Are You Warming Up Properly?

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Dynamic Warm-UP

What kind of warmup do you do before your workout? You DO warm-up, don’t you?!

Don’t worry, I’m guilty of not bothering to warm-up, too. That being said, as a fitness coach, I try to practice what I preach and a warm-up IS a good idea. However, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy. I know we’re all time-crunched and don’t want to waste the precious minutes we’re able to carve out of our day for a workout with a warm-up. But, here’s why its a good idea…

It gradually increases blood flow to the muscles and increases muscle temperature which in turn increases the oxygen available to the working muscles. This keeps the more intense exercise to come from being a shock to your system.
There is some evidence to suggest that a warm-up will help prevent injuries. As with many subjects, there is no definitive answer on this and there are people and studies on both sides.
A warm-up can help you mentally prepare for the workout or event to come. Especially if its going to be a tough one.

So what should your warm-up look like?

Forget everything you learned about warm-ups from your middle school phys. ed. teacher or your high school coach (unless they were very progressive and in-the-know :). Jogging for 30 minutes or more, bending over to touch your toes or contorting your body into odd stretches is not the best way to warm-up.

A dynamic warm-up is best. One in which you are moving at a low intensity ideally in the same types of motions as the workout. For example, if you’re going for a run, then the warm-up should be an easy run of just a few minutes. Your total warm-up only needs to be 10-15 minutes long, if that. You can, and should, incorporate other dynamic movements to loosen up your joints and gently stretch your muscles. Static stretching (sitting or standing and holding a stretch without moving) has been shown to not be a very effective warm-up.

The following are a few dynamic warm-up activities you can do. Just 30 seconds or so for each.

Bounding – This is basically exaggerated running. Leap from foot to foot with a long stride for about 10 meters or so.

High skipping – Again, an exaggerated exercise. Skip for about 10 meters, pushing off with force to go as high as you can.

High knees – Run, moving forward with small steps and bringing your knees up high so your thighs are about parallel to the ground.

Butt kicks – Run with small steps and bringing your heels to your butt. Try to maintain normal arm swing during this motion.

Hip swings – Stand with feet hip width apart. Hold onto something for balance if necessary. Swing your right leg forward and backward from your hip 5-10 times and switch legs.

Trunk twists – Stand with feet hip width apart and hands on hips. Twist your upper body from side to side to loosen up your low back.

Arm circles – Holding your arms at shoulder height, move them in wide circles to loosen and warm-up the shoulders.

Jumping jacks – This is a great full-body warm-up activity Everyone can do them and they can modified if necessary and don’t take a lot of space.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite warm-up activity I haven’t included.

 

Happy Exercising!

 

My Favorite Running Stuff

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links)

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SPIbelt, ASICS running shoes, RoadID app, Hyathletic gloves

I’ve been a runner since I was 13. I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of shoes and probably hundreds of t-shirts, shorts, tights, socks, hair ties and who knows what else. I’m not super particular when it comes to my workout gear. I’ll wear a 10 year old ratty race t-shirt just as often as a $50 technical shirt. I don’t care. But, there are some things over the years that I’ve come to love and run with more often than not. Here are a few of my favorite things…

ASICS running shoes. I’ve had more Asics shoe models since high school than I can count and they have all worked well for me. I’ve avoided major injuries for 30 years and have always had comfortable runs so I see no reason to change my routine anytime soon. I’m currently wearing the Gel Kayano 22s and they give me just the right amount of cushioning without too much bulk. I’ve always been a fan of ASICS and would recommend them to almost anyone. I even recently made a convert of my husband!

Road ID app. The Road ID app uses GPS to track your run (or walk, bike ride, hike or whatever) and send eCrumbs to up to 5 people that you designate so they can keep track of you from any web browser. They don’t even need to have the app. I use it to let my husband know when I’m going out for a run alone or when I’m running a race so he knows when I finish. The app also has a Stationary Alert Notification feature that would let someone know if you stop moving for a preselected amount of time. A fantastic safety feature, in my opinion! And, it’s free!

SPIbelt. I don’t run with headphones so I’ve never had a need to carry my phone on my arm and frankly, I find armbands annoying anyway so I wear a SPIbelt. A spy belt is like the sleek, rich cousin of the 80s fanny pack. It’s big enough to hold my phone, keys, ID and a small snack or energy gels but not so big to be bulky or get in the way when I run. It’s usually hidden under my shirt or jacket so no one can even tell I’m carrying it. Another safety feature!

