Exercises To Do This Week: STRONGER HIPS

Question:

Why can’t I lift my knees higher when I run?

Why does it ache on the outside of my hip?

Why does my IT band flare up all the time?

Why can’t I stride longer?

Why is my foot turnover slow?

Why does it hurt across the top of my butt?

Why do I trip over my toes when I run/walk?

Answer: Your hips are weak.

A little anatomy lesson:

The hip joint is the largest joint of your body. The anatomy of the front of the hip joint looks like this:

Image from Wikipedia

The psoas major and illiacus form the iliopsoas tendon that crosses from the abdominal cavity into the lower extremity (your quadricep area). This tendon is responsible for lifting both a straight leg and bent knee forward.

The tensor fascia lata (TFL) is the muscle belly for the dreaded Illiotibial band/tract (IT band) that steadies the hip laterally as you put pressure on your legs in the form of walking and running. It’s a hip stabilizer. Without it, the hip would pop out of the socket.

The anatomy of the rear (and most internal) part of the hip looks like this:

Image from Wikipedia

These are the hip rotators, responsible for rotating (duh) and stabilizing the hip joint.

Image from Wikipedia

The gluteus maximus (largest muscle in your rear) is the powerhouse of pushing (think sitting down and standing up) and the gluteus medius is responsible for abduction (lifting your leg to the side), rotation and stabilization of the hip.

What does this mean to you? In short, these muscles are your problem. If you’re a female, they are usually a very big problem because female hip girdles are much wider than that of men and the angle from our hip to our knee is more severe. Big problem.

These muscles stabilize your hip joint as you run and walk. Because running and walking has forward motion and rarely has lateral movement, these are the secondary muscles that keep your hip in place as you push off and catch yourself. Because they are secondary, they are often ignored in a typical strength training routine. Running and walking is choreographed falling and these muscles keep your hip from falling right out of its socket. If you swim, bike, do yoga or dance, they are the muscles that help you kick and push and pull your legs. Pretty important, right?

They are so important that most people pay absolutely no attention to them at all until they hurt like hell. Why? It’s just lack of knowledge. But you’re a smart runner. You seek knowledge before there’s a problem. That’s why you’re here.

When these muscles are ignored, you can end up with tendonitis, ITB syndrome, TFL problems, meniscus tears, lower back pain, muscle strains everywhere from your hips to your calves and a whole host of other problems. All because you’re missing three simple exercises from your weekly workouts. No longer.

#1. Leg Lift: for the iliopsoas (the one that lifts your leg and your knee)

-Lie flat on your back with a light ankle weight around your straight leg.

-Keep your toes pointed toward the sky and lift your straight leg up and down for one minute with out stopping.

#2. Abductor Leg Lift: for the hip rotators and gluteus medius

-Lie directly on your side with one arm tucked under your head and the other in front of your belly button for balance. Legs straight, one on top of the other.

-Lift your top straight leg up to just past hip height. Keep all of your toes facing forward (don’t turn them up toward the ceiling) and lower the leg back down. 1 minute without stopping.

#3. Rear Leg Lift: for gluteus maximus (big butt muscle)

-Lie on your stomach with your hands under your forehead, forehead on the ground. Legs straight, toes slightly lower than your body (see how LB’s toes are off the mat?)

-Squeeze your butt (very important!) and lift your straight leg up a few inches (no higher) and then back down, but don’t lose the feeling of squeezing your butt. The more you squeeze, the more you work.

Every single athlete, heck, PERSON in the world should be doing these exercises. They help prevent and rehabilitate the most common injuries that sideline runners by strengthen those tiny, but vitally important, muscles of the hip. This is the largest joint of the body (I know I said that already, but IT IS), so show it some love. My Radio City Rockette has learned to love these exercises and so should you! Do each of these exercises for one minute twice a week and you will be amazed at how it helps make you a better, stronger runner. I promise.

Now go out and run!

