Running Benefits to having a Strong Core

The muscles involved in the side plank. Theagonist (active) muscles are highlighted.

Most of us when we think “core,” we think abs (abdominal muscles) and envision the ideal six-pack and harbor dreams of tone, ripped, lean stomach muscles that make us proud and others jealous. I mean who doesn’t want that? I’ll tell you who..no. one. ever. And while I’m super crazy about ripped abs, core muscles are much more than that and I’m more crazy about what they can do; what amazing powers or secrets do they hold. Word on the street is that they’re magic to your running and really that’s all a runner girl needs to hear.

Before we dive into the magic stuff, let’s get rid of any misinformation as it pertains to your core muscles. The core consists of the abdominal, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back (active.com). I know! I wasn’t quite aware it was all that but the truth is you can see how it makes sense, since all these muscles can work together to make you stronger and faster. The aesthetics is purely a pleasant by-product of paying attention to these areas.
Thus, the main benefit of having a strong core is a stronger body with less potential for injuries.  Workouts targeting the core areas outlined above strengthen the muscles, which translates into better performance or running efficiency. The concept of a well-oiled machine can be applied here as the body, tried and tested, continuously strives for optimal performance. A number of the injuries that runners fall prone to such as : Achilles problems, Hamstring issues and lower-back pain, result from bad pelvic alignment (runnersworld.com). Additionally, there are issues of over and under pronation and inefficient cadence; a strong core can help to greatly reduce your risks, if not eliminate these issues altogether resulting in increased running economy.
So enough already with trying to get you on board, if you’re not there by now.. let’s just say you’re missing out on some sexy summer pics 😉 . On the other hand, if you’re sold, here are five of my favorite core exercises that you can include in your daily workout:
Planks – Basic and Side Planks can be done in separate workouts or can be alternated. On your toes, legs a few inches apart and elbows resting on the floor (below shoulders) hold position. Start small and work your way up increasing reps and duration. For example, from reps of 20 seconds to 1 minute with rest intervals in-between from 10-30 seconds depending on length of rep.
Abdominal Crunches – The basic crunch with feet planted on the floor or hyper-extended at right angles to the floor with a twist to do what is termed the bicycle twist gives you two options. You can start with 4 reps of 15 with 30 second rest intervals, gradually increasing reps each workout.
The Superman Pose – Lying stomach to the floor extend arms and legs full out raising first one leg and opposite arm about 4 inches off the floor, hold for an initial 10 seconds and rest, alternating sides and increasing the hold position slightly each workout.
The Bridge – Lie on the floor, hands extended in a cross position with feet planted on the floor right below knees. Slowly lift torso and upper legs until it’s in a straight line and you’re resting on shoulders and pressing down with feet. Extend left leg straight while keeping back straight, so it’s off the floor and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat with right leg. Do 5 or six reps with the option to increase duration and reps each workout.
Russian Twists – Using a ball or weights, I use 10-15 pound weight, sit  straight up on the floor with legs extended and slightly raised, lean back until abs are engaged and twist and pick up weight, keep twisting right to left with weight and reaching as far behind you on the twists as you can. Do 4 reps of 10-15 to start.
What’s super cool about these is that you can work them into any workout, on any given day, and they can be done indoors or outdoors with minimum fuss. You can also combine as few as or as much of these core exercises as you like. Pretty flexible right? Feel no pressure to get a crunch on..only that summer in all its bikini-clad glory will soon be here. 😜
Sources: active.com, competitor.com, runnersworld.com

