Exercise Your Way to a Strong Mind & Body “Alice”.

I woke up yesterday to April 1. What in the world! How dare time keep moving on as if my life hasn’t been turned upside-down and reality isn’t now likened to a scene from Alice in Wonderland; except then, who am I? Shrinking Alice, the Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts? And where the heck am I? Where is the comfort of my life – my everyday routine of busy days and never-long-enough-weekends, my complaining and grandstanding of never enough time to do..well..anything. Ironic, though it is, time is all we have these days amidst the craziness of a virus hellbent on upsetting our routine and leaving disquiet and unsettling changes in its wake. But one thing is becoming quite clear, whomsoever we choose to be may very well determine who we are when this is all over.

Under normal circumstances and in the routine of our everyday, it’s oftentimes a challenge to juggle the many interests and day-to-day activities we engage in to maximize the best use of our time and resources. These days may be the “new normal” but they are anything but normal. Time, one of our most valuable resources on any given day, is in endless supply these days. However, this has in no way diminished its value; In fact, I want to stress on the importance of seeing time, in these “not normal” days, as an opportunity to invest in ourselves with the benefits/returns to be derived in the not-too-distant future. Let’s dive into how.

Exercise is what I do and in the most challenging of times I run to what I know for comfort and a sense of wellness. If I can catch my breath, work up a sweat, release some feel good endorphins, and stimulate my senses, then the world is still on its axis and there’s hope yet. This is not unique to me, there are a lot of literature on the effects of exercise on our physical and mental well-being and there are many people who benefit from adopting a healthy exercise routine. So allow me to share with you a variety of simple exercises you can use as a template to inspire your endorphins rush as our world goes through this crisis alone but together.

Running, Jogging, Walking – a relatively easy, cheap, and safe way to enjoy the outdoors alone. Spring is the ideal season, minus the wet days, to enjoy the chirping birds, budding leaves, and flowers in bloom in neighborhoods and parks. Nature is awakening and so will your senses. Just be mindful of doing so in daylight and keep your social distance. New to this form of exercise? Start slowly and with shorter distances that you can build upon as time goes on. For example; start with a goal of a 1 mile walk, which you can increase to a jog, then to a run, or feel free to utilize a combination of any two or even all three. Remember, it’s your body and your journey. Listen to it, and take pride in your daily accomplishments.

Cycling – another great calorie burner and a great way to get your exercise outside of the four walls of your home and to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is great. This is of course for those who have bikes. It’s become my newest crave and I like to think I’m a Cyclist-in-the-making. It’s so much faster on the bike than on foot too!

Yoga and Stretching – Stretching should ideally be performed before and after your workout, whether its an at-home workout, or before or after a run or jog. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints (Harvard Health). Pre workout, it serves to warm up the muscles so as to prepare for it’s use and works to keep you free from injury. After that run or workout, post workout stretching benefits are much the same and helps with releasing muscle tension.

Yoga can be different things for different people. For me, it is an excellent way to get my stretches in and practice my breath or breathing. This is really important, not only for me as a runner, but for all of us as per the usual stresses of life and especially now under present quarantine conditions. Practicing deep breathing can bring you calm, energize you, and reduce health problems. The best thing about stretching and yoga is that you can follow a guided video at home or on a mat in the quiet area of the park/ outside (my favorite) and use this as a meditative form of relaxation. There are many videos online, I especially enjoy Alo Yoga from which you can choose, short or longer, sessions particular to your taste.

Ab Workouts – Ideally targeted to that area of the body that makes us crazy with envy when we see a person boasting a six-pack. I mean, yes please! Of course much of that has to do with our diet but some is attributed to exercise and a minute amount to age. Again, thank God that we can do these alone, at home, in the park, or in the backyard. There are tons of YouTube videos and many exercises we can do on our own as well. You can make a list of your favorite, most challenging, or an ideal combination and set up a schedule to workout. If inside, it’s best to clear a spot in your living room for those days when you’re stuck in and designate it as your workout area. Stack up your mat and any workout additions in that area and allow it to work as a reminder of your intention. Some common and simple core exercises include: sit ups, crunches, Russian twists, planks, on the back leg raises, V-ups, and leg sissors.

