Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ahhh! Cramps!

Hello, Beasties!

I hope you are feeling strong and prepared because the Beast on the Bay is a few short weeks away! Something to consider while finishing up with your training is muscle cramping. I’m sure you all are well aware that this race is long and demanding on the body and muscle cramping is a real possibility. So, I’m going to give you the low down on what muscle cramps are, how to prevent them, and what to do if one occurs. As a heads up, the team at the Beast on the Bay has made medical attention readily and easily accessible to all participants and it should be utilized at once if something arises, but these are tips to help you handle the situation until help arrives.

What are muscle cramps?
According to The Mayo Clinic, muscle cramps are a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles. They are what some call a “Charley Horse,” and most often go away on their own. The causes of muscle cramps are unknown, but a number of possibilities have been discussed and researched. That list includes overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain or simply holding a position for a prolonged period.

Symptoms of a muscle cramp:
The symptoms of a muscle cramp are pretty self-explanatory when experienced; they can be very painful, but muscle cramps occur in the lower half of the body where a sharp pain occurs and sometimes a tight ball will form in the muscle itself.

What to do if a muscle cramp occurs:
The best immediate treatment for a muscle cramp is to stretch and massage the affected area. Heating with a heating pad will help as well but is there is nothing readily available massage and stretch or cooling the area with ice after a massage will help as well.

Allow time for recovery! Allowing your muscles the proper recovery time to repair damage is very important in preventing a painful cramp and optimal performance on the day of the Beast. So take a couple of days off from training before the big day! If you start with stiffness and soreness from a weight-training session, you’re increasing the chances for a cramp to occur.

Slow down in warm weather. The Beast is in September and if it’s anything like last year, it will be hot and humid. These conditions make dehydration a real possibility so taking your time and not overly exerting yourself will decrease the likelihood that a cramp will occur.

Hydration station! No special drinks will do the job of good old water. Make sure to drinking enough water throughout the day; for men that’s about 13 cups and for women about 9 cups of water. Be sure to add in an additional cup of water for every 20 mins of exercise.

On the day of the race there will be hydrations stations set up to replenish you, take advantage of these and prevent muscle cramps. Muscle cramps can be very painful and can put a damper on all the fun the Beast on the Bay brings! Stay hydrated, acclimate yourself to the intense weather conditions, and enjoy the couple of weeks left in your training! See you all soon!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Push, Pull, and Squat

We are winding down in our weeks until The Beast on the Bay! How exciting?!😆 I literally cannot wait! With all the excitement and maybe some nervous energy, it can be hard to prioritize in your training and that’s understandable! With 10 miles and 30 obstacles, you will never be prepared for EVERYTHING coming your way. That said, I believe there are a few movements in your training program you should never skip! And those are the push, the pull, and the squat!

These 3 movements are key to building strength and improving performances. What I mean by “the push,” is anything involving primary the pectoral muscles, the triceps muscle (the back of your arm), and the shoulder muscles. The push movements include push-ups, bench press, shoulder press, and many more accessory movements. As mentioned before in my earlier blogs, the push-up and variations of the push-up are important for core and upper body strength. Being strong in the push mechanism will make falls easier to recover from, and, if the core is strong, less likely to occur. I incorporate the push-up in my weekly upper body training either at the beginning of my work out as a warm up or at the end of my work out as a “burn out technique” to fatigue those muscles groups completely!

The second movement I will never skip in my training is “the pull.” The pull mechanism includes the muscles of the back; the latissimus dorsi, lower trapezius, erector spinae, the rector muscles, and the biceps as well. With that many muscle groups working at the same time, it’s obvious that skipping this movement is a no-no! Movements of the pull include the pull-up, chin-up, inverted row, barbell row, and many more! It took me quite some time to be able to perform a pull-up, but there are many ways to gain strength and eventually preform a pull-up!

In the beginning of my strength training, I would use my gym’s pull-up assist machine which helped me learn the movement of the pull with some assistance. This is a great starting point, but eventually I wanted to rely on more of my body weight in a less mechanical movement pattern. So, I used large resistance bands and looped them over a hanging surface. I would place my foot in the looped band and perform the pull up movement for as many as reps as I physically could. Eventually, I started using a technique called the descending pull-up which helped my pull-up more than any other technique. What you do to perform this movement is to start at the top of a hang bar, branch of a tree, basically anything sturdy enough to hang from and as slowly as possible you descend from the top of the apparatus to the bottom in a hanging position. It the opposite of a pull-up! An important tip for this is to perform it as slowly and as controlled as possible so the muscles are in control of the movement not momentum! I perform these at least once a week in my pull day training!

