Your everyday butt and hamstring strengthener

How many times have you heard or been told that you need to work on your butt and hamstrings?

As runners we need those muscle groups in order to run well and run fast, right? 😉

There are a plethora of exercises catered to the glute-hamstring complex that it’s honestly hard to keep up! Perhaps you have done one or several of these: the fire hydrant, donkey kick, clamshells, bridge lifts, lunges, deadlifts,  hip hike, frankenstein walk, lunges, squats, leg curls, single leg lifts, TRX hamstring pull-ins, good mornings, kettle bell swings, etc.

Instead of constantly worrying about doing exercises 1 to 5 of your butt/hamstring strengthening program, how about starting with the basics? Like, can you actually use your butt and hamstrings for normal day to day functioning. Most people have lost their ability to do the simplest of movements with their bodies. Seriously! Just try sitting down and standing up from a chair. Can you do it… now, do it properly!

 

 

This is what 99% of you do: instantly bring their knees forward sitting down and standing up. If you don’t think you do ask someone to watch you! This way of sitting and standing messes with your knees, increases hip tension, focuses on quad dominance (which we have too much anyway), and uses very little butt and hamstrings. {Can you hear my KNEES?! I have had that degeneration since I was 15 years old because I was moving incorrectly. I am moving better, 4 years in, today than ever… slowly getting my body back to optimal health}.

 

Get someone to actually look at you do this. Keep your lower leg perpendicular to the ground [NO forward knee movement]. It’s harder than you think. I am still working on it! This simple day to day movement, done properly activates your glute and hamstring muscles while making them stronger! YEAH, you are getting a butt/hammy workout without taking away from your normal day to day routine.

Imagine if you did this every single day, all day long: getting in and out of the car, in and out of bed, up and down from chairs (breakfast, lunch, dinner, school, work, meetings, sport bench, home, couch), etc. You would have a great butt and hammies!

Sure we can make it more complicated than that…. AND we can make it easy. It boils down to: Can you actually do this? Doing it without momentum? Without any aids? You can modify it with extra cushions to make it easier or drop it down to stool height for more of a squat… either way it’s still helping your cause.

 

The Pulsing of my Foot

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Typically, we are taught to check our pulse or someone else’s at the wrist or neck, we never think about other areas of the body pulsing. I’m here to tell you our entire body pulsates!

Our beautifully complex circulatory system circumnavigates the body wholeheartedly, turning, bending, going up and down, side to side all along the way. Its 100,000km (62,000+miles) network must be able to reach every single one of our trillions of cells to provide the nutrients they need to live.

Just to put the km in perspective, that is like traveling around the world two and a half times, driving a car just over 280km every day for a year, or jumping up and down 50 million times. That’s wacky right?!

What’s crazier is the fact that we unintentionally cut off our blood circulation {our vital nutrition} to various parts of the body unbeknownst to us.

The feet just happen to be the worst place for lack of blood flow, especially in runners! So, let’s look at circulation in the feet.

There are several arteries in the feet. One artery in particular that gets cut off in a lot of runners is the medial plantar artery (MPA), which branches off from the posterior tibial artery (PTA).

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Extremely rudimentary image

Why would it get ‘cut’ off? The medial plantar artery travels in between two muscles: the abductor hallucis and the flexor digitorum brevis. If any tension is happening in these muscles then the artery will get squished!!! So???

Let’s go back to the circulatory system: Most people think that the heart and arteries make up the circulatory system, and maybe if you know a bit more you would add arterioles. Yes; and, believe it or not, you would still be missing 80% of the puzzle [well, it’s more complicated, but KISS it today baby!].

80% of your vascular system (80,000km) is made up of capillaries: the Queens B s!!!! Capillaries are single celled blood vessels that transport nutrients to all the tissues in the body and get rid of all their waste products. In essence, capillaries are like Moms: Loving and nurturing through always feeding you and cleaning up your crap. Without them, we wouldn’t survive. Period!

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The Aorta is THE artery leaving the heart carrying oxygenated blood to the body.

The Vena Cava is THE vein carrying deoxygenated blood from the body into the heart.

To get a better understanding of what the vascular system actually looks like in humans, here is an image of the torso.

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Pretty freakin’ awesome eh?! 

