Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

Training the Glutes & Core

Those of you who read my posts regularly will know I have a bit of an obsession with my lazy arse! My glutes, to be more precise. They’ve been causing me issues and leading to untold pain and injuries almost since I took up running, 18 months ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but the glutes and core support your form when you’re running and stop your body doing silly things that cause niggles. A strong core and glutes can quite literally solve all, and it has for me.

Whilst on my #MissionMarathon training camp in the Algarve, with 2:09 Events, Running With Us, Run Lounge, Saucony and High5, I was lucky enough to have some one to one time with personal trainer and elite marathon runner, Jenny Jagger. She gave me some additional pointers to add to my previous post on glutes, Awakening Your Hibernating Heinie, and I’ve added them into my routine, they’re great! So take a look and squeeze a few in a couple of times a week to really get those glute firing and that core strong.

Alternate Leg Raises
Leg Raise
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet on the floor. Pinning your lower abs to the floor, by keeping your back firmly down (no arching), place your hands lightly on your lower abs if needs be to ensure that they’re engaged, have legs bent and raise each leg slowly, individually, and then back down. Sounds easy, becomes quite killer. 3 sets of 20 on each leg should really get the lower abs working.

Lie on your back with legs bent and feet on the floor. Squeeze your glutes first then lift your hips up, keeping your glutes strong and your tummy tight. If you can feel it in your lower back then you need to work the glutes more. Control the tempo up and down, so you’re taking a good few seconds to raise the hips, hold them, then bring them back down. Maybe 15 seconds in all. Try 3 sets of 10, building up the frequency as you get better at it.

Advance to Glute Bridge with Leg Raises
Bridge leg raise
You can then advance this to raising your leg, once you have the stability in your core and glutes.

Alternate Supermans
Lie on your front with arms and legs out straight. Draw your belly button towards your spine, and with your glutes and core muscles engaged, extend your opposite leg and arm (left arm, at the same time as right leg, and vice versa). Hold for 10 seconds then carefully lower down. Repeat this 10 times on each side for 3 sets.

Prone Cobra
Prone Cobra
This one works your lower back and shoulders. Again, lying on your front with arms and legs out straight, squeeze your glutes, raise shoulders (keep looking down so as not to strain your neck) and rotate thumbs outward so that you can feel your shoulder blades squeezing together. Hold for a couple of seconds and release carefully, going back to the start position. Do this maybe 5 times per set as your lower back may fatigue until you build the strenth in the muscles needed to support this one.

Front Plank
Easy Plank
I think we all know (and most of us hate) the plank, but it works, so we need to do it. I’ve included a slightly more supported and a more advanced version. In both just make sure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders, your glutes are squeezed and your back is straight. No bum in the air or hanging around lower than your waist. Push back through your heels and keep your glutes and core muscles tight. If you’re new to this, try for 15-20 seconds and work your way upwards.

Side Plank
Easy Side Plank
Side Plank
Again there’s a slightly more basic and advanced versions here. Same principle applies, make sure your elbow is directly under your shoulder, and your glutes and core muscles are engaged. Remember to do this on both sides and try from 15 seconds, working for longer if you can.

Crab Walk (with stretchy band)
Crab walk
This was a new one to me and is actually harder than it looks (although that might just be me and my lazy muscles!) Use the band (can be a resistance band or any other stretchy type gym equipment band that’ll do the trick) as per the picture and, holding on tight, just side step your right leg to the right, and bring your left leg to meet it, and keep going. Keep yourself upright and your glutes engaged. When you reach the wall (or have done 8-10 times one way) then head back the other way. It hurts more than it looks, I swear, and it does wonders!

To support these exercises, and stretch out the lazy muscles after a run, Jenny and I discussed our favourite glute based stretches. Here you go…

Piriformis Stretch
piriformis stretch Fold your right leg underneath you with your knee under your shoulder and the other leg outstretched behind you. Bringing your body down in front of you, as much as you can, you should feel the stretch in the top of the glute and hip. Change legs to do the other side. I always do this for about 45 seconds cos I love it!

Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch
Start on both knees and lunge one leg forward to a 90 degree angle, with your knee no further forward than your angle. Engage your glutes and push through your hip to feel the stretch. Hold it for 30-45 seconds and repeat on the other side.

So, there you have it, my glute and core crash course from Jenny.

Let me know how you get on with it.

Wishing you buns of steel and washboard stomachs!



#MissionMarathon in the Algarve: Day 7

Day 7

Medium length run. Last day and I’m exhausted! We’ve lived like athletes and trained like athletes this week, and I’ve loved it. Heading over for an early run I’d been told to do 60-70 minutes. I set off at a good pace and was feeling pretty comfortable running at marathon pace for the first couple of miles. Then the heat and fatigue caught up with me as we got into the orange groves. That and a slight hip niggle that had just come on. My well paced running partner, James, advised me to stop for a bit and walk, which we did, whilst recounting stories of the trip and keeping our mind off the ever increasing heat and the miles to go! Picking the pace back up, we made it round the orange groves and back to the hotel at a good pace in the end. Well deserved final breakfast in the hotel!

