Interview with a Pilates Instructor and Wellness Lifestyle Consultant

This week's fitness professional is Frances Darnell, a Brooklyn resident and owner of Dynamic Core, her private practice as a Pilates and Wellness Lifestyle Consultant. Fran specializes in prenatal and postpartum fitness and works with women in preparation for pregnancy, through pregnancy, postpartum and beyond. She loves working with women helping them feel empowered in their body. She sees people of all fitness levels to help deepen their connection to their body, rehabilitate the abdominals, balance pelvic strength with Pilates and Yoga for the pelvis, and improve their well being from the inside out. For the past six months, Fran has been working with Jessica during her pregnancy - playing a large role in Jessica's running health as the belly expands and her body changes. Thank you, Fran!

Why do you like working with runners?
I love working with runners because I love helping them tap into their core strength when running. I know from my personal experience how Pilates helped to transform my running. Running puts a lot of impact on your feet, legs and hips. I help my clients unwind tension in their body, increase flexibility, and learn how to engage their abdominals to support themselves on a deeper level. I love supporting my clients in reaching their goals whether they are just discovering their inner athlete, running for cardio or training for their next big race. Pilates is such a supportive practice for running and I love being able to teach my clients tools for feeling better in their body and improving their performance.

If you could tell a runner one piece of advice, what would it be?
Take the time to warm up with dynamic movements before and stretch after running. It is so important to prime your body so that you are able to engage your muscles mindfully and feel more connected with every stride. Also taking the time to stretch and release tension afterwards will keep your body feeling free. In particular make sure to take care of your psoas muscle. The psoas muscle is a deep core muscle that supports your every stride and when you don't take care of it can lead to tension and imbalances in your body. Practice gentle passive stretching and releases - it will make a big difference in your running and how you move through your everday!

What is your go-to fitness activity and why? 
Pilates is my go to fitness activity. I can practice the exercises anywhere I bring my mat. I love how my body feels stretched long and balanced after Pilates. It is also a great way for me to stay conditioned for all of the activities I like to do. I am a big fan of doing cross-training and getting outside to workout whenever I can. I love surfing during the summer. Other fitness activities I do to get a good sweat are to run, cycle, swim and practice some yoga. And I always love to go dancing (especially salsa dancing)!

What is your favorite post workout meal?
After a long run I love brunch food like eggs and roasted potatoes and some greens. When it is hot outside I prefer a filling smoothie. I love putting 4 leaves of Kale in the blender along with 1 cup of frozen berries, a banana, a tbsp of peanut butter and 1 tsp chia seeds with either filtered water or almond milk. It is so filling & refreshing and the greens & chia seeds keep me energized.

When did you start running and why?
I started running when I was in high school to train for field hockey and lacrosse. I ran a little bit in college while I was studying dance. I started running half marathons after I graduated college and was looking for a way to stay in shape and get outdoors. This past year my reason to run has changed. My mom has Alzheimer's disease and I began running with the intention to physically express what I am experiencing emotionally seeing my mom's progression with this disease. I am now a member of the Athletes to End Alzheimer's Team and ran the NYC 1/2 Marathon this year in honor of my mom and to raise funds for the programming that the Alzheimer's Association provides. Running helps me clear my head and to face challenging moments on the road as well as in life.

Interview with a Runner

This week's runner is Carolyn Hagen. Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in Hell's Kitchen with her fiance and English Bulldog. After Sandy sidelined her first full marathon goals last fall, she set her sights on the NYC Half Marathon shaving off 34 minutes from her time last year. With a new half PR behind her, she's getting ready to take on the NJ Marathon this spring for her first full marathon ever! 

When did you start running and why?
Last year, living by the West Side Highway I saw a ton of runners so I figured I would give it a try! However, to get myself committed to running I signed up for a race so I would have a goal to work towards . . . the goal was NYC Half Marathon because that's what most people do when they decide they want to start running, right? Oh and my fiancee is an avid runner.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don't over train and listen to your body - this whole running thing is supposed to be fun and release stress, not something to cause stress.

What are your current running goals? Are you training for anything? 
NJ Marathon on May 5th - 1st marathon ever!

