Pilates for Runners

Pilates is a wonderful addition to any training plan, especially for runners.  It builds strength, stability and power without being high impact and can also increase mental toughness.  A technique based system of moves designed to develop muscle balance, increase muscle control, improve mobility and mind body connection, practice is a must do for faster running.  Here are the biggest benefits you’ll receive when you add pilates to your program.

Create muscle balance.  Pilates focuses on every muscle in the body not just the big ones we use over and over.  Strengthening weaker muscles while maintaining stronger ones means pilatesyou’ll perform everything from daily activities to running a marathon with more ease and less risk of injury.

Lengthen to strengthen.  Pilates encourages muscles to stretch and reach.  Since running doesn’t require most muscles to move through an entire range of motion, pilates will make muscles stronger from end to end.  Strong muscles all the way through makes them able to produce more power with each contraction and that means faster running.

Low impact.  After all those miles on the road, track, trail and treadmill, it’s nice to give your body a break with a workout that keeps you off your feet.  Not only will the variety of a pilates session give your body a new challenge, your bones will appreciate the break.

Better breathing.  Pilates teaches you how to use your diaphragm and use the full capacity of your lungs for each breath.  Deeper breathing keeps your heart rate down, lowers recovery time and keeps muscles going longer.  Less cardiovascular stress when running through fuller, deeper breaths means faster finish times.

Relax.  Deep breathing combined with long, slow, full range of motion movements give you an opportunity to relax.  The concentration required to perform moves correctly also means you’ll have to clear your head of the day’s stress and pay exclusive attention to what your body is doing.

Add pilates to your routine on any day you want a good strength workout, any time you need a good recovery stretch or whenever you want to give yourself a new challenge.  Your posture, breathing, balance and running will all improve.  Click here to find a quality instructor near you!

Coach Meredth

Healthy Holidays: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to get together with family, see old friends and eat lots of delicious food.  It’s also an easy opportunity to eat too much, eat the wrong things and end up feeling way off track with your meal plan.  Prevent each of those dining issues, stick with your meal plan, stay on track and get through this food filled holiday with these thanksgiving buffettips.

Get active.  Check out a local Turkey Trot.  You’ll have some fun and burn calories while making room for dinner.  Not in the mood for a jog?  Challenge your family to a backyard football game, play tag with the kids or take the dogs for a nice long walk.  Any activity that gets your blood pumping earns you an extra slice of turkey.

Eat before you eat.  Thanksgiving buffets can be delightfully tasty, especially when you’re very hungry.  Packing your plate with too much food is one major source of holiday season weight gain but it’s easy to prevent.  Eating something light and healthy before you head out will help stop you from over serving and over eating.

Scan before serving.  Look at all of your Thanksgiving options before piling anything on your plate.  Not only will this mean fewer trips to the buffet, it will help you make better for you choices.  Pick out dishes that are filled with vegetables and lean meats but light on greasy butter.  Limit desserts and alcoholic beverages to a minimum so make sure you get the one you like on the first try.

Make your own.  Just because it’s not a pot luck meal doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to pitch in.  Ask your host what you can bring to help out.  If you make it yourself, you know what’s in it and how much you can have without feeling guilty afterwards.

Take these Healthy Holidays tips with you to your Thanksgiving destination for a happy, good for day of feasting that won’t leave you feeling off track.

Coach Meredith

5 Tips for Safe Strength Training

Temperatures are dropping, days are getting shorter and working out in the fresh air is loosing some of its appeal.  When the weather turns, more people turn to the gym to keep their routine going.  Everyone can benefit from lifting weights but increasing the amount of time you spend strength training can also increase your risk of injury.  Here are 4 tips to make sure you’re safe strength trainingpracticing safe strength training to stay injury free all winter long.

Find a coach.  One of the best ways to ensure safe strength training is to use a coach or trainer.  Partnering with a certified professional who will help you learn the proper way to perform movements while pushing you to try new things is the best thing you can do to protect yourself.

Take it slow.  If you choose not to work with a coach, resist the urge to dive in head first.  Take a little bit of time to educate yourself on what each muscle group does and what exercises are the best to work on making it stronger.  Get comfortable with movements before increasing weight, making sure you’re performing each one properly for every repetition.

Take it seriously.  Just because your passion is running and not lifting weights doesn’t mean hitting the gym should be taken lightly.  Warming up and cooling down are important parts of any workout, especially when you’re pushing muscles to do something new or hard.  Safe strength training means showing those days respect and putting in the time to treat your body well.

Mix it up.  A big part of safe strength training is trying new things regularly.  When you give your body a new challenge, it’s forced to constantly respond, burning calories and getting stronger every workout.  Changing up your routine also prevents overuse injuries that come from performing an exercise to excess without a break.