A 15K with a Kick

Saturday gone, I ran the annual 15K put on by the Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) here in New York. Suffice to say, sometimes it pays to just dive in while other times it could be a monumental mistake. In this case I think my tendency to the impromptu turned out fine though I wouldn’t always bet on it. Deciding on Thursday that I would do a race on Saturday is not mired in good, well-thought-out decision-making but then I hardly make any such claim. Fanciful, impulsive, adventurous, committed, and a host of other attributes I can attest to, but always being sensible and cautious would not describe me – not by a long shot. Hence why I found myself standing outside in below freezing temperatures in Kings Park out on Long Island Saturday morning.
I was to see that my friends and I weren’t the only crazy ones making rash decisions; more and more runners kept filing in to the school compound which served as the base and start and finish area. Now in all honesty, this is a course I’ve run before. A few months back, a group of runners invited me out there for a long run and we pretty much ate up the course. Hilly, but only nine miles, it went pretty hard and fast. What we did not have then was the weather factor, which turned the tide of the run this time around.
We began in15℉ with real feel temperatures of 2 degrees. Blisteringly cold, I figured it was smart to ration my heat and wrapped myself in a heat sheet to run the first couple of miles, except it lasted about three-quarters of a mile before the wind became too much and said sheet became more of a hindrance than the help it was originally intended for. I had to dump it and face losing feeling in my face, feet and fingers. Despite my strategy of taking it easy on the hills/inclines, it slowly became harder to breathe with intermittent head and cross winds at various intervals and it took a mean mind to keep one foot in front of the other and not give in to the urge to stop and walk.  Add to that the snow and ice on the ground, in some areas, and what should have been a simple challenging run ended up being hazardous. There was little choice but to go into self-preservation mode to guard against getting injured. I reduced my pace – to a crawl really – for about a mile with three miles to go and finished up with a blistering dash in a time of 1:16.
 
We can all agree that the best part of racing in sub-temperatures is finishing and getting to enjoy the post-run eats and hot drinks. The organizers didn’t disappoint offering quite the spread to chase the chills and any discomfort away, so much so that we hung around for the official results ceremony and the raffle and giveaways. Turns out, this is one time my rash decision-making proved to be a bit of a chill running experience.

 

Motivate, Inspire, Encourage..Run to the Power of Words

Source: shape women's magazine

        Source: shape magazine

It’s not the average person who gets up on a typical day and decides – you know what, this is it..this is my kick-butt, bad- ass day; today I decide to stop with the excuses and show up and do shit ( yep I said it). No, even if you’re a veteran in the game, most days you have to do some heavy self-motivating to get those feet moving out the door. So for the newbie or ambivalent, I imagine it’s much harder. Lucky for you, I’ve been there, I’m still here and likely to be here for sometime into the indefinite future. That way I can always motivate my and your asses to lace up those sneakers and hit it up for some mileage.

Very often I’ve found that if you distance yourself from the naysayers and immerse yourself in an environment that’s supportive of your goals and ideals, you’ve gotten rid of the biggest obstacle to your success. We’ve heard it often enough – words are powerful, they have the power to change the world..to start wars or bring about peace (on a global scale). If this is true, and history tells us it is, then consider if we use, or allow them to be used, to allow positive change in our lives. Of course this is already the case with all the self-help books and other motivational material out there, but what if you and I, we, decide to make it our personal goal to immerse ourselves in those positive, transformational and inspiring words to motivate our next step? What if we make it so it’s the first thing we see and ingest in the morning and the last thing we breathe at night? I think crazy stuff will happen..blow-your-mind stuff.. I mean, we’d be unstoppable, both physically and emotionally; talk about goal achieved!

See, I’ve always believed that our destiny is inherently ours to decide, granted it’s guided and overseen by our Heavenly Father, but ultimately ours, as a by-product of His gifts of unconditional love and freedom of choice to us. We get to take these beautiful, and often self-serving machines, and make it into what we will. And the funny thing is words can help us, be it ours or someone else’s, verbosely, orally or in print. Stick it up, write it down, tattoo it on..however works best to get and keep you moving on the good days and not so good days.

Here are five of my favourite get up and kick ass quotes:

“Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to a stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.” –  ascribed to Leonardo Da Vinci

“Once you make the decision that you will not fail, the heart and body will follow.” – Kara Groucher

“Nothing great in this world was ever accomplished without passion.” – ascribed to George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“It’s when discomfort strikes they realize, a strong mind is the most powerful weapon.” – Chrissie Wellington

“Our limitations and success will be based, most often, on our own expectations of ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” – Dennis Waitley

Of the millions out there, these are my every day mantras. You need to suss yours out and wear it like a talisman, Scouts (runners) honor it will serve you well!

