Posts Tagged ‘ Pilates ’

Just Keep Swimming

train-for-swimΒ  I recently talked with someone at my local running store about my hip flexor injury, lamenting the fact that I haven’t been able to run without exacerbating it. She gave me the contact info of a local sports physical therapist that she said was excellent and went on to say that she tore her hip flexor so she knows what I’m going through. It was great to talk with someone who actually went through what I’m going through now. She recommended swimming, saying that it not only kept her from going crazy while she couldn’t run, but that it kept her in good cardio shape and brought her back to running in three months.

While three months seems like a long time, my goal is to be a life-long runner so I want to recovery the right way and if that means taking more time to strengthen my muscles and prevent future injuries then so be it. The woman went on to say that her therapist recommended one-leg bridges (a favorite pilates move of mine actually). She said to do three sets with ten leg-lifts on each side every day. A pain in the butt (ha!), but strengthening the glutes, strengthens the hips, both of which are common weak areas for women so it’s good to focus on those muscles anyway.

I’ve been in the gym a lot, doing pilates and lifting weights, working on my core and legs especially. My body has definitely grown tighter and stronger, although I haven’t seen much, if any, improvement in my hip flexor. So my new goal is to contact a sports therapist and jump in the pool as much as I can. I’m not going to give up. I will run again. Like Dory says – Just keep swimming! πŸ™‚

Happy running!

Pilates Power

PilatesEvery time I read up on great exercises I can do to improve my running and come back from my injury I come across moves that I typically do in my pilates class. The only problem is I hadn’t gone to pilates in weeks. Knowing that every week that passed that I skipped my pilates class was a missed opportunity to improve on these areas, yesterday I decided I had to go to class that evening. I threw on my workout clothes, laced up my sneakers, grabbed my mat, and headed out.

I’d forgotten how refreshing going to class was. I felt rejuvenated head-to-toe. And sore! But a good sore, letting me know the exercises were working all the right muscles. It also reminded me how much I appreciate all the camaraderie and support I find there. My instructor is wonderful. Super sweet and encouraging with such a positive energy it’s impossible not to smile even when she’s pushing us through difficult movements. My fellow pilates goers were also quick to give me words of encouragement. I’m already excited to go back. I’ll be back to running before I know it! πŸ™‚

 

Winter Cross-Training

pilates benefits women  I’ll admit it, sometimes it’s just too dark and chilly out to go for a run. And although I still get my butt into gear to run regularly, I also work in more cross-training in the winter. I hardly ever feel like going to the gym during warmer days, so the winter months make an ideal time to build up other areas that will complement and improve my running.

Pilates – I love pilates. It is one of the best ways I’ve found to strengthen my body, keep me healthy, and make me a better runner. I take a weekly class at my gym that’s an hour long and kicks my butt every time. The key is to find a teacher that you are compatible with and that can push you in areas you can’t push yourself. I found a teacher who totally rocks and mixes up each class with challenging moves and isn’t afraid to add pilates props like exercise balls, rings, or bands to increase the difficulty of the moves. Also, pilates really focuses on your core which is essential for healthy running and staying injury free.

Strength Training – This is another great way for runners to build up muscles that assist in becoming stronger and staying injury free. Also, it’s really fun for me to see the looks of the guy dominated free weight area as I bench press next to them. πŸ™‚ While there are a million things I could write about when it comes to strength training, there are two primary points to keep in mind: 1. Women who lift weights will not get huge, man-like muscles (unless they are purposefully working toward a competition or using *ahem* supplements) and 2. Please consult someone, like a trainer, who knows proper form before beginning any sort of strength training routine as bad form can lead to injury and won’t be as effective.

Yoga – Great for flexibility, yoga pairs nicely with pilates in improving your health as a runner. Once again the integral aspect is to find an instructor that can challenge you while providing good modifications to poses so you don’t over-extend your body into injury. There are several types of yoga too, so find the one that fits you best.

Spinning & Swimming – I combined these last two as cross-training areas in which I’d like to improve. I love to bike in warmer weather, but tend to set it aside during the colder months. Same with swimming. Both, however, are great ways a runner can keep fit cardiovascularly and easy to do if you belong to a gym. And if you want to make an investment, buy a bike trainer that you can hook your road bike up to and use inside your house – great cross-training without ever leaving the comfort of your home!

Happy Running! πŸ˜€

Is It Running Season Yet?

Β Β  My Pilates teacher asked me during my last class if it was running season yet to which I replied – “It’s always running season!” But I do understand where she’s coming from. It’s tough running, or doing anything really, outside during the short, cold winter days. Especially for those who just beginning to run and aren’t fully into the addictive power of the sport yet.Β  Now, as the days grow longer and the weather warmer it’s easier to get outside and be active.

But if you still need motivation to move from your bum and into a healthier life, here are some things that might give you the kick you need.