Recover.  Foam roll, stretch and mobilize after each workout.  Safe strength training includes being ready for the next day’s workout.  Listen to your body and take a day off or try something new when you need to.

Use these five tips for safe strength training to keep your gains on track without risk of being derailed by an injury this winter.

Coach Meredith

5 Parts of a Good Cool Down

Warming up before working out is important and doing a good one can be the difference between a decent workout and a great one. Unfortunately, many people neglect a proper cool down, which can also make or break the next day’s workout.  Just like warming up gets muscles ready to work hard, letting your body cool off afterwards helps muscle start to recover.  Here are five parts of a good cool down plan.

Decrease stress:  Your heart and muscles are working hard during a workout.  Your heart rate is high, your blood vessels are expanded and adrenaline is pumping.  Abruptly dropping the amount of work your body has to do from 10 to 0 can lead to pooling of the blood in those expanded vessels, dizziness, nausea and, in extreme cases, fainting.  A good cool down includes time for your heart rate to slowly return to normal with low intensity activity.

Hydration:  If you worked up a sweat, you’ll need to replace the fluids you lost as soon as you can.  During your cool down, work to quench your thirst by taking in up to 32 ounces of fluid.  Your fluid of choice can be water, chocolate milk or sports drink.  Replenishing your fluids should include electrolytes to replace the salt you sweated out as part of the drink or as an additional tab dropped in.

Food:  Eat within 30 minutes of a workout.  The same way your cool down is a good time to fill back up on fluids, it’s a nice time to plan what’s next on your plate.  Your muscles will be craving protein for rebuilding torn fibers and carbs to fuel the process for both today’s and tomorrow’s workouts.cool down

Mobility:  Doing mobility exercises in an integral part of a good cool down.  Foam rolling, stretching and other drills will all kickstart the recovery process.  Each one will aid in clearing lactic acid from tired muscles, breaking up adhesions and getting the nutrition muscles need to them.  Adding one or more of these activities to your post workout routine will not only help you feel ready for the next day’s session, it will help you perform better, too.

Reflection:  A good cool down will give you time to chat with workout partners, evaluate how the session went and what you improved or need to work on next time.  This can be a perfect time to journal, practice breathing exercises or improve mobility.

Take these five tips with you to your nest workout and have a good cool down.  These simple things will help you feel better before, during and after your future workouts.

Coach Meredith

Everybody Needs a Foam Roller

It’s true.  Every athlete, especially runners, should have at least one foam roller in their workout arsenal.  They might look like misplace pool toys but the ultimate self massage tool is more than just a big foam cylinder.  Here are the basic reasons you’ll want to add one to your workout routine.

First thing first, what exactly does a foam roller get used for?  Foam rolling, of course.  Foam rolling is a form of self massage also know as myofasical release.  The soft tissues that support and protect muscles are called fascia.  During a hard workout these fibers can become inflamed and their ability to function restricted.  That inflammation leads to sticky spots knows as foam rolleradhesions between the muscle fiber and the fascia.  Those adhesions result in decreased blood flow, tight muscles, soreness and pain.  Hitting these inflamed areas with a foam roller, or rolling them, presses on and stretches the fascia, helping to release the adhesions and ease pain.

Using your favorite foam roller after a workout is one of the best ways you can prevent soreness and stiffness while aiding in quicker muscle recovery.  You can also use your it before a workout.  Foam rolling during your warm-up will increase blood flow to muscle groups that are going to work while breaking up any leftover adhesions from the previous day or days.

Not only will 15 minutes with your foam roller get your body back on track for your next workout, it’s one of the best ways to prevent IT Band Syndrome and can improve mobility and lower your risk of injury at the same time.  You can foam roll all of the major muscle groups, being sure to avoid the lower back and any injured areas and hit smaller muscle groups with different tools like Trigger Point Balls and Supernovas.  There are lots of options out there, so play around and find the one that works best for your body and the intensity of your training program.  Any way you decide to hit your hard working muscles, you’ll be saving yourself lost training time and money spent dealing with injuries.

For help getting started with your newest fitness toy, check out our Foam Rolling 101 video and help those tired muscles feel better today!

Coach Meredith

 

Overcoming Bad Workouts

Everybody has bad workouts.  Hopefully they don’t happen often and aren’t so bad they cause an injury.  Either way, they can still put a crinkle in your day.  Having a rough day in the gym or at the track can be the result of lots of factors, some of which you just can’t control.  Maybe you were running late, missed the group class you love and went at it alone.  Maybe you’re injured or feeling sick.  Figuring out what went wrong is the best way to prevent it from happening again.  Make sure you can bounce back from bad workouts quickly with these tips.