 

 

 

Have a Spring Fling with Running

Source: AMP womensrunningmagazine

Source: AMP . womensrunningmagazine

Hard to believe March is only a couple of days away. And I feel as if I say this every month-end, which by the way, comes about way too soon, as I’m practically leaping to keep up. I mean what’s the hurry..why the rush? Not that I’m not happy to get out of February and the dastardly cold, which in all fairness hasn’t been bad at all this year. Still, any likeliness of a snow storm has me breaking out in chills, ready to burrow in a hole somewhere, so I’m practically jumping up and down in anticipation of March and the advent of Spring. I will not entertain one thought or word about how it’s likely be cold for a while yet. I prefer to live passionately in an alternate reality, which for all intents and purposes will be here soon enough anyway.

While we’re here envisioning everything green and blooming and embracing kisses of sunshine and showers of blessings,  we can definitely go about planning some Spring-inspired really fun things:

(1) Rock n’ Roll Mini Marathon 5k, March 11, 2017 – Washington DC.                       This is part of the Rock n’ Roll series and feature a full (did it!) & half marathon but since I’m focusing on fun, tagging along a newbie and Boston will be about one month away, a 5k is a safe fun focus.

(2) Bloomsday 12k, May 17, 2017 – Spokane, WA.                                                 A hugely popular run that sees large numbers of runners from all walks. It sounds, different and promises a picturesque course and a fabulous after-party. A definite drag-some-one(s)-along run, plus it’s cheap.

(3) Carlsbad 5000, Carlsbad, California, April 11, 2017.                                                 The flattest, fastest, scenic 5k in southern California you will ever run. For newbies to avid competitors alike, you gotta dig this killer 3.1 course.

(4) Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, May 7, 2017.                                                           Touted as the best-named Marathon, it promises a challenge, which is offset by the spectacular views. Who doesn’t run just for those? It’s a new course for me, there’s beer, goody bags and other adventurers. I’m stoked.

(5) St. Jude’s Country Music Rock n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, April 29, 2017 – Nashville, TN.                                      A once in a lifetime must-do run through of the iconic sites in country-famous Nashville. There’s bound to be a free concert or a few happening with lots of music on hand.

Really, I could go on and on. There are just so much races to choose from. From mud to color to music, there is a run for everyone in practically every state and beyond. Those listed above are just a few of which I plan on running at least two from.

I invite you to consider taking a step out of your comfort zone, whatever that may be for you, maybe it’s running in another state, a new course, a new distance or a different type of race, Let it be your Spring fling if you will and commit to dive in and enjoy it from start to finish; chances are you may develop a hankering for this running thing.

Powering through Pain: my long run debacle

img_20170218_121104_072I recently did a long run that would probably label me insane by a lot of people, maybe you’re already convinced I am, truth be told, we runners are a crazy lot. I know I’m not the average person anyhow. I’m what my daughter terms “extra” and what I know to be type-A in nature, so it’s hardly surprising that I would choose to hop a train out to Long Island for an impromptu long run, at the suggestion of a friend after suffering through a week of a mother of a toothache. Maybe it was the chance to break the cycle of pain, but I over-zealously grabbed on to it with both hands and jumped right in to a hell of my own making.

I got up early Saturday morning, ate, took my pain meds, and took off running to the train station. A few feet into it..my tooth made me aware that maybe, just maybe, this was not such a good idea after all. In all honesty, I thought about abdicating for all of two seconds and decided to hell with that, I’ll wing it. I loaded up on oral gel – it had to work – and we boarded the train and hello Wantah. We made it in under an hour and immediately took to the street, zig-zagging our way through traffic and sidewalks still packed with ice, from the snow storm last weekend, all the way to the Ceder Park.

img1487614898472Mindful of the cold air getting to my gum and the exposed nerve, I was pretty much mummified, which may have helped except that the pounding of my feet sent shards of glass shooting up the right side of my head. Duhh, you may say. Well, a girl could dream; dream of running fast and far enough that the pain would take flight, only it didn’t. I tried tailing my partner in the hopes that my pain wouldn’t jeopardise his run, I tried running alongside him & letting him chat it up to take focus away from the pain, I even tried running ahead, that lasted for all of one mile. In the end it proved rather difficult to pretend it away and I had to live with reducing my pace and keeping my mouth and much of my face covered.

