Hamstring Strengthening Video For Runners: Keep those hammies happy!

Alright, Runners, time to tell you the brutal honesty about your hamstrings: they’re plotting against you! They’re weak, they’re tight, and they’re cranky! Okay, okay, I’m speaking in the general, so your personal hamstrings (if you’re ALREADY taking care of them properly), may not be secretly plotting away an injury for you in the future…but it’s an ongoing offense we must play.

Hamstrings rank among one of the TOP injuries, or underlying issue for an injury for runners. The reason? Partially our lifestyles with too much sitting and also because runners are just prone to tight and weak hamstrings. The solution? Be proactive!

I’ve put together a video demonstrating an exercise routine targeting those weak hamstrings (and glutes). It hinges on the bridge exercise, doing them as single leg bridges. Aim to do these three times a week after your run, it will literally take you a minute or two, so no excuses!

3 Way Single Leg Bridges
10 raises each leg
3 Different distances from glutes

Avoiding an injury that keeps you from running is an ongoing effort, being proactive in the stretching and core work is your two-pronged approach! These nice exercises are one part of the puzzle and the other is doing the stretching.

Do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and keep being proactive…an injured runner on the streets is NOT someone I’d like to cross. ;)

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Fun announcement! If you follow me on Twitter you may have caught wind of #coreandcake parties that have been going on. It’s simple, do you core and you get your cake! Runners are human, we work well off of bribes. ;)

I’d like to take this party to the blog world! SOOO…I’m having a #coreandcake party NEXT Friday, March 28th and EVERYONE’S invited!! Here’s what’s going down and how you can take part:

1) I’ll be posting a core routine I’m currently loving, followed of course by talk of cake!
2) BLOGGERS: This will be a link-up sort of deal, so if you email me: cait@caitchock.com with an RSVP that you’ll also be talking core and/or cake on your blog we’ll kindly link up.
3) Social Media: If you’re tweeting, FB’ing, or Instagraming on that Friday let’s bust out that #coreandcake hashtag and give me a shout-out…cuz, let’s be honest, I can’t get enough of seeing core and cake taking over the net. :)

So this is your INVITE!! :)
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1) What is one of the ways you proactively take care of your hamstrings?
2) What is one of your known weak spots as a runner that you give extra care to?
3) What’s your favorite kind of cake?
Ummm….chocolate….duh! ;)

4 Crazy Important Stretches for Runners: Hamstrings, hips, glutes, and psoas

For once my running cartoons will be used and I’m deathly serious. Stretching, Runners, is no joke. I used to HATE stretching, I’d do it begrudgingly, but ever since my little revelation in Boulder I’ve pulled a total 180.

Now it’s good too because I don’t have a little bit of guilt writing about and telling runners just how crucial stretching is. I’m practicing what I preach, yo.

Areas that rank most common across the board for running injuries and the areas that runners are notoriously tight in are: the hamstrings, glutes, hips and groin region, and the psoas. I took my cartoons and put together a quick stretching routine that you REALLY should be doing as much as possible. Like daily…I’m doing them daily, so now I can say, fully absolved of any lingering guilt, that you should do the same. ;)
[Click to enlarge so you can read text...but please respect a starving artist's work, you can always purchase prints, contact: cait@caitchock.com]
4 important stretches for runners
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More posts on flexibility HERE
And a post on WHY flexibility will make you faster HERE
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1) How often do you stretch? Be honest. ;)
2) What’s one of your tightest areas?
Hamstrings and adductors.
3) What’s something you kinda feel a bit of guilt about when you tell others to do it because you don’t always follow that advice yourself?

Get Out of the Vicious Cycle: Stop injuries from haunting you again and again and again and again…

Probably the only things runners hate MORE than being called a jogger are injuries. Booooo…hisssss…throw a rotten tomato at stupid injuries! The thing is though, if you don’t know WHY you were injured in the first place, you’ll most likely wind up with the SAME injury again and again and again. A vicious circle, uglier than Groundhogs Day.

Why Am I Injured?

