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!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

S T R E T C H -- How to prevent injury and increase flexibility

Welcome back, Beast community! I hope you all enjoyed this morning’s run/ walk/or WOD! We’re going to be talking about one of the most important but typically ignored parts of exercise: stretching! I can understand that it can be the last thing on your mind after finishing an intense workout, but there are many reasons that make stretching crucial.

The most important benefit of stretching is pretty obvious: increased flexibility. Over time as our bodies age, our muscles shorten through muscle gain from strength training. This results in muscle tightness. The benefits of stretching on flexibility can be seen after practicing 2-3 times per week.

Alicia shows an example of stretching.
Stretching has a large impact on injury prevention. As you probably already know, you’re working really hard on preparing for The Beast on the Bay and a sidelining injury is something that should be avoided at all costs! Stretching increases the range of motion in your joints, which positively affects athletic performance, lowering your risk of injury. When stretching, you want to aim for symmetry, meaning if you stretch one hamstring, you must stretch the other. You should stretch until the point of pain; stretch until you feel tension on the muscle and hold for 30 seconds. In problem areas you can hold for up to 60 seconds (via Mayo Clinic). Another benefit to stretching is increased blood flow to muscle groups. Stretching dynamically (calisthenics) before a workout can help performance throughout the workout and also prevent injury to the working muscle. Static stretches preformed post workout can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS,) making you less sore the next day and making it easier to perform tomorrows workout!

Reducing stress is a large benefit of consistent stretching. People are always looking to reduce stress and as we know exercise increases endorphins that help reduce stress. Stretching is exercise to the body and so when stretching is done to the body endorphins are released that help to lower stress hormones. Again, try not to do static stretches without warming up first; do a ten minute jog or try a yoga routine. If I can't make it to class I use Downward Dog, an app that helps to guide your yoga practice! When stretching, you'll want to focus on the main muscles: your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Don't bounce into a stretch, as that could cause muscle injury. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds and don't forget to breathe regularly.

You can make your stretches workout specific, too! So, for example, if your workout focuses on your legs, focus your stretches on your calves, thighs and hamstrings. So after your next workout remember: stop and stretch! You don’t want all this hard work to go to waste because of an unexpected injury! Keep up the good work, we’ve only got a couple months until The Beast is here!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Running - When? Where? How Often? DO I HAVE TO?!

I hope you’re feeling motivated after last week’s post! You’re going to need all you can muster this week because we’re talking about everyone’s favorite… running! Whether you love it or you hate it, like it or not, it’s a big part of training for The Beast on the Bay. Some common questions I encounter when people ask me about The Beast are “’How often should I be running?’ ‘How long should I run for?’ ‘where should I run?’” and the list goes on! So, in this blog I will give you advice on the when’s, where’s, and how’s of running to prepare for The Beast and a little guidance to get you going!

It takes hard work to end up smiling with the Beast!
So hopefully you all have been preparing for The Beast for some time now, but if not I'll provide for you a little “Couch to 5k” or “Couch to Beast on The Bay” tidbit to get you up and running… Just do it! I know, I know, it’s easier said than done (I’ve been there), but start today! My secret weapon for building endurance is interval running or a run/walk scheme. Basically, you will start by warming up with a five minute walk then run as long as you feel you can with a minimum of 30 seconds, followed by walking until your body feels recovered. Then repeat this for 30-45 minutes for 3 to 5 times a week and you’ll be amazed at the different in your endurance. A word of advice:  running is not the only way to build endurance.  Strength training is an important part of any workout schedule and does positively impact endurance. For an event like The Beast, I highly advise you to strength train 2-3 times per week, but we’ll save that for a later date!

So if you have already been putting those running shoes to work, here are a few things that are important to consider. Change your shoes out after 300 miles. The insoles wear down and can affect your gate. If you haven’t read it, go back to my blog from couple of weeks back and read about the importance of your gear. An aspect of running that maybe overlooked is safety. If you choose to run early in the morning or late in the afternoon make sure you are wearing clothing that makes you visible to drivers. Stopping by your local hardware store and purchasing reflected strips to attach to your shoes and/or clothing is another technique I like to use! We are so fortunate to have places in Erie to exercise that are off the road and easy to access. Some of my favorites include Presque Isle, Asbury Woods, and Scott Park. What is so awesome about Scott Park is their fantastic fitness trail! Along the trail there are stations where certain exercises are posted for you to preform, they start with bodyweight movements and continue into obstacle style exercises perfect for Beast on the Bay training.

Now that you have the how, how often, and where of running, let’s talk terrain! Sand and trail running are an important part of this event, so you need to mix up the type of running you are doing once you’ve mastered pavement. A word of caution from somebody who has fallen multiple times when running trails for the first time: ditch the tunes while running trails or sand for the first couple of times. It can be distracting! Trails and sand are not steady surfaces to run on, so things like branches, rocks, uneven ground can come out of nowhere causing you to have a spill! An injury is no joke, though, so take the distractions out of these training sessions and enjoy your outdoor surroundings.

It’s pretty obvious to most that running on sand is more challenging than pavement. The work done by your tendons, ligaments, and joints is more demanding on sand than running the road, so when doing a sand run, please be wise and add in a couple of days rest post run. With sand, you have a couple options when it comes to surfaces. Soft, dry sand has a lot of give and is quite the unsteady surface making it an extra challenge. Wet, packed down sand can provide a more stable ground to run on. If you are new to sand running, go for the wet and packed down sand. Another question I have received about sand running is whether to expose those toes or wear running shoes and the answer is really up to you. If you choose to run barefoot, remember that your feet are used to being protected and so you maybe in some pretty intense discomfort post-workout. Not to mention you really need to pay attention to the area in front of you for beach debris! Also, train as if its race day, so if you plan on removing your shoes during the Beast, beware that there will be obstacles along the beach which will require shoes! When doing a sand run, do not push the intensity, even if you are an experienced runner. Doing the run/walk method of running is best for you first few sand runs. Increase duration and frequency after training on sand has been done at least once a week for a few sessions.

Okay, so now that you have a good understanding of how to run for The Beast, get going! I hope I run into you all while hitting the pavement, dirt, or sand and if there is something you want some more info. On, please comment on this blog. Ask and you shall receive!