Run for your Life! Can Running Help Define your Abs?

Woman athlete running on country road early in morning. Fitness woman sprinting outdoors.

This is a guest post by my friend Sohaib Karim

Can running help you define your abs? Short answer, not only can it help, but cardio is a major contributor in your journey to the chiseled, defined, washboard abs of your dreams.

Unfortunately for most of us, the abs are the hardest part of the body to tone and develop. When people are stressed, the body automatically stores fat in the midsection. Additionally, our poor posture also makes our abdominal muscles lazy and makes your abs turn to flab.

We all know someone (or are the someone) who does crunches and sit-ups religiously in hopes of getting the coveted six-pack. However, doing crunches and sit-ups alone is not a very effective way to develop your abs. To really achieve the holy grail of fitness, you need to integrate cardio with the very best ab workouts. Running is the gold standard of cardio exercises.

Why should you run for Fab Abs?

While any strenuous activity that increases your heart rate and keeps it up constantly for any extent of time is considered a cardiovascular exercise, running is the most easily accomplished? It doesn’t need any special gear or equipment, and you can basically run anywhere.

Running has many benefits for your health in addition to the promise of fabulous abs. Running can increase your lung capacity, improve the strength of your heart muscles, burn fat, reduce excess weight, and just all around improve your mood thanks to all the released endorphins. Running also strengthens your back, which helps your stability. However, most people usually don’t realize the effect running has on your core.

Running makes your core stronger.

Your core or abdominal muscles are comprised of the rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, and transverse abdominis. We need to work all four muscles to get the perfect abs, and running activates all four of them at the same time. The transverse abdominis, which is the hardest to work, is located the deepest. The best exercise that actively targets the transverse abdominis is running.

To add an additional level to strengthen your core, even more, suck in your belly button in towards your spine without holding your breath. This will help you keep your core tight as you run and give you a nice definition to the side of your abdominals.

Running burns fat.

Running increases blood circulation, which helps burn excess fat in your body. The additional blood flow to your abdomen breaks the fat cells in your body that are covering your abdominal muscles. Cardiovascular exercise is essential to eliminate the layer of fat around your abdomen, as well as exercises to tone.

How frequently should I run?

If you are running with the intention and hopes to tone your midsection, you are advised to run at least five times a week for about 20 minutes each.  Just ensure that, like any other form of cardio, you run at alternating speeds so you can give your body the intervals it needs to optimize the cardio.

Can running alone be enough?

Running works all the muscles simultaneously. By virtue of having all your muscles targeted, your body burns fat. Running gives your entire body a great strength and endurance workout. But while running is excellent to take care of the conditioning aspect of toning, you must supplement your running by pairing it with exercises that will help you develop and increase your core strength. With a combination of cardio and targeted ab workouts, your belly will look defined quicker.

Can running hurt my bones and joints?

Running is a high impact exercise. When you run, your spine naturally flexes because of its high impact nature. Every time your spine flexes or bends forward slightly, your abdominal muscles have a small contraction. It is important to engage your transverse abdominis, as it offsets bending forward of the spine and prevents your spine from getting injured.

Joint health should also be a consideration when you start running. Running can potentially bruise your bones or damage your joints if your joint health is not great. Before starting any running regimen, it is important to focus on joint mobility and flexibility. You must stretch before your running so that your muscles are warmed up and ready to go for the physical endurance feat that is running. Stretching and warming up decreases the chances of injury significantly.  You should aim to stretch for about 10 minutes daily regardless of whether you plan on running that day or not.

The fact that running is a healthy activity is no secret. Running can, in fact, enhance and extend your life span by many years. Whether you choose to run to get in your daily cardio, for pleasure, to deal with stress, or for the myriad of health benefits of running, running is a great addition to your daily routine.