Get enough sleep.  Sleep allows your body time to heal from the last gym session or just daily life.  Having a bad night, or a night without enough sleep, can wreak havoc on your body and suck out tons of the energy you plan on using in the gym.  One great thing about sleep is the human body’s ability to catch up on it.  While this shouldn’t be a regular practice, and seven to eight hours a night are recommended for most people, it’s good to know there’s a reason you want, and are allowed, to sleep in on Sunday morning.

Eat right.  Giving your body the right type of fuel for the workout you have planned is just as, if not more, important than getting enough sleep.  Whole grains and less sugar will aid in preventing the exhaustion many people face an hour or two after lunch.  If you’re going to burn a few hundred calories in the gym, make sure you replace those with quality food items.  Stay properly hydrated before, during and after your session and be careful of caffeine, which can wake your body up for a workout or push it over the limit and cause nausea and shakiness.

Have good goals.  Set a good goal (check out our goal setting series on YouTube).  Write it down.  Look at it every single day.  Get together with a fitness professional and discuss both your goal and a path to reach it.  This keeps you focused and on track, prevents boredom, provides a support system in the gym and gives you accountability.  All of those positives can help turn a few bad workouts into a learning experience that stops them from occurring in the future.

Beware of over training.  Bad workouts can be a sign of over training or injury.  Use a variety of equipment and styles so your body doesn’t get overloaded.  Try alternating weight lifting days with cardio days and always leave at least one day per week for complete rest and recovery.  If you start feeling worn down, unusually sore and grouchy or dreading the gym, it might be time for a few extra days off.  Listen to what your body tells you and take what it’s saying seriously.

Throw in the towel.  There are days when you get out of bed and know you don’t have it.  That’s OK.  Avoiding back workouts is a good way to make sure one doesn’t ruin your day.  Taking an extra day off to let your body recover won’t wreck all the work you’ve already done and it pays to listen up when your body says ‘no’.  If you’re already in the thick of things, quit while you’re ahead.  Rack your weights, cool down and evaluate what went wrong.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries 101: ITBS

In this fourth installment of our running injuries series, we’ll cover ITBS.  ITBS is the acronym for Iliotibial Band Syndrome, is a common running injury experience by those who are both new to and experienced with the sport of running.  A preventable and treatable injury, read on to learn more about what ITBS is, how to avoid it and how to recover when you do get injured.

What:  The iliotibial band is a ligament that runs from the hip to the shin on the outside of each thigh helping to both stabilize and move the knee joint.  ITBS is an overuse injury that occurs when this band is inflamed or tight and leads to pain with movement of the knee.ITBS graphic

Causes:  ITBS is most often caused by overuse.  This could come from a sudden increase in work load for the knee, a change in terrain or a lack of recovery time.  It can also result from running too much in worn out shoes, on banked surfaces, turning only in one direction or faulty running mechanics that cause your knees to rotate inward.

Symptoms:  Pain and swelling on the outside of the knee are the result of an inflamed IT Band.  ITBS can feel like a knee injury but it isn’t.  If you bend your knee to 45 degrees and have pain on the outside, it’s ITBS.

Treatments:  Rest, foam rolling and low impact cross training like swimming are good ways to ease and avoid further irritation of the IT band.  Ice and anti-inflamatories are also options to treat ITBS pain.  While all of these will treat the symptoms or ITBS, it’s most important to address the cause of your injury during the treatment and recovery phases.

Recovery:  ITBS often results from poor running mechanics that allow the knee to rotate inward on landing.  Strengthening glutes, working towards a neutral foot strike in a low drop shoe and increasing mobility through both hip extension and flexion are the best ways to treat and prevent this injury.  Work with a qualified coach or physical therapist to determine what caused your injury, rest to heal it then strengthen and mobilize to prevent it from happening again.

Coach Meredith

Running Injuries 101: Runner’s Knee

This third installment of our running injuries series will cover runner’s knee, a term that can refer to any pain centered around your kneecap.  It’s a preventable injury that, like most running injuries, can end up sidelining a great season or a solid training plan for a while if not runner's kneeproperly dealt with.  Here you’ll learn what runner’s knee can be, how to treat it and how to prevent it.

What:  Unlike shin splints and plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee is a broad term to describe discomfort around the kneecap that can come from several different sources. Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is common in both new and experience runners and can have a history of reoccurring.

Causes:

  • Overuse: Suddenly increasing training load in a high impact sport such as running can lead to overstretched tendons and irritation of the kneecap joint.
  • Foot Problems: Fallen arches, overpronation or hypermobile foot joints can all cause runner’s knee.
  • Muscle imbalances and malalignment: Weaker muscles in the thigh lead to uneven loads on knees that create abnormal wear and tear on the joint as the knee collapses inward with each footfall.  Bones that are out of alignment will cause similar abnormal damage as stress is unevenly distributed through the skeletal system.
  • Poor running mechanics: Running form errors such as heel striking, over striding, toe running and poor posture can all cause sheer across the kneecap joint that results in irregular wear and tear on the patellofemoral joint.