Sure, an injury can come from some running traumatic event, you stepped on a rock the wrong way, tripped on a root and pulled a groin. A running injury can also come from doing a stupid training mistake, ie: doing too many miles too fast (stress fracture!), doing too much hard running too fast, running in the wrong shoes.
injured runner
Now, the WORST and most common reasons for getting stuck in the black hole of injury cycles are…

NOT FIXING A RUNNING WEAKNESS!! Ding, ding. I’ll tell you what you’ve won…an ongoing issue that your body is continually compensating for. The muscles stuck working overtime to cover that compensating are causing your injures.

Since you never fixed the underlying issues, no amount of icing the injury or rest will keep you from getting injured again. The injury is the symptom…not the problem.

What’s My Weakness?

Hey, I’m a Weak Butt: Everyone is different, but there are FIVE top culprits for runners getting injured. Weak glutes, hamstrings, hips, back, and ankles. I wrote a post HERE highlighting each one specifically as well as exercises to help fix that issue.

I’m a Tight Runner: Tied into weak muscles are also muscles that are so inflexible they’re tugging and pulling on every other muscle. Being inflexible is setting you up for injuries, and the bad news is the older you get the harder it is to ‘undo’ that inflexible nature. It’s possible, you just have to keep working at it! The other bad news, for those who DON’T embrace stretching…the older you get the more injuries you’ll get because of it. So stretch…I wrote a whole post HERE all about my journey to becoming a pretzel person. ;)

jogger is a bad word

I brought it up so I HAD to post it. ;)


It Came From What??

The tricky thing with injuries is that the body is an interconnected machine…you could be struggling with a foot problem that is traced all the way to weaknesses in your hips! Crazy, huh? So it can be a bit of a Sherlock Running Holmes investigation to figure out the root of your injury, but the best places to start are the most common weaknesses, get strong there, rule them out, and see if you’re getting better. Here’s a post on my little ‘Injury from Whaaaa?” moment.

On a bit of a related note, bad form can also be an indication for where you are weak. A runner’s form breaks down as they tire, the more tired you get the more your body isn’t ‘thinking’ and slips into whatever ingrained habits it has. Usually your weaknesses will be apparent. Hey, another reason to fix those form mistakes, right?! ;) Read some tips on that HERE.

So we said the dreaded I-Word about a bizzillion times in this post. Thankfully running injuries aren’t like Bloody Mary or The Candy Man, we don’t conjure them up by saying their name. It’s kinda worse, because they come about while we’re doing something we love.

Stop injuries from visiting you again and again and again and again…and fix your weak spots! ;)

1) What’s been one injury cycle you were stuck in?
Hamstring, adductor, glute trifecta
2) How did you get out of the cycle? Or, what will you do to get out of it?
Getting my stretching on.
3) What’s been a stupid mistake, or klutzy move, you did to get injured?
Hmmm…klutz ball here, I’ve fallen a billion times.

5 Rules for Runners and Self-Massage: Stave off injuries, don’t cause them

The longer that you’re a runner the more time it takes to keep yourself healthy to run. I know I’m not the only one with a laundry list of to-do’s to keep this creaky body on this side of moving. Soon it becomes that the time you actually spend running is outpaced by the outside ‘extra’ work you do to keep you running!

angry runner injured

Don’t make this you.


My latest article up on Competitor: “3 Things Under 5 Minutes Every Runner Should Do Daily” explains the importance of including these strength, flexibility, and injury-preventative work into your day. But let’s be straight-up, lots of people have lives and getting the time to just RUN is pushing it. (I’m boring and don’t really have a life, juuust kidding…I have to work and pay ‘dem bills too, bummer. And I think I still have one or two friends rolling around this green Earth.)

But I’m betting you can find a spare 5 minutes SOMEWHERE during the day…waiting in line at Starbucks could take longer. Am I asking you to bust out some planks right there in line? If you do and take a picture of you rocking the core routine in line I’ll totally post it, so send it my way!

Injury issues aside, getting a stronger core and increasing your flexibility will translate into running faster too. Get stronger = Get more efficient = Get faster. I harp on that enough around the blog too.