6 Miles

Running drills. Tom went back over the running drills we’d learnt earlier in the week, focusing on foot strike, cadence, posture and stride. To my amazement, It came to me a lot easier than it had the first time. I’d definitely been putting a lot in to practice and my feet felt lighter and quicker during the drills.

Relays. Over at the Cross Country track we found an equally paced partner for some speedy relay work. The ‘lap’, we were assured, was around 400m. James and I paired up and he set off up the slight incline while I waited for him to return, with the words of our trainer, Tom, echoing in my ears “don’t hit it too hard, you don’t want an injury after all this hard work”….so when James returned, I did what I always do, went off fast! It actually worked out OK and I completed my lap at a decent fast interval pace….I have no idea how these marathon runners complete 26 miles at a pace faster than that, I did a few 400m sprints and was struggling to breathe!

1 mile


And that’s it. All our training sessions done. I’m proud to say that the whole #MissionMarathon team have made it through the week giving everything their all. We’ve all been challenged, we’ve learnt, progressed, laughed and ached. The people we have been around have been have been so inspiring, each and every one, and I’ve learnt from every single person here.

All of the coaches from Running With Us, the yoga and pilates instructors, the physio and medical experts, Mike Gratton & Bruce Tullah, have been incredible. Their knowledge, experience and skills are just out of this world and I am so privileged to have learnt from these amazing people.

This is an experience I’ll never forget and I’ll definitely be back for years to come.




I’ve done a little RunLounge post on inspiration & self belief. Check it out here

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#MissionMarathon in the Algarve: Days 5 & 6

Day 5

Early recovery run in the orange groves. The recovery run after the long run was as you can imagine…slow and pretty painful! James & I ran together at a little faster than easy pace, comparing which parts of us hurt the most! The scenery is so beautiful it helps you to forget the pain. I’ve definitely decided I’ll mix up my routes a bit and maybe even drive to some more picturesque places to inspire me on easy runs.

4.5 miles

Core session. A spectacular hour on the grass woth Jenny focusing on core exercises. I’m going to do a seperate blog post all about this as it was enlightening.

Steady run. With the opportunity to do track or another steady run, I opted for the latter, as I knew we had the Falesia 5k the next morning. Another trip passed the honey farm and on to the orange groves at a steady pace with James. We managed to bust out a marathon pace mile in the middle and an easy jog back. Still feeling quite fragile, we had a laugh and started to psych each other up for the 5k in the morning.

3.4 miles

Day 6

The Falesia 5k. We all met early for buffet breakfast…it’s quite funny watching runners battle with a) eating the right thing before a race when there’s soooooo much on offer, and b) not eat too much when the supply is theoretically endless! After breakfast we walked towards the start area. We had no idea of the route, having just been informed “it’s undulating”!!

When we got there we realised they hadnt been lying. The course was a 3 lap sqaurish loop with 2 uphills, 1 downhill and a straight. Doesn’t seem very fair does it!?! I had my Mirage 4 trainers on, nice and light, and my bright Saucony vest and capri shorts. Ready to go. We were ushered towards the start and we were off.

As always in these situations, I went off too fast but managed to keep up eith a few other ladies in the group. The downhill and straight were fine and I picked up my cadence on the uphills. Some spectacular cheering from the crowds and coaches really helped. My pace dropped slightly on the next lap. The uphills took their toll on me. I was working hard and my lungs knew about it! The final lap and even my downhill was poor, but I picked it up across the straight and, knowing the coaches would be on the uphill, hit the incline strong and fast. Everyone lining the route was amazing at getting us all home, and I finished 51 seconds slower then my ParkRun PB set last year. Surprising it was exactly what I predicted, 25 minutes, and I was pretty nonplussed!

It was never gonna be a PB in that heat, with those hills, after over 50 miles in a 5 days, 3 weeks before my marathon! But it was a flippin good run.

3.05 miles

My #MissionMarathon teammates were amazing, did great runs and cheered me on. Super proud of us all. We had a nice bonding team stretch afterwards too, with a few giggles thrown in.


And that’s it for today! I feel lazy just doing 3 miles today, but got to look after these legs, they’ve got a huge amount of miles to get me round in the next few weeks and I need them to be tip top!

I’ve got a chat with my coach later and maybe some core or strength work too.

1 more day left, how sad…I could get used to the life of an althete, especially out here! I’m off to look for a cupboard to hide in so that I can stay..!


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#MissionMarathon in the Algarve: Days 3 & 4


Day 3

Early walk on the beach. After a chat with the trainers and with the long run in mind, I had the morning off the early run. As advised, I had a nice recovery walk on the beach. My legs felt tired from the track session, and I really wanted to give the treshold running my all in the afternoon. So I donned my Saucony visor and trudged along the sand. I always forget how tough this is on the legs,  so I felt good that I’d done a decent workout too.

