My Running Story + Runner’s Core Workout

Bonjour mes amis,

runningAs mentioned in one of my posts, running a half marathon is on my list of fitness to-do’s for this year. I’m honestly quite nervous about this whole ordeal. I first started running while I was studying abroad in Paris in Fall 2010, mostly because I had gotten into the habit of working out and couldn’t afford a gym in France. I had never run any real distance (as in, I had not run for more than the bus) before I got to Europe so I was amazed to see the progress that I had made during the semester. By the time that I left Paris in January 2011, I was able to run continuously for about an hour and 10 minutes or about 6-7 miles. I continued running during my spring semester in Rome and it soon came to be so much more than just a means to stay in shape. It was a new way for me to experience all of the places that I was visiting. Whenever I took trips to other cities, I made sure to go for at least one run. I usually got lost but that was all a part of the fun. As an urban studies person, it was interesting for me to see how the city and its people responded to runners. Some, like Paris, were super runner-friendly no matter if you were on the streets, along the Seine or running loops around the Eiffel, while others, like Rome, were less friendly to running on sidewalks and pedestrian areas and preferred runners to stay in designated areas such as parks or along the Tiber. When I got back to Chicago for the summer, it was amazing to see how my neighborhood, a working class black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, responded to me running. Quite contrary to what one might think, I always felt very safe and even supported as people would often offer encouraging words as I ran by them (after they got over the initial shock of someone running recreationally in the neighborhood). As people got used to me, running helped me carve a space for myself in a neighborhood where I was, despite having grown up there, an outsider.

For me, running has always been heavily wrapped up in these kinds of experiences and so for a long time I had absolutely no desire to run an organized race. Though I often enjoyed challenging myself and doing a few intervals here and there, running was still a very leisurely thing for me. I acknowledged the fitness aspect of it, which was important, but it was also a time for me to take in my surrounding and escape into a different mental space. Between coming back from being abroad and now, my relationship to running has definitely shifted. Being in Williamstown, with its winters, and then in Manila, with its pollution, running soon fell out of my routine aside from a few bouts on the treadmill as part of a workout. Since my move to LA, however, I’ve opened myself back up to it and ran my first 10K last November as a way of “staking my claim” to the city. Though it was only a “fun run,” I did enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that came with completing it. It wasn’t so much about running on that day, or even the feeling of running in the moment, as it was having set a goal a few months before and seen it through. As cheesy as it sounds, I’ve come to see running as a metaphor for the different struggles that life brings. It is rare these days that I feel as I did when I was running abroad. While I sometimes escape into a calm mental place, most of the time I’m preoccupied with regulating my breathing and form as not to injure myself. Though LA can be scenic, it isn’t often that its beauty overshadows the physical stress to which my body is being subjected to which I am subjecting my body when I run(gotta own it!). Given what I just described, I’m sure you’re all wondering why I would ever run again let alone sign up for 13.1 miles of torture. Even though I don’t enjoy every second of running in the moment, it constantly reminds me of how strong I am. There are so many moments where I want to quit, so many inclines that I want to walk, so many things that could discourage me but I know that once I’m completed my run for the day, these small challenges will be ever so distant. In the moment they seem incredible but if I just push through for 30 seconds or a minute, it’ll be over, I’ll feel awesome and I’ll forget it even happened.


When I think back on my life (all whopping 23 years of it!) I realized that there have been so many moments that I thought would break me (cough, cough, senior thesis) and yet, I’m here to tell the tale. While those moments might have stretched days, weeks, or months, in the grand scheme of things, they were just like that 30 seconds to a minute when I have to push up a hill. All I have now are the accomplishments and I can’t remember what the discouragement felt like. Running on the regular is a consistent reminder of the fact that I will make it. Sometimes “making it” might look a little different, and less glamorous, than I had imagined but like the homie Gloria Gaynor said, “I will survive.”

Yeah yeah. Enough of the mushy stuff. On to the workout!

Runner’s Core Workout

So I actually didn’t intend to go into that whole spiel when I started this post but I got into a flow. I initially just wanted to tell you guys that I’m training for the La Jolla half marathon taking place at the end of April. I started training on Monday after having done that insane urban hike on Saturday and spinning on Sunday, so naturally, my legs were mad at me on Tuesday. Since core strength is key to any runner’s success, I designed this workout to be a nice blend of cardio and core work while being easy on the legs. It’s about 30 minutes from start to finish. Should get your heart pumping and your core burning on the days when your legs are not havin’ it.

Set an interval timer for 9 rounds of 40 seconds on / 20 seconds off. Follow each set with 1 minute of either jump rope or jumping jacks. Complete 3-4 sets.

  1. High Knees
  2. Push-up to Cross Climber
  3. Elbow plank
  4. Medicine ball leg drops
  5. Mountain Climbers
  6. Star crunches
  7. Plank Jack to Tuck
  8. Side Chop (one side)
  9. Side Chop (other side)
  10. 1 minutes cardio
  • High Knees – Stand with feet hip distance apart and arms down at your sides. Begin jumping your knees up and down in an exaggerated running motion. Keep your core tight and use your lower abs to bring your knees in closer towards your chest. Pump your arms up and down as fast as you can.
  • Elbow Plank – Position your body in a low plank position so that you forearms are on the ground and your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Squeeze you abs (even the lower part!) and press back through your heels to keep your body elevated and prevent slumping into your shoulders. Hold for 40 seconds.
  • Medicine Ball Leg Drops – Lay on your back with a medicine ball or dumbbell held above your head. Raise your legs up towards the ceiling, keeping your thighs and feet together and your lower back pressed into the floor. Slowly lower your legs as far down as you can without your lower back arching. Make sure to squeeze through your lower abs and glutes. Once you feel your lower back coming up from the floor, slowly bring your begs back up. Repeat for 40 seconds.
  • Mountain Climbers – Get into a high plank position with wrists, elbows, and shoulders aligned with feet hip distance apart. Bring your right knee up towards your chest, keeping your core tight and crunching with every move. Repeat with the left knee. Alternate back and forth as fast you can. Hips should remain low throughout the exercise just as they would in a plank (not a pike!).
  • Star Crunches – Lay on your back with your arms up over your head in a slight V shape and your legs a little wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your arms and legs as straight as possible, squeeze our core and crunch up, touching your left foot with your right fingertips. Lower back down to the floor and repeat on the other side by bringing your right foot to your left fingertips. Repeat for 40 seconds.
  • Plank Jack to Tuck – Position your body in a high plank (feet together with wrists, elbows and shoulders in line). Jump your feet out wide and then jump them back together. Then squeeze your core and jump your feet in towards your chest, keeping your palms flat on the groud. Jump feet back out into high plank and repeat.
  • Side Chop (one side) – Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width a part and a slight bend in your knees. You can hold on to a weight or medicine ball or simply press your palms together. Reach hands or weight up on a diagonal above your head towards the right side of your body, pivoting your left foot so that it is turned inward. Right foot remains stable and straight ahead. As you pivot your left foot back towards the front, chop your hands (or weight) down to the outside of your left hip. Make sure your core is tight so that you feel the twist in your torso. Bring hands or weight back up and to the right above your head and repeat.
  • Side Chop (other side) – Reverse sides.



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