Symptoms:  The symptoms of runner’s knee include pain around or behind the kneecap potentially along with swelling and popping/grinding feelings.  There will be pain when the knee is bent during walking, running, jogging and squatting that is worse when going downhill or down a flight of stairs.

Treatment:  There are a wide variety of options available to help treat runner’s knee.

  • Rest:  Take some time off from high impact activities and avoid putting weight on the hurting knee.
  • Compression:  Use compression sleeves, pants, elastic bandages or patellar straps to give the knee extra support during the healing process.  Avoid these while exercising as they mask the underlying issue and can lead to more damage.
  • Strength and mobility work:  Study a tape of yourself running and work with a qualified coach or physical therapist to target muscle imbalances and running form errors that created the initial irritation.

Recovery:  Once you are able to get back in action after recovering from runner’s knee, maintain muscle balance and mobility by regularly performing strength and mobility exercise for the hips, legs and feet.  Remember to wear appropriate shoes with enough support for your foot while avoiding doing all of your running on very hard surfaces like concrete and making sudden dramatic increases in training load.

Coach Meredith

***The post was originally written for and released by The Runner Dad***

Running Injuries 101: Plantar Fasciitis

This week we continue our Running Injuries series with plantar fasciitis (PF).  A seriously no fun injury to face, PF is something all runners dread but luckily, it is 100% preventable.  Learn more about what PF is, how it happens and how to treat it by reading on!

What:  Plantar fasciitis (PF) is the most common source of heel pain in runners new and old.  It is the result of inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toe bones.

Cause:  PF is caused by inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toe bones.  These tissues, the plantar fascia, are a support for the arch of your foot and act like a shock absorber when the foot lands.  If they become overworked by too much stretching and tearing the results are inflammation and tenderness.  People who are overweight, who have weak feet, poor movement mechanics or wear shoes without enough support are especially at risk.

Symptoms:  Plantar fasciitis is characterized by a sharp stabbing pain in the foot with the first movements of your day that will subside or ease once the foot has warmed up.  The pain can resume as a plantar fasciitisresult of standing for a long period of time or when you stand up from sitting or lying down.  PF can limit the amount of running, jumping, walking and dancing you are able to tolerate.

Treatments:  Anti-inflammatories will ease the pain of PF but should be accompanied by another form of treatment to address the underlying cause.  Ice can also be used while orthotics and surgical options exist for those who have unbearable pain.  Orthotics should only be used in very extreme cases of completely collapsed or permanently damaged plantar fascia.

Recovery:  Prevention is the best way to treat PF.  Be sure spending time barefoot along with foam rolling and regular foot, ankle and lower leg strength and mobility exercises are part of your training plan.  These are excellent ways to build stronger arches, more flexible ankles and looser Achilles tendons that are less likely to become inflamed. If you do come down with plantar fasciitis, recovery can be a long road.  The most important step in recovering is to figure out what caused the injury and work to correct it.  An ideal path involves a movement or gait analysis accompanied by a custom stretching, massaging and strengthening plan for the plantar fascia and their supporting muscles.

Coach Meredith

***The post was originally written for and published on The Runner Dad***

Running Injuries 101: Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common injury, especially in new runners.  They are painful but usually come with a much quicker recovery time than the dreaded stress fracture.  Read on to discover more about shin splints.

What: Shin splints is the common name for the official medical condition known as medial tibial stress syndrome. It causes pain along the long bone in the front of the lower leg called the tibia and is frequently seen in runners, especially new ones or those increasing mileage.

Cause: Shin splints are caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons and tissues surrounding the tibia. This inflammation can result from a sudden change in training routines, an increase in intensity or a poor foot strike due to weak hips, over pronation and a lack of core strength.

Symptoms: Symptoms of shin splints include tenderness and soreness along the length of the tibia and inner leg as well as possible swelling of the lower leg. Sometimes the pain will go away shin splintsas activity continues but eventually it becomes constant. Of course, if you’re having serious constant pain, getting an x-ray to rule out a stress fracture is always a good idea.

Treatments: Shin splints are usually treated with rest, ice four times a day for 15-20 minutes and mild anti-inflammatories. Compression sleeves are a good way to provide additional support and warmth to weaker areas during healing.

Recovery: During the healing process, it’s important to swap out your high impact activity that caused the injury for lower impact activities like swimming, water running and biking. You’ll also want to spend some time doing range of motion and strength training exercises that will help your body move correctly and prevent shin splints from occurring. Once you’re healed, slowly rebuild high impact activities back in being sure to give your bones, tissues and muscles time to toughen up.

Coach Meredith

*This post was originally written for and published on The Runner Dad*