XT & Strength Exercises

Add this move into every run

We always include strength training in our running plans. We believe it is a key part of any successful plan. The one move we always include is the Single Leg Deadlift. It tones the hamstrings, the hips and the glutes. All three are needed to stabilize the body while running. Additionally, balancing on one leg reduces strength imbalance between left and right sides.  Add this one move into every workout and your legs will feel stronger and healthier. Do 2 sets of 15 reps per leg. GO!

SIngle Leg Deadlift

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.

Strength exercises we all need

If you are a client or follow our blog, you know we love our cross training - yoga, strength classes, spin, and any other fun class that is out that. I've been reminded of how important it is to running this past month. After coming off an injury and doing a ton of physical therapy work, I started running in mid February. I started off slowly - no more than 30 minutes, every other day. I was doing my therapy exercises and feeling good. Somewhere along the way, I started to slack off on the therapy exercises. I can't pinpoint it exactly but I think it was after I ran 6 miles pain free. I thought "I'm better!" And that equated to not having to continue my exercises - WRONG!

I'm still running pain free but after a few weeks of not really doing any strength (yikes - Jessica would scold me), I can feel it - little aches and pains, my legs are too sore after hills. So, I signed up for some strength classes and recommitted to doing my exercises. I do them 2x a week and go to a strength class 1x a week. For now, this is what works with my schedule and life. The results? I feel stronger on the hills and I'm now sore but in the right places!

If you need some ideas, here's what we recommend:

And, for those of you who need some extra motivation, a class is always a great idea. Find an instructor you like and a smaller class so you get the form correction.

Cross Training to Get a PR

Training for a PR in any distance race is a rewarding yet challenging endeavor. It can be tough on your body and mind. We have found that focusing on specific workouts and understanding how to recover and use rest days are the key ingredients to running a PR. Most training plans will have key workout days and rest days; what many plans lack is cross training. Understanding how to cross train and use recovery days will make you a stronger and faster runner.
We distinguish between two types of cross training activities: (1) Cardio, which is spinning, elliptical, bike intervals, walking, swimming, aerobics classes, and (2) Strength, Conditioning and Flexibility which includes Pilates, yoga, boot camp, and strength sessions or classes. Both types are important while training and for overall injury prevention and long term running health.
Cross training days are important because they help you help build aerobic fitness and muscle stability. By increasing overall aerobic fitness, you force the heart to pump oxygen through the body at a quicker rate. Over time, this makes your heart stronger, which enables it to deliver more oxygen to the muscles, and helps your muscles use oxygen more efficiently. Running is one of the best aerobic activities there is, however, just like your muscles, you need to switch up your cardio so your body can react and learn to work hard under all types of work. Muscle stability will help ward off injury and give you a much more solid base to increase speed. Running can overwork certain muscles, such as the hamstrings and quads, and essentially ignore major stability muscles including glute medius. Strength training brings more balance to your body.

Be careful to not overdue it on your cross training days. Too much intensity within a week can actually weaken your muscles. Classes are great because the instructor takes you through an array of work - hills or intervals, for example in a spinning class or full body strength workout in a boot camp class. If you workout on your own, it’s important to vary your cross training and make it counts towards strength, stability and fitness.Below, we have listed a few cross training ideas that will help elevate your training:

Spring Intervals

6-8 Sets of 30 seconds max effort speed intervals (ideally you are standing and the resistance is high). Recover at a very low and comfortable level for 2 minutes in between each sprint. Warm up and cool down for at least 10 minutes each. Do this only 1x a week.

Easy, Recovery Ride

30-60 minutes at an easy relaxed pace that is similar to your effort on an easy run. This is a great option to improve blood circulation the day after a hard run workout. You can do this workout up to 2x a week.

Strength Workout Do 2 sets of each exercise 2-3x a week. Avoid doing a lot of lower body work the day before a hill or track workout. (you can watch a demo of each exercise on our YouTube channel)

  • Month 1: Plank (60 sec) | Side Plank (30 sec each side) | Lower Back Extensions - modified superman (60 sec) | Push-Ups (10-15x) | Bridge lifts (15x) | Bridge with Single Leg Walks (60 sec) | Single Leg Deadlift (30 sec each side) | Single Leg Calf Raises (15x each side) | Glute Press Up (30 sec each side) | Clamshells (12-15 each side)
  • Month 2: Plank Walks (45 sec) | Side Planks (45 sec each side) | Single Leg Bridge Lifts (30 sec side) | Pushups (20x) Single Leg Deadlift (45 sec each side) | Single Leg Calf Raises (20x each side) | Glute Press Up (45 sec each side) | Clamshells (20 each side) | Squat Jumps (30 sec) | Reverse Lunge (30 sec each side) | Lateral Lunge (30 sec each side)

Returning to the Trails After Pregnancy

By Jessica Green

It seems crazy to think back to this time last year - I had just given birth to my daughter and was in major recovery mode. At that time, all I could dream about was getting back on the trails in Forest Park, but I knew there was specific work to do before I laced up my running shoes and hit the trails hard. I knew this mainly because I am lucky enough to work with fitness professionals and therapists who taught me how to return to running the right way postpartum.

With targeted strength work, expert advice and a lot of patience, I'm running stronger and faster than I have in years. This week alone I hit the flat trails for speed, the hilly trails for a mid-distance run and am looking forward to a 20-miler this weekend which will include plenty of undulating trails. In the last month, I finally feel like I beat pregnancy!

A dear friend and amazing Pilates instructor, Frances  Darnell, once told me that it usually takes her clients about a year of hard work to feel comletely like themselves again after pregnancy. She was right in my case. She also had a lot more to say in the article that I wrote in this month's Trail Runner Magazine, "Hitting the Trails After Pregnancy." 