Seven and a half miles in we came upon the beach area and I was able to appreciate something about the whole mess of a run. Turned out it was a view worth running for. The ocean seemed to beckon as its waves rushed forward invitingly, whereupon we succumbed to its temptation and ventured closer to touch its water. No surprise there, it was as cold as it looked, though we didn’t let that stop us from trying to capture the picturesque scene and peace surrounding us. A futile effort really, as the photograph would never quite capture the awesomeness of that moment.

imag1651While it was hell going, the return proved much easier even though my momentum was shot to hell. Thus, I was able to increase my pace somewhat and breathe easier as the air got warmer and I lost some of the covering over my mouth and face area. Physically, there was little I could do once reaching the beach, it was either Uber, swim or run. Since there was no chance of either of the former, it was down to make-up-a-mean-mind and get it done. And done I did..not in the time nor fashion I wanted, but hell, sometimes finishing just has to be enough.

Fourteen miles and some coconut water later, we were back on the train heading home. Did I end up worst off or further incapacitate myself as a result of running with a toothache, somewhat. I’ve been dealing with an ongoing runner’s knee issue and because I had to favor my right side to minimize the tooth pain, I ended up over-compensating, which flared up my knee pain and has me back to working to recover from that. Sometimes, we can be such fools. However, I promise you I spent the rest of the day as horizontal as I could and plan on having an easy week to help heal my mouth and a painful right knee. After all, April’s fast approaching.

img_20170218_121206_497

Jones Beach

 

Love Beautiful, Love Healthy, Love Happy, Love Running

 

Source:Core Body Fitness

Source: Core Body Fitness

My body and I have been through it all. But recently I have been liberated. I am healthy, I treat myself well, and for that I’m happy. I’ve looked in the mirror and been able to LOVE the things about my body that beauty norms deem ‘undesirable’. I now have grown to know that my body is worthy of so many great things. I don’t need to be a size 0 to believe in myself. My body carries me each and every day, it loves the people i love, it holds what makes me healthy and strong, it bends it shakes it runs and it CHANGES. That is okay and that is beautiful.                ~Sailor Brinkley Cook

Last week there was a CNN opinion piece by Peggy Decker about Christie Brinkley,  a 63 years old former Sports Illustrated (SI) model, who appeared on the cover of SI once again, after many years, alongside her two daughters, Sailor Brinkley Cook and  Alexa Ray Joel. While the article has many merits, I take issue with its attempt to delegitimize Christie Brinkley’s love, validation and pride in her body.
Decker argues that Brinkley’s “sexagenarianism” or youthful beauty and implied good health is an impossible ideal for women to strive for and is therefore unrealistic and unattainable. I hardly agree. Those of us who embrace a healthy lifestyle expect to see the results of our dedication and commitment to same. We are under no illusion that we hold the key to eternal youth or any such fallacy, as that is well within God’s design,  but we do believe that such a path allows us, as far as it is within our power to do so, to minimize the risks of sickness, aging badly and other negative conditions associated with getting older. The idea is that if we love our bodies, regardless of color, size, age and or type, and take care to treat it well, we will be rewarded with a healthy and beautiful life within the limits of this realm of course. It’s a fact, we live in an imperfect world and so we’re privy to all the imperfections that come with that, however we have a responsibility to value greatly this gift we have been blessed with and while it may not always be the case, at least 75% of the time we are guaranteed success.
Our part is clear and easier now than ever before: eat healthy meals, snack healthy, drink lots of water, exercise daily to include running of course (wink), moisturize and use sunscreen, visit your doctor regularly to ensure your necessary checkups and be happy. Those are the things within our purview, things we have every right and responsibility to attain. It will go a long way in refuting the supposition that a long, beautiful, healthy and youthful life is unrealizable.