1.71 miles

Drills. Next, the guys from Running With Us spent an hour with us teaching us various drills to correct our posture and foot strike. All of the footage will be on the RunLouge website soon so check it out. Its really helpful for hip angle, foot strike, cadence, speed and even injury prevention.

Cross Country Thresholds. We were introduced to the undulating cross country course, hilly, sandy and not very shaded. Our instruction, 5 x 5 minutes at threshold speed,  90 second rest. Well I tell you, I’m admittedly the worst at keeping my own pace and not trying to keep up with others, so obviously I took off too fast! I was glad I was in the light fabric of the Saucony garments and that I’d worn my stable Guide 7 trainers. I was overheating and struggling for breath by the 3rd interval, but the coaches helped to talk me round the 4th one with some excellent advice, then advised I didnt try the last one! I gratefully downed an entire bottle of High 5 Zero and we headed back, knowing the next run was long run…..argh!

2.59 miles

Day 4

Long Run (dum dum duuuuuur!). For some reason, the entire camp had been anxious about the long run. It was right in the middle of the 7 days, and it sort of seemed like the peak of the week, it was the longest run for many and was going to be tough in unpracticed heat. The tension was clear. We were setting off at 7:30, too early for the buffet breakfast,  so we all got up early and tucked into oats. Armed with a map, a rough idea of the area and a pacer, we set off for the 5km loop.


We’d had time with the coaches and were all tackling it slightly differently.  I had an easy run out to the loop, 1 easy lap, 1 marathon pace (MP) lap, another easy and another MP, before an easy 4 miles home. As I’m running the marathon in them, I was in my Guide 7 trainers,  capri shorts and Saucony vest, with 6 High 5 gels and water.


The 4 miles out went to plan and I set off on the first easy 5km loop. Well I tell you, I train in a hilly area, I’ve done trail racing, but this hill at the beginning of the loop was something else.  Long, steep and winding. Oh and we got to do it 4 times! The first easy and MP laps went well and fuelling was good, the second easy lap slowed down a bit too much and I wondered how I was going to get round another MP lap, but seeing Ryan finish his 4th lap as I finished my 3rd spurred me on to push it hard,  and I did. I saw the coaches on the way round who shouted words of encouragement,  and some of the other camp members who were not running as far. I steamed back round the final lap (slightly less steam on the hills!) and carried on home. 

After a loooooong stretch I stood up to my calves in the freezing pool…perfect! My muscles ached but I felt good. Comfy, accomplished and very very warm!!

We’d done it! Completed the long run, the pinacle of the week, and lived to tell the tale!

19 miles

I sought out some Ben & Jerrys (shhhhh!) and am now having a well deserved lie down…legs raised!

Day 5 has a recovery run and a track session, on very weary legs….wish me luck!!


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#MissionMarathon in the Algarve: Days 1 & 2

So, here we are! The team have arrived in the Algarve. It’s hot, it’s full of althetes and I’m buzzing! It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve got the perfect Saucony kit, the most comfotable Saucony trainers and all the High 5 nutrition I need…let’s get going!

Day 1

Easy run along the trail and cliff top. To get us acclimatised to the heat and the terrain, we went for a short run along the trail from the hotel and back along the cliff top. As well as the gorgeous scenery and idyllic weather the Guide 7 trainers held up perfectly on the terrain and (obviously) looked amazing! It was the first time I’d had the opportunity to use the fantastic warm weather gear from Saucony and the shorts and vest top were perfect, and I had lots of comments on how good they looked. So, I look the part, feel the part, I’m in the right place and surrounded by the pro’s….all I have to do now is run the part!

4.61 miles

Day 2

Easy run to marina. To wake up the legs and get us properly pumped for the day, we took a track and road route to the marina. Still unsure of the terrain, I wore my trusty Guide 7 shoes, Saucony shorts and vest (when in the Algarve…!) It was a great but challenging run in the heat, you don’t realise how quickly the sun rises and heats up the whole place. But it was great and I felt comfortable and ready for the afternoon ahead..!

5.96 miles

Track 10×400. So this is a session I’ve never done before. Not been on a track since school, I do all of my interval sessions on the road. So even just being on the track made me feel like a pro. I wore the Mirage 4 trainers for their first outing and they performed fantastically. So light and comfy and (in my opinion) perfect for the track. The session was so hard but my recovery was fast and so rewarding. Later found out I was keeping up with some extremely encouraging 3:30 marathon runners (all be it in a bit of a panting state!) I felt invincible afterwards.

4.12 miles

Loving it so much so far, wait to see what’s coming up next (clue: it includes my longest long run so far, in this heat…oh, and I’m quite scared as to how it’s going to go..!)

Running love from Portugal


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