Strength Move of the Week

The One Move Runners Need

by Meghan Reynolds

Ok, you might need more but this one move is great because it works so many muscles - your hips, glutes, hamstrings and core, with the added bonus of working your chest muscles. I like this move because it works multiple areas and is efficient.

Super Bridge Press

Begin laying on your back with a pair of 5-8 lb dumbbells in hands. Put both feet on a Bosu ball (or, use sofa cushions or stair step) and get in a bridge position. Keep your knees at 90 degrees, glutes engaged and shoulders on the ground. Lift your right leg straight up in the air as you perform a chest press. Keep you right leg straight up as you simultaneously do a bridge lift and a chest press (lift hips and straighten arms together, then lower). Repeat for 20 reps and switch sides.

 Start Position

Start Position

 Lift your hips and arms together

Lift your hips and arms together

I've been doing this move for the past week - 2 sets of 20 reps every other day and my hips and hamstrings are not as achy when I run. Do these first thing in the morning. I'll be sharing new moves every week - follow us on social media to see our recommended strength moves for runners.

Are You Strong Enough for the Track?

By Jessica Green

When long distance runners think about track workouts some of the first things that probably come to mind include tired legs, overall fatigue, strong core, mental games and speed. Funny enough, while completing our first track workout of the season, my upper body was the first to go. Halfway through the workout, my upper back and arms were TIRED. This was a reminder of how important upper body (not just core) strength is for long distance runners.

As you run, "the arms counterbalance the motion of the legs" (opposite arm and foot move together). The swing of the arms also helps the upper body move forward so your legs aren't doing all the work. As your pace increases, your upper body work increases to keep up with your legs and your speed. As a result, you recruit more strength out of your upper body at faster speeds (this is why I felt my weakness my first track workout). Similarly, over longer distances, a strong upper body is essential as it helps maintain good running form when fatigue sets in. 

To help your arms be able to keep up with your legs on the track and improve your core stability on your longer runs, add the following upper body exercises to your routine a couple times a week:

(1) Renegade Row

(2) Tricep Dips

(3) Pushups

Prepping for Marathon Training

By Jessica Green

As a primer to our impending fall marathon training seasons, Meghan and I signed up for the Helvetia Half Marathon last Saturday - an amazing race that we recommend to all.  Meghan, who's running the Portland Marathon in October, starts her training on Monday, but I don't start my training for the NYC Marathon until mid-July.  With over a month until official training starts, I decided to to run last weekend's half hard to see where I was at since it was my first half back since my pregnancy.

Miraculously, I woke up Sunday feeling better than I felt before the race. Then I went for a hike in hilly Forest Park and was quickly reminded how much my legs need to recover from the race. Marathon training is about to begin and it's VERY important for me to take the right steps in my preparation to ensure a healthy, happy body going into training. So, I'm taking the week completely off from running and hard leg work and focusing on stretching, strength for my upper body and a little R&R.

We get asked a lot, "What should I do?" during the weeks leading up to the beginning of a marathon training plan. The answer isn't that simple and definitely isn't cookie cutter. For example, look at me. I'm taking an entire week off from running one month out from the start of my official marathon plan. Others should use this time to work towards building up to 20 miles a week or adding an additional run day over the next month.  No matter what type of runner you are or what you do in the next monthor days, the truth of the situation is that you are already in "marathon training." Albeit, it's not part of your 16-week plan, but it's still impacting how successful your training is going to be. 

The best thing to do right now is to listen to your body, identify and address any aches and pains and continue to work on becoming a stronger runner through regular strength and stretching. You've heard us say this countless times, but there's no time like right now to let it soak in.  Once your official plan kicks in and the miles start to climb (faster than you think) it gets harder and harder to find time for strength work and R&R. Use the last few days or weeks wisely whether it's a few more longer runs, adding more strength to your workouts or giving yourself a few much needed days off.  Continue to adhere to the 10% rule of increasing your mileage and your long run distance. Lastly, I recommend enjoying the final week before your official training starts with a low mileage week because you start to build as soon as you hit Week 1! 