Exercises To Do This Week: Rock The BOSU®

Have you ever walked into a gym and seen that funny looking blue thing that should be a ball, but isn’t a full ball? It looks like a half-ball or something. It’s called a BOSU®, meaning “both sides up”. I first saw these things when I was in college and have had a love affair with them ever since (shhhh…don’t tell!)

The cool thing about these little half-ball thingys is that the possibilities are endless. Legs, abs, back, arms, stability, you name it. Anything you can do on solid ground, you can also do on a BOSU®. There are entire classes where they use only a BOSU® and some free weights. Very cool. I’m a fan, obviously, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite exercises with you.

These are advanced exercises and should be done under the supervision of a trainer or fitness professional.

#1. Jump-backs

Grab hold of both sides of the BOSU® and squat down so that your heels are off the ground. Put your weight into your hands and jump your legs back behind you into a plan position. Make sure your feet are always together.

 

 

Shoulders and hips are at the same height. Shoulders are directly over the wrists. Gaze is slightly forward or straight down. Jump back into the start position. Repeat. When you get proficient and feel comfortable with the balance of the exercise, try doing it without pausing in both directions.

Do 3 sets of 10.

 

Jump-backs work everything all at once and get your heart a-pumpin’, too. I love them as an in-between free weights exercise because they engage the core muscles so effectively without putting stress on one particular muscle group.

#2.  BOSU® Lunges with Lateral Shoulder Raises

One foot is in the middle of the flat side of the BOSU® and arms have 3-8lb. dumbbells hanging at your side. The back leg is bent at 90º (as is the front) and the back heel is (and always is) off the ground.

 

 

 

Push off the back foot and stand up straight onto the front foot, raising your arms at the same time.Lower your arms, reach back with your back leg and lower yourself to the ground by bending your standing leg (never letting your back heel touch the ground).

Do 3 sets of 15-20 on each leg.

 

Don’t try to stay up on top of the BOSU® and balance for this particular exercise, it is meant to be dynamic and constantly moving from one position back to the other is key. This is hard, but if you keep the weight mostly in the leg on top of the BOSU®, it’s a little easier to balance. The more you move, the easier it is. So, if you’ve mastered regular ‘ol lunges already, give these a try and challenge yourself. It’s great for the glutes, quads, core and shoulder/upper back area.

In other news today: It is my return to lululemon Run Club tonight. Yay! Summer school is O.V.E.R. and I am so ready to get back with the awesome uptown runners of lululemon. Come on out and join us for an all-levels 3-5 mile run in Central Park. Ladder workout tonight! Meet at either the E. 66th St. store or Lincoln Center store at 6:30 and be ready to run. See you out there.

Tell me. What exercises are you rocking in the gym these days?

Now go out and run!

(Thanks to Rainbow Bright for the awesome fitness modeling!)

 

Exercises To Do This Week: Everyone Can Do A Pull-Up

Woo-hoo! Time for some cross-training, you fabulous runners. I know, I know, you don’t wanna. But you gotta! Let’s mix it up and work it out with two total-body exercises. GET PUMPED! Disclaimer: the plyometric ski jumps are not for newbies. If you are new to exercising or strength training, master the basics from previous posts for now and move up from there! If you’re ready for the challenge (admit it, you probably are!) then check out these awesome moves. Oh, and I’m going to show you how to do a pull-up even if you can’t do a pull-up. Read on.

Ok, first I have to admit something: I can’t do an honest-to-God pull-up. Never could. Not when I was 9, not when I was 19, not when I was 29…you get the picture. And I’m not talking about those so-called pull-ups where people are swinging their legs all over the place and using momentum to heave their bodies up. I can do those (but I don’t because I am the Form Police, thanks to Obi-wan) but I could never do a proper pull-up. Wimpy? Not on your life. Anyone who calls me a wimp for that has never challenged me to a 90 minute hot vinyasa class. Or a 15K. Nor have the worked out with me. I will dominate! You will cry and apologize. End of story. At any rate, I see the benefit of the exercise and have found a modified way to do it (without swinging around like a monkey)!