The next movement can be categorized as a push, but I like to place it in a league of its own… the squat! There are many variations of a squat; the body weight squat, front squat, overhead squat, split squat, dumbbell squats, and some consider the lunge as a variation as well! The muscle groups of the squat include: the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the gluteals, the erector spinae, and, depending on the variation performed, many more groups are targeted! The squat has many benefits including increasing lower body strength, core strength, and increasing an overall anabolic environment of the body; meaning muscle building throughout the body is increased. I won’t go into each mechanism of metabolism, but anabolism is the muscle building part of your metabolism. Since the squat is such a taxing movement on the body causing many micro tears in multiple muscle groups, with proper nutrition the body’s anabolism is kicked into high gear and muscle growth occurs. The benefits of performing squats and i's variations are a continuous list making it pretty obvious as to why I would never skip this movement pattern! I always include this in my weekly training schedule and perform its variations during my H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) on a weekly basis as well.

I hope I’ve made it pretty clear as to why you should include these movements in your Beast on the Bay training! If you haven’t started to incorporate them this is your subtle hint to start doing this now 😉 The Beast is right around the corner so we must do all that we can to be ready!  🐉

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Get a Grip!

I hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of training😅 I can’t believe that The Beast is only a little over a month away!! Here’s something you may not have taken into consideration when doing your day-to-day training… grip strength! Well, I’m here to help you get a hand(le) on the situation -- pun intended! Why is grip strength so important? Well, during this lovely 10 mile race, you will be pulling, pushing, and lifting yourself and others throughout each obstacle.

Having a decent grip will make these movements and obstacles easier for you to accomplish!
There are several ways to improve grip strength that require very little effort and are beneficial to different aspects of fitness and health! Grip strength has been correlated to longevity. Not only is it important for The Beast on the Bay, but it can be useful throughout your life and daily activities.

The pull-up is an overall strength builder if you utilize a full grip while keeping your thumbs tucked under and all four fingers over the bar. If you cannot perform a pull-up, the hang is another alternative. The hang is one the most beneficial exercises for grip. Whether you have a gym membership or not, the hang can be performed almost anywhere or anytime. If you don’t have access to a pull machine or TRX apparatus, the hang can be performed outdoors on a tree branch! What you do is grab the surface as if you are about to perform a pull-up; arms extended overhead, palms facing  away from you, and a tight grip on the branch, pole, or pull-up machine.

When setting up your positioning, your legs should be straight beneath your body and feet should be off the ground by 6-12 inches. While performing this movement, make sure to pull your stomach muscles in and keep them tight to protect your lower back. Hang for about 15-60 seconds at a time for 3-5 sets of this. If you do the hang after every workout, you will see some major benefits to you upper body and overall grip strength.

Another technique used to improve grip strength is the carry. This is a really easy exercise to perform! If you have access to a gym, you can use dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. Basically, you hold said items in both hands one on either side and walk for 1-5 mins at a time. Note that the weight should be challenging but not overwhelming. A variation is to hold a dumbbell on one side of the body this will cause your core to be involved a little more in the movement and is a great added challenge. You can perform this for 2 or 3 sets. This should be done towards the end of your workout for obvious reasons. You don’t want your hands to be exhausted when you try to press something overhead!

In addition to the hang and the carry, the pinch grip is a great exercise that involves a lot of thumb strength. In order to perform the pinch, you must hold two weight plates together in one hand with their flat surfaces facing out. Start with two 5 or 10 pound plates and work your way up. Hold as long as you can and repeat at least 3 times.

The hang, the carry, and the pinch are just a few of the techniques necessary to improve grip strength, there are many ways this can be done. Most importantly though, when you are exercising or throughout your day, using a full grip will help as well! I hope you all get a grip and start using these techniques in your training. They will be important come the day of The Beast… believe me, you’re going to want to hold on tight!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

One New Hill of a Workout

The Beast is approaching. I can't believe it’s almost time! I have another workout for you to add to your training if you are looking to increase the power of your running stride and improve your performance! What is it?? Hill sprints, my friends!

