Core Series: Hamstrings

Hamstrings…not exactly the muscle group you think of when someone says “core”, amiright?

  1. Biceps femoris
  2. Semitendonosus
  3. Semimembranosus
The problem children of runners the world over.

The problem children of runners the world over.

I kept that picture HUGE so you can see all the little details. See how the hamstrings attach to the bottom of the pelvis (called the ischial tuberosity–please STOP CALLING IT A SITS/SITZ BONE) and then shares an attachment site with the sacrotuberus ligament that attaches to the sacrum?

Here’s the point: tight hamstrings are more than just a pain in the leg. Tight hamstrings can pull your pelvis downward, causing a posterior pelvic tilt. What does that mean? Low back pain and asymmetry. Remember my 3 S’s? Strength, stability, symmetry. Asymmetrical –> injury.

So, tight RIGHT hamstring can also put too much stretch on the RIGHT hip flexor, causing a tension reaction (also can indicate a weak RIGHT hip flexor) and mess up your gait when you walk and run. It’s also just painful.

How to strengthen it?

You can do basic hamstring curls, but that’s not very practical in everyday use. My favorite exercise: Physioball Roll-ins.

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The key part of this exercise is to lift your butt and KEEP YOUR HIPS AT THAT HEIGHT while you bend your knees inward. If your hips go up or down, you lose the exercise completely.

It’s hard, I know. If it’s too easy for you, check your form. The strongest of athletes can’t do this exercise without wobbling.

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For those of you who need a less strenuous hamstring exercise, there’s the Standing Leg Curl. They key part of this exercise is to make sure your bending knee’s hip doesn’t dip as you lift your foot. Standing against a wall or a table will assure your hips stay level when you do it.

Most importantly, SUCK YOUR BELLY BUTTON IN and stick your chest up and out to activate your other core muscles.

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You can add an ankle weight or a Theraband with cuffs when you get stronger.

In order to perform these exercises and get a benefit from them, I recommend starting with only a few reps (2-6) for 3 sets. Only do as many reps as you can maintain perfect form. Stop as soon as your form goes. Rest. Try again after a full minute.

Now go out and run!

BTAT: Sore As Hell

I don’t know about any of you, but I pretty regularly crave a good, hard workout. There’s something about getting my butt kicked by a track workout, or my favorite Refine Method instructor, or 5K that makes me feel like reeeeeeeeeally accomplished something.

That feeling when you stand up and say, “Ohhhhhhh my butt hurts.” Yeah, that feeling.

Maybe I’m a masochist?

Closing in on the Vomit Threshold in my last 5K. Woof.

The last 5K I ran. It was soooooo hot.

What it really is for me is that I’ve been forced to take so many breaks from running and exercise in the past five years, that when I can push hard and get myself sore, it means I’m finally on my way back. I can finally do a little bit more. I’m healthy enough to push hard.

You know that feeling, right?

You can push yourself a little faster.

You can run that hill a little harder.

You can do one more pushup.

You can finish that extra 800.

You can sprint to the finish at the end of a race.

And then you’re sore as hell. And you love it. Because being sore as hell means you’re changing your body, one workout at a time. Being sore as hell means you’re pushing your limits. Being sore as hell means you’re moving again.

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Yes, I could still go to a {very modified} Refine Method workout while pregnant, but I was never, ever sore.

Well, that’s what being sore as hell means to me, anyway. And it’s way Better Than the Alternative. I’ll take being sore as hell any day over being laid up on the couch any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Now go out and run.

Heavy Marathon Miles

Oy. You Fall marathoners are in long run Hell right now. 18, 20, 22 miles for three, four, five hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Lucky for us, this Summer has been super-mild and most of you have been able to get your long runs done in 70 degree weather.

Lucky ducks.

Last summer was freaking torture and I didn’t even get to run the damn marathon.

Last summer: the one spot on my tank not drenched with sweat. Yuck.

Last summer: the one spot on my tank not drenched with sweat. Yuck.

I don’t feel bad for you guys in that regard. You’ve had it pretty good. But the miles, oooooh, the miles! That’s where I feel for you.

Maintaing focus and doing the hard, long miles day after day, week after week, when you’ve been training for 12+ weeks is not easy. So what do you do when it’s getting to be too much? What do you do when you’re so tired of hearing your feet hit the pavement?

  1. Start the countdown. Make a countdown calendar. Put it somewhere you can see it every day. Update that sucker every single day and celebrate the countdown.
  2. Write down your goals. Do it every day, if that helps. Remember why you’re doing all this training.
  3. Take a break. Missing one workout is not going to destroy your training so if you really need to take a day and get a pedicure, do it. Regroup. And then get back into it.
  4. Check with your coach about your volume to make sure it’s not too much. Too many miles too quickly will definitely cause problems.
  5. Take a cheat day.

If all else fails and you still feel burnt out, maybe it’s not the time for you to run this race. It’s ok to back out if you’re not feeling it. There are few things worse (in your running life) than being at mile 19 of a marathon, hating it, and wishing you had never started in the first place.

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That’s not a good place to be.

This goes for for all types of training, but runners especially. Take good care of yourself! Get plenty of rest, eat real food, and run with friends. Hang in there, you’re almost done.

Now go out and run.

Core Series: More Than a 6-Pack

I am going to start a movement. It’s the True Core Movement.

Most people think of the core as being the abdominals. Some are knowledgable enough to know that the core includes the back muscles. A few think about glutes as a component but few, if any, consider the adductors, hamstrings, middle back, or quadriceps when thinking about the core.

If you only consider the abdominals and the back muscles to be the core, you’re missing out on the larger muscles that can make or break your core stability.

Glutes >>>> Abs, Back, everything else

Glutes >>>> Abs, Back, everything else

And a strong core isn’t primarily about strength. It’s about stability and symmetry. I really should go ahead and trademark my 3 S’s theory before someone else does, but I don’t know how. Do you? Tell me.

And when thinking about the core, if you focus on muscles, you’re thinking too small. Think BIG. Think hips.

Like Shakira says, hips don't lie.

Like Shakira says, hips don’t lie.

Any muscle that touches any part of the hip girdle or sacrum is part of the core. And any of these muscles can GREATLY affect your ability to maintain strength, symmetry, and a stability. It will also directly affect whether or not you get injured, your ability to run faster, and how much energy you require to run.

And these muscles will change the symmetry of your hips, directly affecting the strength output and stability of your entire body. Whoa.

Big. Freakin. Deal.

Hahaha! Remember this? Oh, Biden.

Hahaha! Remember this? Oh, Biden.

So, in this series, we’ll talk about all of these muscles and how to keep them on point to make you a stronger, faster, less-injured runner. If you bookmark these posts, you’ll have a great program for strength training that covers all your pelvic core muscles.

Just a thought.

Are you excited? I’m excited. Let’s do this.

Now go out and run.