Posts Tagged ‘ Strength Training ’

Getting Results

splitinroadMonday I had my follow up with my ortho doc to discuss the results of my MRI. The MRI itself was uneventful. Not as scary as I thought it was going to be which was a relief. It took about 25 minutes. My head wasn’t completely inside the tube since the scan was of my pelvic area, so I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all.

The doctor spent a half hour basically telling me that the MRI results were inconclusive. The good news is there were no apparent tears or other damage. The bad news is the doctor wasn’t really able to point me in the right direction. His advice? Rest. Apply heat. See him in 6 weeks.


After my visit with him, I headed straight over to my chiropractor to get a much needed adjustment. I love my chiropractor as well as getting regular adjustments. For those of you who don’t see one, I highly recommend it. You don’t realize how out of whack your body gets until someone puts you back in place. I always feel amazing whenever I leave.

When I saw her I mentioned my persistent discomfort and what the ortho doc had told me. After manipulating my leg through a few different stretches, she said she didn’t think rest would help because I’ve been resting and haven’t seen a marked improvement. She recommended that I see a physical therapist who also is an ortho guy who specializes in sports medicine. Her daughter saw this guy and it really helped. Her conclusion? Scar tissue build up. See a PT. Work it out don’t rest it.

Today I saw the PT. He was a really nice guy who talked to me for a while about the pain, then put me through a series of intensive stretches. Like many runners, I’m very inflexible, so it hurt! His theory is that my pelvis is out of line which in turn pulls my muscles out of line, puts strains on my ligaments and causes pain as I do cardio or other specific strengthening exercises. He worked for a while on pulling, pushing and moving my leg to try and get any parts that may have shifted back into place. He left me with this advice: Do hip flexor exercises, start back with light cardio and strength training, and come back to see him in a week.

Three “experts,” three different ideas of where I should go from here. So where do I go? What can I do to be smart and get back to running again? Here’s what I’m going to do: Light cardio, strength training, stretching, ice and heat. My main problem is that I get so excited to workout that I do too much too fast and end up worse than when I began. So this time I’m going to work at being smart, starting slow and stopping before the pain starts rather than when it starts.

Wish me luck! 😀

Beating the Running Blues

sadrunnerEvery so often an injury will derail me from my running goals. Because running has become so much of my identity I rely heavily on being able to run to find peace of mind emotionally, physically and mentally. When I can’t run it really affects me on my many levels. Lately I’ve been faced with this challenge and have been forced, or, thinking positively, given the opportunity, to find ways to cope with not being able to run.

So instead of getting depressed and mopey, here, after much self-reflection, are:

Runner Sami’s Tips for Beating the Running Blues

1. Use the time off to become a stronger runner – Find cross-training activities that won’t exacerbate your injury. Biking, swimming, pilates, yoga, and strength training are all great ways to build up muscles that will help keep you injury-free in the future.

2. Invest in other areas of your life – Because running is my positive outlet, it’s important to reroute those energies into other outlets while running is on the back burner. Find ways to invest your time that make you happy. Writing, catching up with friends, spending time with my family, or planning a trip are some things I have found help rejuvenate me when I’m not able to run.

3. Read about running – For some people this might be too painful, but I’ve found that reading about running helps me feel like I’m still involved in becoming a better runner. Books or articles about running help me focus on positive ways to help my recovery. There are always ways I can better myself as a runner and it’s fun to read about interesting races I can sign up for once I’m at full running capacity again!

4. Be an active participant in your recovery – You’re not alone. There are a lot of resources online through blogs, social media sites like, or websites like for runners looking for support or providing helpful tips and strategies for those coming back from injuries. Finding answers and lending support to others are great ways to aid in recovery.

5. Eat healthy, be happy – When I can’t run my mind automatically starts to dwell on all those extra pounds that are going to fly onto my body. Even if this is not realistic, eating healthy helps me keep a happy frame of mind until I can go back to burning the calories I’m used to burning. And eating healthy is always a great habit for helping me become a stronger runner.

