Monday, August 28, 2017

The Pre-Race Essentials

With the grueling hours of training underneath your belt and the race just a couple weeks away, it’s time to start planning out the day of the race. Training plans make it easy to prepare for the actual race itself, but what about the logistics of race day? Planning out exactly how the time before the race goes is a bit tricky, but manageable with these tips and friendly reminders.

What to eat?

First things first, if it’s an hour before the race starts, you don’t want to be eating a meal. It takes the body longer than an hour to digest the food you ate, which means you’ll be feeling sluggish and bloated when the race starts. That being said, eat your meal at least three hours before your race starts. Within the last hour before your race you can eat more manageable foods like bananas. 

Carbs

Carbohydrates are your pre-race friend. Why? It’s because carbohydrates will provide energy for your body to break down during the race. There are many different ways to get carbs in your diet. Oatmeal and bananas are great foods for getting the carbohydrates that you need without bogging you down like a pasta meal would. If you want something more substantial on race day try eating a bagel.

Proteins, Fats, and Fibers

Don’t completely ignore these groups, but do avoid foods high in proteins, fats, and fiber before the race. Foods high in fat and fiber will have the tendency to leave you feeling full through the start of the race, which makes it uncomfortable to preform your best. Proteins are fine and dandy, but you want most of your stomach to be digesting carbs, so that you can benefit from more energy. Protein is best for after the race.

Re-Read

It’s a good idea to check certain aspects about the race you signed up for. Re-read your entry form or the details on the website a few days prior to the race. Make sure that if you plan to pick up your race packet the day of that that option is available. Check the different designated places for rehydration, meeting spots, and where to check-in your baggage.

The Warm-Up

It’s always a good idea to warm-up your body before a race. This helps your brain communicate with your muscles and gets your body ready to exert itself. Skipping a warm-up results in a delay of performance, because your body hasn’t connected how much fuel you need for the energy output you want. Try a few of these pre-race warm-ups.

High Knees

As simple as the name states, you are trying to get your knees as high as possible. To do this start in a standing position and almost as if you are trying to run in place, bring your right knee up towards your chest and then set it back down. Then bring your left knee up towards your chest and set it back down. This is a fast-paced movement so alternating your legs fast is key.

Lunges

Lunges are great for limbering up before the race. To do forward lunges start in a standing position with your back straight. Step with your right foot a few steps in front of you and bend your right knee. Your right knee should remain perpendicular to the ground, so your knees should not go over your toes to make sure you do not injure yourself. Switch legs to stretch both sides. A good variation on this lunge is side lunges. Instead of stepping forward with your right leg, step to the side with your right leg. Bend your right knee and let your body move to the right, which should force your left leg to be straight. It should look like you are almost attempting to do a spilt.

Spine Stretches

Stretch out your spine before the big race to smooth out any kinks in your back. A great stretch is to touch your toes, making sure to go slowly so you can feel the stretch in your spine. From touching your toes, go into the opposite position and bend yourself towards the sky.

Got Nerves?

Pre-Race nerves and anxiety is common amongst runners, especially if you are new to the activity or the particular race. Here are a few of the best ways to calm your nerves, so you can perform your best on race day.




Visualize the Victory

A great way to calm your nerves is to plan everything out before the day actually comes. For me, that means making lists ahead of time, so a week in advance I’ll start a list of what to pack for the race. Then if I suddenly remember days later that I forgot to pack my goggles, I can add that on the list. After you have a packing list, visualize the morning of the race. What are you going to have for breakfast? What time will you leave the house? Once you have the morning down think about the race. Imagine the course and the transitions you’ll need to make. If you have a laid out visual of how you intend the morning and race day to go, it’ll make it easier for you to calm your nerves.

Get a Motto

Recently, I called my sister in a state of anxiety and asked her what to do. She suggested to repeat a mantra over and over in my head and slowly it will calm me down. This applies to racing as well. If you find yourself getting nervous, figure out the detail that most worries you and then refute that detail with your personal mantra. Maybe your worried about open water, repeat a mantra geared towards that fear, like “no sharks will hurt me”, “The ocean is strong, but I am stronger”. Something that helps you control your anxiety.

The Unknown

Never ever, ever, try out new shoes, clothes, or consumables the day of the race. New shoes will end up giving you blisters if you try to break them. Clothes might affect your race day potential by chaffing unexpectedly. New food, gels or hydration might mess with your stomach, which might leave you more focused on getting to a bathroom than the finish line. Save your new goodies for training.

All Aboard!

Don’t forget about transportation to the event. If you decide to take public transportation research if the chosen method typically runs on schedule or not. Maybe you’re local and prefer to drive yourself to the race. Where will you park? Will you be able to leave after you are done with the race or will all the roads that exit your parking area be blocked off till after everyone finishes? The last thing you want is to be stuck in a parking lot exhausted and ready to go home. There is also the consideration of if you want someone to drive you home or carpooling. Will they know where to meet you and where they should park? Consider your transportation options and preferences before you head out on race day.

Now that you have your pre-race planned out and you’ve re-read the details of the event it’s time to get your head in gear so you can perform the best you can. Remember not to fret the small stuff if it doesn’t go the way you visualized.

Good Luck!




Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It’s All in the Hip Flexors: Best Hip Flexor Exercises and Stretches

One of the last things anyone wants in an injury, especially in an area that primarily controls movement. The hip flexor muscle group is much longer than most people give them credit for, ranging from the bottom of the rib cage to your femur. They control leg movement. Therefore, the hip flexor muscle group should not be ignored by anyone whose focus is triathlons or running. Here are the best exercises and stretches to make sure your hip flexors are in the best shape.  