Back to your FEET! Let’s say you have 12,500km of vasculature in each foot. For sake of ease, we’ll divide it up evenly, 50% to the anterior tibial artery and 50% to the posterior tibial artery. The medial plantar artery is smaller than the lateral plantar artery (MPA), so let’s be super conservative and say 30%. And of that 30%, 80% is compromised of capillaries~ 1500km. Holy catfish Wonder woman! If I cut off circulation to the MPA, I could be messing up miles of circulation to hundreds of thousands of cells in my feet.

What does this moronic, inaccurate statistic mean?

Capillaries of the MPA feed the medial side of your foot including the abductor hallucis AH and flexor digitorum brevis FDB (irony much?), arterial supply to the hallux (big toe), and nourishes the plantar aponeurosis surrounding the AH and FDB.

This means……. for E X A M P L E ….. the PLANTAR FASCIITIS {or fasciosis} common in runners can come from the pressures placed on the MPA. Below I illustrate just a few things that can cause pressure on the MPA. [And, if you want more details, come see me 🙂]

Direct pressure: Your orthotics, your inserts or your shoes themselves pressing against the MPA.

Indirect pressure: Toe spring, heel lift, narrow toe box, tight calves & hamstrings causing AH and/or FDB tension= MPA squish

FullSizeRender (18)                       Toe Spring [Changes the tension in the medial longitudinal arch]

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Heel lift [leads to shorter and tighter calves]

FullSizeRender (22)Toe box [shifts bones and muscles]

Perhaps, as a runner, I won’t be able to convince you just yet of how most running shoes are messing up your feet*. However, I can give you this awesome roll out of the AH to help ease your aches/pains and increase circulation to your feet using the Roll Model® balls. Check out the video!

*It took me many years of convincing before I decided to change my footwear. In addition to 2 years of transitioning from cushy heeled running shoes to flat, wide toe box, flexible shoes that allow my feet to do all the work. I haven’t had plantar fasciitis in over 20 years.

Also to note: There are many runners and coaches who still believe in overtraining {or who are oblivious to overtraining}. Plantar fasciitis is a classic overuse inflammatory response to repetitive movements irritating the plantar fascia. No one is born with plantar fasciitis. Our feet are shaped by our every move. Our feet re-act to our own actions we place upon them. They do exactly what they are told through stresses, mechanical loading, etc. Please be mindful of what you are making them do, day in and day out.

In conclusion…. Are there any other places you are cutting off circulation? Necrosis {cell/tissue death} is not a cool thing in a living human. I mean, it happens to millions of cells a day… but we don’t have to speed up the process do we?

2016: The year of the Calf (not cow, your calves!)

Love your calves!

If you consider yourself a runner, you actually use your calves, A LOT! Every running step you take (and actually every step you take). Since, the calves play a pivotal role in your running success and your ability to recover you actually need to take extra care of them.

More than ninety percent of running injuries come from the lower legs. What percentage of recovery do you spend on your calves/ lower legs. Stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, neuromas, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, ankle immobility, gastrocnemius or soleus pulls, etc.

But I stretch/mobilize/length my calves! Maybe, maybe not. To train effectively there does need to be corrective exercises involved in your running as to get rid of the garbage you incurred while working out…. in addition to your decisions you make day in and day out with your calves.

I don’t know what shoes you wear. Most runners I see today wear a positive heeled shoe. This means that the heel (calcaneus) is higher than the forefoot. This automatically shortens your calves without even doing a thing! I am NOT telling you to go buy minimalist shoes, I’m just saying you need to work extra hard on your calves because of the shoes you wear!
How much do you sit? Most people that sit, sit with their knees bent (chair, car, airplane, work, train, couch). Anytime your knees are bent you are shortening your calves. Period.

We, as humans, have adapted to shorter calves for numerous reasons. Just relaxing your calf and looking at it, guaranteed it’s not in a “neutral” position. You actually have to force it into neutral, which feels like dorsiflexion; but, in actual fact it’s not.

My question to you: where are you in terms of calf love? If you are not loving your calves I don’t think you realize the multitude of injuries, pain and issues that can occur just from simply not paying attention to your calves.

Here is a corrective exercise to do EVERYDAY for your calves. It’s in my “Performance Recovery from the Feet Up for Runners” online program. Seriously, do this for a month. Yes, every single day for a month. 2X 15-30 seconds morning and night. AND, everyday you run do this again; hence 3X/day.