Happy running! 😀

Top Ten Strength Training Exercises for Runners

KettleBellSquatWinter is a great time to focus on the weight room, building strong muscles that will keep you from injury and help you to become a more dynamic runner.

While I’m a big proponent of pilates for strengthening muscles, especially core muscles, I also like to incorporate weights into my strength training workouts. There are many exercises that are effective in building a stronger you, but below are my:


Goblet Squat











Walking Lunge







Single-Leg Squats






Single-Leg Deadlifts






Bulgarian Split-Squat







Russian Twist

russian twist with medicine ball











Back Extensions














As I said, there are many more exercises that are wonderful and also effective for runners, but these are a great place to start. These focus on the entire body, but specifically legs and core. There are many different camps in regards to how often, how many reps, and how much weight one should lift, but I would recommend to start with 3 sets x 10 reps of enough weight that you can keep good form for each exercise while still taxing your muscles. If you can do all the reps with ease, you need to increase the weight. (Sidenote: Just last week I was doing the same exercise as a man twice my size but with a heavier weight!)

Happy running! 🙂

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. 🙂 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! 😀

Muscle Myths #2

   A few days after I told my colleague about how to use a resistance band to tone her arms, I asked her if she had tried any of them. She said she had and I asked how it was going.

“Well…” she said.

“What?” I pressed.

“My boobs hurt after I did one of the shoulder exercises, so I haven’t done them since.”

I stared at her, then asked, “Hurt as in sharp pain or hurt as in sore?”

“Hurt as in sore.”

“You do know that it wasn’t really your boobs that were sore, but your chest muscle under your boobs, right?”

She looked at me in confusion. “But I thought the exercise was for my shoulders…”

“Yeah, but sometimes other muscles are used to help do the exercise so that just means you were doing the exercise right.”

“Really?” she asked, still incredulous about the whole thing.

“Really,” I said. “But you should keep doing the exercises if you want to see any results.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to do them again – I don’t want my boobs to shrink.”

I laughed out loud before I realized she was serious!

“Why do you think your boobs will shrink?” I asked.

“That’s what I’ve heard happens when you lift weights.”

Huh?!? Not only was she NOT lifting weights, but she was freaking herself out after doing ONE exercise. Yikes! I’ve been lifting weights for about ten years and my bra size has never changed.

I sighed. “That won’t happen, I promise.” She opened her mouth to protest, but I cut her off. “Look, women tend to gain weight and lose weight where extra fat is stored. Sometimes women who lose a lot of weight will also see their breasts reduced because of the excess fat that’s being stored there. You don’t have weight to lose and since you’re just toning your muscles your boobs won’t get smaller.”

“Oh.” Then she brightened as it sunk in. “Ok! That’s cool that I was actually sore from those exercises then!”

I smiled.

Then she added, “I can’t wait to get my arms toned for my brother’s wedding next month!”

I groaned.


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Muscle Myths

  I was recently chatting with a colleague who told me she wanted to tone her arms for an upcoming wedding in which she’s a bridesmaid. I told her that she should start to lift weights regularly and that I could show her a few exercises if she wanted. “I don’t want to lift weights!” she bemoaned. “I don’t want my arms to get huge!”

For some reason that I have yet to determine, I’ve heard this worry from women multiple times. I don’t know if some women associate lifting weights with men and see those same men with big muscles and come to the conclusion that they too will have the same muscles as a man if they lift weights. But it just doesn’t work that way. Rarely, if ever, will a woman gain the same muscle mass as a man does and even then it would be because she’s specifically trying to bulk up by taking supplements and/or following a very specific diet/heavy weight lifting regime.

I happened to be wearing a sleeveless blouse that day and so I asked my colleague if she thought my arms were muscular (this was a humbling question as I like to think my arms are very toned and am quite proud of them, but I also know that they don’t look muscular in a bulky, “man muscle” way). She looked at my arms and said, “No…” I told her I could probably curl 30lbs with one arm. Her eyebrows shot up and she said, “Really?!?” “Really,” I said. “And strength training is a great way to keep healthy, especially as you get older.” (She’s 25 and constantly frets about being “old.”) I went on to say that if she wants to tone her arms, she should buy a resistance band instead of 2lb weights (that she was going to buy) because then you are working against your own strength so you won’t outgrow a resistance band the same way you would weights.

