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!

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.

ALL CAPS WEDNESDAY!!!!!

FINALLY!!!!

I TOLD YOU SO!!!!

A GIVEAWAY!!!!

I am usually only this excited when there are cupcakes involved. Not today!

Delicious post-Refine cupcake, courtesy of Birdie.

Delicious post-Refine cupcake, courtesy of Birdie. I was obviously very excited about this.

Because today is the day when Runner’s World Magazine has FINALLY gotten it right. And you know what, Runner’s World? I TOLD YOU SO!

One of their editors finally had it with being injured all the freaking time so she went to NYU Langone Center for Musculoskeletal Care’s RunSmart team for a biomechanical assessment.

Her story is basically the same as every other runner’s story. She runs and other stuff and thinks she’s all strong but can’t figure out why she’s always injured. She assumes she knows what she’s doing and that she’s been treating her repetitive injuries properly by getting massages, ART, and seeing a chiropractor.

Stark wasn't ready. Are you?

Stark wasn’t ready. Are you?

What she learned is what every athlete must learn: you must play an ACTIVE role in treating and preventing your injuries. Massaging and stretching tissue isn’t enough. Someone else manipulating your body will not keep you strong, stable, and symmetrical.

You know what will?

Getting a biomechanical, gait, strength, and stability assessment from a trained medical professional.

You know who’s trained to do that?

A physical therapist.

Yup. That's me!

No seriously. I actually study the way you move. I obsess it about, really.

There is so much that goes into the way you move and the trained eye can take one look at your gait and know where to start with your deficits. It’s not a party trick. It’s our job.

You know what’s awesome? There are clinics like this one all over the country where you can get some answers and a routine put together to treat whatever’s ailing you. It’s not a quick fix and you’ll have to stay on top of your treatment (or it won’t work), but I promise you will Run Stronger Every Day because of it.

(Image courtesy of Runner's World)

(Image courtesy of Runner’s World)

The bummer? It’s a little pricey off the bat. But think of what you’ll save in copays.

AND NOW THE GIVEAWAY!!!!

You all know how I love Finish Line Physical Therapy here in NYC. And you know how I love biomechanical assessments of athletes. Well, THEY DO EXACTLY THIS!!!

And I have 4 Peak Performance Analysis sessions to give to you for FREE!!!

Who wants to be a winner?

Who wants to be a winner?

You can enter in 3 ways:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me why you need to get this analysis done ASAP.
  2. Re-tweet this post (& tag me so I know you did) on Twitter.
  3. Share this post in your blog (and give me a pingback so I know you did).

Each share earns you an entry. Enter all 3 ways! Contest closes this Monday (3/10) at midnight.

If you’re itching to try Finish Line’s Alter-G but don’t want to shell out the big bucks to do it, today there is a Groupon for $49 FOR 5 30-MINUTE SESSIONS. I just bought mine cuz mama’s gettin’ kinda heavy and needs some help running these days.

Check me out on their Alter-G.

So fast that I'm blurry.

So fast that I’m blurry.

Don’t take it from me, I’m an interested party. Take it from one of the {routinely injured} editors at Runner’s World. Physical Therapy is where it’s at.

Get into it, runners.

Now go out and run!…and enter the giveaway!!

Things to Do When You’re Injured

At any point in time, approximately 1/3 of my runner friends are sidelined by injury. By and large, running injuries are overuse and not acute, and the unpredictable nature of these type of injuries can make rehab frustratingly long.

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Tendonosis/tendonitis, stress fractures, bursitis, inflammation, muscle strains, malalignment of joints, and mystery pain are among the top ailments we see in PT clinics during high season (late Summer/Fall). It stands to reason that distance runners, as a psychological test group, are stubborn and plow through pain fairly regularly to achieve their goals. Have you ever tried to get a runner to stop running?

Yeah…it’s, ummmmm, impossible difficult.

What’s the injured runner to do when running isn’t an option?

  1. Swim: most injuries are water-friendly and swimming is good for you anyway.
  2. Lift: likely your injury is due to weakness and you’ll be hitting the weights with your PT anyway so you may as well make the most of your time and get strong.
  3. Finally download all the necessary software to actually use all the tracking stuff on your Garmin.
  4. Organize and display your race memorabilia.
  5. Try pilates and/or yoga: strengthening your range of motion is always a good idea.
  6. Bike: if your hip/glutes aren’t involved, grab 2 wheels and pedal away!
  7. Volunteer and/or cheer: support your friends and fellow runners and ring that cowbell!
  8. Stay on top of your PT exercises: you have the time, make sure you’re putting in the work to get back on the road.
I promise you, we're here to help!

I promise you, we’re here to help…and do paperwork up the ying-yang.

Being injured is the absolute pits. But, if you get professional help early from a physical therapist and stay on top of your exercises, you’ll be back on the road to health sooner than you think.

Have you been injured recently? What have you been doing in the mean time?

On a separate note, I’m looking forward to seeing all my fellow runners in Central Park on Monday, April 22nd at 6:30pm for a gathering to show our support for the city of Boston and all the families, runners, and spectators who were affected by the tragic events of this past week. Details for the NYC meet-up here.

Thank you to Well + Good and the Twittersphere/Facebook world for spreading the word.

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Meet-ups are happening all over the country. Find one in your city.

If you’re looking for a way to donate to the families, the Mayor of Boston has set up the One Fund. You can also purchase a t-shirt from Adidas, proceeds go 100% to the One Fund.

Now go out and run!

From Zero to Fartlek

Welcome to the holiday season when everyone wants to lose 10 pounds, eat their faces off, join a gym, live at the open bar, and party like it’s 1999.

In the running world, this means a whole lotta Newbies. For me it means a whole lotta questions.

No worries, Newbies. I got you.

Some people will tell you to run as far as you can every day and you’ll build up to whatever distance you want to run. Eh. Not so much.

You’ll likely feel like this if you just go out and run as far as you can until you can’t anymore. That’s no fun.

When you start a running program, you’re better off working at speed and strength first and distance second.

What’s that you say? Isn’t it all about getting to that golden 26.2?

26.2 or bust?

You gotta get stronger before you can go longer. Guess what makes you stronger? Fartleks. No, it’s not a dirty word. Yes, it does make everyone giggle when someone says it.

But, seriously, it gets the job done.

Speed play.

…and you should too!

Running fast for short periods of time at your maximum speed will make you stronger. It will make your body work more efficiently to get oxygen to your muscles. It will help make those longer runs easier.

It doesn’t have to be all structured or anything. You don’t need a fancy Garmin to track your distance and pace, any distance at your max pace will do.

So. True.

In the winter, I do a lot of these types of workouts on the treadmill because I’m the girl that slips and falls all the freaking time. Add ice to the mix and I’m a gonner for sure.

So, yeah, get a long run in once a week and an easy one, too. But make the majority of your first two months of running shorter bursts. Increase the distance and time of the bursts, add a few more in every other week, and do some on hills. These drills will make you a stronger runner faster than just plodding through mile after mile day after day.

Oh my god, does that sound boring. Running is fun, I swear!

Happy runner, even in the beastly heat of a NYC Summer. It’s weird how I long for those days.

And if you haven’t experience that “runner’s high” yet, don’t worry. I’ve been “back” to running for about three weeks now and I haven’t had one run that was easy and felt good, either. It takes time.

Now go out and run/fartlek!