This isn’t for everyone. Let’s face it: many people are lazy. It’s much easier to get injured, feel sorry for yourself, not do the work and take time off in order to not get the benefits of Accountability, Responsibility and better overall health. You don’t have to do the exercise I provide, I’m just putting it out there: Are you truly taking ownership of your body? It’s a heck of a lot more work…. and it is FAR more rewarding. The calf stretch I provide is the most functional, in skeletal alignment and useful for running and day to day activities.

January Challenge (and actually for the rest of 2016) Let’s all do the calf stretch e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y!

Performance Recovery at the Airport

Many runners travel on planes to competitions, training camps, seasonal training destinations or to work with other coaches/athletes. The airport is the EASIEST place to start your recovery on your long travel journey. It doesn’t matter how far you are going, you can make a difference at the airport!

Important points:

1. Always move at the airport! Whether you are doing movement based exercises, general stretching, sport specific mobility, yoga or simply walking around.

2. Have water! You don’t need to eat much at all while traveling. Maintaining your hydration is of utmost importance due to the recycled, stale air on planes. Airplanes love sucking your skin and body dry. Drink H20!

 

Low Back Health for Swimmers

It’s official!

I’m doing the solo Rottnest swim February 27, 2016. For those of you that do not live in Perth, Western Australia, it is a 19.7km swim [Yeah! If I am to swim in a perfect line! LOL] from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island. You can swim solo, as a duo or as a team; but, the solos are the only swimmers guaranteed to join in on the fun because there’s so many entries in the teams every year! You need a motor boat and a paddler (preferably two), then your off into the ocean abyss!

Sure, sure there’s risk of hypothermia, sunburn, dangerous weather, poor sea conditions, feeling pukie pukie in the water because it’s so salty and the smells from motor boat fumes, jellyfish stings, and shark attacks… among other things.

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But really, it’s just like anything you do in life: there’s always a risk. Walking out your front door is a risk; but, you take it everyday 🙂

Anyway… let’s talk about the Making Movement Matter of swimming!

I swam 3k this morning in the ocean {only 17 more to go} and I felt great. YET, I could slightly feel my low back. If you swim OR just started swimming again OR are increasing your swimming mileage you need to seriously consider the mechanics of swimming itself.

Why would someone’s back be sore after a swim, ESPECIALLY since many therapists/therapies recommend water therapy and swimming? Well, let me tell you 🙂

A lot of swimmers rib thrust. This means when their arms reach overhead, with every stroke, they bring their ribs along for the ride. There are many reasons for this:

1. They have no idea they are doing it.

2. They might think it’s normal.

3. They’re instructed to do so inadvertently because their coach does it.

4. They lift their heads up too high and too much for sighting (in the ocean/lake).

{There’s other reasons, but I’ll do them another day}

Soooo, how can you fix it?

i. Awareness: Make sure the front of your ribs are in line with the front of your pelvis (ASIS anterior superior iliac spine). This is actually for everything you do: Day and Night. Keep your ribs down. Keep your ribs down. Keep your ribs down. It doesn’t matter: the answer is keep your ribs down. I emphasize it in the water with swimmers because it is sooooo easy to rib thrust with the buoyancy of the water, how it shifts our loads around. A lot of you will be “feeling like you are doing abdominal crunches” to keep those ribs in position, don’t overdo it! And make sure you don’t tuck your tailbone in! Every new position takes time. Be gentle with yourself.

ii. When you sight, only do so where your eyes just come above water {i.e. NO need to take your entire head and neck out of the water to see where you are going!}. AND be aware of keeping your ribs down while going into cervical extension. Swimming distances you want to point your nose to the ocean/lake floor NOT in front of you, this will only encourage more rib thrusting.

If your low back is uncomfortable and you want immediate relief, try rolling gently on your belly with a soft inflatable ball. Here I am using a coregeous ball developed by Jill Miller, Yoga Tune Up®. You are more than welcome to purchase a coregeous ball here. If you live in Perth, WA you can come to one of my classes, just email me here.

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YES, rolling on your belly alleviates your low back. Try it before you knock it 🙂 It’s not going to be comfortable at first; but, it feels wonderful after you ‘allow the ball to sink deeper into your abdominal viscera’ {metaphorically speaking}.

My main goal is for athletes to ENJOY their sport, not having to worry about pain, discomfort, or injury.

Happy Swimming!!!

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