Dancing – a fun way to release stress, burn calories, and enjoy yourself. You can do this alone with just a dance playlist in the privacy of your own home or join an online class. Virtual dance classes present a fun opportunity to let your hair down and shake “it” off.

Photo Credz @Pinterest.com

Swimming – A great cardio workout, which sadly many of us will be unable to utilize during this time with all the restrictions in place. But it’s a definite plus for those with access at home where you can work on drills and laps to develop technique and build endurance. It’s something I had planned on taking up this year for my triathlon training, now we’ll just have to wait and see. The intention is still there. Hope springs eternal.

Gymnastics movements – I’m limited here by the fact that I have no bars at home. But hey, I have a wall; so while I can’t do pull ups, toes-to-bars, knee or elbow raises, I can manage some wall walks, practice my handstands and handstand push-ups, which helps with shoulder strength and mobility. Since this is a movement that requires demonstration, and YouTube is a treasure trove when it comes to learning a new skill, check out a beginner video to help you get started.

Cardio Exercises – outside of running and cycling there are many other easily accessible exercises we can do to get our heart rates up and release those endorphins. 1. Jump Rope/ Skipping is a favorite of mine and doesn’t require much technique unless you want to graduate to a more advanced skill level like Double Unders. In the CrossFit world we use the term Single Unders for when the rope passes under your feet once and Double Unders for when it passes twice in one jump. 2. Burpees can be done easily by dropping to the floor facedown and using one’s hand in a push up motion to jump straight up as you feet leaves the floor and your hands meet overhead. This is repeated as many times as you decide. It’s an exercise we love to hate for it’s constant movement and high intensity. 3. Jumping Squats are almost self explanatory except remember that squats need to be below hip level to maintain proper form. 4. Jumping Jacks, high knees and butt kicks on the spot are also self explanatory. 5. Sprinting is short distance running at high speed with short recovery efforts after each Sprint (100 meters is my favorite). 6. Lunges: walking, jumping, and reverse are great glute exercises and a great addition to any cardio workout. Begin with feet hip width apart and step forward with the preferred leg and lower your body until the front knee is over your shoe while your back knee bends until it touches the floor in a straight L while you balance on the back toes. Stand and alternate legs and repeat. You can include a jump or do them in the reverse with a step back and knees back approach instead of forward. 7. HIT workouts are high intensity exercises that combine short bursts of different exercises like mountain climbers, push ups, squats, and burpees. They are great sweat-it-out workouts with constant and rapid movement.

The ideal workout would consist of a combination of warm up exercises, strength, and cardio. And could look like any variation of my daily workout these days: stretches, running/ sprints/ cycling/ jump rope; some combination of strength – these days I make use of books, backpacks, resistance bands, and other safe household items to add some weight and challenge – and could include weighted sit-ups, weighted squats/overhead squats, hip thrusters, deadlifts, plank rows, man makers, and some ab exercises. Some days I switch it up to emphasize yoga and core workout or sometimes, like today, I have a cardio day: 1500-2000 jump rope – a combination of Single and Double Unders and a 10 minute Ab workout. Go me!

One thing I’m super thankful for during this time is technology and the ability to vary workouts and generate new and refurbished ideas into tailored workouts because of the tons of resources that are available online, and on YouTube particularly. Technology has given us the added advantage of doing these workouts alone, but together. Who’s not thankful we can “Zoom” in with our friends anywhere, or Skype, or FaceTime, or do a live video call to share our time and workout with others if we so choose. Because, I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m not digging this solitary confinement at all. Praise the Good Lord for technology and our tech gurus!

Gyming and Running Fun Workouts

treadmill17n-3-web

The new year appears well underway while some of us are still struggling to get out of the Christmas mindset, if I had my way it would be three months from now, but of course time runs along and rightfully so should we. There, that’s my bit of pep talk. Β Seriously though, the arctic weather we’ve been having around the country doesn’t help to put us in a get-up-and-out frame of mind either so I figure I’ll share my secret, which is really no secret at all, on how to get those new ambitious goals on stream and have some fun while you’re at it.

