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Glute Activation is Key

January 12, 2021

As a runner, chances are at some point or another you’ve experienced pain in your hamstrings, knees, or lower back that just won’t seem to let up no matter how much you stretch.
Interestingly enough, this pain may actually be stemming from inactive glute muscles (also known as the ol’ butt).

Luckily, performing a few simple activation exercises pre-run can stop this pain in its tracks, allowing you to run powerful, strong, and injury free.

“So why aren’t my glutes firing?” you may ask.
The most commong reason is that most people sit for long periods of time. The glute muscles tend to stop firing due to a lack of oxygen and tightened hip flexors. This, in return, puts more strain on the lower back, hamstrings, and knees, that imbalanced and stiff feeling when you head out for a run.

Add these simple exercises to your warm up routine and get those glutes firing.
Turn up the intensity of these exercises by adding a resistance band. Aim for 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg.


1. Clam shells
 clamshell Lay on your side, with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Keep your feet and ankles together and raise your top knee. Make sure not to raise the knee too high-you should feel a slight tug in the glute area




2. Single Leg Bridgebridge

Keep your one knee bent, and straighten the other legs. Slowly move your leg up and down. Make sure you aren’t feeling this in your hamstring, you want the glutes to be doing all the work.







3. Prone Leg Liftsprone

Lying flat on your stomach, focus on raising first one leg at a time. If the knee bends you are using too much hamstring.










4. Fire Hydrantsfirehydrant
Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Flex your feet and keep both your feet flexed even as you raise one leg.

Then raise one leg out to the side, keeping the knee bent to 90 degrees. Lift it as high as you can while keeping your arms straight. Try to not let the foot get higher than the knee or the knee get higher than the foot. Really squeeze the butt cheek as you lift.

Hold for a second or two at the top. Lower down and then repeat. Complete all reps on one side before switching.



Updated by: Coach Hiruni



Part 3:  Running Through the Pandemic – Alternatives to Running

 

For the third installation of Running Through the Pandemic, I want to share what I’ve done through the pandemic as alternatives to running.

 

As we move into our 4th quarter of battling Covid-19, many of us find ourselves in need of alternatives to running.

 

In my last two posts, I shared How I Dealt with Bar Air Quality during the fires in the Northwestern part of the U.S. and my Recovery from Injury #2 after my knee surgery in July.

 

For this next edition, I want to discuss some other hobbies I’ve picked up through these uncertain times.  I realize that many of us our back in social restrictions as the virus conditions to disrupt our normal lives and adversely affect so many people.  Additionally, many will now enter the most restrictive winter season without access to gyms and normal workout locations. So here’s what I’ve done (potentially not all positive) in lieu of physical activity.

 

In April, I started fishing more at Coyote Pt. a City Park in San Mateo.  The serenity of the water and the surroundings have always been good for my soul.  Still it is the randomness of the potential and unexpected timing of the reward that drives me the most.  This past spring the San Francisco Bay had one of the best California Halibut runs ever.  My fishing partner/daughter, Riley and I were able to catch this 24” beauty which rendered some wonderful ceviche’ (email me for the recipe’;-).

 halibut

 

I also went back to my youth and taught my older daughter, Olivia how to play my favorite childhood game = Battleship.  As is often the case my 3-0 perfect record soon evaporated an the pupil has now overtaken the teacher.  She leads the series 8-4.

 

 

I also started an online game of Hearts with my mother in western Pennsylvania and my in-laws here in the area.  That has given us time to connect and of course compete during the restrictions.  An online Zoom Christmas Scavenger Hunt with my niece, Elise in Philadelphia was a success (at least in my mind) and Zoom connections have been meaningful throughout.

 

Additionally, I started to play in an online poker game with friends and friends of friends from the East Coast.  This was quite the lesson as I’ve always considered myself a good poker player until I met these guys.  Now I feel like I’ve taken a Master Class in Texas Hold ‘Em and gained what I believe are meaningful insights into playing the hand you’ve been dealt and using the information at your disposal to make good decisions.  Not sure I can entirely recommend this but I wanted to share nonetheless.

 

While I’ve tried meditation throughout the pandemic, the most impactful solace this year was my work with a life coach.  She provides insightful perspective and is an invaluable sounding board as I continue to navigate these choppy waters.

 

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed nights with my wife.  We set use Netflix & Amazon as our before bed hobby and have enjoyed The Boys (not my wife’s favorite), The Social Dillemma (a must see for all of us that look at our phones too often), and especially Schitt’s Creek based on a family that found themselves in crisis long before the pandemic.

 

That’s pretty rosy picture I’ve painted, but the truth of this journey is somewhere in between.  I’ve been moody, anxious and nearly unbearable when not exercising.  I’m sure if you asked my family and those closest to me they would tell a different story of how I’ve been throughout the year, but I keep trying and encourage you all to do the same.  I have also stopped taking calls on my way home from work – it is a terrible habit and I’m happy to be rid of it.

 

If you’ve gotten this far – thank for reading.  I’d love to hear about your alternatives to running and physical activity through the pandemic.

 

Coach Tom’s Top-3 List for Alternatives to Running Through the Pandemic

  1. Double down on all the non-physical activities that bring you joy such as reading, playing cards, watching a TV series, writing, painting, meditation, etc.
  2. Try something new that you wouldn’t normally do.  See my recommendations above.
  3. Stay the course and use this time for resilient self-care and a path forward when things do return to “normal”


Part 2:  Running Through the Pandemic – Recovery from Injury

 

For the second installation of Running Through the Pandemic, I want to share my personal injury recovery from this year.

 

Tom_pelotonFirst off, injuries are no fun.  As I’ve discussed training, time trials, and social distanced running with you over the past 2 months, I realize that some of you are in the same boat as me = unable to run.

 

In normal times injuries leave us without our beloved “Runners’ High”, often time a lack of focus, sometimes weight gain, and a general ambivalence about our path forward. It feels like this is magnified 10x via our current disruptive work environment, home schooling and overall lack of socialization.

 

I began to experience chronic knee pain in January.  Unfortunately, this we not the typical tight quads and non-firing glutes.  On July 16th, I had a scope of the knee to remove some loose pieces and examination of the trochlea head.

 

Not surprisingly, my surgeon discovered evidence of all the 60,000 miles of running my knees have endured over the last 30 years.

 

My recovery has been slow.  I am near pain free walking but can’t do single leg squats which is one of the markers, my physical therapis Ky set as a prerequisite to running.

 

Frankly, this has left me unfocused in everyday tasks, less productive, generally ambivalent and somewhat rutter-less.

 

Sound familiar?

 

When I walked on at Penn State, my coach - the late, great Harry Groves, made this guarantee to me:  if you train hard – you will improve and eventually get injured.

 

Coach Groves passed in February with a tremendous legacy of instilling strong work ethic in young men and I’m often reminded of the lessons he taught.  He had a way of challenging us with lots of explicit-ridden acronyms such as “GOYFA”, where G = Get, O = Off, Y = Your and I’ll leave the F & A to your imagination.

 

With no running in the past 6 months and probably none until at least next year, I was forced to think of how I would move forward and get off my proverbial seat.  The real impetus for the start of Runcoach was that running has always been more than a sport or exercise for me.  When I’ve been stuck, running is the milieu for a path forward.

 

Almost always injuries are mitigated with physical therapy.  Often times it is not the therapy itself, but the psychosomatic benefits of doing something as opposed to nothing.  So, I continue to be religious with my PT.

 

After years of despising the bike and spin workouts, I’ve found a new, non-inflammatory love of the Peloton.  There’s just something about that leaderboard and those spunky instructors urging me along.  I’d love to follow you on Peloton and join you for a class and my user name is RuncoachTom.

Meanwhile, my former running partner, Lester (yellow lab) continues to need his exercise and at 8 years-old my knee injury is a Blessing for him.  We routinely log 15K steps/day and sometimes stretch to 20K+.

 

The combination of my PT, the Peloton, and walking Lester keeps me moving forward.  In these times, we need to find whatever we can to resiliently keep on.

 

I also am grateful for all the miles I was able to run and those still ahead.  It is funny how much one appreciates something routine after it is gone.

 

For all of you who have been on the sidelines like me either currently or historically, I encourage you to focus on what you can do today, and the potential of what tomorrow may bring.

 

As always, any movement leads to activity which becomes a path forward.

 

Coach Tom’s Top-5 List for Moving Through Injury in the Pandemic

1. Focus on your physical therapy, flexibility and strength work as there are multiple benefits
2. Draw strength from all the great coaches and motivators you’ve had along the way
3. Find a new activity that does not aggravate your injury
4. Be grateful for all the miles you’ve logged to date
5. Remain hopeful for what the future may bring



Treadmill Running Tips

October 24, 2020
You may refer to it as the "dreadmill". The boring nature aside, there are plenty of benefits to gain from using the treadmill to complete your training. Whether it's unpleasant weather, or for safety reason (looking at your early birds and night owls), make the most of the 'mill with these tips.

Six Tips For Enjoyable Indoor Running:


- Always set aside 5-10 minutes to "warm up". treadmill_rc_134223
Don't start running at a high speed on the treadmill. Just as if you were outdoors, stretch lightly before starting you run. Then easy jog 5-10 minutes at a relaxed pace so that your body can prepare for the workout or run ahead. 


-Use a slight incline.
Set the treadmill incline between 1-2%. Since there's no wind resistance indoors, a gentle uphill better simulates outdoor running. If you are just getting started with running or new to treadmill, it's okay to se the machine at 0%. Make it a goal to be able to run at 1% within a month. 


Did you know having the incline at 0% is actually like running on a slight downhill. Don't slack off!


-Do not hold on to the handrail or console.

These are placed for safety, not to guide your activity.  When you hold on to the rail, it hunches you over. This is not an effective running or walking form. It can cause lower and upper back pain. Keep your spin nice and straight, and pump your arms forward. 


-Pay attention to your stride.
You should have the same stride as when you are running/ walking outside. Lots of people make the mistake of overstriding (landing heel first with your foot well ahead of your body's center of gravity). This is because the treadmill belt helps to move you forward. 
To avoid this mistake, keep the belt at a pace you can manage. Keep your stride ligh and quick. If you have a device to track your cadence use it!


-Do not step on or off while the treadmill is moving.
Most treadmill injuries are cause by falling or jumping off a fast moving belt. If you need a quick break, use the pause function or slow the speed of the machine to a very slow pace, and step off.
Top prevent needing to step off, try to be prepared with a towel, headphones, water and your phone before you get started.


-Bring entertainment
To combat the boredom, bring music, a podcast, magazine, or movie to watch. I usually don't recomend using headphones outside for safety reasons, but inside it's perfectly find. Having entertainment will prevent you from constantly checking your time and distance, and allow you to relax. 

Be sure to aware of your form still. Nice and tall spine! 



Jerric_blogJerric restarted his relationship with running after a 15-year hiatus. His return has been nothing short of remarkable. While juggling the demands of family, a career, and training, he recently set a 27 minute personal best while completing the NYRR NYC Virtual Marathon. Read about his "not so secret" tips for success!

Major milestone:

I started running around Christmas 2018 after 15 years! Then I completed by 1st marathon in Chicago in October 2019 (finish time 4:18). Just completedmy 2nd marathon the NYC (virtual) in October 2020, big personal best of 3:51

What is the secret to your success?

There really is no secret here - you must put in the time and work for training. But I also view my running time as my "me" time." I reflect on my day ahead, I catch-up on podcasts, I listen to audiobooks, I let my mind wander...

What is the biggest obstacle to reaching your goals and how do you get over it?

The biggest challenge is balancing running with family and career. There are days when I have an early meeting so I will wake up really early (4:30am) to get my run in. If it's important enough, you'll get it done.

What is the most rewarding part of training?

Nothing beats crossing the finish line. While overall health and wellness is the over-arching goal (and Runcoach shows how you are improving which is very encouraging), crossing a finish line is a tangible milestone on this journey. And thinking of all your family and friends who support you through the good times and bad as you cross that finish line is humbling.

What advice would you give to other members of the Runcoach community?

Follow the schedule Runcoach gives you. If you stick with the schedule, you will hit your goals. Also, be honest with yourself. If you can only run three times a week, put that in your profile so your schedule reflects this and it's not a stressor.

Anything else you would like to share?

Runcoach has really been good at predicting race performance for me. I keep doubting I'll hit those times for a race but I've managed to. The app is great and has helped me reach my goals. My coach, Hiruni, is always there to keep me focused. And no big deal but she's an 11 time Sri Lanken national record holder :)

What feedback would you offer on the Runcoach experience?

Runcoach has been key in my running journey. The free version gives you a training program that is flexible and will adjust automatically for missed runs and multiple races. The paid version gives you 1:1 coaching (mine is super-friendly and helpful!) and allows for even more customized training schedules. I'm very happy with Runcoach!



It occurs to me that we spend a good deal of time with emphasis on the keys to our training approach:

  • >Pace
  • >Progression
  • >Recovery

However sometimes I see even the most organized, motivated runners miss out on some of the basics.  Everyone knows to wear sweats and bundle up in the winter months, but what about the kind of cold Fall presents.  It's tricky to dress for the 40 - 50*F (5-15*C) days.

As always I am most concerned that all you remain healthy.  Remember if you're healthy, you're aerobic economy can be continuously developed through stress, recovery and compensation/conditioning.

So here are a few basics for running attire in the 40-60 degree temperature range.  hiruni_fall_clothes

  1. Wear a long-sleeve shirt and short sleeve shirt or vest over. It's key to keep the core warm.
  2. Wear long tights or knee long tights for women. And tuck your shirt into the tights.
  3. Consider light gloves and a hat or earband.
  4. If it's windy, a light windbreaker is a must. 
  5. Avoid cotton clothes. As you sweat the clothes will drench in making you colder.

As you run you will feel warmer, that's your body's engine heating up. That's why I suggest dressing for how you will feel 20 minutes into the run then the first mile. If you are running long, bring a change or clothes of a warm sweatshirt to change into after you finish up. It's never fun to be sitting in your frozen sweat on the drive home. 

 



Written by Jennifer Van Allen
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne 

ashley perrott tri mediumOne of the most challenging parts of getting fit is staying healthy and injury free.  Dr. Ashley Perrott  is an Ironman finisher, busy mom, and family medicine physician at Novant Health Salem Family Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (See photo, left, of Ashley with her parents and brother). Dr. Perrott is answering some of the most-common questions our users have on staying on track. 

How do you know which aches and pains you can keep exercising through, and which ones should send you running to a doctor?

 

Muscle soreness can be expected for 1-2 days after a more intense workout or more intense week of training.  This soreness should improve daily.  Recovery with rest or light workouts after an intense workout can help muscle soreness and stiffness. Try a light massage or foam rolling. 

Muscle injuries lasts longer than 1-2 days. You may notice the inability to complete a light workout or even regular activity.  Rest will generally help this pain.  Any pain that gets worse with activity should prompt the athlete to reduce speed/intensity to avoid injury.  Muscle pain or weakness that persists despite rest is a reason to see your MD.

Joint or bone pain, swelling, or redness may represent more significant injury.  Certainly a specific episode of injury (rolling ankle, falling, tripping) that causes deformity should prompt an evaluation at the MD in some fashion.  

If your joint pain feels worse with pressure on that joint (expecially if your are just resting and can feel the pain) schedule a doctor appointment immediately. 

Reoccuring pains, these are aches and pains that show up like clock work should be addressed. Shin splits, IT band stiffness, runners knee, achilles tendonitis are all chronic pain that tend to simmer down and flare up as you increase activity. It's critical to address the root cause of these pains, perform corrective exercises, and break the pain cycle for good.


Have a question about staying healthy and injury free? Contact Us. 






young-people-walking1As with any new adventure, when you are starting off, it can seem dauting to set a goal. To take some that stress off, we’ve asked our coaches for their top tips.