1. New workout gear – I’m not saying to go buy an entire new fitness wardrobe, but having clothes/shoes that make you feel good about getting outside for a run/bike/swim. I highly recommend going to a running or sports store to try gear on first or read reviews before purchasing as every person’s body is different and you want the best support and comfort to make your workouts as enjoyable as possible.

2. Find a routine – There are some great programs for those looking for that extra push toward their fitness goals. For example: Couch To 5k (C25K) that encourages participates to ease slowly into running to prevent injuries and burnout from going too hard, too fast.

3. Workout Buddies – Find a friend to partner up with and get your butt in gear. Having someone who will keep you accountable when you don’t feel like working out is great motivation to stick to your plan. If none of your friends schedules jive with yours then hit up your local gym, running or biking store where there are often group runs, rides, or people searching for workout buddies.

4. Rewards – I know how easy it is to get sidetracked on the way to reach your fitness goals, so build in little rewards along the way to keep you motivated. A new piece of clothing, a new download for your Kindle, or some dark chocolate. πŸ™‚

5. Setting a goal – Having a goal helps in making sure you stick to the habit of exercising on a regular basis. Maybe, like with the C25K, you sign up for a race in a couple months, or a bike ride or a sprint triathlon (a very short swim, bike, run tri).

Most importantly – have fun!!! Make your workouts fun and before you know it you’ll be wanting to get out and moving! πŸ˜€

De-Stressification

  Have you ever had one of those days where you feel pulled in a thousand different directions and thus can’t fully focus on any of the tasks in front of you? Oh yeah. It’s been that kind of week for me. Ugh. As much as I love my job, family, life, etc. I need to sit back and refocus on how to find my Zen. πŸ™‚

If my brain were capable of writing more than this post, I would totally put that on my de-stress list, but, sadly, that’s not going to happen today. Here’s my top ten list of ways to unwind before tackling more of my Things To Do list:

1. Run

2. Read

3. Go to the gym

4. Pilates

5. Yoga

6. Walk the dog

7. Bake

8. Get a pedicure

9. Get a massage

10. Grab a pint with some friends

I feel less stressed just writing that list! πŸ˜‰ And none of those things require any brain power, or very little, which is a great way to recharge for the tasks that lie ahead.

Fitness Friday!

Have you ever been to a yoga class? Did it involve:

a. Chanting

b. Complicated poses that involve you looking and feeling like a pretzel

c. An instructor that seemed to think she/he was a great guru

d. Leaving with a feeling of failure and not a sense of calm and well-being

If so, I have the perfect book for you! The No Om Zone came into my library the other day with its glossy pics and it’s bright green and grey cover. I had never heard of the author – Kimberly Fowler – or of her brand of yoga. But the more I read about her approach to creating a fun, relaxing, enjoyable kind of yoga that appeals to a broader range of people, the more I wanted to try it!

I have taken yoga classes before but it was at a local gym and they were more of a hybrid of tai chi, pilates, and yoga and I loved them! For those who haven’t tried it, if you take away the chanting, the hope for enlightenment and the religious aspect of the exercise, you are left with a great way to find relaxation while becoming more flexible and balanced in the process. As a runner it’s a perfect way to stay injury-free (and since I’m currently battling an injury – I miss it even more!).

Fowler says: “No OM Yoga is Yoga everyone can relate to. It’s practical, straightforward Yoga that’s fun and energizing and not intimidating. No OM Yoga was designed to get rid of the reasons many people have for not doing Yoga.”

Sounds good to me!

If I was able to take a yoga class like that along with a pilates class every week I would be one happy lady! πŸ™‚ If you’ve never taken a yoga class before I highly recommend it. Make sure that you do your research and take a yoga class that fits your needs and personality as there is a spectrum of classes ranging from highly spiritual to not at all.

For more on Fowler and The No Om Zone – check out her sleek, new website HERE.

Rock Climbing and Other Fun XT Activities

I had just tweeted about my excitement to go rock climbing and thought it would make for a great topic for my blog today.

My three favorite cross-training activities are strength training, pilates, and rock climbing. Each provides me with unique attributes that I believe enable me to become a better runner and life a healthy lifestyle.

Strength Training: My brother-in-law Joe is studying to become a personal trainer. I absolutely love Joe. He’s so passionate about life and interest in physical fitness is no different. He and my brother Luke entered (and won awards for!) a natural (drug-free) body-building competition. It was amazing, and, okay, a little disturbing, to see the transformation their bodies underwent in getting ready for this competition! Their bodies were so lean that every sinew of muscle was apparent.

It could be that when you think of strength training you picture a bronzed and oiled enormous body builder who’s muscles have muscles. For myself and people like Joe and Luke it’s more about pushing the limits of what you think your body can handle so you can build a stronger body while defining muscle. I have heard many times over women who don’t want to lift weights because they get “huge muscle.” Sweetheart, unless you’re some sort of superhuman, this won’t happen. I also have had friends who don’t like to do any sort of strength training because they are intimidated by the machines and what kind of exercises they should be doing. Okay, that’s more understandable. Especially if you belong to a gym where testosterone flows freely in the free weights section (barbells, dumbbells, no machines).