Hyathletic Flux gloves. These are a new addition to my stash of running gear. I’ve only worn them a few times but they’re quickly becoming indispensable. They’re thin and light as a feather. They keep my hands comfortable without making them clammy. In the past, I’ve tried gloves that are too thick and I end up taking them off halfway through my run. I’ve also tried using the thumb holes in my running jackets instead of gloves but they don’t quite keep my hands comfortable. I’ll admit these gloves look crazy when you take them out of the package (you’ll think there’s no possible way they can fit you) but, trust me, they work!
What are some of your favorite running gear items?

Happy Exercising!

I bailed on a race…

20 years ago I ran a race while I was recovering from bronchitis (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done!) I’ve run races after very little or no training. I’ve run races with various injuries. I’ve run races in horrendous weather and on terrible courses. (My sister likes to remind me repeatedly of a 5K I “forced” her to run with me that was seemingly uphill the entire way despite it being a loop course!!)

Once I pay a registration fee I find it very hard to NOT participate in a race. I know in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter whether I run or not. The organization already has the money and in most cases I already have my T-shirt or whatever other giveaway is involved. Although, I do have issues with wearing a T-shirt for a race that I did not actually complete but that’s a blog for another day!!

My point is, that despite having a number of legitimate reasons for not running a scheduled race, I very rarely bail out. Even when, sometimes, I really should.

However, I bailed on the five miler I’ve been training for that was supposed to happen two weeks ago. The Celtic Solstice 5 Miler takes place in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore about an hour from where I live and is a great race. The course is hilly and it’s usually very cold but overall, the race is just a great atmosphere during and after the run. There’s a heated tent at the end with cookies and hot spiced wine! What could be better than that! And this race offers beautifully designed, high-quality jackets with registration. Not a thin, cheesy looking t-shirt but a running jacket.

But the morning of the race, my friend and I would have had to leave at 6 AM and at that time my driveway was a sheet of ice and there was a “wintery mix” coming down. We decided to skip the race for our own safety. We knew the weather was probably better in Baltimore but our current location posed some problems. And let’s be honest, it’s not like this was an emergency. I’m not a doctor, police officer or other emergency worker that needed to be out. There was absolutely no reason for me to be on the road. And yet, I felt this ridiculous need to run because I put my name on the list and paid money. I run this race every year. How could I not go this year?

I know, logically, we made the right choice but it drives me crazy that I had to miss that race. It’s still bugging me almost two weeks later. I ran 5 miles on my treadmill to make up for it and have decided in my own mind that justifies me wearing the jacket even though its not really the same!!

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Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Premium Jacket

My point in all this is that one of my goals for 2017 will be to lighten up a little bit when it comes to racing. Or any other fitness endeavor really. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself and my personal health (and safety!) are my priority. That being said, I already have several races lined up for 2017 so stay tuned!

Let me know in the comments what you have planned for the new year.

Happy Exercising!

Just Start Now

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I recently wrote about New Years resolutions (click here if you missed it) so to go along with setting goals at any time…don’t wait for the perfect time to start a new fitness plan.
Start now. Don’t wait for Monday or next month or the perfect plan or New Years or whatever…

I know it’s a cliche but the perfect time is now. If you’ve decided to make a new fitness plan (or any other healthy habit for that matter) a priority, why wait? What’s going to happen between now and your “start date” that you need to wait for?

I know the holidays are crazy and stressful and you have other priorities so putting off your new fitness goals until after the holiday season seems like a smart idea. But…exercise can improve your mood and lower your stress levels (helpful when dealing with visiting family!) When you exercise your body’s level of stress hormones drops which helps you relax. Exercise can also give you more energy. I know that sounds contradictory but trust me. And who couldn’t use an energy boost during the holidays? And last but not least, going out for a 30 minute run or a quick weight session gives you a break from all the merriment!

So just start now.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not ready to start your formal fitness plan and are sticking with your pre-determined “start date” at least get out and do SOMETHING! Go take a walk or do some crunches or push-ups.

Here’s a fun holiday workout to help you out!
My family loves the movie “Christmas Vacation”. We watch it A LOT! So I decided to make it into a workout game. It’s simple.

Every time someone gets hurt (usually Clark) do 10 push-ups.
Every time something breaks do 10 squats.
Yep, it’s like a drinking game! Enjoy!

Happy Exercising and Happy Holidays!

Exercise is becoming a pain in the ass…

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Actually, it’s becoming a pain in the hips…and feet…and hands…
In recent weeks, I’ve developed joint pain as a side effect of a medication I’m taking as part of my breast cancer treatment. I’m only 43 years old but I feel like I’m 100! It takes me 10 minutes to loosen everything up enough to stand out of bed in the morning. If I sit or stay in one position for more than about 20 minutes, I have to do the loosening up thing all over again.

As you can imagine this is affecting my fitness routine. I have two road races coming up that I’m training for. Not being able to fully flex my feet kind of hinders the running process. When my hips are stiff I move with a sort of waddling motion…like a duck! Have you ever seen a duck run? It’s not pretty.

