The core might be easy to overlook when it comes to running, but remember it is still the key stabilizer for your whole body. That's why it is important to hit the core as part of your running regimen. Here's how you can do it:

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Like all runners, Whitney Lasseter had often experienced butterflies before races. But the first time she entered the Caliente Bare Dare 5K, she hid behind her car until just moments before the start.

That's because the runners in this Florida event compete nude, except for their shoes and the occasional GPS watch.

"I didn't want everyone to see me naked,” says Lasseter (pictured) who ended up winning among the women and who won again the next year. "There were people there I see at regular races -- actual people who I knew. But I just kind of got the nerve up and went out and did it."

More runners are getting up the nerve to run naked, in a growing number of clothing-optional runs -- nearly 30 of them, nationwide -- that are beginning to emerge from beneath the radar.

MORE from Runner’s World: Should Men Wear Shirts When Running Races?

There's even a National Championship of Nude Running and a 5K Nude Racing Series, consisting of five runs in Texas and Oklahoma, organized by the American Association for Nude Recreation, with another circuit proposed for Florida. And what is apparently the first-in-the-nation naked obstacle race debuted in Burlington, Wisconsin, in June.

"Of course, there's no razor wire or anything like that to catch on dangly bits,” says Rich Gilbreath, director of the new race called Mud, Sweat, and Boobs.

Most of these runs are held at nudist resorts or on other private property, but they’re increasingly attracting runners with no experience of nudism who want to try something different.

MORE from Runner’s World: Three Workouts to Increase Pain Tolerance

"There's no question there's a bucket-list mentality to this," says Pete Williams, director of the Caliente Bare Dare 5K, at the upscale Caliente Resort in Land O’Lakes, Florida. This year's race, held in May, attracted a record 312 runners from 25 states. Williams also directs the Streak the Cove 5K in Kissimmee, Florida, in September.

“We get a lot of top runners from around Florida” for the run, Williams says. The course records are a respectable 15:49 and 19:29 for men and women, respectively.

There are some things about these races that differ from conventional events. Participants are allowed to remain anonymous, with results often posted only by first name and last initial, for example. Many are not timed.

But other features are surprisingly similar. Tourist agencies in places like Pasco County, Florida, encourage the nude runs there because of the business they bring in. And, yes, you often get a T-shirt.

MORE from Runner's World: Tips for Your First Race

What is purportedly the oldest of these clothing-optional events celebrates its 30th anniversary July 27: The USATF-sanctioned Bare Buns Fun Run in Deer Lake, Washington.

So many more have started up since then that some have added new traditions to distinguish themselves. The Color Me Bare run, for instance, in Los Gatos, California, features "paint throwers" who cover the naked runners with a mix of corn starch and powdered tempera along the course.

“More and more people are discovering the pleasure of being outdoors without clothes on,” says Cindy Gregory, special events coordinator for the Lupin Lodge resort, where the race debuted in May with about 60 runners. “They’d always wanted to participate in a nude run and thought this was a great way to do it.”

Many runners with no experience of nudism find they like the idea, and stick around for clothing-optional ice-cream socials, barbecues, live music, and other events that follow, organizers of these competitions say.

“It was interesting to talk to the people who had never done it before. They had a blast. They never put their clothes back on,” says Gilbreath, of Mud, Sweat, and Boobs, which was followed by a roasted turkey cookout.

MORE from Runner’s World: Running in the Heat

That was different from their attitudes before the event, he says. "They’re just so nervous. They ask us things like, 'Should I wear shoes?'" (The answer, at most of the races, is yes.)

"It's a great introduction to nudism," says Ashley Beahan, spokeswoman for the American Association for Nude Recreation. "You don't have to worry about clothes bunching. It's a free feeling. It’s more relaxing, exciting."

There’s at least one conventional event, run in public, in which naked participants compete: San Francisco’s annual Bay to Breakers 12K. They use what they call the “Bare to Breakers” event to advocate for nudism.

After years of trying to keep them out, Bay to Breakers officials now tolerate the demonstrators, and the city lifts its ban on public nakedness for them, as long as the naked runners wear an official bib around their necks, a spokeswoman says.

Although they all say they’ve heard the jokes and puns, clothing-optional run organizers say they stand for something serious: Body acceptance.