We ended the conversation with her saying she was going to run to Target and buy a resistance band and me telling her some exercises she could do to tone her arms.

(Resistance Band Arm Exercises.)

Tune in tomorrow for: Part 2 – My colleague does an exercise and mentions – Muscle Myths #2

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Resistance Band Exercises

There are different types of resistance bands, some more flexible than others and some with handles. Choose something that is relatively inexpensive and mid-range in flexibility to begin with. I’d recommend something without handle as well because it gives you more freedom in how hard/easy your workouts are. As your body adjusts to these exercises and grows stronger (and it will!) move your grip closer to each other on the band to increase the resistance. Start small – 2 sets of 8 repetitions, for example – so you don’t burn yourself out and stop after a day.

Here are a few arm exercises using a resistance band to get you started:

Bicep Curl – Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width distance on the band. Use either a palm upward grip or a hammer grip (thumbs toward the ceiling) to hold the band. Move your arm at the elbow to curl the band toward your chest. Lower toward your hips and repeat.

Side Lateral Raises – Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width distance on the band. Extend your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the floor. Your body should be a “T” shape. Lower to your sides and repeat.

Front Lateral Raises – Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width distance on the band. Extend your arms in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Lower to your sides and repeat.

Rear Shoulder Raises – (I’ve seen this done sitting and standing. I prefer to do them seated, but choose whichever is more comfortable.) Sit on a bench or chair so your feet are ninety degrees to the floor. Place your feet shoulder width distance on top of the band. Begin by holding the band in front of you. Move your arms in an upward sweeping motion until they are flush with your back. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together when you do this. Lower your arms back in front of you and repeat.

  Tricep Extension – Grab one end of the band. Raise your arm so your elbow is pointing toward the ceiling and the band is hanging down your back. Grasp the band with your other hand so that your palm is facing outward and your hand is resting around the middle of your back. With your top hand, extend your arm toward the ceiling, trying to get it as straight up and down as possible. Lower and repeat. Reverse hand positions and repeat with your other side.

These exercises are ones that I’ve used many times in the past and enjoy the results I’ve gotten from using them, but I am not a certified fitness trainer. Please consult a personal trainer or physician if you have any questions.

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Welcome to the Gun Show

I love complementing my workouts with weight/strength training. I’ve read many articles and books that encourage women to integrate strength training into their weekly routines. Building muscle burns fat and with time you will look and feel healthier and stronger.

Articles if you want to read more about lifting weights:

Women’s Health: Lose Your Fear of Weight Lifting

Runner’s World: Balance Running and Strength Training

One myth dispelled and one word of encouragement:

One time while I was lifting an older gentleman approached me and told me how he was really impressed with my weight lifting – it was sweet and non-creepy don’t worry. I said thanks and he continued by saying that he wishes he could get rid of his (rather substantial) belly. I told him that the first step was just showing up. He didn’t seem very encouraged by my wall-quote answer. Here’s the encouragement – You will see results. Promise. But like most things in life it takes an investment before you see a pay out. So don’t go once, mope around with sore muscles the next day and never go back. Find a workout buddy, a personal trainer or a class that will keep you accountable so you will stick with your training long enough to see those results. And they will come!

Myth: Women who lift weights will get muscles like a dude

If you are taking any kind of performance enhancing drug then yes, you will look have muscles like the guys on the Jersey Shore. Chances are you aren’t planning on drugs so you have nothing to worry about. (And if you are – shame on you!)

Here’s an experiment if you are nervous about getting ginormous muscles Step One: Go to the gym

Step Two: Do 3 sets of 15 reps of bicep curls with 45lb dumbbells. What?! You couldn’t even lift the 45lb weights let alone do a bicep curl?! Exaaaactly.

Now stop worrying and start strength training!