As with everything else since my cancer diagnosis, I’m trying to take it all in stride (pun intended!) and just figure out a new normal for my fitness plan. Some days are better than others. Some days I’m so uncomfortable that anything more than a 10 minute stretching session is all I can handle. Other days, I feel pretty good and get in my regular routine. So far, all the medication side effects I’ve experienced have been temporary and and my body seems to work through them within a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that will be the case once again so here are a few things I’ve been doing to work through this.

  1. I’ve made my warm-ups longer. Whether I’m going for a run or getting ready for a strength training session, I make my warm-up as long as I need to feel comfortable.
  2. I’ve renewed my commitment to working on my flexibility. Anybody who knows me personally knows that my flexibility is laughable at best. My hips and lower back are always tight and I can barely touch my shins let alone my toes. So now I make sure to stretch (dynamically and statically) before and after every workout. I also use my foam roller daily. And I’ve started to stretch a few nights a week before bed.
  3. I modify my workouts when I have to. And I don’t stress about it. If I’m only able to run 3 miles instead of 5, then that’s what I do. If I need to skip squats because my hips hurt, then that’s what I do. The bottom line is that I’m still doing something. It might not be as much or as intense as I’m used to but I feel worse if I don’t do anything.

If you’re experiencing any kind of chronic pain I hope these tips can help you too. I’ll keep plugging away and hope that these symptoms fade before my race next month.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Look for my Complete 10K Training Plan ebook on sale soon!

It’s National Underwear Day!

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Yes, apparently, that’s a thing! I know…its weird. But, I decided to use this odd opportunity to talk about undies. Bear with me…

I’ve been working out for many, many years and never really saw the need for specialized workout or ‘fitness’ underwear. I always wore whatever clean pair I grabbed out of the drawer. Or, during my spandex phase, none at all. I mean underwear is underwear, right? It doesn’t really matter. Or does it?

Then one day my husband, in an effort to support my fitness habit, bought me some Under Armour Sheer Stretch underwear. I actually think it was more to support HIS Under Armour habit but at least I benefitted this time.

When I opened the package, I was surprised at how thin and lightweight the undies were. The fabric was super soft and stretchy. I couldn’t wait to try them…it was a little sad and probably embarrassing how giddy I was about underwear.

The test was an easy 3 mile run. I wore the undies under a pair of capri tights and they performed amazingly. They didn’t slide around or ride up where they didn’t belong. They stayed put which is more than I can say for any regular underwear. I just assumed this was a universal problem that everyone dealt with. Until now.

The Sheer Stretch title lived up to its name. The fabric was so sheer and smooth I barely noticed them on my run. Full disclosure: I actually paid close attention since it was my first time wearing them but was pleasantly surprised at how there was nothing to notice. Did that even make sense?!

I tried them several more times while running, lifting and on the elliptical just to be sure but I have to say, I’m sold.

Are they a necessity? Probably not. I only have 3 pair in two different style so I’m constantly washing them but they’re so worth it. I’m thinking it’t time to go shopping again. My husband will be so excited.

Happy Exercising!

New Treadmill!!

 

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I have a new treadmill! Hubby took advantage of the Sports Authority going-out-of-business sale and I got a new ProForm treadmill!

My old treadmill worked fine and I balked a little at spending the money (even with the really good sale) but now I’m so glad we did. I bought my old treadmill used and had it for over 10 years and it more than served its purpose. I trained for a marathon with that treadmill. I knew where the buttons were without having to look. I knew how to twist the broken safety clip so it would stay attached to my shorts. I knew what it sounded like at each speed and how long it took to rise to specific incline settings. That treadmill and I had a special bond. I know, its weird.

But, this new treadmill has some REALLY nice features.

A built-in fan…love that!

An MP3 connection, iPad holder and built-in speakers…all nice features to have. Not something I’m used to but I think I can run and watch Game of Thrones at the same time, right?

And my favorite feature…a programmable intervals setting. I can set my own work interval and recovery interval so I don’t have to keep hitting the Up and Down speed buttons. Yep, I’m lazy.

Joking aside, this feature is quite useful and I’m really loving it. I’m just getting back into running regularly and I’m using a walk/run or slow-run/run system so this function helps immensely.

Walk 5 minutes, run 5 minutes. Each day I run, I decrease the walk time and increase the run time. I also have plans to use it when I start working on speed again. Can’t wait!

I’m sure all these features are common and available on newer treadmills but they’re all new to me. I like to run outside when I can but my new treadmill has brought out the running nerd in me! I’m so excited to get some treadmill workouts in.

 

Happy Exercising!