Need more detailed advice on what you should do to prep for marathon training based on your level of fitness and training? Ask us! We are here to help and would love to guide you in the right direction!

In the meantime, I'll be doing these two stretches all week long to help my legs recover from last week:

 

An Apple a Day . . .

By Jessica Green

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." The same can be said for a strength move a day for runners. Each week I preach about getting out there and doing your strength work and for the last two months I've been listening. It's made a difference. My lower back no longer aches from time to time and my hamstring doesn't feel as tight. I attribute a large part of this to my commitment to some type of strength work almost every day of the week. 

What does this look like? In our training plans we often provide suggested strength routines for both core and lower body. These routines typically take 10-15 minutes to complete. That kind of time can be difficult to carve out of our busy lives day in and day out. What's important though is trying to - or at least remembering to think about strength training on a regular basis.  For myself, this means getting down on the ground and actually doing something on a daily basis. On some days, it's only one series of planks/side planks/planks, but on other days it turns into a full blown 20-minute routine. Sometimes I'm in my pj's and other times a sports bra. No matter what it feels great to know that I've done something. The biggest benefit - I stuck to my routine and didn't let another day pass without some sort of strength.

Imagine going a week or even two without running . . . not good, right? Well, the same should be felt for two weeks of no strength.  If you're looking for one move to get you through tonight, start with bridges with knee folds.  They are great for pelvis stability, glute and hamstring strength and help prevent IT band issues. 

Lie on your back with your hands at your sides and bend your legs to bring your feet flat on the ground and about a hands length away from your buttocks. Raise your hips by firing your glutes and driving your heels into the ground. Lift up until you create a straight line from your hips to the knees. Maintain this position by firing the glutes and not flexing the lumbar spine.

Once in bridge position, alternate bringing each knee up towards your chest keeping the leg bent at a 90 degree angle. As you raise and lower each leg, keep the pelvis steady and avoid rocking back and forth. Press your arms down into the ground with your palms facing down to help keep you stable. Continue alternating knee folds for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 2x.

Post-Pregnancy Lunges

By Jessica Green

Ask any fitness professional for recommended exercises to do post-pregnancy when returning to running and they are most likely going to include Clock Lunges as part of a suggested routine. This is because after pregnancy it's especially important to rebuild hip and pelvis stability.

Clock lunges improve hip stability PLUS ankle and knee stability while moving through all planes of motion. So, while these lunges improve stablity in the hips after pregnancy, they also help develop overall balance, activation and mobility for key running musculature. This is especially important for injury prevention and returning to running with proper strength and trunk support after carrying your baby for 9 months. Whether you gave birth a few months ago or over a year ago, considering adding clock lunges into your strength routine a couple times a week.

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Imagine you are standing in the center of the face of a clock.
2. Keeping your right foot planted, step forward to “12 o’clock” with your left foot, reaching your arms forward at shoulder height at the same time.
3. Push off the left foot and bring your feet back together.
4. Continue lunging and reaching counter-clockwise around the clock with your left foot. Try to get at least 7 lunges in. Repeat 3 times around with each foot.

* Make sure to warm up with some dynamic stretching for at least a few minutes before doing this exercise. Do not do these exercises until you are cleared by a medical professional to start exercising. 

Fleshman's Awesome Abs Routine

With recovery on our minds this month, I (Jessica) committed to "recovering" my pre-pregnancy abs starting this month. It's been almost 9 months since I gave birth and it's time to feel feel strong through my core again. There are no excuses at this point!

