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A sore back can be a discouraging thing to face as a runner–while you’d love to get out and log some miles, recurrent back pain can be extremely limiting. The jury is out on what, exactly, gives runners achy backs, and it’s probably unique to each person. Maybe you had back issues before you began running, you’re struggling with running form, or you are facing some muscle imbalances.

A study published in pain-in-runners”>Scientific American determined that runners with sore backs often had weaker deep core muscles. Whatever the cause of your pain, there are a few exercises you can do to become an all-around stronger, pain-free runner with a healthy, mobile spine.

Glute bridges

Glute bridges engage the glutes and hamstrings, which play a significant role in maintaining proper hip alignment (helping with both structural tolerance and form) during running.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes at the top. Lower down and repeat for 12 to 15 reps, pausing at the top of the pose and holding your glute bridge for longer once you gain strength.

Planks

We all know and love planks (or we should!). Planks target the core muscles and helping to improve stability and support for the spine.

Start by holding a plank position on your forearms and toes, ensuring your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Hold for 20-30 seconds, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable.

Cat-cow stretches

This yoga-inspired stretch helps to align the spine and mobilize it, while giving the back muscles a great stretch.

Start on your hands and knees and arch your back like a cat (rounding the spine), then drop your belly towards the floor while lifting your head and tailbone (cow pose). Repeat this movement for eight to 10 rounds, pausing at each end of the stretch to take a few breaths or add some gentle side-to-side movement.

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Even if you’re on board with adding these exercises to your pre or post-run routine, it is always a great idea to check in with a medical practitioner when you’re experiencing back pain, and very important to do so if pain worsens or isn’t alleviated after a few days’ rest.

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