Big hand to Rainbow Bright who is the fabulous model today!

1. Modified Pull-ups

    

Grab a Smith Machine and sit underneath the bar so that your arms can straighten, but your bottom only grazes the floor. Keep your hips underneath your shoulders and your rear end hanging down as you pull yourself up towards the bar. Bring your collarbone close to the bar and slowly lower yourself down. Do 10-15 reps, 3 sets. To build up to using less weight, lift one foot. Sexy shoulders, here you come!

2. Ski Jumps

    

Fine a line or place something down that you can easily jump over on the ground. Bend your knees slightly, reach your arms back and jump over your object. Land with both feet on the ground and stop for one second, stabilizing yourself. Repeat: Jump, land, stop, jump, land, stop for 20-30 seconds. Great for strengthening your quadriceps and the tendons and ligaments around your knees. When done properly, the lateral motion and force it takes to push and land forces your glutes to get involved. Gets your heart pumping, too!

The reason I like these two exercises so much is that they hit all the muscles groups at once. Pull-ups are the quintessential upper body exercise that calls upon every muscle to get involved at some point in the motion while requiring balance and stabilization in your core. Ski jumps challenge the control of the quadriceps to land without bouncing, while requiring the push of the hamstrings, glutes, and the often-forgotten calves to propel your body up and over to the other side. Oh, and you hit that core again (if you’re keeping your back straight!). I just love it.

So, next time your in the gym (today, tomorrow?) give these a shot and see how they feel. Let me know how you do! In the mean time, what are you waiting for? Go out and run!

WAIT!!! LISTEN UP, NYC READERS! (This is the corrected version: the event is on Thursday, August 11th at 6:30pm)

I almost forgot! You know how I have ulcerative colitis and how much is sucks? And remember when I met Ali who has Chron’s disease (and how much that sucks–Chron’s, not meeting Ali. Ali’s awesome!) and how she’s is running for the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America? Well, she’s having fundraiser on thursday, August 11th at the Upper East Side JackRabbit Sports on Lexington Ave. between 84th and 85th Streets at 6:30pm. Raffles, prizes, games, food, booze! What more could you ask for? 15% of all merchandise bought tomorrow night goes to CCFA on behalf of Ali’s fundraising efforts. So, if you think I’m awesome and my disease sucks, come on out and grab some new running shoes or a hydration belt or some Shot Bloks and support us all! Or donate to the CCFA on Ali’s website. And thanks! 

Guest Blog: Kim’s Balancing Act

Happy weekend, everyone! In the spirit of learning and sharing other people’s fitness journeys, I’ve asked some fabulous people I know to share theirs with all of you. The first in the Guest Blog Series is Kim, a reformed obsessed runner. She wants to share her story and her new perspective on fitness with you. Hope you enjoy!

 

Hey, Runners!  I’m Kim; a runner, fitness fiend and mentee of our coach Abby. She’s kindly given me the mic for a day to talk about how I am learning from her and our vast NYC fitness community how to run stronger every day by mixing up my routine and finding fun, new outlets to become a fitter and more balanced runner.

Hi, I'm Kim!

Like Abby, I have been addicted to running since my ‘tween’ years when my best friend convinced me that cross country would be far more fun than field hockey.  Crazy as it sounded (moving from the desirable ‘girls-in-kilts who scored dates with upperclassman’ sport to the ‘girls who sported fartlek t-shirts and talked about the color of their urine’ team), I made the switch.  What started on a whim, has turned into thousands of miles of pavement pounding (I can count my treadmill runs on one hand) and time spent with running buddies but mostly myself – reflecting, planning, prioritizing my eternal to-do list and working through all of life’s challenges.

I like to run.