The self-massage part of the injury prevention is also really important, it gets more-so the longer we run too. I may be 27 but I’m strapped in the body of a geriatric, I’ll probably be rascal-bound by 30…but I’ll take getting my miles fix up until I’m legless. I wish I could afford a professional massage therapist on my ‘staff’, but I’m not there yet and most other people are in the same boat.
peacock runner
In reading the article, I want to follow-up here with just HOW important it is that you know what you’re doing before you go digging around on yourself. You can make injuries worse and cause injuries if you’re not careful. Here are our self-massage rules of the road:

1) Ease into it: Just like you need your muscles warm before you stretch, make sure you’re not massaging cold muscles. Likening your pressure to stretching again, start with gentler strokes and gradually increase the amount of pressure. Your muscles will FREEZE-UP if you go in like a wrecking ball right away. [One guess what song was stuck in my head earlier.]
2) 5-10 Minutes: Limit the amount of time you spend on each area of your runner bod to only 5-10 minutes. You don’t want to go over-board.
3) Cross-Wise Passes: I have tons of hamstring issues, when I’ve got a sore spot I rub cross-wise over the area first and finish up with some flushing lengthwise passes. Don’t forget the horizontal plane, rub side-to-side and then move to the foam roller.
4) Wait 24: The most common time runners self-massage their way to worsening an injury is when they get a new soreness, freak out it’ll be an injury, then go to town massaging and stretching like a madman. This is NOT what you should do. If the pain is so bad it’s tender to the touch, wait a day to let things simmer down. Go the icing route. After that, be gentle, don’t go until you’re about to cry. Refer back to steps 1 and 2. You can self-massage yourself away from an injury if you do it right and are smart.
5) Consistency: Just like you can’t expect to PR running one day every third Tuesday, self-massage works best when you’re consistent. In fact, if you’re spooning (just kidding) spending time with your foam roller daily, you get to the point where it DOESN’T bring you near tears…miraculous, I know. ;)

Until we’re Lady Gaga rich, let’s self-massage ourselves, Runners, to stay healthy. Even just 5 minutes a day. Hey, triple points to the person who walks into Starbucks with their foam roller under their arm! :)

1) Will you commit to doing at least 5 minutes of some core/flex/self-massage work I talked about in my article?
2) Who is consistent with their self-massage and foam rolling?
3) Did you learn some kind of nugget of wisdom from my bloggy-blabberings?

Running is Repetitive, So Avoid Reinforcing Bad Habits

If I’m on an easy run I usually get something random stuck in my head. A phrase, a word, the same song lyric running a loop over and over until the run is over. It can sure drive a person mad when it’s of course a song you hate.
tired runner
Be it as it may, I usually can’t get the lyrics to most songs right anyways, so why not make them up? It all plays in time to the music, I mean that’s all we really care about, right? ;)

“(S)he’s going the distance…(S)he’s going for speeeeed!” Won’t lie, Cake you have my heart and I don’t care what music comes out until the day I die this will forever by my favorite song. It’s not about racecar driving either.

“Don’t you worry, don’t you worry, Child…the track has got a plan for you.” This is a newer one and it comes on the heels of two thoughts: 1) I need to get something other than radio in my car and 2) overplaying a song leads to psychosis. True fact.

Whatever it is looping through your brain to get you through those miles is just fine and dandy. Running couldn’t get any more repetitive…haha…but that’s got to be a part of the reason we love it! Some not so hot things that come with a repetitive motion:

1) Body Adaptation: The body is sneaky and starts to adapt, meaning if you’re running wonky, with bad form that just get ingrained in the body’s ‘muscle memory’. Keep practicing a bad habit and over time it will bite you in the bum. Probably literally.

2) Wandering Mind: Having random thoughts through easy runs is totally fine, a nice distraction. But you don’t want to be counting blades of grass during hard repeats at the track.
runner on track
How do we, as runners, combat these?

1) Muscle Memory Toolbox:
* Check your form, them start improving it. Post with a lot of info HERE.
* Find your muscle imbalances and work on improving them. Posts HERE and HERE.
* Body rehab in the way of stretching and massage. Posts HERE and HERE.
* Drills and strength work come hand in hand with form work. Check that out HERE.