A goal, no matter the caliber is critical to keep you focused. A goal should be ambitious, but not so wild that it will take you an exceedingly long time to reach it. As a beginner, you will see various levels of successes rather quickly. Use this to your advantage and set several personally relevant goals.

 

(1)    Exercise Regularly – Run consistently

This can be simply to run/ walk/ move your body and sweat 2 – 3 times per week, for a month. Building a routine is the first step toward meaningful change in your life. Your body adapts the more times you teach it to do a skill. Continually running/ walking will improve the response within your body

(2)    Run a Specific Distance

Be it one kilometer, mile or 5K – marathon, set a distance that you can be proud of completing. Time or pace is not relevant at this point. This is a personal record of the farthest distance you can cover in one-go.

(3)    Run Non-Stop

Set yourself a goal to run on-stop over a realistic distance. At first you can even make it a goal to run around your neighborhood without stopping, then move up to a loop around your local park.

(4)    Select a Race

Live events are a rare luxury for now, but you can still register to support a race organization which is meaningful to you. Most virtual races will send you a finisher medal, and other awesome swag. These are treats to reward you for reaching the goal. 

(5)    Weight Loss

Lots of people start running to lose weight. Just like setting your eyes to run a certain distance, you should set a weight loss goal for each week and each month. Experts recommend 1-2kg (2-5 lbs) as a safe weekly weight loss goal.



So, where do you see yourself on December 31, 2020? hi-5

In a time of chaos, limited social life, increased time spend at home, apparently more "free" time, have you taken the time for some self-reflection. As runners, we are conditioned to set goals based on upcoming races. Well, that's not a sure thing anymore.

Does that mean you shouldn't set goals in favor of not having your heart-broken time and time again? Absolutely not. There is still plenty to strive to accomplish, endorphins to collect, and lifestyle changes to make.


1. Revisit personal annual goals
You may have wanted to run a Boston Qualifier or finish your first ultra-marathon. With both of those events now cancelled, think about why you wanted to reach those goals. 
- Set a smaller goal. Think running a personal best in a one mile - 5K or completing your longest long run ever. Things you can control as an individual have a higher chance of success. 
- Was your audacious goal tied to hopes of weight loss, or a more consistent running routine? That can still get accomplished. Start by setting up your schedule to allow you to dedicate 20-30 minutes per day to exercise. Repeat this for a few weeks, and you're at the start of a routine!

Once you set and complete smaller goals, you are more likely to remain motivated to reach the big, long-term goals. Otherwise, losing motivation could make your goals seem unattainable and increase the chances of veering off course.

2. Attend to your mental and physical needs

Take this strange “down time” from always needing to be in tip-top shape to rebound physically and mentally.

Aches and pains should not be part of your everyday life. If there is an area in your body that’s troublesome, take the time to rest and heal. Then discuss a plan of attack, which includes specific exercises to strength the supporting muscles and tendon with your coach. Same goes for a mental refresh. Burn-out is extremely common among distance runners. Take some pressure off yourself.

Working toward big breakthrough require both physical and mental energy, so it is important that both aspects are attended to when making an appropriate goal for the next time around.  If emotions are high or you are unusually physically worn down, setting a goal will more difficult and irrational.

 

3. Take inventory about what you liked and disliked about your past races

Did you use to race for charity and find your cause to be a crucial motivator?  Did you enjoy (or not enjoy) any travel involved to get to your race site?  Were you enthused by the crowds or did you enjoy the solitude of a less populated and more scenic race route?  Pick the top three enjoyable aspects of your race experience as well as the three aspects that were most problematic to help narrow down what types of races/ goals will suit your preferences.

Once you have a list and your motivators and dislikes, let’s get to work setting up the next challenge.

 

4. Use the resources at your disposal

This is especially key when we consider the change of seasons. If you live in a region where the winters are particularly cold or the summers particularly hot, or if you have become accustomed to doing long runs or challenging workouts during hours that can go from light to dark depending on the season, keep these in mind when selecting your next goal.

If it’s difficult to spend a great deal of time outside, then select a goal that’s short and fast, so your efforts can be concentrated appropriately. Remember, improving your speed is a valuable tool for any runner.



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