What/who inspired or inspires you to run?
My fiancee - Ironically, he likes to run alone so that means I run alone. I enjoy it though because I can zone out and listen to music.

Favorite way to sweat other than run?
It used to be hot yoga but due to training I've scaled back - so regular yoga is now my fave!

What is your favorite running workout?
Weirdly enough it's the long runs - I like to know I'm about to accomplish something major and it feels phenomenal when it's completed.

We Love...Cross Training

Over the next week, we are featuring things, products, races, classes and places we love. Let us know how you love to cross train in the comments section!

Running is our go-to activity however we love checking out classes and cross training activities.  Besides being a vital part of any running schedule, cross training is fun! It makes your muscles and mind work differently.

One of our favorite ways to cross train is to hit some of NYC’s amazing studios and gyms and take classes from instructors who inspire us and make us like a sweaty indoor 60 minute class. We’ve found some kick-ass classes in other cities during our travels as well. Here are a few that we love.

  • Fitness/Cardio Classes
    • Liz Lefrois is our go-to instructor. She teaches at Equinox locations in NYC. She’s fun and offers a challenging class
  • Spin Classes
    • Gregg Cook  is our FAVE instructor. You feel like an athlete in his classes, which we love.
    • Soul Cycle and FlyWheel are fun, sweaty classes
    • Best option - get outside and ride in Central Park or Prospect Park
  • Bar Classes
    • Physique 57 is a fast paced class that leaves you sweaty and tone.
    • Bar Method is a bit slower but still tones and lengthens. Check out their SoHo location.
    • Barre 3, out of Portland, OR, offers online bar classes that we've been doing in our kitchens (subscriptions are $15/month)
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
    • Our go-to is Mala in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
    • Check out Virayoga in SoHo for alignment based yoga
    • Laughing Lotus in Chelsea is a fun, flow class
    • Shambhala in Prospect Heights has an array of classes

A Yoga Mat for Runners

 All yoga mats are not equal . . .

As a run coach and avid runner, I only recently got into yoga as a way to recover and stretch. I don't go to the vinyasa classes; I prefer the basics and yoga for runners classes.  As a way to improve my declining mobility and flexibilty resulting from limited cross training, I decided to dedicate my New Year's resolution to creating a habit of doing yoga once a week by the end of 2012. Although I haven't excatly kept up with this resolution every single week this year, I did learn quite quickly that certain yoga mats can make or break the class (I was in the market for a new mat to kick off the resolution). 

First there's the issue of borrowing one from the studio that has an odor that lingers the entire class (and it's not yours).  There's the mat that's too short.  The one your friend said she would bring, but forgot.  I picked up a cheap one from a local athletic store and the mat was so slippery and smelled like plastic that I threw it out.  Next, I tried a very thin, light, easy to roll and transport matt which I realized is so thin I might as well be directly on the hard floor. Then I discovered the Northern Lights Yoga Mat by Aurorae Yoga

For the last few weeks, I've used the Northern Lights Yoga Mat for my basics yoga classes and for my post run stretches (I used to throw down a towel on the floor everytime I stretched after a run which required an extra load of laundry every week just for post run towels.).

Unlike other mats I've tried, this one is padded to a degree that provides enough support for my knees and ankles while stretching, doing strength work at home or working on my flexbility in yoga.  It's LONG, so tall people like myself aren't constantly adjusting to get our body back on the mat.  Despite the extra length and padding, the mat is still as light as the other mats I tried and easy to transport from my apartment in Brooklyn, NY to a yoga studio in Manhattan.  Plus, it's odorless!  Even new mats have a tendancy to smell like rubber or plastic when you begin to use them.  Not this one.  Check it out for yourself, runners.  The best part? It's 33% off right now.

by Jessica Green of Hot Bird Running.


Yoga for Runners

We asked one of our favorite teachers, Stephanie Creaturo, to help us with some post run yoga. Her take on yoga, the body and runners always blows us away. Need to slow down, relax, stretch or feel good after a run? Head to Mala Yoga. Every single teacher knows their stuff and cares.

