Spring Training: Strengthen Your Core

Some common factors in overuse injuries are lack of core stability, insufficient flexibility, and weak stabilization muscles leading to poor movement mechanics.  I’ve put together a workout that can help you address one of the most important factors in proper movement — core strength. If your core is weak, the rest of your muscles cannot function with maximum strength or efficiency because force can’t be transferred properly.

1. Reverse Crunch with Yoga Block
Start on your back, knees bent, with a yoga block or similarly sized object held between your legs just above the knee, shoulders firmly into the ground.  Brace your core muscles, and using the strength of your core (not momentum) contract your knees in towards your chest, bring them back down. Repeat x25.
kneeups

2. Plank (1 leg raised optional)
Keeping your shoulders firmly on your back and hips level, find your plank.  Drawing in the muscles around your abdomen to hold your hips level, lift one leg slightly off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side.
plank

3. Pendulum
Laying on your back, knees bent at a 90 degree angle and feet raised, holding a yoga block in that same position as the reverse crunch.  Brace your core, and slowly and with control drop your knees to one side, then the other, pulling up with your oblique muscles. It is important that you not feel any strain in your back when doing this.
rotate

4. 1 Leg Bridge
Lay on your back, shoulders firmly into the ground, knees bent and feet on the floor.  Lift up into a bridge, engaging your glutes, hamstring, and abdominals.  Bring one leg up, pulling your thigh towards your chest and holding a tennis ball in place. Keeping that leg in place, bring your hips down to the ground and immediately raise back up.  Repeat x25 on each side.
bridge

5. Charlie’s Angels
From a kneeling position, engage all core muscles, drawing in and bracing firmly.  Keeping the muscles strongly engage, slowly twist from side to side. Repeat x25.
charliesangels

6. Side Double Leg Lift
Lay on your side, and engage all core muscles.  Contract your obliques and lift both legs slightly up, keeping your body perpendicular to the floor.  Repeat x25 on each side.
leg lift

7. Dead Bug
Lay on your back, arms and legs extended.  Engaging all core muscles so that your spine is fully supported, bring your arms and legs up to vertical  Drop back down and repeat x25.  Do not do this exercise if you feel any strain in your back.
dead-bug

8. Seated Figure 8
From a seated position, hold a medicine ball fully extended out from you (a weight will also work.  Your daughter’s rainbow tie dye soccer ball can be called up in a photo prop pinch).  Bracing your torso with your core muscles so that the only thing moving is your arms, trace a figure eight with the ball.
figure8

9. Overhead Squat
Raising your arms overhead, drop down into a squat.  Making sure that your glutes and hamstrings are doing the bulk of the work, drive through your heels and return to standing.  For extra oomph, add a resistance band around your arms.

squat

Ryu singlet and Celtic shorts from http://www.inknburn.com .

And there you have it!  As always, do not do any exercises that you feel are not right for your body.

Jenn is a personal trainer at Manchester Athletic Club and is currently accepting new clients.  She can be reached at jbrooks@manchesterathleticclub.com.

Indoor, No Equipment Running Workout

Here in the Boston area, it’s been a tough winter to be a runner.  Trails are buried under 7 feet of soft snow (really), roads are narrow and dangerous, and we’re all nearing the stage we’d rather organize a closet than get on the treadmill one more time. Even for those of us who are used to running in snow, ice, and cold all winter, this year has been logistically challenging.  I was talking with a client this morning about how it would probably be great to run circles around a local office park on the weekends.  Yes, non-local folks, laps around an office park is our new definition of “great.”

I started thinking about how we can make the challenges of cardio work for us, rather than against us.  Now that just about everybody in the northeast is spending more time working out indoors than we’d like, it’s the perfect opportunity to strengthen your body against typical running injuries. I purposely stuck to household items in this demo, because I wanted this workout to work when you were snowed into your house with no exercise equipment.  We’re going to start at our feet and work our way up. As always, use good sense and don’t do any of these exercises if they are contraindicated for you.

1)  Towel crunches
Standing in bare feet, curl a thick towel towards you with your toes. (This may be surprisingly hard! If it is, that just proves you really need to do it.) Repeat 5 times on each leg.

This is harder than it looks.

This is harder than it looks. (Peacock Tech Tee and Dark Denim shorts from www.inknburn.com.)

2) Sitting down with one leg in the air, deliberately trace the alphabet with your toes.  This strengthens the muscles in your feet, your ankles, and increases ankle mobility.