My suggestions are these: 1. Find someone who knows some good weight lifting routines to show you what to do or 2. Hire a personal trainer. I would highly recommend not just pretending you know what you are doing as this can lead to injury.

For me, this is what I do: Routine 1. Back and biceps, Routine 2. Chest and triceps, and Routine 3. Legs and Shoulders. I leave my core work (abdominals and lower back mostly) for my Pilates days. There are great websites, books, and iPhone apps for different routines and there are also a wide variety of ideas as to the best way to build muscle. I say, do your research and find what works for you.

As a runner, strength training is an excellent way to keep your body toned and less prone to injury. You also burn more calories when you have more muscle! And if you started running to lose weight and keep it off, strength training adds another wonderful element in accomplishing this.

Pilates: Everyone has that one persistent problem area where fat likes to hang out, make itself comfortable, and have a cup of tea while it laughs at any attempts you may make to rid yourself of it. It’s the first to creep back the minute you aren’t paying attention to your eating and exercising habits like you should be and it’s always the last to leave. For me it’s my stomach. So while the rest of my body conforms to my will, my stomach laughs and nuzzles just a little closer to that six-pack of abs I’m certain exists – somewhere.

Pilates is one of my favorite activities in building a strong core. The system was developed in the early 20th century by a man from Germany named Joseph Pilates. You can use what’s called a pilates reformer or just a mat when doing pilates exercises. Many gyms and studios feature pilates classes and range in levels of complexity. I prefer to use a mat and an exercise ball.

What I like about pilates is that it offers a great variety of exercises that specifically focus on your core muscles. For runners especially it is so crucial to have a strong core as they keep you from injury and make you a stronger runner. And a well-toned core looks pretty hot too! So many benefits!

Here are some Pilates Exercises from About.com. Check your local bookstore or library for some great books on pilates exercises too.

Rock Climbing: I first got into rock climbing when I lived in Colorado. My friends at the time were big into the sport and there was an indoor rock climbing wall within walking distance of my apartment. The rock climbing picture above is what I enjoy doing. It’s called bouldering. Bouldering is climbing on lower and often more cave-like walls without any ropes. You never go very high and you always have thick mats underneath to protect you when you inevitably fall. It’s wonderful!

Bouldering (or rock climbing in general) is a great full-body workout that will leave you feeling muscles that you never knew existed. I love combining different XT activities for this reason. If I were to always do the same workout routines over and over, my body, being innately brilliant, learns these routines until they cease to push it to new levels of fitness. (It’s the same as running the same route every single day with no changes.)

What is Bouldering? – Synthetic rocks are bolted into the climbing walls and are all different shapes and sizes. They are designed to mimic the grips you might find on a rock wall outside. Different routes are set by placing colored pieces of tape next to a rock. The climber then has to find the start (usually a “V” of the colored tape) and match her hands and feet to the rocks that have that color until you reach the finish (also a “V” of colored tape). At the start there should be a label of some kind indicated the level of difficulty for that particular route. Bouldering is designated by a v, so an easy climb would be a v0 and a harder climbing might be a v5 and up.

While it was challenging to even do the most simplest of moves in the beginning, I can now finish more complicated climbing routes because, although it is also about strength, my mind and my body have also been trained to know how to be a better climber.

If anyone has any other XT activities that they enjoy doing, I would love to hear about them!

What Now?

Congratulations! You’ve officially completed the first steps on your way to running a successful race – whether it be finishing one or just setting a new PR.

Now what?

Well, now comes the tricky part. Unless you’re some sort of super human (which I’m convinced some elite runners are) training is ROUGH! Good news though folks – here are some key ways to make the journey to reaching your goals easier:

1. BUDDY UP – One of the best ways to stick to your running program (unless you’re a complete lone wolf or a hermit) is accountability. Having a partner in crime will keep you on track and make the process more fun. So find that a sucker, er, friend, who will log those miles with you and stay by your side to the end.

2. REST – Don’t, don’t, don’t forget to rest. It is vital both to keeping you healthy and strong and prevent you from burning out.

3. STRENGTH TRAINING – Get ready to pump some iron! Training with weights – especially focusing on your core muscles – will help you become stronger and keep you less prone to injury. Pilates is also great way to build a strong core and my favorite way to build up my abs and back. Β I took a fabulous running & Pilates class that taught me a lot about how much Pilates goes hand-in-hand with running – thanks Beth!

4. STRETCHING IT OUT – Another great way to keep from injuring yourself is stretching. Yoga is the balance and flexibility partner to the core strengthening Pilates. Check out the article on Flexibility from the Runner’s World website.

Keep on running! πŸ™‚