To all moms and moms to be, I highly recommend taking a look at the advice Frances and others offer in this article as you begin thinking about starting to run again after your pregancy. Here's a glimpse at the article if you don't have access to the magazine:



Raising the Barre

Today, Coach Bex talks about her cross-training and why she has incorporated barre classes into her training. Have questions for her? Email her: Bex@hotbirdrunning.com

I regularly get asked by clients what they should do on days they aren't running. Cross-training is an essential part of the training process, and should not be neglected. While the answer "anything but running" is true, it's also not very specific. Strength training is important, and I also try to incorporate spin and yoga into my routine, but recently my favorite cross-training activity is barre. A Pure Barre studio opened up in my neighborhood a few months ago. Having never taken a barre class before, I didn't know what to expect. What I found was 55 minutes of tiny, isolated movements focusing on individual parts of the body, and a crazy soreness to follow the next day. I was hooked. I signed up for an unlimited month and fell in love. That was during my off-season. These days, while training, I like to hit a barre class 1-2x/week.

One thing I like about Pure Barre is that it is low-impact. Barre classes combine elements of pilates, ballet, and yoga along with an arm workout with light weights. This means that I can take a class on the same day as a shorter run, as it won't stress my body too much. It's especially good for core work. Runners often neglect the strength aspect of their training. Barre classes are a great way to get in the strength work and feel graceful while doing it. Plus I always like being in a class, the instructors motivate you to push yourself and embrace your strength. I highly recommend looking in your area to see which barre offerings are available to you!

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

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.

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 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.  

Our New Favorite Workout - Pyrolates

Jessica and I are always up for a new workout. We discovered Firebrand Sports in the fall. Pyrolates is one of the hardest classes we have ever taken. It's a total body workout that will kick your butt. It uses slow movements, body resistence and this god-awful moving machine to tone you up very quickly. Our arms and abs have never looked so good.

Each class combines strength training, cardio, endurance, core and flexibility – and not just in every class but also in each exercise. The class moves quickly and the depends on you being able to transition quickly and get into the next pose. After a few classes, we started to pick up the names of the poses but we still look at each other dumbfounded when it comes to some poses. French Twist? Bear? Thank god there are some people in the class who know what these names mean!

The megaformer/pyrolates class at Firebrand Sports in Portland is intense, hard, sweaty yet very rewarding. A lot of it comes down to your will power and your ability to push through difficult poses. The instructors are fun and friendly as well as harsh - they want you to get lower, push through the pain and find your limits.

If you have a Megaformer class near you, we highly recommend you check it out. It's a great addition to your strength or training routine.



Monday Motivation - Planks


If you know us, you know we love our planks. Every training plan is loaded with planks, side-planks, knee to elbow planks, plank walks, etc. We tell everyone (who will listen) to do their planks daily. However, sometimes, you just don't have the motivation to do them. I'm there right now. I know I should do them, I know how good I feel when I do them daily but as my days and weeks get busier and busier, I find that my daily core exercises are the first to go. I still run, I go to fitness classes but my daily commitment to planks and core work is gone.

I'm recommitting to daily planks and to help, here are my top tips to recommitting to a daily practice:

1. Write it down - schedule it in your calendar or print out a calendar and put it on your refrigerator or post it at your desk.

2. Enlist your friends - make it a group activity! The girls I work with are all about staying healthy and fit. We created a weekly plank schedule and committed to doing it daily. We get some strange looks but people usually join in.

3. Build up - don't start off with a 4 minute plank. Give yourself a month and gradually build up. You'll be surprised how well it works and how strong you get by just adding 10 to 15 seconds a day to your plank.

4. Vary it - don't just do the same thing everyday. Variety will keep your body and mind alert. I created a plank video series. Check it out for videos for how to add variety to your plank workout.


Strength Workout of the Week: STAIRS!

Improve your leg power and your running form with stair workouts. The best part is that a stair workout can be combined with a run for a cardio and strength combo workout by hitting up a series of stair climbs midway through your run this week. Portland, Oregon has sets of stairs hidden throughout the city (see above), but other places to look for a good set of stairs include your local high school or hilly parks.  

THE WORKOUT: Find a series of stairs that are regular height. After at least a 10-minute warm up, run hard up the stairs and jog slowly back down. You should be breathing hard at the top, but not keeling over. Next time up, skip a stair each stride. Alternate running up single steps and skipping a step for 10-20 minutes. If you want to get fancy, add in hopping up on one foot and then the other to your series.  

*Concentrate on pumping your arms, keeping your head up, picking up your knees, landing lightly and pushing off with your calves as you run up the stairs.  Use your core to stabliize your upper body as you bound upwards.

And remember . . . you OWN those stairs! 

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. 

Fitness Friday - 3 Moves to Power Up your Runs

Get a great backside and get faster at the same time. Having a strong, toned butt not only looks great but it actually helps you run faster. As your speed increases, the biomechanical load placed on your glutueus and hamstrings intensifies the most. Thus, to get faster and not get injured, you need to develop strong glutes and hamstrings. These 3 moves will help you strength, tone and lift your backside and make you a faster runner. Do each exercise at least 2 times and aim to do lower body strength work at least 2 times a week.

Plie Squat - Strengthens the inner thigh (adductors) and the glutes. Great squat variation. Do 25 reps, 2x.

Single Leg Bridge Lift - Strengthens the hamstrings and gluts. Added bonus, stabilizes the hips. Do this exercises for 30 seconds and repeat.


Clamshells - Strengthens the gluteus medius which will help the efficiency of your stride and your leg turnover rate. Do 15-20 reps on each leg, 2x.


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.