"Until you get out there, you don't really understand it," says John Waldron, who organizes the Hidden River 5K in St. George, Georgia, and is trying to start a nude running series in the Southeast like the one in the Southwest.

MORE from Runner's World: Let's Keep It Real About Our Bodies

Lasseter, who no longer hides behind her car before the start of naked races, will likely sign up.

"Everybody always asks me, 'How do you even do that? Isn't everything flopping around? Is it uncomfortable?’ For me, it’s not. It's really free,” she says.

In fact, Lasseter says, she ran her 5K PR of 20:06 at the Caliente Bare Dare.

"I always make the joke, I have less drag. I'm way more aerodynamic with no clothes on," she says. "Once I did it once, it was so much fun, and every fear I had just went away."

After all, she says, “We were born naked. Our bodies were designed to be naked. So when we’re doing an activity like that, it’s not about our bodies. It’s our minds we have to tell to shut up."

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As you might suspect from the title, the movie 4 Minute Mile is about running. Kelly Blatz plays the talented but troubled youth who needs guidance and structure from the older and wiser coach (Richard Jenkins).

Kim Basinger and Analeigh Tipton also star in the movie, which is available via iTunes and hits theaters August 1.

Here is a clip in which Jenkins pushes Blatz, who does all the running in the movie without the benefit of a stunt double, to test his limits:

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It is one of the biggest muscles in the body, but the derriere is often overlooked, which can lead to injury trouble. Take every precaution to get your body ready for a successful and safe run.

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Most runners do not spend enough time preparing a very important part of their lower body, specifically the shins. Find out how you can get your shins ready for a run to prevent injury down the road.

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Even for seasoned racers, the days before a race can be stressful. With all the hope and hard work that you’ve invested in your goal event, you want to arrive at the starting line feeling calm, healthy, and ready to run your best. Here are a few reminders to keep you on track in the critical days and hours before the starting gun fires, and to help you recover after you cross the finish line.

THE WEEK BEFORE THE RACE

Stop stressing. 5Ks and 10Ks are hugely positive community events. You get to spend a morning with strangers cheering you on, feeding you and offering water, and celebrating doing something healthy for yourself. Everyone fears that they’ll be last, but don’t worry. In all likelihood, you won’t be. People with a very wide range of abilities and levels of fitness do 5Ks, and many people just go to walk them from start to finish.

PLUS: What to Do a Week Before Your Race

Cover the route beforehand. If you can, work out on the route where the race will take place so you can get familiar with where you’ll need to push and where you can cruise. Finding the race start beforehand will prevent you from getting lost on race morning!

Eat what works for you. Your best bet is to eat whatever has worked best for you -- that's given you a boost without upsetting your stomach—during your regular weekday runs. Don’t eat anything heavy within two hours of the race. A smoothie containing fruit and yogurt is always a good choice because it gives you a good balance of carbs and protein but not too much fiber (which could cause GI distress).

Get ready the night before. Lay out your gear and get as much sleep as possible -- aim for eight hours.

THE DAYS BEFORE THE RACE

Don't do anything new. Race week isn't the time to try new shoes, new food or drinks, new gear, or anything else you haven't used on several workouts. Stick with the routine that works for you.

Get off your feet. In the days before you race, try to stay off your feet as much as possible. Relax, and leave the lawn mowing or shopping or sightseeing for after the race.

Graze, don’t chow down. Rather than devouring a gigantic bowl of pasta the night before the race, which could upset your stomach, try eating carbs in small increments throughout the day before the race.

Put your hands on your bib. The night before the race, lay out your clothes, and if you have your bib, fasten it on. That’s the one thing you need at the starting line. Don’t show up without it!

FIND OUT: Are You Wearing the Right Shoes for Your Feet?

RACE DAY

Limit your sipping. Yes, you need to stay hydrated, but no major drinking 30 minutes before the gun; sip if your mouth is dry or it’s particularly hot out. Some athletes will take a mouthful and use it as a rinse and spit. Your best bet is to stay hydrated throughout the day. Aim for half your body weight in ounces. So for instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces of calorie-free fluids like water each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, aim for 80 ounces per day.

Arrive early. Get to the race at least one hour before the start so you’ll have time to pick up your number (if you don’t already have it), use the porta potty, and warm up. You don’t want to be running to the starting line.

Identify yourself. Put your name, address, cell phone number, bib number, and e-mail address clearly on your race bib, or better yet, use a RoadID, which you can wear on your wrist or shoe.

Bring a trash bag. A heavy-duty trash bag can provide a nice seat so you don’t have to plop down on wet grass. If it’s raining at the start, you can use the trash bag as a raincoat.

BEWARE: Avoid the 8 Common Race Day Mistakes

Bring extra tissue. The only thing worse than waiting in a long porta potty line is getting to the front and realizing that there’s nothing to wipe with.

Don’t overdress. It will probably be cool at the start, but don’t wear more clothing than you need. Dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is outside. To stay warm at the start, you may want to bring (expendable) clothes that you can throw off after you warm up.

Set at least two goals. Set one goal for a perfect race and another as a backup in case it’s hot, it’s windy, or it’s just not your day. If something makes your first goal impossible halfway through the race, you’ll need another goal to motivate you to finish strong. And it’s best to set a third goal that has nothing to do with your finishing time. This performance goal could be something like finishing, running up the hills rather than walking them, or eating the right foods at the right time and successfully avoiding GI distress!

Fix it sooner, not later. If your shoelace is getting untied, or you start to chafe early in the race, take care of it before it becomes a real problem later in the race.

RELATED: Top 10 Newbie Training Tips

Line up early. You don’t want to be rushing to the starting line, so don’t wait for the last call to get there.

Start slow, and stay even. Run the first 10 percent of the race slower than you normally would, with the idea that you’ll finish strong. Don’t try to “bank” time by going out faster than your goal pace. If you do that, you risk burning out early. Try to keep an even pace throughout the race, and save your extra energy for the final stretch to the finish.

AFTER THE RACE

Keep moving. Get your medal and keep walking for at least 10 minutes to fend off stiffness and gradually bring your heart rate back to its resting state. Be sure to do some of these postrace recovery stretches to stretch out your legs, back, and hips.

Refuel. There are usually snacks at the finish line, but what the race provides may not sit well with you. To recover quickly, bring a snack with a combination of protein to rebuild muscles and healthy carbs to restock your energy stores. Consume it within 30 minutes of finishing the race. You might try a sports recovery drink, energy bar, or other packaged food that won’t spoil, spill, or get ruined in transit.

RELATED: The 9 Golden Rules of Recovery

Get warm. Change out of the clothes you ran in, and get into dry clothes as soon as possible. After you cross the finish line, your core temperature will start to drop fast, and keeping sweaty clothes on will make you cold.

The next day, get going. As sore as you might feel the day after the race, it’s important to do some sort of nonimpact activity like swimming, cycling, or working out on the elliptical trainer. The movement will increase circulation to your sore muscles and help you bounce back sooner. Just keep the effort level easy.

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A workout is no good if it ends up leaving you in worse shape. That can happen, particularly in the summer heat, if you're not smart about planning for favorable conditions.

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Elite runners have the luxury of hiring specialists to massage their feet. For those without such a support staff for their maintenance, getting the beneficial effects of a foot massage is still possible -- and budget friendly. All you need is a baseball or golf ball. See how it is done:

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A new study provides the first research-backed injury-prevention advice for beginning runners: Start very, very slowly. And if you are substantially overweight, consider losing weight first.
Every runner worries about injuries. With time, most learn how to bob and weave through the semi-regular muscle soreness, and the less-frequent-but-more-worrisome sharp pains.

Beginning runners, however, don't have the experience to cope. Just when they're getting started on a program intended to improve their health and fitness, an injury often puts them on the sidelines. They might never get going again.

That’s why a group of Danish researchers organized the DANO-RUN project several years ago: They wanted to find ways to help novice runners avoid injury.

Their newest report, published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, is the first study to focus on the first three weeks of training among beginning runners. It found that individuals with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 have a significantly increased risk of injury, and that the risk rises dramatically when these individuals run more than two miles in their first week.

The study included 749 beginning runners (average age: mid-30s) who were all given the same pair of running shoes, but were not told how to train. As a result, in their first seven days, they ran anywhere from 400 meters to 18 miles. For statistical analysis, the researchers placed them into three groups: less than 2 miles, 2 to 4 miles, and 4+ miles. They also did correlations with BMI.

The results showed that heavier runners had more injuries, and that those with a BMI over 30 could reduce their injury risk by 50 percent if they ran no more than two miles in their first week of training. (Avoid being sidelined by a preventable injury with Runner’s World guide to The Most Common Walking and Running Injuries.)

"Individuals with a BMI greater than 30 may be well advised to refrain from running more than 3 kilometers during their first week," the authors concluded.

Another approach: Heavy beginners might focus on losing some weight before they begin a running program. "This may also be an injury-reducing approach," the researchers wrote.

While 2 miles per week seems low to experienced runners, it could fit well into the popular run-walk beginning programs advocated by Runner’s World and other groups. The DANO-RUN results also emphasize something that’s easy to forget: Beginning running programs, especially for the overweight, should start at a very low level of running, and progress very gradually.

Another implication of the study: It might be wise for overweight beginners to start their fitness program with a month or two of brisk walking, and a diet. The legs and joints will gain strength, and any weight lost will make the transition to running go smoother.

Check out this video about how to properly tie your running shoes.

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Back in grade school, you ran one mile for the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test to show how aerobically fit you were. As an adult, you're lucky if sprinting on the basketball court or chasing your kids across the lawn doesn't leave you sucking wind. But holding your own during a short run is important as you get older. Regular aerobic exercise reduces your risk of heart disease and helps keep your body fat low.

Test yourself with a 1.5-mile run on a flat road or track. "It's a good predictor for your work capacity, ability to recover quickly, and do more work in general,” says Steve Di Tomaso, C.S.C.S., endurance athlete and strength coach for Envision Fitness in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. (Have you been fueling up all wrong before endurance workouts? Learn what you should eat before a run.)

Compare your time to the average guy in your age group. If you fall short or want to be better than average, add Di Tomaso's running and strength workouts to your routine to increase your gains.

THE AVERAGE GUY’S TIME

Age Time
20-29 11:58
30-39 12:25
40-49 13:05
50-59 14:33

(source: The Cooper Institute)

Go Beyond Average

Perform the running plan on a track once a week. It'll enhance your leg turnover and stamina. Then do the two-move strength workout to enhance your overall endurance two times a week on days you’re not running. The explosive moves stimulate the same muscle fibers you need to maintain a strong running pace while not causing the same soreness daily running does, says Di Tomaso.

(Here are 5 best ways to avoid the most-frequent pains, strains, and aches that can come with running.).

On the Track
Week 1-2: Run 200 meters--or half a lap--at your goal pace, and then walk 200 meters. For instance, if you’re trying to break 8 minutes per mile, aim to complete your 200-meter run in 45 to 60 seconds. That’s one round. Do 6 to 8.

Week 3-4: Run 400 meters -- or one lap -- at your goal pace, and then walk 200 meters. Aim to complete your run in under 2 minutes if you’re trying to average 8 minutes per mile. That’s one round. Do 3 to 4.

Week 5-6: Run 800 meters--or two laps--at your goal pace, and then jog for 60 seconds. If you’re trying to average 8 minutes per mile, try to complete the two laps in under 4 minutes. That’s one round. Do 2 to 3.

Struggling with your warm weather runs? Find out how to maintain your pace and finish strong every time with these 5 Tips for Running in the Heat.

In the Gym
Perform following moves, resting 60 seconds between each one. Do two rounds twice a week. As you become stronger and fitter over the next 4 to 6 weeks, increase the number of rounds. Your goal: 5 rounds in a row.

Sandbag Clean and Press: Hold a sandbag in front of your thighs. In one powerful movement, brace your core and flip the bag onto your forearms. Squeeze your elbows to your sides as the bag lands in front of your chest. Now, perform a small squat. As you stand up, use the power from your legs to help press the bag overhead. Release the bag back down to your chest, and then flip it forward so it hangs in front of your thighs again. That’s 1 rep. Do as many reps as you can in 60 seconds.

Sled Sprint: Place 45 pounds on a sled. Grip the handles and push the sled 100 feet as fast as you can. As you move forward, maintain a straight line from your head to your ankles. Your power comes from your legs and hips, so drive your feet diagonally into the ground with each time. Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction.

Want the benefits of an uphill run, indoors? Add this treadmill workout to significantly boost your endurance and running performance.

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