Kettle Bell Swing

For this exercise you will need a kettle bell. To get proper placement for the kettle bell do a squat. While in the squatting position place the kettle bell in-between your feet and slightly in front of you so you have to reach a little for the kettle bell. Grab the kettle bell and swing it in-between your legs, and with that momentum swing the kettle bell up in front of you while you stand up straight. Make sure you maintain proper form to not injure yourself.  Place the bell down without rounding your spine and repeat.




Low Lunges

This is a yoga pose that will help stretch out your hip flexors. Start by placing your left leg in front and sink into a lunge position, while stretching your right leg back. Your right knee and the top of your right foot should be touching the ground. Make sure your lower left leg is straight and you are not leaning forward. Keep your spine straight and focus on breathing. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and then switch legs.

High Knees

Pretty self-explanatory, but high knees are great for training your body to run with good form. Stand up straight and then raise your left leg as high as possible, place it back down and raise your right leg as high as possible. Go as fast as your can while maintaining a straight spine to help increase endurance in your hip flexors.

Hip Flexor Resistance

Tie your resistance band to an object low to the ground and sturdy, like a bench or a pole. You will need to have a loop in your resistance band that fits your foot. Place your left foot in the resistance band. Stand to the side of the object you tied the resistance band to, so your right side is next to the object and your left side is away. You may need to side step away from the object to get resistance. Lift your left leg slightly off the ground while moving it towards the left. Hold for a second and then bring your leg back down. Repeat on your left leg and then switch legs to even out your workout.  


The Frog

I find this stretch absolutely dreadful, but it does stretch out your hip flexors incredibly well so I have to suck it up. Lie on the ground with your stomach touching the floor. Place your arms in front of you in a position they are comfortable. Spread your legs and then touch the bottoms of your feet together. Your legs will look like a diamond shape. Focus on pushing your knees into the ground to feel the stretch in your hip area. Don’t worry if your feet don’t touch the ground, as long as your legs are spread and the bottoms of your feet are completely touching you should feel the stretch.

Psoas Hold

The Psoas is a muscle that is deep in your hip flexor muscle group. During your runs this is the muscle that focuses on your stride. Stand straight with your hands at your side. Slowly lift your right leg while bending your right knee. Your right thigh should be parallel to the ground and your knee should be bent 90 degrees. Hold this position and then repeat on your left leg.

Leg Holds

Lie on your back on the ground with your hands palm down and your legs in a comfortable neutral position. Slowly raise and bend your right leg and bring it to your chest. Wrap your hands around your right knee and pull your leg close to you. Then gently place your right leg down and switch sides.

Hopefully your hip flexors are in tiptop shape and stretched out. Strengthening your hip flexors will help improve your performance by increasing your stride and controlling your leg movement.


Happy Training!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Best Hamstring Exercises and Stretches

This week it’s all about showing your hamstrings some love and attention. Strong hamstrings can improve how fast you run, as well as prevent injuries from occurring in the hamstrings. As with any muscle, the stronger the muscle is, the better you preform, which doesn’t only mean strengthening, but also stretching the hamstrings to increase flexibility.

Touch your Toes

Simple but effective touching your toes, stretches your hamstrings and increases flexibility. Start by rolling your head and spine down to the floor, so the stretch is gradual and not a sudden pull on your hamstrings. If you’ve never been able to touch your toes, don’t fret, reach as far to the floor as your body will allow without pain. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then slowly roll back up.

Single Leg Deadlifts

This exercise helps strengthen your pelvic muscles, which makes you less susceptible to injuring your hamstrings. Hold a dumbbell in your right arm any weight is fine. Start in a standing position. Slowly lower your right arm with the dumbbell and as you lower your right arm raise your right leg using your hips. Your back should be straight and your left leg slightly bent. Do your best to make your back and right leg parallel to the ground. Then return to a standing position and repeat.

The Bridge

Lie down on the ground with your hands palm down at your sides. Lift your lower legs so that your feet are flat on the ground and close, but not touching, your hands. Your feet should not be far apart, but not so close that they are touching. Raise your hips up into the air, while keeping your shoulder blades on the ground. Squeeze your glutes and hold the position for 30 seconds and then slowly lower yourself back down. This exercise helps your hamstrings and glutes become stronger, which helps prevent injuries from occurring.

Toes to the Sky

This stretch is probably the most relaxing stretch for your hamstrings, but still just as effective. Find an empty wall space that can fit both of your legs comfortably. Lie down and place your feet up on the wall. Scoot yourself until there is no space between the wall and you. Your legs and back should be straight. Breathe, relax, and let the stretch work itself.


Donkey Kicks

Not only does this exercise work your hamstrings, but it also helps strengthen your core. To do this exercise, get on your hands and knees, you might want a yoga mat. Make sure that your hips are directly above your knees. Kick your left leg up and towards the sky, but make sure your left leg is bent 90 degrees. It should not be straight out or straight up. Then bring your left leg back down towards the floor, but don’t completely rest on it. Repeat this exercise until you feel comfortable and then switch legs.

Modified Tondu’s

For this exercise you’ll need a resistance band or a cable machine. Make a loop and tie the resistance band to a sturdy pole. You also need a loop for your leg to go into. Place your right leg into the loop. Slowly pull back with your right leg as if you were taking a step. Then gently come back to the starting position.

Rolling out the Hamstrings

For this you will need your handy foam roller. Sit on the ground and position your foam roller underneath your left leg, just above the knee. With your hands supporting your weight, roll the foam roller up your hamstring until you get to your glutes, and then slowly roll back down the hamstring. Repeat this roll for a few times and then switch legs. Foam rolling your hamstrings will help your hamstrings repair themselves and will make you less sore.


Hopefully these strengthening and stretching exercises aid you in preventing hamstring strains and help you improve your speed on the course. If you do think you have a strain contact your doctor and make sure not to further injure yourself.

Happy Training!