Training Day

I’m officially in my second month of personal training. I am loving it! While each week is basically the same I like to mix each of my strength training sessions up with some new exercises to keep my workouts fresh and interesting. I’ve also introduced some classes into the schedule like yoga and pilates for balance, flexibility and core strength.

I split my strength training days into two groups because that’s what works best for my daily schedule: Day 1 – Back and Biceps, Legs and Abs, Day 2 – Chest and Triceps, Abs.

The reason I split my sessions in this way is because Back and Biceps, Chest and Triceps are complimentary muscle groups, meaning you often use one when you work out the other. For example, I did a bench press for my chest and that movement also made my triceps work hard. And abdominals can be worked out every time you do any strength training.

Others like to do full body workouts, while others focus on upper body (arms, chest, back, abs) one day and lower body (legs, glutes, hips) the next. I think that the most important part of a strength training routine is making sure you have at least one rest day in between lifting to make sure your muscles have enough time to heal. And, if your muscles feel extra sore, don’t push yourself and lift more weights but wait until you are fully recovered. Rest is just as important as a proper strength training schedule.

Next week I’ll give you some of my favorite strength training exercises to try on your own. And remember, lifting weights is a great compliment to any fitness routine as it builds a stronger body to burn fuel faster and minimize injury! 🙂

Personal Training

One of my goals for 2011 is to run a marathon. A race that is 26.2 miles long. This was also my goal of 2010 but due to poor training I suffered from an IT band injury early on that waylaid these plans. (The IT band is a tendon-like band that stretches from your glute muscle/hip area and attaches to your tibia. When it gets inflamed it causes pain around the knee.) Of course it took me way too long to actually stop and rest and rehab my IT band which meant I just made it worse before I actually got any better.

This year I’m almost back to a hundred percent and have done a couple short runs without pain. I’m hoping that by going slower than I normally would and not pushing as hard as the rest of my body would like to, I can rebuild and come back stronger than before. I realized that if I wanted to accomplish this I needed a little extra help. That was why I enlisted the help of Angie, my new personal trainer/running coach.

As a reader, I read a lot about injuries and running and how to best approach both. I also talked to a lot of different people about my injury and asked for recommendations. Every single person I talked to, all training professionals in running, had different advice. Every so often an article would coincide with another article or a another book, but for the most part I tried a million different things because “I know someone who had an IT band problem and he said that – FILL IN THE BLANK – worked and he was running again in a month!”

Yeah. Right.

Let me save you some time and grief if you ever get an IT band injury – the only surefire solution is REST. If you don’t rest it will get worse. Other than that every body is different so what “most definitely” works for Joe doesn’t mean it will work for Josephine. You have to take the advice that’s given and do what you can to stay in shape while letting your body rest and heal. Other than rest, two factors made a huge difference for me: 1. Finding the right pair of shoes for my feet (every foot/running style is different) and 2. Using a foam roller. A high school track coach told me that one of his athletes had IT band issues and what typically happens is that scar tissue begins to form causing persistent problems. Once I began rolling my leg out on the foam roller every day (I thought I would pass out it hurt so much – it feels kind of like a ongoing charlie horse), I started feeling a major difference. My pain and tightness both subsided! Yay!

This may be way too much info, but just in case you too suffer from running injuries I wanted to be thorough. 🙂

Bottom line – to continue working my way to running a marathon, I knew I needed help. I heard about Angie and her running program NuFit through the magazine Runner’s World. She is a certified running instruction, yoga instructor, and nutrition consultant. She is based out of Seattle but has a great website that I thoroughly perused. She offered remote personal training packages that would include an 8-week training schedule, weekly check-ins, and nutrition tips. While she would be my guide, I needed to be self-motivated as well as hold myself accountable to sticking to the schedule. Sounded like the perfect fit for my personality! I figured this was the kick I needed and after several emails back and forth decided to go ahead with the personal training.

I’m in week one and am loving it! I feel better already (although exercise will do that regardless) and feel like I’m on the right path for this new year. I’ll continue to give you updates on my progress as well as any setbacks (like I missed a day already because I was sick) so stay tuned.

But I want to know – have you ever used a personal trainer?