Running is Empowerment, Ownership and Control; don’t hate, Run.

Source: blogdoctoroz.com

Source: blogdoctoroz.com

Someone once asked me if there was anything that couldn’t be cured by running..my answer – of course no! LOL. I mean you have to believe in something right? After God that is. While it seems the world’s all upside down these days and people are all torn up about this and that and a lot of politics are involved, I try to keep it simple. It’s not that the politics of Washington and the issues affecting this great country doesn’t affect me, it sure does. However, through running I’ve discovered the power of compartmentalizing. Since then, there’s a place for everything and everything’s in its place.

You live and learn is truer than you think. You live long enough, you learn well enough that life is not so much a sprint as it is a marathon – in which case it’s all about the strategy (how well you run) to get to the finish line. Know that as with any endurance event, there will be uncertainties and/or unknown elements and even disappointments from time to time. But just as we never throw in the trowel and quit before we reach the finish line, so too we must face life head-on determined to persevere and not just finish, but do so well.

Forgive me while I don’t indulge in all the whining and bitching (excuse my candor) about life and politics and our undetermined future. The recent political upheaval notwithstanding, I’ve embraced running as the friend it is – to empower me; to give me the sense of purpose and freedom that is so indelible to my nature. On my runs I can think, breathe, process and compartmentalize. I have perspective and faith that things are not going to get the better of me.

Running allows me to own my problems..the issues I face and the responsibility I have to forge a path forward, finish line in focus. It is through running that I can regain control of my sense of self and purpose and so use it to inform and empower others to own and control their destiny as well. One step at a time, we have the power, the right, and the freedom in these United States and beyond to overcome whatever challenges that threaten our right to live, love, let our voices be heard and even run freely. We must not take it lightly nor should we let anyone or group de legitimize our right to do so.

Stay Inspired and Running this Winter

Source: Rush University Medica Center

Source: Rush University Medical Center

Winter has to be the hardest time to stay committed to a running plan. I mean, there are so many challenges facing the inspired-new-year-goal-oriented person. There are those brutally cold and snowy days: days when all you wish for are PJs all-day long. Then there is the issue of shorter days: less daylight hours means less time to run especially if you’re going solo. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s still the issue of getting all cloak and dagger like and layering up, which is such a bother really. Add to that much more extreme weather and/or a fluctuating weather pattern, which is uncertain at best, and your chances of catching the flu or a virus become highly probable. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

There isn’t much more one can do but stay focused and committed. Sure there are a lot of hurdles weather-wise and many personal and physical adjustments to consider but this is one instance where the grass is really greener on the other side. During this time, more than anything, a runner needs to embrace his or her strengths and be flexible with the intent of adapting: time, effort, pace etc., to remaining on point for the duration. It can only help that lacing up and getting out is hell on the dreaded winter blues and puts runner’s joy on a whole new level.

As is often said, this too shall pass. Below is a video clip I discovered on YouTube by “Just Another Runner”  that explains why running is my happy place and may help to keep you inspired. Take a look.

Training Day: long-run Saturdays


1139b6ff9e668afaf6ed3ef5dfacf6f6

For the past four weeks or so, I’ve been in training mode preparing for the Boston Marathon in April. Seems I’m always in-training these days, though I did have a few weeks off last November. No matter, the important thing is to get it in so as to be up and ready when the big day comes. To this end, I’ve been paying mind to the necessary components of a good training plan, particularly the long run aspect. I should stress that all parts of a plan are important; however the long-run, for me, is of great significance because of two things: the opportunity to develop strength and endurance and, in the latter phase of training, the opportunity it presents to simulate your race day strategy.

Developing strength and endurance happens over time, it involves steadily increasing mileage and alternating workouts to encompass building speed, stamina aka endurance and running efficiency. Any good training plan, for the average runner concerned with running a marathon goal time, will include speedwork: interval training, some hill work, tempo runs and long runs and rest days. The long run builds slowly over weeks (between 16-22 weeks) of training up to two weeks before race day. During this period, the focus is on building endurance through getting the body accustomed to running for longer periods each week, gradually increasing mileage to the point where one can confidently and comfortably complete 20-22 miles. For example, in my training, my long runs may start at around week 8 with 12-13 miles (which is really a bit of a medium-long run) to which I will add-on a couple of miles each week.

From early on, it’s important to plan these days and decide on which works best for you. Turns out Saturdays are ideal for my long runs as I’m mostly off from work and I can choose to either rest longer in the am ( during winter anyhow) and run later in the day or get it in early and have the rest of the day off. Usually, I try to get to bed at a decent hour the night before so I’ll wake up rested and ready to go. Also, I try to eat my carbs and hydrate well leading up to Saturday; this is all to make sure I’m in the best place to accomplish my mileage without killing myself. Most times it works out great, I clear my schedule and leave my day open for running and I’m able to do just that.

As it gets closer to crunch time – by then I will have racked up the necessary mileage and developed the level of endurance I need – I’m able to use my remaining long runs to simulate race day. On these runs, the focus is on running efficiency: pace, hydration and strategy. The idea is to perfect a plan based on the above in as near to similar conditions as race day to help project performance on that day; this will help to build confidence and race preparedness. I’m under no illusion that mastering the long-run will ensure stellar performance on race day. On the contrary, there are no guarantees in running as so much is particular to that run and that day. What your training long-runs do is give you the ability to control what you can and give you the confidence – ammunition if you will –  to go out there on race day and do the best you can.

How to make Running Fun

 Dreamstime.com

Dreamstime.com

For many people running is categorized as hard and can hardly be described as enjoyable. For them, it’s complexing that others can embrace a sport that literally takes your breath away and sometimes quite painfully so. I posit, that it is precisely this that captures runners’ imagination. It challenges them to take a seemingly solo gig with little excitement and make it something fun, something happy, and something that’s even anticipated.

The age of technology and social media have made it so easy to rally around just about anything: to garner support, incite action and encourage others to join you in living adventurously. Running is a no brainer really – aside from its health and many other benefits – it has tremendous potential to change your typical everyday routine and bring out your fun side. Of course it all depends on what your goals are. And, even if you have serious goals like losing weight or running a marathon, there is still fun to be had. Indeed, fun must be had or else it’ll be a long and lonely road quite literally.

Lucky you, I have it all figured out (wink) – not really. Here are a few ideas I’ve picked up along my running way; thought I’d share with you. If you’re just starting out:
  • Find a running buddy or group; the leader usually has the scoop on how to encourage, challenge and support your goals while mixing some fun in there
  • Make goals; small, measurable ones. It feels super when you get to check them off
  • Keep it regular and add variety; different courses and different workouts encourage consistency and provide enjoyment
  • Sign up for a fun race; obstacle, mud or color run. It’s something to work towards and look forward to
  • Embrace the challenge and the difference running brings to you physically and to your life in general; new community, new friends, good health, new habits and even new goals
  • Show up with the right attitude; sleep well and plan accordingly, this will allow you to be ready and excited to get out and have fun

If you’re a running veteran beware; it’s easier to fall into a routine and a rut if you’ve been at it for some time. In this case, it behooves you to take stock periodically to make sure the correct attitude, level of enthusiasm and challenge still inspire your runs. If it’s not, it maybe that you need to shake things up a bit and so a sit down with your group leader/ coach may be necessary to help figure things out. On the other hand, even super heroes need to rest sometimes, and so it could be time for a break, to give yourself time to shift gears and refocus.

With all that said, it really won’t amount to anything if you’re not open-minded and armed with the right attitude. I’m of the view that attitude amounts to at least 50% when getting a job done. For running fun, you need at least 75%. I think that’s totally doable. Don’t you?

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 393 other followers

%d bloggers like this: