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!


Friday, July 14, 2017

Make the Most out of your Recovery

Recovery might be the last thing you want to hear while making your training plan. Taking a day off, or decreasing your mileage can feel like you are not making any progress, but recovery days are necessary in order for your muscles to be able to perform their best. Here is our guide to help you master the recovery days in your busy training schedule.

Protein! Carbs! Protein!

Protein rebuilds your muscles while they recover. Adding protein into your recovery will help alleviate the soreness of your muscles. That’s why almost any article you read geared towards recovery will remind you that protein is your best friend for recovery. Try eating protein after your next workout. Carbohydrates help replenish the energy that your body spent during exercise. Ignoring carbs means your ignoring the energy your body needs for the rest of the day. 

Set Alarms to Snooze

Sleeping well every night is key to the recovery of your muscles. Sleep is the time your body works to repair your muscles, which means if you don’t get enough sleep your body doesn’t have enough time for essential repairs. Prioritize your sleep during your rest days to help your body replenish muscles.

Stretch

A post-workout stretch benefits your body in two ways; it helps prevent muscle soreness and increases your flexibility. Aim to stretch for 30 minutes after your workout. This will prevent stiffness in your muscles and get blood pumping through them, which speeds up your recovery process.

Massages and Foam Rollers

Arguably the best part of any recovery is when you treat your muscles to a massage. The easiest way to comb out your muscles from any knots is to grab your trusted foam roller and use it on the areas that leave you the most sore. This helps relieve muscle soreness by reducing the tension from knots that form when you workout. It also promotes blood flow to your muscles, which gets oxygen flow back into them making you less sore in the days to come. On occasion, treat yourself and your muscles to a professional massage. They will be able to target the problem areas your foam roller might not be able to completely resolve.



Wearing compression socks or sleeves during training can help you start relieving muscle soreness. Compression gear helps promote blood flow, which means more oxygen to your muscles. If you are on a recovery day you do not want to wear sleeves, but you can wear compression socks on your recovery day. Some people like to keep their compression socks on after they train and sleep with them on into their recovery day. If you find that your legs are unreasonably sore after your workout, try compression garments and see the difference.





Focus on Form

Recovery days don’t mean you halt all motion, but modify workouts to be easier while your muscles repair themselves. This is the perfect time to focus on your form and technique in every workout you do during recovery. Can’t quite get a hang of bilateral breathing in the pool? Train this technique during recovery time when setting your PR for swim laps is not your priority. Maybe cycling isn’t your strong section of the race. Try practicing positioning your body to be the most aerodynamic on the bike. Training your technique during your easier recovery workouts will pay off when you are full speed ahead and cannot dedicate as much focus on your technique.

Rest

Be careful to not overdue training in your recovery days. It’s best to listen to your body. If it needs a day off, take a day off of all workouts and relax. If you over train your efforts will not be rewarded, because your muscles will have no time to regain the nutrients they need in order to perform at their best.


Recovery days are essential to your body. Whether you take a rest day or take the workout easy, these days are necessary to help you achieve your race day goals. It’s not just the training, or the racing, but also the recovery that helps you succeed.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Having a Ball: Stability Ball Core Exercises

Stability balls are a great way to throw fun into your workout routine with the added bonus of improving your balance. Your local gym will probably have some, but if you can, invest in a stability ball so you can do these workouts in the comfort of your own home, which saves you a trip out. These exercises help strengthen your core and your legs, which gives your more power on your runs and better balance on the bike and in the water.

Planking with a Tap

Chances are you are no stranger to planks. This variation helps spice up planks by adding in the stability ball. You should be balancing on the stability ball with the shin area of your legs. Your toes will slightly hang off of the stability ball. Get into a plank position, but instead of bending your arms, they should be extended while you balance on the ball. Once you find your balance, take your left arm and cross it across your body and tap your right shoulder with your left hand. Place your hand back on the floor and regain your balance. When you have your balance switch arms so that your right hand taps your left shoulder. Repeat alternating which arm taps your shoulder to get the most out of this exercise.

Side Planks

On the subject of planking, why not try side planks with your stability ball? To do this exercise, lie on your right side. Your right elbow should be bent so it can prop you up. Place your right foot on the stability ball with your left leg resting on top of your right leg. When you are ready, prop up your elbow and find your balance. Your body should be straight and parallel to the floor with the left side of your body facing the ceiling and your right side towards the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds, or as long as you can, before resting for your next set.  

Crunches

Crunches on the stability ball heighten the results you would get from doing normal crunches. Lie on the stability ball where your lower back and your shoulder blades are touching the ball. Then place your hands behind your head like you would to do a normal crunch. Personally, I like to place just the finger tips on my head so I know the difference between when my abs are pulling me up versus me pulling my head up thinking I’m doing a proper crunch. When you crunch you want to aim your left elbow to your right knee. Doing crunches across your body instead of up and down will work your obliques.

                                                      picture courtesy of food.ndtv.com

Pass the Ball

Known as the “Ball Pass” or the “V-sit” this is a must do exercise with a stability ball. To start this exercise, lie on the ground with the stability ball above your head. Grab the stability ball and raise both your arms and your legs to where your body makes a “V” shape. When you are in the “V” shape, place the ball in-between your feet so you have a nice grip. Then lie back down. Move into a “V” shape again bringing the ball in-between your feet back to your hands. This will give you one of the best crunches in your life.

Wall Sits Refined

Wall sits are simple to do and are great at working out your thighs. Wall sits with a stability ball are even more intense. Find a nice wall space where you have room to squat. Place the ball between you and the wall and press up against it so the ball does not fall. Go into a sitting position as if you were on an invisible chair. The ball should be touching your shoulder blades all the way down to your lower back. Your feet should be shoulder width apart to avoid any injuries. Hold the position for ten seconds and then return to standing. Do a few sets to work your way up to longer set times.

The Body Pike

This exercise is essential if you have a stability ball, although if you are not comfortable balancing on one yet I would master that before attempting this stretch. Start with the ball balancing in-between your feet and the floor. Your feet should be pointed and your hands should be shoulder width apart. Slowly and carefully roll the ball towards you while you lift your hips, so your hips are right above your shoulders. Your torso and upper body should be straight up and down, while your legs point out balancing on the stability ball. If you are having trouble balancing or going up all the way to the peak position, go as far as you can to build your body’s strength up till you can go straight up and down.

Modified Mountain Climbers

Get into a push-up position with the stability ball in-between your hands and the floor. The stability ball will be what you hold during this exercise. When you are balanced on the ball, take your right knee and tap the ball while keeping your right leg extended. Return your left leg back to the starting position and bring your right knee up to tap the ball. Alternate your legs back and forth tapping the ball to feel the burn of this core workout.

Hopefully you enjoyed these workouts and had a blast while doing the different stretches. If you are having trouble balancing on the ball keep working on it and you will improve. Add these workouts into your routine to change up the mundane schedule and work muscle groups you wouldn’t normally.

Happy Training!