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I've recently taken up trail running (as an ammateur) and discovered I lack in body balance on steep sections. My legs are also prone to injuries (minor ones, but annoying). I was told that core stability training could help me stabilize my legs and improve my balance (please correct me if I'm wrong). I haven't done much of any indoor training in the past because I found it really boring, but I think it's high time to have a go. Therefore I have a few questions.

  1. How long should a core stability session be? Is it better to do a wider range of exercises or do multiple series of fewer exercises?
  2. How often should I ideally do the core stability sessions? I usually cycle or run 4-5 times a week if it matters.
  3. I'm also going to take up stretching sessions. How to join core and stretching with my standard cycling or running? Should I do a few sessions in a single day or reserve special days for core/stretching?

Any other piece of advice would be much appreciated.

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I roll my eyes a little bit at "core" exercises, because your body works as a full whole so if you're doing proper full body exercises your "core" (which isn't some agreed-upon anatomical term) will not only be trained, but will be trained proportionately. This is a huge deal and can't be overstated: a lot of training is down right dangerous and counter productive when you isolate areas and don't allow your body to function in an anatomically normal way.

This isn't to say that there aren't a variety of important often-forgotten muscles in the middle of your body, but that's more reflective of bad fitness regimes (think: guys who bench and bicep curl all day, or cardio-princes(ess) on the elliptical reading magazines).

Plenty of tried and true strength training practices offer incredible "core" development in safe, balanced, and effective way. Plus, they don't work in isolation so you get a pile of overall strength gains.

How long should a core stability session be? Is it better to do a wider range of exercises or do multiple series of fewer exercises?

Even if your goal was purely strength training, you could get by quite well with three sessions of an hour a piece broken up throughout the week. Since you have such a consistent running schedule, I'd shoot for 2-3 times a week of 30-45 minutes.

You should always focus on a lower number of effective exercises versus a higher number for the sake of variety. You only have so much time to train: it's foolish to do anything other than activities that are the most effective. Here's an answer that addresses some particular exercises and schedules.

I'm also going to take up stretching sessions. How to join core and stretching with my standard cycling or running? Should I do a few sessions in a single day or reserve special days for core/stretching?

I would really look into yoga, iyengar if you can find it, but anything with a good instructor will be good. It sounds like you've got a pretty loaded up training schedule, so for yoga if you can't do it on your complete off-day, consider doing it as a warmup before a run, or right on the heels of a run since you'll be pretty limber at that point.

  • Thanks for this, it was very helpful!I mentioned specifically core because the fact is that having spent half of my life on a bike, my trunk muscles are nor developed very well. I must admit that I used to ride/run only for fun (although yes, it is quite frequent), and I only now realise that I must do something more to keep myself safe and comfortable with it. – Slovakov Mar 8 '15 at 17:13
  • @Slovakov glad I can help. It's pretty normal to be a bit out of balance. A typical person's movement patterns are very different from what our body's were originally designed to do. After you get the gym-stuff going, you might start looking at the rest of your non exercising day and seeing habits and movements that aren't helping. Lifelong stuff. – Eric Mar 8 '15 at 17:23

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