 This intense and powerful training technique has so many benefits from increasing the oxidation of fat all the way to helping to prevent injuries on the course! Hill sprints increase the power and speed of your running stride. When you run up a hill, there is increased resistance and thereby an increased demand from the muscles used for running. The explosive movement comes from the hips and glutes. Remember the last blog post about the core muscles and its importance in performance? Well, the muscles you just mentioned are part of your core. Hill sprints are a total body work and the benefits of doing them are comparable to that of plyometric training. Finding a hill to run is going to be your first task. Take a ride around your neighborhood to find a hill that is about 40 yards long, if possible. The hill should be steep enough so it is difficult to walk climb. There is a perfect hill at Asbury Woods that I enjoy running if you can't find one close to your home! Hill sprints should be added in slowly to your workout regimen. Start with 1-2 times per week, and then after about 2 weeks, you can start doing them more frequently. Before you sprint, warm up with a one- to two-mile run. Dynamic stretches should be performed before and after sprinting, and a light jog home will keep the muscles loose and reduce soreness. 

When sprinting up the hill, land on the balls of your feet. I like to think “chest and nose before toes” while running. It increases the efficiency of my running form! Also, when doing hill sprints, start with 10 Sprints at 85-95% effort. The short spurts of intense work help to build neuromuscular connections in the body. Your rest period should be used when walking down the hill. If you need more time, take a little bit more, and then head back up the hill! The number of reps varies from how experienced you are in your running; aim for at least 5-8 sprints the first couple of weeks, and then gradually increase to a maximum of 20 sprints as you adapt to the challenge. If 20 sprints are easy, it’s time to pick a new hill with a steeper grade. And you are off! Have fun sprinting, people.  Remember, adding this to your workouts is going to benefit you tremendously! So, when the temptation to skip them is strong, remember the Beast is right around the corner. Do you know how we get to the finish line?! That’s one big hill! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your runs!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Your Core is 'Core' to Training!

Hello all, it’s me again!
So, if you’ve been paying attention lately to popular media, the terms “core strength,” and “core stability” have been thrown around a lot lately without a whole lot of explanation. Contrary to popular belief, core strength has very little to do with how many sit ups you can perform. You may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with The Beast on the Bay, Alicia??” And here’s my answer. . . Everything!

The muscles of your core are not solely made up of your transverse abdominis and oblique muscles as many may believe. The core is made up of the abdominals, gluteals, back, and even the muscles of your chest. All of these muscles work together to help balance and stabilize movements performed by your body.

Why is your core so important??
The word core itself should give you an indication of its importance; the muscles of your core are at the center of your body. All movements essentially begin from your core: reaching over head, bending over to pick something up, sitting at your desk to type up a blog, and the list goes on and on and on! It is very important not only in your training, but in your life to train your core muscles. Four out of five American adults suffer from back pain and often the cause is from overly tight or very weak core muscles. The core stabilizes, supports, and protects the spine if they are not strong enough to perform their job properly, leaving room for injury. So, needless to say, your core strength is going to be extremely important when completing and defeating The Beast on the Bay!

How do you strength your core??
In order to strengthen your core, you must challenge your core muscles. A great way to do this is by strength training, using body weight or weight bearing exercise will challenge the muscles of the core to grow. Performing compound movements such as push-ups, squats, and lunges teach and train the muscles of the core to not only grow, but also to work together and stabilize your body. This will aid you in your performance at The Beast on the Bay and also in your daily life

In addition to some of the exercises I named above, here are a list of core exercises you should be doing at least 1-2 times per week:

  • Plank
  • Plank variations
  • Side Planks
  • Modified Plank
  • Push Up Plank
  • V-Ups
  • Glute Bridge
  • Superman
  • Bird dog
  • Windshield Rotations
  • 6-inch hold
The importance of including strength and core training into your Beast on the Bay training is undeniable, but people tend to forget to take what they do in the gym home with them. Being aware of your posture throughout your daily activities is pertinent for a strong, healthy core. I teach my clients to brace their backs by imagining themselves pulling their belly buttons towards their spine. A way to do this while at work is to swap out your office chair for a stability ball. It allows the spine to stay in its neutral position unlike a chair, which forces a tilt in your pelvis, ultimately affecting the position of your spine and weakening the core muscles because they are not working to support your bodyweight.

All right people it’s time to do work! Get out there and move, The Beast is approaching fast and I’m sure you’re all doing great, but now is the time to set it up. So remember the importance of your core and get out there and train! Let's slay this!