Trace the alphabet.  If you want to be an overachiever, also trace it in cursive.

Trace the alphabet. If you want to be an overachiever, also trace it in cursive.

3) Toe-offs.  Roll onto the ball of your food, driving your opposite knee up.  Pay very close attention to your foot mechanics here.  This is meant to be strengthening your foot and creating   muscle memory for good form, so you do now want your foot rolling in or out at all.

4) Stand on one foot on the least stable item you can find.  I’m on two sofa pillows on top of a mat.  (If you were at a gym you would use a balance pad, balance pod, or BOSU). Hold for 30-60 seconds, switch sides.  If it’s easy, close your eyes, forcing your body to rely on sensory input from your feet rather than your eyes.  This will really help develop your balance and agility.

1legbalance

5) Lateral lunges.  I like to do these on a hardwood or tile floor with a paper plate.  We didn’t have any paper plates, so I’m using a soft towel.  Stand with one foot firmly on the ground, and side your other foot out sideways, bending your standing knee.  Pull the leg back in firmly returning to a standing position.  Repeat 25 times on each leg.

Lateral Lunges

6)  Standing strong on one leg, raise your other knee to a 90 degree angle.  Extend the raised leg out straight and hold for 5 seconds, bend.  Repeat 25 times on each leg.

Starting Position

Starting Position

 

Extend leg out strong.

Extend leg out strong.

7) Leaning against a wall, counter, table, etc. at about a 30 degree angle, raise your knees strongly and as quickly as can be controlled. You’re lifting off the balls of your feet, contracting your quads quickly, and dropping the leg back down.

Quick feet!  Thighs stay parallel to the ground.

Quick feet! Thighs stay parallel to the ground.

8) Single leg squat.  You can do these with your leg in front of you (pistol squat) or behind you as if you were stepping into a lunge.  The important thing is to keep your hips square, your knee in line with your ankle, and to strongly contract your glutes when you come back to standing.  No wibble-wobbling, and no trying to do the work with your quads and hips.

I'm working on them, but still have a lot of typical runner imbalances which you can see in my form.

I’m working on them, but still have a lot of typical runner imbalances which you can see in my form.

9) Prisoner squat.  Hands behind your head, drop down into a squat.  Knees stay in line, butt comes back, core stays strong.

More runner imbalances. My back is more arched than it should be, and my hamstrings are tight, limiting range.

More runner imbalances. My back is more arched than it should be, and my hamstrings are tight, limiting range.

10) Lunge jumps.  Stand in a lunge position, jump and switch legs.  Land lightly and with control, keeping your hips square and your knees and ankle in line.  If you have to choose between form and speed, choose form.  If you have a soft surface available and can do this barefoot, it will also help strengthen your feet and ankles.

11) 1 arm plank.  Legs fairly wide, keeping hips square to the floor and shoulders level.  Lift one arm with control, hold it is as long as you are able to maintain form.  30 second break, repeat on the other side.

Don't let your hips drop!

Don’t let your hips drop!

12) Lateral leg raises.  Laying on your side, core engaged and foot active, lift one leg with control.  Repeat until you cannot maintain form (don’t angle forward towards the floor!) and then switch sides. As a runner you want a strong gluteus medius and this a great way to fire it up.

Giant puppies find this position irresistible.  I get attacked every time I do this exercise.  EVERY TIME.

Giant puppies find this position irresistible. I get attacked every time I do this exercise. EVERY TIME.

13) V-sit.  Sit in a V and hold it, thinking about maximizing the distance between your head and hips and feet and hips.  Nice long back (don’t round!) and core very strong.  If you need to modify you can drop your hands to the ground.

vsit

14) 1 leg bridge.  Start on your back, knees bent, feet on floor.  Raise both hips with core and glutes strong.  If you feel any tension in your back, drop your hips back to the floor and strongly contract your core there. Otherwise raise one leg and hold your hips level to the floor, core strongly contracted so you feel no tension in your back (if tension in your back, go back to a two-leg bridge).

bridge

15) Runners.  Holding a moderate weight item in each hand, legs in a split stance, mimic a running motion with your arms.  Smooth oscillations, hands stay straight and relaxed, no crossing over your body.

Jenn is a personal trainer at Manchester Athletic Club and is currently accepting new clients.  She can be reached at jbrooks@manchesterathleticclub.com.

