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! 

5 Reasons Why Every Runner Should Do Yoga

I just go back from running this afternoon in a very humid Central Park and I am beat! I did a one mile warm-up, 4 Yasso 800s (3:30, 3:34, 3:32, 3:30–so, according to Mr. Bart Yasso, I can run Philly in about 3:32. I’m gonna hold you to that, Bart!) and ran two and a half miles home to my apartment. Between that, my long run on Sunday and studying, I think I’ve had about enough for the day.

Hold up. Not so fast.

Oh yeah, I need to get my yoga on before the day is out. My body is truly asking for it. My hip is achey, my hamstrings are undoubtedly tight (sprints do that to you) and I’m sure that my back could always use a bind or two. Yoga has truly saved my running life!

Here’s the skinny on why I do yoga and why every runner (AND NON-RUNNER!) should invest his/herself in a yoga practice:

1. It will make you more limber. More limber=longer, lighter strides. Active stretching is the most effective way to increase and maintain length in muscle fibers. Those 5 minutes you spend stretching when you get home are nothing compared to 45 minutes of active stretching in a vinyasa yoga class.

2. It will help prevent overuse injuries that happen because of muscle/tendon tightness (which eventually lead to inflammation, ie. tendonitis). When we run, everything tightens up to prevent our joints from wobbling about. And that’s a good thing. But, we need to combat that tightness with stretching to avoid a nasty bout of tendonitis or shin splints.

3. It opens up your hips. The hips bear the brunt of every step we take and so our glutes and rotators end up being super-tight as a result, which leads to problems with piriformis, gluteus medius and a whole host of lower back issues. Oh yeah, you know all the talk about ITB syndrome? Yoga helps with that, too. You’re starting to think this is a good idea now, aren’t you???? Keep reading…

4. It will make you stronger mentally. As runners, we pride ourselves in being able to power through long miles with mental toughness. Ever tried to hold a bind in your side angle position while your hip flexor and quad are burning and tell yourself, “I can do this” when you feel like you’re going to fall over? Yeah, that’s hard, too. They compliment each other nicely that way.

5. It will make you stronger physically. Cross training is a vital part of every athlete’s preparation. Yoga hits the upper body, lower body and core all in one. It’s a one-stop shop for your total body workout and all you need is a mat!

There are free yoga classes everywhere you look. Studios that train people to become yoga instructors often have “community classes” that are either free or donation-based where their students practice teaching (under supervision, of course). Every lululemon store offers at least one free yoga class every single week at the store. Lots of community centers offer free or low-cost yoga for yogis of all levels and the teachers are more than happy to help a beginner through the class.

Why, just the other day, Ms. Tampa was telling me she visited my most favorite yogi guru, Rodney Yee whom she felt gave her such amazing special attention because she told it was her first time at his studio. See? Just speak up and help is on the way!

Yoga has changed the way that I run. I have to tell you, as awesome as I feel after a great run, I feel just as amazing after a tough (and/or fulfilling) yoga class. It has taught me to breathe through things and to test my limits. I’m grateful for having found it when I was in college and rediscovered it here in NYC. Truly, it’s a gift you give yourself.

Ok, I’m off to do my yoga. You? Go out and run!

But first, tell me: What cross-training activity/sport changed your life or your running life?

Exercises To Do This Week

Some people are of the mind that they have to be in a gym to work out. I am not one of those people. Sure, a gym is great for so many exercises, but it’s not always a requirement. Sometimes all you need is a Thera-band and the will power to get it done.

Side Lunge

Side lunges are great for your glutes, hip rotators and quadriceps. It’s a dynamic exercise that is sure to strengthen those muscle groups that can help protect your knees and propel your forward with more power when you stride. For you women out there, lateral rotators are important to strengthen because women have a more severe Q-angle (the angle from your hips to your knees), which can lead to more ITB and meniscus issues as we become active and older. *sigh* Isn’t so much fun being a girl?

           

Stand with your feet together, lean forward and lunge to the side. Immediately push back to standing, maintaing parallel feet at all times. Do 15-20 reps each leg, 3 sets. Be sure of three things:

1. Lean forward with your chest, but back with your rear end

2. Keep your standing leg straight but bend no further than 90º on the moving leg.

3. Keep your knee from shooting out in front of your toes to keep your knee safe.

Standing Reverse Fly

By using a Thera-band (or the like) for this exercise, you are guaranteeing resistance in both directions of the exercise, which requires more control and is harder to do. Because it’s harder you don’t need lots of weight to make it difficult. If you’re still feeling like it’s a liiiiiittle too easy, you can lift one foot and add the challenge of balancing to the exercise. This will give you those sexy back muscles. It’s excellent for the rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, shoulders and core muscles.

           

Stand (on one foot or two) with your arms straight, holding either end of the band. Stretch your arms wide without bending them and squeeze your shoulder blades toward your spine. Slowly release your arms until they’re straight out in front of you again but do not let the band go slack. Maintain resistance at all times and keep your shoulders down away from your ears. You can do this with your arms bent but whichever way you do it, don’t bend your arms further as you reach back.

So there you go! An awesome leg sculptor and an upper body exercise that makes for seriously strong (and sculpted!) upper back and shoulder muscles. And you didn’t even have to go to the gym. Who knew?

Now go out and run!