While texting my friend every night about my latest core routine triumph has been helping, I got another boost of motivation from the latest ab routine video by Lauren Fleshman, a kickass professional runner, fellow Oregonian and new mom as well, on Runner's World's website last week.  The video is geared towards runners with a special focus on what recovering runner moms need in terms of core strength post-pregnancy.  As with any post-natal abdominal exercises, check with your doctor first before diving into what Runner's World calls a, "Freaking Awesome Ab Workout." Once you're ready, I highly suggest getting on board the Fleshman Ab Train. 

 

 

Strength Move of the Week: Squat to Leg Extension

Do you ever have the feeling that your legs are ahead of your upper body when you are running fast? Or, your legs are rotating around your pelvis as if your inner and outer thighs have nothing to do with your stride? One of the reasons for this is due to a lack of hip stabilty and balanced strength between your front muscles and side muscles in the leg.

If you are runner, you need hip stability and would probably also like inreased leg power to help you pick up the pace. One way to increase both of these is to implement squats with a leg extension into your routine. This move involves a slight twist on the regular squat to help strengthen abductors (outer thighs) and adductors (inner thights) as well as the gluteal muscles to promote hip stabilty. Try it out this week! 

Strength Workout: Phone a Friend

By Jessica Green

Eight months have passed since I had my first child in August. For the last seven and half months, I attempted to do core work on a daily basis. I failed . . . miserably.  Finally, I phoned a friend for some serious accountabilty. My friend, like myself, gave birth to her son in August and had grand plans to do core work a couple times a week, but was struggling to make it actually happen. On our runs we discussed this problem regularly with myself frequently complaining that I had zero core support on the downhills or when trying to pick up the pace. Both of us have fall marathons on the calendar and believe very strongly about the value of proper strength before and during our training. So, it was time to get serious. For the last two weeks, it's worked and I've done my core work almost every night. 

I know that each week I present you with a new suggested strength exercise telling you it's as easy as one move a week. Well, sometimes we need more than a blog post telling us to do something. Sometimes we need a friend texting us in the middle of bathing our child that she just did her ab workout and it's time for you to do yours too. Perhaps it's the competitor in us that makes us do it. Or the real time reminder. Whatever it is, it's working! 

If you are struggling to make time for strength work (or any type of workout), then I challenge you to pair up with someone and start keeping tabs on each other this week. It works!

 

Strength Move of the Week: Clamshells

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Clamshells
Fall marathon training is around the corner which means ramping up the mileage for many runners. This is a dangerous time for those prone to IT Band issues (you know who you are!). Here's a reminder to do your preventative work NOW rather than when the pain sets in and it's too late. Step one should be - start doing Clamshells. Clamshells improve the control and function of the gluteus medius which is a muscle that's usually weak in distance runners with ITBS. Clamshels also bring balance to the anterior and posterior hip muscles. As you do these, keep the hips stable and stacked on top of each other. Avoid twisting your lower back or rocking your top hip back and forth. Do 15 on each side. 

Strength Move of the Week: Calf Raises

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Calf Raises
Why we love these? Calf raises feel like a miracle move sometimes. They are simple, can be done just about anywhere and help prevent shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, runner's knee, calf strains and more. Plus, they help power you up hills and pick up the pace in training and on race day.

We recommend single leg calf raises for maximum benefit because you are running on one foot at a time after all. To help with balance and proper execution, find a wall, chair or something to help you balance while you do the following:

1) Stand on a flat surface with feet hip width apart. Shift your weight onto the left foot, bending slightly at the knee to prevent locking. Draw the right knee up towards your right hip until the right foot is completely off the ground.

2) With all of your weight on your left leg, slowly lift your left heel off the ground and rise up on the ball of your foot as high as possible.

3) Slowly lower back down until the heel almost touches the ground and then rise back up on your toes again. Count to 3 on the way up and as you lower your heel back down and as you lower, emphasizing balance and control making sure movement is only in the ankles, not the knees or hips. Repeat this 15-20 times on each side.