How to Screw Your Shoes

We’re buried under snow right now, but this kind of a base promises a heck of an icy season.  Here’s how we’ll be dealing with it.

With all the recent posts about the need for traction, it seemed time to revisit the time honored tradition of screw shoes. Screw shoes work great on ice and mud and tend to be less slippery on wet rock then yak trax or stabilicers. They do have their downsides– the screws do eventually fall out and you can often feel them a little bit in your shoes, (NOT the sharpness, the lack of give in the midsole where the screws are). While you can take the screws out at the end of the season your shoes really aren’t the same afterwards, so we suggest using an older pair to start with.

Materials:

  • 16-32 1/4 – 3/8″ hex head screws
    3/8″ stay in considerably better, but 1/4″ are less noticeable when you’re wearing the shoes.
  • Power drill
  • Oldish pair of sneakers
  1. You will be putting the screw into the outsole and midsole of the shoe. The midsole will compress when you run so you want to be sure there is some extra padding.  It should go without saying, but this is particularly important if you run in a more minimalist shoe!
  2. Pick a spot to drill the screw in. You want to focus on where your foot makes the most contact with the ground, and on the thicker parts of your shoe. The tread of your shoe will dictate to a large extent where the screws go.
  3. Get a good grip on your shoe and drill that screw in !
  4. Repeat as many times as you want. 8-12 per shoe is a rough guideline. Keep in mind that over time a few are going to fall out.

And you’re done! Lace up your newly souped up shoes and head to the trails.

Awesome Knee Stretch

I learned a new stretch in yoga this week that was MADE for runners and their dodgy knees!

First get a blanket or towel, and a yoga block or something of similar dimentions (my yoga blocks have all been kidnapped by the little people, and I’m using a box of flour here.  worked fine). Sit as if you were going to move into ustrasana (camel pose): knees hip-width apart, tops of feet firmly pressed into the ground, box/block/whatever inbetween your feet.

041814d

INKnBURN sun totem tank: www.inknburn.com

Remove distractions:

041814c

 

Roll up your blanket or towel tightly, and place right behind your knees.
041814b

 

Sit back onto the block, adjusting height as needed, and hold for several breaths.  That’s it!   It stretches the backs of your knees as well as the front, and gently works out any aches and pains around your kneecap.

041814

 

 

Find Your Core

Nearly every runner needs to pay more attention to their core; we are more than a little notorious for being unable to find the time to fit in anything that doesn’t get the heart rate over 65%.   This series of plank variations will strengthen your abdominals, gluteus medius, quadratus lumborum, adductors and abductors, and all the other oft-neglected muscles that need to be strong for us to stay training, and it only takes 12 minutes.

Start out with your basic plank, and hold for 1 minute.

Full Plank

Full Plank. (Robot capris and Run or Die tank are by INKnBURN).

Now drop to your elbows and pulse. Can you do this for a minute?

Pulse on Elbows

Pulse on Elbows

Take a break, child’s pose or another stretch, 30 seconds.

Back to plank, lift one leg off the ground slightly, hold for 30 seconds. Switch and repeat.

1 Leg Raised.

1 Leg Raised.

Take a break, child’s pose or another stretch, 30 seconds.

Move into plank, bring your knee towards the inside opposite elbow (I am demonstrating typical tight runner hamstrings here). Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Knee to the inside.  

Knee to the inside.

So fun! Now bring to the outside opposite elbow, hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Knee to the outside

Knee to the outside

Take a break, child’s pose or another stretch, 30 seconds.

Back to plank, lift opposite arm and leg, hold for 30 seconds. Switch, hold for 30 seconds on the opposite side. Belly button to navel and balance!

Starfish Plank

Starfish Plank

Take a break, child’s pose or another stretch, 30 seconds.

Move into plank, and drop forward keeping your elbows at your sides for chataranga. Hold for 30 seconds. Take a break, child’s pose or another stretch, 30 seconds. Repeat.

Chataranga

Chataranga

Take a break, child’s pose or another stretch, 30 seconds.

Almost there!  Side plank, arm to ceiling and top leg lifted.  Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
side

Full plank, to the side, and crunch in elbow to knee. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
side-crunch

 

Disclaimer:
You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program, and you should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise. Capeanndistanceproject.com is not a licensed medical care provider and represents that it has no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition. You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge capeanndistanceproject.com from any and all claims or causes of action.