Core Exercises for Distance Runners

Having a strong core could literally make the difference between being injured and being a healthy runner.  For me, keeping up with my core strength has been the single most important thing I’ve done for my running.

Core Workout Routine for Distance Runners
Core Routine for Runners

I started doing core in college and every week I found myself getting stronger and able to run more mileage. These exercises helped strengthen my abs, back, hamstrings, glutes, and everything in between! I was able to go from 30-40 miles per week in high school to 50-70 miles per week in college. I have no doubt that having a strong core was a huge contributing factor.

One of the reasons why I love doing core so much is because it helps with my balance. I am able to do single leg (or single side) exercises with little to no problem. This translates very well to how we run. As a scrawny high school runner, this is exactly what I lacked, and adding core into my routine greatly improved my ability to withstand the extra running I needed to do to be successful in college.

Core Routine to Improve Running Form
Core Exercises for Better Balance

You’re not going to get 6-pack abs, but you will be able to run your pace for longer without getting tired and breaking form.  I think that’s a very good trade-off, don’t you?  Below, you’ll find 5 different exercises aimed at targeting different aspects of your core – the powerhouse of your body!

These exercises should be done slowly. They aren’t to be done at break-neck speed. You’ll find much more progress in your form if you go slow and focus on the drill, rather than attempting to “just get it done”.

The 5 Best Core Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Step Downs

Step Downs - Core Exercise # 1

Elbows up, head/neck flexed. Focus on 90-degree angles with your knees and your ankles.

(A) Lie on your back with both hands under your lower back.

Lift your legs so your thighs are at a 90-degree angle with the floor, and bend both knees to a 90-degree angle.

(B) Tighten your lower back so that it doesn’t move up or down, and slowly lower your right foot to within 1 inch of the floor. Keep your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle, and maintain the position of your left leg. Hold your right foot 1 inch off the floor for 2 seconds, then return it to the start position next to the left leg. Repeat the same action, but this time lower the left foot.

*Coach Marc usually does reps of 6 or 7 per leg, lasting 6 seconds before switching. Remember, head up, elbows up, and keep knees at 90 degrees, only rotating from the hip. Feet are dorsiflexed.

Prone Stabilizer

Prone Stabilizer - Core Exercise # 2

Think plank. Then, raise one foot 3-4 inches off the ground. Repeat with the other foot.

(A) Start on your stomach, and raise yourself into a modified pushup position, with all your weight balanced on your forearms and toes. Keep your back as straight as possible.

(B) Slowly raise your left leg until it lines up with your back. Hold this position for 4 seconds, then lower the left leg, and repeat for 4 seconds with the right leg.

*Coach Marc does reps of 6 or 7 per leg, lasting 6 seconds before switching.


(A) Lie on your back with your arms beyond your head, and your feet planted on the floor directly below the knees. Press down on your feet, and lift your torso and upper legs until they form a straight line.

Feet flat on the ground; raise your hips.

(B) With your weight on your shoulders and your feet, slowly extend the right leg by straightening the knee. Be sure to keep your back straight. Hold for 6 seconds, then repeat with the left leg. Repeat both sequences three to five times.

Core exercises for distance runners

Lift one leg, keeping quads on the same plane. Keep hips raised.

*Remember: Your quads should be on the same plane when in the up 
position. Always lift your hips when you switch legs!

Side Stabilizer

Lie on your right side with your right elbow under your shoulder, and your left foot resting on your right foot. Press down with your forearm and foot until you lift your body off the ground. Keep your body as straight as possible; don’t allow your hips to sag. Hold this position in a controlled fashion for 30 seconds. Repeat on your left side.

Side plank: keep ankles, knees, hips and shoulders stacked

*When you get strong enough, you can lift your leg (see picture below). Remember though, form counts. Even when you are in the up position, you should be in a straight line.

Side Plank - Core Exercise # 4

Advanced: raise leg into star position

Bird Dog

(A) Start on your hands and knees.

(B) Maintaining the 90-degree angle of your left knee, lift your left leg until the thigh is parallel to your upper body. Hold for 4 seconds, then lower. Put the opposite hand out so you end up with one hand and the opposite knee on the ground. *Think about having the bottom of your foot square with your body
and flat (or parallel with the ceiling).

Hands and knees stacked. Raise leg to be parallel with the the ground. Then, point the opposite hand parallel with the ground.

Core Exercises for Distance Runners
Core Exercises for Distance Runners


I was introduced to this core routine in college and I’ve been doing it weekly ever since. It has saved me and made me a much stronger, more resilient runner.

The 5 exercises that I do in this particular routine are:

  • Step downs
  • Planks
  • Bridge
  • Side planks (left and right)
  • Bird Dog

Each of these should be done slowly and methodically. There is no rush to get these done. Start with 20-30 seconds per exercise and as you get stronger, add more time.

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Gear I Love

Garmin is my go-to brand of running watches

My Favorite RUNNING gear from Amazon ⬇️
Feetures socks:
Tifosi Sunglasses:
Garmin 235:
Garmin heart rate monitor:

Coach Marc does strides after easy runs to prime his legs

Current Running Shoes ⬇️
Brooks Levitate:
Brooks Revel:
Nike Pegasus:

Marc uses a massage gun to loosen up his legs

Running Recovery Gear I use daily from Amazon ⬇️
Sonic X Percussion Massage Gun:
Foam Roller:
CEP Compression socks:

Marc running a popup 5k in Haddonfield

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