Like many of you, I love running – plain and simple.  I love it because it is plain and simple.  It is convenient (all I need are shoes, safe-footing and safe surroundings – though I’ve done a few without all of the above), efficient (I’m burning ~90 calories/ mile) and mindless (I completely zone OUT).

 

Though I love zoning out for an hour while outdoors, inaccessible to the world, I recently found myself in a big running rut.  I hadn’t done a crunch, lifted a weight, or stretched for years.  In typical type-A style, I thought I had found the most efficient form of exercise for my lifestyle and I had no reason to change.  That is until I found myself dreading my daily runs so much that I wouldn’t do them at all.  Work became more intense and my social life took precedence, and then I sunk to the point that, as a runner, I never thought I’d hit; the dreaded rut.

Pre-rut with Mars at the Boston Marathon

When the stress increased and my muscles softened, I decided I had to do something about it. I had gone from running nearly 50 miles a week during peak marathon training to nada.  I live in New York City, a virtual playground for exercisers – with everything from a Cirque du Soleil-inspired Jukari workout to an entire class centered on a hula hoop.  With unique classes offered at every hour of the day, there is really no excuse for physical inactivity or boredom!

 

So now that I’ve filled you in on my fitness journey to date, I welcome you to join me for the next chapter.  With motivation from my trainer Abby and an island full of fitness classes, I’m on a quest to try as many workouts as possible in order to find what works best for my body, mind and lifestyle. I will moonlight as a blogger when I can and will continue to run so long as it’s fun.  I will hope to share lessons and activities I will incorporate into my improved, sustainable fitness lifestyle (notice I did not say “routine”).

 

First stop:  Vinyasa Yoga at Yamuna with Nahdi Devi

 

I know I may be in the minority of runners, but I have not given yoga a fair chance. I used to think that if you weren’t dripping with sweat after an hour-long workout, it may not be worth it.  But with the amazing press that yoga receives in medical journals touting benefits like stress relief, improved strength and flexibility, and mood enhancement, and the fact that I haven’t stretched since high school, I decided to try it.

 

The instructor, Nahdi, greeted each of us, and took the time to ask our names and if we were new to yoga.  As a newbie, I appreciated her explanation of Vinyasa flow, which is the synchronization of breath with movement, and her assurance that she would always provide an option if a particular pose was challenging or uncomfortable.

 

Nahdi began the “practice” by playing a harmonium and using a melodic, low chant thanking us for attending and asking us to thank our body, which according to the principles of yoga, is the most important tool humans have & should be treated with the utmost care and respect. A perfect mantra since I have fallen out of touch with my body’s potential.

 

I wasn’t sweating yet but I felt good and not too awkward as I moved from downward dog into warrior one and back again (I quickly picked up these movements by keeping one eye on my fellow yogis or Nahdi).  Nahdi kept reminding us to take long, deep breaths (“fiiiill it up.. empty it ouuuut”) with each movement.  I wasn’t exactly moving gracefully from pose to pose, but I remained focused on my breath and didn’t draw too much attention to my amateur status. At one point we were in a triangle pose or “trikonasana” (legs wide, arms outstretched leaning to one side – see pic) and when Nahdi asked us to look up at our hand (toward the ceiling), I completely lost my balance and nearly face-planted right in the middle of the lovely, tranquil yoga class.  Trying to reign in my giggles and regain composure on my hands & knees, I returned to the triangle pose.

Trikonasana or "Triangle pose"

Awhile into the class (without a clock I wasn’t able to concern myself with the passing minutes), I started to sweat.  The sweat came from a place of focus; every bit of concentration I could muster to hold stretches for muscles that were only used to moving one way (pounding the pavement).  I had an idea of why my muscles felt strained because I did some research before class and found that most runners have very rigid muscles that yoga helps stretch and strengthen.  Muscle rigidity occurs when muscles perform the same action over and over again and then become brittle, hard, and inflexible.  Through consistent yoga, you can engage, strengthen, and place demands on all core muscle groups, which support and stabilize the entire skeletal system. So these are the muscles that I’ve neglected all these years??  They shook and as I grew tired, my motions became less fluid. By the end of class, when others were doing headstands, I was just chilling in downward dog, recognizing I have a long way to go to strengthen and stretch my poor neglected muscles (hips, abdominals, hamstrings, oh my).