I try to keep a gym membership year round but in the beautiful, late Spring to early Fall months, it’s hard. Sunshine, trees, flowers and birds are the sounds of nature calling and I’m a sucker so I rarely go the gym them and when I do, it’s mostly because I must have some type of cross training for a run. On the other hand, Winter sends me literally running to the gym and there the treadmill and I tough it out. You guys know my history with that piece of equipment… so anyway, I figure I have a good thing going this time around; always running, but coupled with either a class, weights or stretches and, what I call, tummy time. This variety keeps my workouts interesting but more importantly, keeps me interested. I try for three to four times a week these days and really with these conditions, it’s as much as I can make, as well as 10-12 miles being the maximum I can handle on there. If you can handle more, I say run with it. Β On any given day, here’s what I came up with:

  • 8-10 miles of increased speed and incline beginning with 7 and flat respectively, increasing in increments of .5 followed by complete body stretches to include some yoga poses, squats, crunches, planks, push ups etc… add some bonus jump ropes
  • 45 mins of a high intensity Spin class followed by 8-10 miles of varying speed and incline as above with some light stretching thereafter
  • 8 miles per above and by 2 miles on the elliptical with incremental incline and speed as well followed by a yoga class and some crunch time either freehand or machine-assisted
  • Kickboxing Class followed by 10 miles, 5 of those flat and fast-paced and 5 at a level 3 incline with medium pace and light stretching afterwards
  • Boxing Class followed by a tempo-paced 5 mile with slight incline, light stretching then leg weight training and some bonus crunches
  • 8-10 miles of incrementally increased incline and speed followed by light stretching, kettle bell squats and an arm and chest weight workout
  • Belly Dance or Zumba class followed by 10-12 miles at set pace and incline level and light stretching
  • Total Body workout class: includes cardio, weights, floor exercises & stretches followed by 8 miles at medium pace with incline at level 3 and light stretching
  • 5 mile easy run followed by an interval run or hill test set by the machine followed by a Pilate’s class
  • 10-12 miles at half-marathon pace with varying incline levels simulating that of a road run followed by a long deep stretch
  • 8-10 miles with pace and incline of your choice followed by light stretching and a back and shoulder weight workout

I’ts possible your gym may not have all these classes so you may have to adjust here and there to suit your situation and your needs but hey.. who ever said you couldn’t go out there and have a blast of a workout, even in winter. Winter 2015 presents the ideal challenge and opportunity to kickstart your new year goals and if the suggestions above help just a little in that regard, I’ll be totally tickled. So while the ideas are mine, it’s up to you to make the workout suggestions yours. As always, Happy Running!

Cross Training for Runners

Recently there has been a surge in the idea that Cross Training can benefit runners, increasing strength, endurance and building muscle. It is suggested that Cross Training can be supplemental to running, providing variety while strengthening and building muscles that normally atrophy with overuse and helping with speed and endurance to make you run longer, faster and better.

According to Dr. Vonda Wright, in her power play video above, what one needs to be a great racer goes beyond good sneakers and great nutrition. She claims, that what makes one a great racer is metabolic efficiency, balanced muscles and total body fitness. I believe she’s right on target with her attempt to get us to question and stretch ourselves.

There exist a ton of information on the best exercises to optimize your running potential, so much so, that it can be difficult to decide where your best results lie. Most trainers and runners agree that exercises, which target core areas and strengthen those that you use for running, which would pretty much mean your total body, are the ones you need to focus on. Some are: Swimming, Biking, Gym Workouts to include core work such as planks and squats; Yoga and Pilates are great for this, and Light Weights. Biking is great for strength training and targets your quads, gluts and legs without the impact of pavement pounding. Swimming is no impact and great for upper body and shoulder strengthening. It helps with stability and control and helps you stay in line when running because it builds core strength. Also, as with biking, runner’s knee and other susceptible injuries are a misnomer. Finally, there is so much to do at the gym..where to begin? Kettle bells! I love the feel and result. They have the advantage of giving your muscles and gluts a good workout-great butt booster girls-but lower the risk of injuries associated with heavier weights. Kettle bells can be included in a circuit workout that may include butt kicks, burpees, jumping jacks, planks and high knees. Remember the idea here is to be lean and fit so the focus should be on less weights and more reps. This will keep you in good stead, strengthening those muscles that will help you to be a more efficient and effective runner.

image
Happy Cross Training guys.

Video

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

Join 537 other followers

%d bloggers like this: