Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Strength Every Runner Should Do: The Plank

I'm not going to lie: I lurve me some planks. I think the standard plank is one of the best strength moves you can do, regardless of your ability level. You don't need any equipment and you can do it anywhere. It is one of the best way to strengthen your core with minimal impact on your spine (unlike crunches). I am not a big fan of crunches or other moves where you're flexing your spine awkwardly. This can compress the discs between your vertebrae and if you're not paying attention to your form 100%, chances are you'll end up hurting yourself. This is why I have every single one of my clients do some variation of the plank. In fact, it doesn't just strengthen your core (which is basically everything apart from your arms and legs), but it can also help to strengthen your shoulders, arms and legs. It's pretty magical. As runners, the power of the plank is huge. Our power comes from our core and a strong core will not only help your running form be more efficient but it will also help keep that form intact as you tire out. As we get tired, that form gets compromised and that can lead to injury. Performing planks on the regular can help not only keep that core strong, but your entire body.

Once you learn how to do it correctly, the sky is the limit. Here's the standard push-up plank:

Lie face down on your mat, floor, whatever, with your legs extended and your elbows bent directly under the shoulders. Push up into push-up position. Keep feet hip-width apart with elbows shoulder width apart. Contract abs and then push your toes to lift the body. Your body must form a straight line from your head to your heels. So, your shoulders are directly over your elbows and your elbows are over your wrists. Your neck is in neutral position with your gaze towards the floor. Your pelvis is tucked under, which helps to keep your spine neutral and your hips in line with the rest of your body. You can have your feet together to increase the challenge or widen your stance with your feet about hip width apart. Just be mindful that your core is engaged and you're not dipping your hips.

Voila!

If you need to make this more challenging, you can bend your elbows and perform a forearm plank. You would keep your elbows directly under your shoulders and press your palms into the floor. Be careful not to sink into your shoulders but lift out of the shoulder girdle and keep the neck nice and neutral. 

If you need to lessen the intensity, you can plank against a wall. You would perform the exact same push-up plank described above but your hands would be on a wall (or a table, bench or other raised flat surface). This will still work the core but if you have back issues, this will be easier. As you build strength, you can progress to lower surfaces and eventually the floor. 

There are so many variations, I will post several. But just to name a few: side planks, mountain climbers, spider climbs, cross-body climbs and so many more. You can even just change the game by lifting one arm out to the side or in front or lifting one leg slightly up. All while keeping your hips level.

How do you feel about planks? What's your favorite way to plank?

I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!


Friday, November 4, 2016

Five Things You May Not Know About Me

It's time for some fun! It's Friday, which means I'm linking up with the girls over at the Friday Five 2.0 link up. Today's theme is sharing five things most people won't know about you. This was actually a little difficult for me because I'm pretty open here on the blog. I had to dig deep on this one.

Before I continue, as mentioned, I'm linking up with the ALL-NEW Friday Five 2.0 link up, hosted by Rachel at Running on Happy and Lacey and Meranda from Fairytales and Fitness. When you're done here, be sure to check these ladies out!

Without further ado, here we go:

1. When I was kid I wanted to be a pilot. I think I was in 6th grade when I fully realized this dream. We had a career day and an airline pilot was there and talked about the fun and rewarding job he had as a pilot. He mentioned that there were very few female pilots out there and it was an up-and-coming career path for women. Well, say no more. I went full throttle into researching becoming a pilot, what college I would go to (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical, of course), which airline I wanted to fly and so on. But then one spring break, I think it was sophomore year in high school, we went to the Bahamas for vacation. The flight was AWFUL and I got very sick. It kind of made me re-think the whole pilot thing and I really lost the vim and vigor I once had. It's a little embarrassing that my career hopes were dashed by some air sickness but that's just how it goes sometimes.

2. I have a pretty obsessive personality. I kind of latch onto really weird things and obsess over them for a period of time. I've had some really odd obsessions that have included salad storage containers (don't ask) and buying collars for every occasion for my dog (don't ask about that one either). One that was kind of fun was my Elvis obsession. I don't know why but I got on an Elvis kick when I was a senior in college. I read every book about him I could, watched his movies, everything. When I graduated and moved back home, my dad and I drove across the country (I went to school in Arizona and lived in New York) to go back home. But not without a stop at Graceland. It was by far one of the best touristy things I've ever done! I don't know how it is now but at the time, you could take a self-guided tour through the house and grounds of Graceland while listening to some audio tour. You went everywhere except in the private bedrooms upstairs. It was SO COOL. Everything was still in the condition it was when Elvis lived there. The basement was interesting as there was a TV room with 3 TVs (he wanted one to watch each network station...at the time there was only NBC, ABC and CBS). And there was a game room with a pool table, etc. The whole room was covered in this quilted fabric: the walls, the ceiling, the pool table. In fact, in the center of the ceiling was this button (of the same fabric) that gathered all the fabric together. Hard to explain but so hideous that I still remember it. Outside was his dad's office (his dad Vern was his manager) and a "gym" that not only had workout equipment and a racquetball court but also a full bar. Perfect. I still think about that trip and would go back if anyone asked me too :)

3. I have the worst willpower when it comes to food. Yes, I try to eat right and all that but when I'm faced with temptation, I have a hard time saying no. I briefly touched on this with the donuts last week. This is the main reason I got licensed as a Sports Nutritionist. I needed to arm myself with as much info to not only help others, but help myself too. I'm only human and I need to work on stuff too :)

4. I have an awful phobia of insects and rodents. I do not love insects at all and have a hard time being in the same vicinity as an insect. When I lived on the east coast, crickets would often come in the house when the temperatures dropped and some of my worst nightmares include seeing a cricket in my room. I've had nightmares of being attacked by mice as well. I have a vivid imagination, apparently. But the worst has to be spiders. They are just too awful for me to even talk about in full detail. Now that I'm a mom, I have to keep my fears in check so I don't pass them onto my kids. I will usually run away when I see something and go scream in the bathroom or cry in my closet.

5. The summer before my senior year in high school, I was lucky enough to be an exchange student for the summer. I went to Australia for 4 weeks and it was amazing. But I was 16 and didn't exactly appreciate it as much as I should have. We went to Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, part of the Outback and even the Great Barrier Reef. We also stayed with two different families and went to school with the kids. I often forget that I even went there, which is why I wanted to bring it up now. It was a great experience and maybe if I think about it enough, we can make a plan to go back. I recently got back in touch with a couple of the friends I made there through Facebook, which was pretty awesome. It was fun but I would love to go back as an adult. Someday, we will! Perhaps I can plan it around some ultra...now that would be amazing!

Now it's your turn! Share something only a few people would know about!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Strength Every Runner Should Do: Lunges

No strength training program would be complete without including the often-underrated lunge. The lunge is an important move because it is a combination of standing and kneeling, both of which are important movements patterns we perform daily. Therefore, performing lunges will help us perform our regular daily functions in a more efficient manner. As a runner, lunges helps build strength and mobility in the hips and legs, allowing us to move more efficiently and remain injury free. Just as there are a million different ways to squat, there are a million ways to lunge. But first and foremost, it's important to master the initial lunge before progressing to more challenging variations and/or add weight to the move. If you can't master the lunge using only your body weight, adding additional weight can only further reduce the quality of the movement and potentially cause injury.

There are three main lunge movements I encourage every runner to do: the forward lunge, the reverse lunge and the side lunge. Doing these three forms of the lunge will help increase stability in the hips and legs, allowing you to move with a great range of motion. This will help you to move more efficiently and help keep you from getting hurt.

Forward Lunge:
                               


Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Your gaze is ahead of you with your ears over shoulders, your shoulders over hips, hips over knees and knees over ankles. Step forward into a lunge with your left foot. Keep your upper body upright with proper posture and your chest open and lifted (don’t bend forward at the waist) as you bend your knees, lowering your body until both of your legs form 90-degree angles. You back heel is raised with ankle over toes. Be sure to keep your hips level and do not sink into either side. Come up to starting position. Now step forward and lunge with your right foot. This is one rep. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions as part of your regular strength training routine, adding weight when this becomes easy.

Reverse Lunge:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Your gaze is ahead of you with your ears over shoulders, your shoulders over hips, hips over knees and knees over ankles. Step backward into a lunge with your left foot. Keep your upper body upright with proper posture and your chest open and lifted (don’t bend forward at the waist) as you bend your knees, lowering your body until both of your legs form 90-degree angles. You back heel is raised with ankle over toes. Be sure to keep your hips level and do not sink into either side. Come up to starting position. Now step forward and lunge with your right foot. This is one rep. This lunging movement is typically more difficult for people with hip instability. I would make sure this lunge is always included in your workouts! Again, aim for 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions as part of your regular strength training routine, adding weight when this becomes easy. 

Side Lunge:

                       


Stand with your feet hip width apart with your hands clasped in front of you. Keeping your gaze forward and your abs tight, take a big step to the right with your right foot and bend your right knee 90 degrees, keeping your left leg extended. Make sure the weight is in your heel of your right foot. If you want you can raise arms straight out in front of you, keeping them parallel with your shoulder (do not raise higher than shoulder). As above, aim for 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions as part of your regular strength training routine, adding weight when this becomes easy. 

There are tons of different variations such as curtsy lunges, Bulgarian squats (which are a form of lunges), lunge jumps (where you jump into and out of lunge position), lunges on unstable surfaces and so many more. But, as always, be sure to master the basic lunge movement before adding weight, instability and jumps.

What's your favorite way to lunge? 


I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!