 

Overall I enjoyed my Vinyasa yoga experience, and I definitely want to continue this practice. I can understand why these once-neglected muscles need some attention, and why yoga will be a good way to enhance them and treat my body like my most valuable tool.

 

As Abby says, “now go out and run” and I say “na-ma-ste!”

 

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays & Exercises To Do This Week!

My Dad, Obi-wan, has always said about whatever is going on in his or our lives that, “It’s better than the alternative.” It is, isn’t it? I mean, when you take a look at things going awry in your life, you gotta admit that whatever it is that’s getting you down, you’re still here and that’s better than the alternative. So, here we are on “Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays” where I share what I’m loving about life this week. Today, it’s New York City.

My back yard!

I’ve been having a love affair with the Big Apple for going on nine years now. I can’t get enough of everything this little island has to offer. Specifically, THIS is my back yard, my track, my playground. How lucky am I that I don’t also have to mow it? Central Park is the reason why a midwestern gal like me can continue to live in a bustling metropolis. I’d be lost without the beautiful parks in the city. The magical season of Cherry Blossom trees is reason alone to live in New York City. What can I say? I’m smitten!

These amazing trees EXPLODE every spring

Now, onto the exercises of the day! The deeply fabulous LB modeled some moves just for you all this morning during her 6:30AM workout.

*As always, consult a physician before starting any exercise program. Stop immediately if you feel faint, dizzy, nauseous or otherwise unwell. These exercises are not for everyone, consult a fitness professional for proper technique and form*

1. Standing lunges. I like walking lunges just as much as the next person, but proper form can be a challenge to maintain with so many moving parts. Oh, and for all you runners out there (and anyone else who may desire some lift in your behind), this is an amazing glute strengthener! My physical therapist prescribed these for me when I strained my gluteus medius (ouch) to beef up my rump!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand with one leg forward and one leg back. Be sure your feet are hips-width apart and your back heel is high to the sky. Slowly lower your knee to the ground, staying tall with your chest, until both knees are at 90 degrees. Be careful that your front knee doesn’t jut out in front of your toes. Push through your front heel back to standing, both legs completely straight. Rinse. Repeat. 12-15 reps each leg for 3 sets.

2. Reverse abdominal roll-ins. A favorite among my clients. Ok, I lied, the are actually my favorite and not always the most-requested exercise, but a very effective one nonetheless! The most important thing about this exercise is to control the motion and not get carried away with speed and momentum. If done slowly, you will feel your abdominals supporting and balancing your every move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start in a plank (shoulders over your wrists, straight arms) with your knees/shins on the physio ball. Draw your knees toward your chest while lifting your rear end toward the sky. The lifting part is reeeeally important so that it’s an abdominal exercise and you’re not just flailing around on the ball. Gently and slowly roll your body out until you’re straight again. The slower you go, the harder more effective it is! Repeat 8-10 times, 2-3 sets. This one can get tough on the wrists if you have even the slightest hint of carpal tunnel, so skip it if anything starts to hurt.

There you go! Round of applause for LB, who wanted me to tell all of you how much she loves this particular lululemon tank top. It’s not in the stores anymore, but the Light Up Tank is very similar and is both in stores and online. Now, go for a run and then hit the gym with these fabulous exercises for a stronger body. Just a reminder that the Lululemon Run Club will be guiding the Achilles Track Club through a run/walk workout in the park tonight at 6pm. Meet at the Engineer’s Gate in Central Park.

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! What are you doing to celebrate the day?