Here's how it looks:

Strength Workout of the Week: Shin Splint Prevention

It seems like shin splints are in the air the last few weeks.  Perhaps it's because as the weather gets nicer people are ramping up their running.  There are a few, very simple strength exercises you can do to prevent the onset of this nagging injury often caused by overtraining, ramping up your mileage too soon, or an imbalance in strength between the shin and the calf. These exercises include the following (do them every day if you can):

1) Toe/Heel Walking: Walk the length of the room on the toes and then heels with the feet and knees pointed straight ahead of you. Then externally rotate the legs 45 degrees and walk the length of the room on your toes and then heels. Finally, internally rotate your legs 45 degrees and walk the length of the room on your toes and then heels. Walk slowly, emphasizing balance. Make sure knees are tracking the same direction as the toes.

2) Calf Raises: Stand on one foot, with other leg bent and standing knee slight bent to prevent locking. Slowly raise up on the ball of foot as high as possible and slowly return to the floor, emphasizing balance. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side. Use a wall or railing for balance.

3) Toe Taps while Seated: In a sitting position lower and raise the left foot with the heel on the ground as high and as quickly as possible for 60 seconds. Repeat on the right side. Start by doing this on each side once and build up to 2-3 times on each side.

4) Side-to-side Weight Shift on Toes: Stand on toes and ball of the feet, shift weight from the inside of the feet, near the big toe, to the outside of the feet, near the small toe. Rock from the inside to the outside of the feet slowly and under control, emphasizing balance (that is one repetition). Repeat for 2 sets of 20 repetitions.

If you are prone to shin splints, warm up with 5 minutes of walking and then do this routine before every run - it WILL make a difference. 

 * If you are currently suffering from shin splints, stop running for a few days to a week, ice the front of your shins and avoid hills once you return to running (pain free). Do not try to run through shin splints. This will only make them worse.  

Strength Move of the Week: Dynamic Warm Up

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Dynamic Warm Up
Why we love this? Before diving into a strength workout or a run, you need to warm up the body. Specifically, you want to perform a set of exercises that increases blood flow to your muscles, increases your heart rate and awakens the nervous system to improve neuro-muscular control during your workout. The benefit? A significant decrease in the likelihood of overuse injuries and muscles prepared to maximize the impending workout. 

Below is a video demonstrating our recommendation for a simple, yet effective, dynamic warm up to do before any run. Before beginning this routine, walk briskly, jog slowly or do some jumping jacks for a few minutes.  Also, remember to ease into each activity progressively.  For example, start with high knee marches and then transition into high knee runs. Lastly, as you do these exercises, actively control your movemens by contracting your muscles. This prevents forcing your joints to extend beyond their natural range of motion.  

Strength Move of the Week: Pyrolates at Firebrand Sports

Holy cow! Last night I took one of the harder strength classes I have ever been to. It's called Pyrolates at Firebrand Sports in Portland, OR. The name actually explains it all. It felt like my entire body was burning most of the time, but in a controlled, Pilates-like fashion that's safe, effective and insanely hard! Normally, I am not a fan of burn until you die workouts, but this class is an exception. 

Picture from Firebrand Sports' website of its Pyrolates class

Portlanders, if you're looking for a strength class that gets results, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Firebrand's Pyrolates class. Like most Pilates workouts, this class is especially great for runners because it targets hip stabilizers and abdominals in a way that will seriously benefit your running form and running strenght. Not to mention, a glute, hamstring and quad workout that crushed me the second half of class. Legs and core are happy, but very spent.

When you do show up for your first class, don't be shy about modifications - the instructor in my class was amazing at providing them on both ends of the spectrum.  Here's the machine that you use for this class. It reminds me of a reformer on steroids.

A word of caution for any runner: don't plan a hard running workout for the day after one of these classes. You're going to need a recovery run day.  

 

Fitness Friday

Planks are one of our favorite exercises for runners. They work the core, your hamstrings, hips, shoulders and back muscles. Over the next few weeks, we'll be highlighting our favorite plank variations. 

