm muscles (the legs are a whole other story).  So, due to my major dislike for the gym, I’ve developed a pretty good strength routine at home.  It requires no equipment (although I do like to use a balance ball) and can be done practically anywhere. All the exercises are done using your own body weight and can easily be modified to suit your fitness level.

The key is to switch it up every now and again.  When you first start a workout routine, your muscles get a little run for their money.  Eventually, you gain strength and what once made you sore doesn’t even phase you.  If you want to continue to get fit, you have to change things up when you get to that point.  The key to burning fat and building muscle is to keep your muscles guessing!  When I realized my core routine just wasn’t really doing it for me anymore, I gave it a make over.  I increased the reps and added a few twists and turns.  My muscles totally didn’t see it coming.  I woke up sore the next morning and let out a cackle, “haHA!  I got you.”

Here are the 8 main exercises I do on a regular basis.  Again, as they become too easy, I find ways to make it more difficult.  It takes me between 20 and 30 minutes to complete the whole routine and I do it 2-4 times per week.

 The Workout:

1. Squats:  These can be done free style or with your back against a balance ball on the wall.

  • Put your feet about hip distance apart.
  • Make sure your toes are straight forward and as you squat, you knees are tracking over your ankles.
  • Go down until your legs are at a 90 degree angle and then slowly stand back up (I like to give my toosh a little squeeze at the top just to let it know whose boss).
  • I like to inhale down, exhale up.

I'm not quite all the way down in this picture, I aim for 90 degrees.

Modify:  If you don’t have a ball—get one, you’ll love it.  Until then, do the same motion, same form but without the ball or the wall.

2. Push Ups:  Yes, they are hard.  Yes, they are good for you.  I love pushups because they are so versatile and if you do them correctly, you’ll work most of your body!

Imagine you have a board running from the tip of your head to your toes.Engage everything.  If you have a mirror handy, do these sideways in front of it to make sure your butt isn’t sticking way up (mountain) or your hips/tummy aren’t arching down (valley).  You are the plains. Flat as can be.

Ball is not necessary but it forces you to engage you core even more, as you have to stay balanced.

Play with the elbows and hand position. I find that the closer I keep them to my body, the more difficult the push-up.

Modify: You can put your hands on the wall, the sofa, or the floor. You can even put your knees on the floor.  If getting back up is an issue, don’t worry about it for now.  Hold the pushup position for as long as you can and then try to lower down to the floor as slowly as possible.  Once there, find your way back up by any means you choose, and do it again.

3. Lunges: Lunges will give you a great quad, hamstring, and glute workout while at the same time forcing you to engage your entire core to stay balanced.

With a ball:

  • Put your back foot on the ball facing down.
  • Your front leg is directly under your body.
  • Slowly roll the rearward, while bending your front leg.  Be sure that your front knee is tracking right over your ankle.
  • Go until your front leg is at a 90 degree angle and then slide the ball back towards your body.
  • Exhale on the down, inhale on the up.

These guys will also give you a sweet little hip stretch!

Modify:  Without a ball—you can put your back foot either on the floor or on a chair/sofa. Slowly drop straight down until your front leg is at a 90 degree angle.

4. Planks:  These are very similar to pushups except you’re not moving up and down.  Body position is the same—flat as a board.


  • Get into a pushup position with your forearms flat on the floor.
  • Don’t let your legs be lazy. ENGAGE!
  • Hold for 5-90 seconds:  Try to add a few more seconds each time

The closer you put your elbows, the more challenging it will be. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.


  • Roll onto your side and prop yourself up on your elbow
  • Stack your feet
  • Lift your hip off the floor
  • You want to press up hard on this one—try to make an arch with your side
  • Engaged your bottom leg—don’t let it be lazy.
  • Hold for 5-90 seconds and repeat on second side.

Make a rainbow with your body and SHINE!

5. Tricep dips

  • Sit with your bum on the edge of a couch, chair, bench, high step…what have you
  • Place your hands right next to your bum on either side of you, fingers pointing towards your feet
  • Slide your toosh off the edge
  • Lower yourself towards the ground as far as you can without hitting the ground
  • Keep your bum as close to the couch as possible
  • Push back up
  • Inhale down, exhale up.

you can put your feet on the floor, a chair, or a ball.

Now dip, baby, dip. C'mon now, dip, baby, dip.

6. Crunches

  • Put your feet against a wall or under a coach
  • Sit on your ball or the floor, hands gently placed behind your head for support (no yanking)
  • Engage your abs, and use that force to slowly lower yourself down.
  • Breathe
  • Use your abs to pull yourself back up to sitting
  • Give your abs a little squeeze at the top.

The ball will force you to engage your entire core as opposed to just your abs. I'll crunch to that!

Modify: Try just holding a crunch at an appropriate height.

7. Super (wo)man:

On the ball: 

  • Place the ball of the floor and lay over it, tummy down (give it a hug)
  • Put your feet against a wall or under a couch.
  • Place your hands behind your head
  • Inhale, engage your back muscles and glutes to rise up
  • Don’t let your tummy off the hook, engage those puppies as you lift up.

On the floor:

  • Lay flat on your stomach, hands straight out in front, legs stretched out behind you
  • Engage your abs, back, and glutes to lift your legs and arms off the ground.
  • Inhale up, exhale down.

Really engage your abs to protect your lower back.

8. Side crunches:

  • Put one hip on the ball (or lay on your side on the floor)
  • Place your feet against a wall or under a couch—your legs will be stacked.
  • Engage your core to lift your body off the ball or floor.
  • Squeeze at the top and then lower back down slowly.
  • Inhale up, exhale down.

hands can go behind your head. I like to get a little crazy.

I clench my fist at the top to remind myself to pull everything tight. You can also give a fist pump!

Well, that’s all!  I do 2 sets of 20.  You decide how many sets and reps are appropriate for you.  Add a few reps each time you do it and you’ll have a runner’s core in no time!
Happy Crunching!


2 thoughts on “Runner’s Core for Hire.

  1. Pingback: Mornings with MJ–Core Routine « Cafe MJ

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