As a yoga teacher and a runner, I get asked a lot what are the best stretches to do after a run. There’s a good chance my fellow runner will also say “I don’t have a lot of time to stretch.” I get it! There are a million stretches out there and even more yoga poses.  And training for a race takes a lot of time. What’s a runner to do?

I totally believe that running and yoga can peacefully co-exist!  I hope you can check out an appropriate-level class for you at your local yoga studio – many studios (like mine) offer classes just for athletes or runners. Even if you go once a week, the teacher will lead you through a variety of poses, some of which you may be familiar with, some of which you may not.  Either way, you’ll certainly stretch out those muscles used in running, but you can also be inspired to get out of your stretching rut!  Yoga mixes up how it challenges the muscles in the body, which is great conditioning for the body and the mind.

Here’s one of my favorite poses to teach runners and to do after a long run. (Note, I don’t use the words “stretch” and “pose” interchangeably; I can think of a million different things when I’m stretching. When I’m engaged in a yoga pose, my attention is squarely placed on my breath and how my breath is guiding my physical alignment. But no matter what you do post-run, yoga or stretching, your body will thank you by staying healthy!)

It is called Parsvottonasana, or intense side stretch. Many yoga teachers call it “pyramid pose” because of the shape your body takes once its in the final pose. I find it to be a wonderful post-run balm for the backs of my legs, my low back, and my spine.

I love to do this pose with my hands on a wall or a park bench. By pressing my hands into a wall or the edge of a bench, I can integrate my arms to my shoulder sockets and let my shoulders & hips be aligned while I lengthen the muscles at the back of my legs.

Let’s get into the pose on the right side first!

1.     Place your hands on a wall or the edge of a bench.  Keep your ears in line with your upper arms as you walk your hips & feet back in space, bringing the spine parallel to the ground beneath you.

2.     Step the right foot towards the wall or the bench. The right toes point straight forward. Keep the right knee straight and the right heel in line with the right sitting bone. The right hip draws straight back in space as you firmly press the four points of the right foot into the ground beneath you.

3.     Squiggle the left leg back a bit, angling the left foot at a 70 degree angle. Zipper the outer edge of your left foot to the ground as you firmly press the four points of that foot down. The left heel is in line with the left sitting bone.  Your legs are now asymmetrical to each other.


4.     The hips are level in space – imagine that you’ve placed your open bottle smack in the center of the pelvis and you don’t want it to slip to the floor, spilling all your water.

5.     Push your hands into the wall or the bench, which will help take your hips and thighbones back in space. Keep firming the bottoms of the feet to the ground as you tack your sitting bones to your heels.

6.     Make sure you’re not locking your knees! Of course, if the hamstrings are singing an opera to you, then bend that right knee. Otherwise, engage the quadriceps to the thighbones and make sure you’re not rolling to your outer right foot.

7.     Breathe in Parsvottonasana for at least five breaths, working up to 10 deep breaths. To exit the pose, lift your gaze, step your left foot forward to meet your right foot, then repeat on the second side.

Now that you’re in the shape of a pyramid, you may wonder why it’s called intense side stretch. Good question! Most of us would call it calf or hamstring stretching pose.  But the name is a great reminder to keep the sides of the waist long and the abdominal area engaged as we stretch our legs.

Remember, yoga poses can take a zillion different shapes and your body is as unique as your fingerprints! When doing a post-run pose, make sure you’re stretching the belly of the muscle and not at the junction your muscles connect to the bone. Also, use resistance – it is a great tool to keep the muscles, bones & connective tissue speaking the same language post-run.

Lastly, make sure to budget a few extra minutes into the end of your run to stretch or strike a pose - it’s a better than striking out due to injury or exhaustion, especially if you’re training for a race.


Half-Marathon Recovery

Here are our top tips for optimal recovery the week after a Half-Marathon:

1) Take at least 2 days off from running and any strenous activity

2) Ice and then ice those muscles and joints some more (continue icing for as long as you feel sore)

3) Take a yoga or pilates class or go for a bike ride a few days after

4) Listen to your body - your recovery time will be different from others. Start running again when you feel ready! Make your first run back an easy, short run.

5) Get a massage! A massage will help repair and heal your muslces so you can get back out there.

6) Reward yourself and smile! You did it!