2) Focused Mind Toolbox:
* When the pain sets in try and zone the heck out. Different from wandering mind and that’s explained HERE.
* Count your stride, breathing, and do a form-check as a means of distracting from the pain AND keeping your mind working WITH your body to get through those intervals.
* Mantras…here is where a short song lyric can help. ‘She’s going for speed’ or make-up your own positive affirmation like, ‘Smooth, strong, powerful’.
* Stay relaxed and don’t try too freaking hard. Crazy, but you can slow yourself down by just trying to force it. So stay relaxed as explained HERE.

Practicing both sets of tools during easy runs is productive, so try and cut that in between making up better lyrics to overly-played songs. Avoid psychosis…plus, don’t all runners just want to be better at, well, running? ;)

1) Name a tool that should be included in the muscle memory toolbox I didn’t include.

2) Name a tool that should be included in the focused mind toolbox I didn’t already name.

3) Favorite pump-up song? Or would you like to re-write some lyrics?
best running shirts

Running Patient Keeps You In the Sport and WILL Reward You…In Time ;)

Running is wrought with the ‘two steps forward, one step backward’ tests and trials. I’d call it logic, but let’s be honest, most runners lost all logic about 5,000 miles ago. ;)

Progress forward is HARD fought, once you’ve been running for awhile it then come in seconds and tenths rather than minutes. Each new PR ushers you into another realm, and in order to break through and run through to that next level it takes more work than before, and the cycle continues.
deck of runners

Eventually you’re working to improve by 1 or 2%, and by that time it takes more than just running harder and running faster. One must run harder and faster of course, but also SMARTER, be more ATTUNED, and then PATIENT.

All that patience sure does wear on a runner’s mindset. Typically we want those rewards, those PR’s NOW…but failing to be patient and look long term usually winds you up either 1) hurt or 2) limited.

* Hurt: By running harder and faster smartly that means allowing the body to recover between those hard and fast workouts. If you don’t recover on your easy days then you start greying the line between HARD and EASY. You might think that going harder more often will help, but in fact you wind up being too tired to really NAIL those hard workouts. A bunch of grey running just leads to a bunch of grey racing, not sharp, quality races and workouts. Well, that is if you don’t wind up injured first. I’ll include overtrained under the hurt category, because watching your times slip really does hurt too.

* Limited: By limited I mean you’re not looking at the BIG picture. To gain those ‘little’ percentages forward means you need to widen your scope beyond just running miles. It means having an actual PLAN, including core work, drills, strength work, stretching, injury prevention techniques, eating better...all those ‘extras’. Running SMARTER means being curious, and learning about all the other ways you can improve in addition to running harder and faster.
runner by tree
Distance Paradigm

The other thing about training is there needs to be a balance between just running MORE and running FASTER. Volume and consistency is important of course, but so is being able to get QUALITY out of those miles.

If you DO care about getting more PR’s (someone asked me, so I’ll explain that as Personal Record) then you need to have a speed component in all that running. Some runners fail to think about running more quality, and get lost in the competition to just run MORE. That’s okay, but if you want to run faster you’ve got to get used to running faster, make sense?

Looking long term and being PATIENT means you can’t have it all, all the time. Get your mileage up to a decent level, but from there focus on getting more QUALITY out of those miles. Speed workouts will hurt, duh, but it’s the kind of thing that us runners are a little crazy about and sickly enjoy. Well, enjoy after they are done.

Stepping forward and back, parallels the HARD and EASY days…let the paces step back so you can recover and then jump forward again.

Stepping forward and back also parallels this disgusting thing called an injury; they are unavoidable to even the most patient runner. Take them in stride, get through them and be prepared to step forward again.

Running steps forward every time you get a new PR or hit better times in your workouts; on the heels will be the times when you take steps back with bad races, off days, and horrendous blow-ups of workouts. They happen…don’t let them derail you…because if you are running SMARTLY you can’t ‘lose’ your fitness after just a bad race, dispute that mental thought, it’s a lie.

Runners often want those gains NOW. But sadly, those gains have to be earned…earned with hard freaking work and loads of patience.

