Getting Fit to Run
Core Running training is a progressive system designed to help you run better, run stronger and run injury-free. This system is based on my coaching experience, advanced education in exercise science and sport science research.
Running Training Performance Pyramid
The diagram below will give you a good overview of the Core Running methodology. It's based on a concept I've adapted called the Performance Training Pyramid. The pyramid outlines the different skills necessary to become a good, efficient and faster runner.
Each level is dependent on the levels below it to optimize performance and all the tiers are interconnected. A common mistake many runners make is focusing too much attention to the middle layer, Fitness Skills, while neglecting any weakness in their Fundamental Movement Skills and Technical Skills.
The Base Tier - Fundamental Movement Skills
As the base of your training you have Fundamental Movement Skills. Basically this is your ability to move with ease, to perform basic movements with no restrictions (movements involving lunging, squatting, pushing, pulling, etc.) It involves your static and dynamic posture, body control, stability and mobility.
Characteristics to train at this level include muscle and tendon flexibility, joint mobility, core stabilization and joint stability.
The old adage "you have to walk before you can run" definitely applies here. One of the biggest limitations I've seen in many runners is they have restrictions in their movement or altered movement patterns due to injury, improper training, overuse or improper muscle function.
The wrong joints are too mobile while others have limited mobility. Core stability is weak and posture is poor.
The Core Running training system helps you clean up these basic movements which in turn will help everything else higher up the pyramid.
The Middle Tier - Fitness Skills
The next level of development involves fitness attributes. These include strength, endurance, power, agility, balance, and coordination.
Together they provide a picture of your gross athletic abilities.
For runners, having good endurance, power and strength would be important. Agility, balance and coordination would not be as important unless you were trail running where these characteristics could be beneficial.
A good running training program will develop these different characteristics.
The Top Tier - Technical (Sport Specific) Skills
At the peak of the pyramid you have your sport specific skills. These are the technical skills required for your sport.
With running this includes your running biomechanics and economy.
Speed could be thought of as another technical skill for runners.
Your chosen distance specialty would determine what type of speed you need, whether it be outright speed as sprinters need or speed-endurance as distance runners need.
Training the Physiological & Neuromuscular Systems
To simply things I'll divide the physical training into two separate streams, each stream primarily working on one bodily system. Training to run better involves:
- Physiological training - involving the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and the glands. It works primarily on the endocrine system (the glands and the hormones they produce).
- Neuromuscular training - involving the muscles, fascia, tendons and other soft tissues. It works primarily on the nervous system (the brain, spine and nerves).
This is a gross oversimplification of what happens; in reality, the body works together as a whole and you can never just train one system.
The endocrine system and the nervous system are intricately linked and function together. But for our purposes, we'll use this simple model to differentiate different types of running training.
Most runners spend too much time focusing on the physiological training and neglect the neuromuscular training. To run well you need to use both types of training and develop all the body's systems and tissues.
Physiological training is done primarily through running, though you can do some of it with other types of aerobic cross training (i.e. biking, swimming, etc.). Long runs, speedwork, some forms of hill training; these are all forms of physiological training.
Nutrition is also included in this part of training since you are training your body to burn certain types of fuel (either carbs or fat) with different intensities of running.
Neuromuscular training is done through running as well as cross training. Weight training, plyometrics, specific types of hill training, form drills and flexibility work are examples of neuromuscular training.
Efficiency is the Name of the Game
The Core Running method works at developing your neuromuscular capabilities first and then working on your physiological training.
Running as with any endurance activity, is all about using as little energy as you possible to go as fast as you can for the given distance.
If you have muscles that are too tight or too weak (not being activated) you'll be using more energy than you need to run. Since the muscular system determines the load on the cardiovascular and pulmonary system (the heart and lungs), you'll run with a higher heart rate, have a lower lactate threshold and fatigue quicker.
By correcting common running muscle imbalances, you'll improve your biomechanics and thereby improve your running efficiency. This means for a given pace, you'll run with a lower heart rate and be able to run longer at that pace or run a given distance faster at the same heart rate.
After you've laid a base of neuromuscular training, you can begin working on your physiological training. Of course, any time you run you are training your physiology but during this foundation phase most of your running will be at a comfortable pace while you work on your form and technique.
You won't worry about trying to improve your VO2 max or your lactate threshold. You'll be running primarily in you aerobic zone, training your body to burn fat for fuel as you improve your running efficiency.