Trail Stability - Page 2
Says Joe Friel, author of The Triathlete's Training Bible and Total Heart Rate Training, as well as owner and founder of Joe Friel's Ultrafit, an online coaching service, "I make core strength a part of all my runners' yearly training plans."
Don't Buy Into the Hype
Scientific research demonstrates that before the legs even begin to take a stride, the lumbar stabilizers contract to form a corset-like support around the spine, which transmits strength and stability to the lower extremity. If this support system is not working properly, the body sustains impact in a manner that places excessive force on the joint surfaces, creating imbalance and a risk of injury.
Many runners and coaches assume these important smaller stabilizing muscles (the lumbar multifidii, pelvic floor and the transversus abdominus) will be engaged through a pour-over effect from traditional ab exercises. This does not necessarily happen. And research has demonstrated these muscles may shut down in response to pain or trauma, especially if an athlete has a history of injury. Therefore, effective core training targets the deep lumbar stabilizers to protect the spine and other joints.
Says Zika Rea, co-founder of Zap Fitness Foundation and runner-up in the 2005 U.S. National Marathon Championship, "Core training is the single best way to avoid injury. Most running injuries—for example, iliotibial-band syndrome and knee and lumbar pain—whether acute, or overuse, can be avoided by having a strong core, which allows the stress of running to be distributed evenly."
Get Some Back
While core training is important for stabilizing the lower extremities, it is also crucial to preventing and treating lumbar pain. One study demonstrated that patients with low-back pain had delayed or even absent contraction of the transversus abdominus muscle—a primary lumbar stabilizer. Another study estimated 84 percent of individuals without a history of low-back pain were able to effectively contract the transversus abdominus muscle properly, whereas only 10 percent who had a history of low-back pain were able to perform the same contraction.
This may be due to a change in the way the nervous system performs when challenged by pain or trauma. Portions of the nervous system called ion channels regenerate rapidly, which can cause a rapid decline or improvement in function, depending on the stresses placed on the body (trauma or rehabilitation). It appears pain causes the pathways to the muscles to shut down or become ineffective and, more importantly, the muscles often do not recover on their own.
Back to the Basics
If crunches and sit-ups alone are insufficient core training for trail running, what should you do?
First, if you have a pre-existing injury, see a qualified professional to ensure the problem is a simple musculoskeletal problem and not something more serious.