Today, we are highlighting the Knee to Elbow Plank. This one is great for hip flexibility along with all the other benefits of doing a plank.

 

  • Begin in plank pose with your feet about hip width apart. 
  • Bring your left knee up to the outside of your left elbow. Repeat on the other side.
  • Keep the hips low and even.
  • Repeat 10x on each side

 

 

Strength Move of the Week: Superman

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Superman
Why we love these? This move strengthens the lower back muscles needed to keep the pelvis stable while running which promotes better running posture and a stronger core. Not to mention a weak lower back can put strain on your hamstrings and alter your stride which increases your risk of injury.

To do a proper Superman, lie on your stomach with your legs straight, feet together and arms straight out in front of you by your ears. Squeeze your legs together and engage your abdominals to lift both arms and legs a few inches off the floor until you feel the lower back flex. Look straight ahead at your fingers. Hold for 3 seconds. Lower and repeat 20 times or for 60 seconds. If you are new to this exercise, begin with the modified version - alternatel lifting one arm and the opposite leg at the same time. After a couple of weeks switch to both arms and legs at the same time. 

Strength Move of the Week: Bridges

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Bridge Lifts and Bridge Walk
Why we love these? Bridges strengthen the glutes and stabilize the core which reduces the risk of injury to the hips and knees. Feel this exercise primarily in the glutes and abdominals, not the lower back. If you are new to bridges, start with bridge lifts for the first week and then add in bridge walks. Otherwise, do both of these - one after the other. No matter what, make these are part of regular weekly routine! 

To get into proper bridge position lie on your back with your hands at your sides and bend your knees to bring your feet flat on the ground about hands length away from your butt. Raise your hips by firing your glutes (squeezing your butt cheeks) and using your hamstrings and glutes to drive your heels into the ground. Lift up until you create a straight line from your hips to the knees without arching your lower back. Keep your abdominals contracted the entire time and avoid rocking your hips from side to side during the lifts or walks. 

Strength Move of the Week - Toe Touches

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Toe Touches
Why we love these? Toe touches strengthen the upper abdominal muscles which promotes proper posture while running. More specifically, strong upper adominal muscles enable you to maintain a tall, erect posture while running - keeping your head and shoulders in alignment with your hips rather than slumping over as you fatigue. Slumping over restricts your breathing. So, proper posture means better running economy which means faster running.

As you do these toe touches use your core rather than your arms to pull your upper body up towards your toes. Also, try to keep your shoulders from touching the ground on your way back to the start position so your abdominals remain engaged the entire time. Continue for 30 seconds working up to one minute. Repeat 2-3 times. 

Move of the Week - Bicycle Crunches

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Bicycle Crunches
Why we love these? Get back to the basics - nothing fancy - with bicycle crunches. This simple move stengthens the oblique muscles necessary in maintaining a stable upright position during your runs. As you do these make sure your lower back stays pressed to the ground.  Start out slowly going through a bicycle pedal motion altnerately touching your elbows to the opposite knee as you twist back and forth.  Concentrate on control, not speed.  Perform for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.  

 

Strength Move of the Week - Walkouts

As running coaches who promote long term, injury-free running, strength work is always a part of our recommended weekly routine for every runner out there. Incorporating strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of runners and often feels overwhelming. So, where to start? Start with just one move a week and build from there. Hot Bird Running has you covered with our Strength Move of the Week!

Move of the Week: Walkouts
Why we love these? Walkouts stengthen hamstrings, shoulders, abdominals, lower back and promote hip stablity in runners. Strong shoulders, core and stable hips are all things every runner needs to ward off injury and improve speed! As you do these focus on keeping your hips stable and using your core to push yourself back to the start position - NO rocking back and forth! If you have trouble get back to standing without rocking, don't go down and far. Also, if you can't touch the ground without bending your knees, then bend your knees at the beginning to get your hands to the ground and then straighten them as you walk your hands out.