1) Fill in the blanks: I recently took a step forward _________________ and was prepared to take a step backwards __________________________.

2) Fill in the blank: I really want to run faster NOW, but looking long term I recently incorporated __________________ to get faster, the payoffs may take a little time.

3) When an injury DOES crop up it tests my patience but I get through it and grow as a runner by ___________________________.
best running shirts

One Hot Mother Psoas. “Shut Your Runner Mouth!” ;)

It seems like the running community has been on fire recently, or maybe it’s just their psoas muscles that have been on fire. The psoas; yes, I just like writing and saying this term, try and rattle that one off five times fast.

dragon toasting bread

Truth be told I wanted this guy to burn that blasted elliptical! ;)


So why is it such a hot topic among the runners I’ve talked to as of late? The thing is, most runners don’t even know they have a psoas, or that they even have TWO, until they start getting these weird deep, stomach pains. Sometimes it’s lower back pains, or the pain is around the hip area. The fun that is sciatic can stem from the psoas, and even your knees or feet could be screaming at you thanks to the psoas twins and the imbalance chain of reactions.

The psoas is a very deep muscle attaching at your lower/mid spine and then running across the hip to insert at the top of your thigh (femur). While most of us are unaware of it, it is pivotal in our running; it is a major player in each and every time we lift our leg off the ground in stride. It works not only as a hip flexors but in holding proper form. Since we established it inserts at the spine, having a tight psoas can lead to hunching over; the same hunch in everyday life can lead to back problems. Through the wonder that is the body’s chain reaction of imbalances and weakness, a wonky psoas can lead to knee problems and others that you might not naturally assume stem from a deep, core muscle.

Source
What’s a runner to do?
Fist of all, know you have a psaos on each side of your torso(I’ll like you more if you say it five times fast) and then be aware that more than likely your’s are tight. Just the act of running tightens that psoas up and you’re probably not stretching it as much as you should. My best friend is a massage therapist to elite and mortal runners and he’s always telling me how no matter what, 99% of the time the second he digs into an athlete’s psoas they start squealing. The psoas is like a little slumbering bear, it can be super tight without you knowing if for a long time until it suddenly wakes up and you’re stuck with an injury.

Stretches, Exercises and Massage, Oh My!

* Core Work: Having a balanced and strong core will keep you ahead of the psoas game; I really like the pedestal core routine I talked about and demonstrated. When you do those reverse planks with the leg raises you’ll note that psoas is doing its work there! ;)

* Psoas Stretch: Get down on your knees, keep your right knee planted and then step your left foot in front of you so that the left thigh is parallel to the ground. Raise your right arm up over your head, slightly lean your torso back and begin twisting a few degrees to your left. You don’t need to twist much at all, but you want to feel a stretch deep in your right hip region. Hold here for at LEAST 20 seconds, preferably more and if you’re just sitting watching TV that is a perfect time to give your psoas some love. Be sure to repeat with the other hip.

* Massage: I did a whole article/post on self-massage techniques but before I get to it I need to remind you: self-massage works because we can’t all afford a pro all the time. However, they are pro’s for a reason so we need to be informed and SMART when we massage ourselves.
DON’T think more pain is always a better massage.
DON’T massage a muscle the day of a strain, pull or trauma. Give it at least a day to ‘cool’ off, you’ll only do more damage if you start digging in there.
DO gradually work into more pressure. Think of like how you warm-up before a hard workout.
DO know your limits. Sometimes you just need a pro, ’nuff said.
For the psoas, just lie straight back as you would before you zonk off to sleep, take your hand and gently knead the muscles, run from the top of the hip and up along your side. Work into adding more pressure and stop and pause, holding direct pressure, along the way. Don’t do more than 5 minutes at a time on each of your psoas muscles. And if you’re especially tender remember to ice afterwards for up to 15 minutes.

So have you been schooled in the psoas? I hope so. Because it’s better that this be a hot topic for you to read and learn about before your psoas becomes the hot, beastly demon screaming at you and forcing time off! ;)

1) Have you ever had psoas issues? Have you ever had anyone tell you that your psoas is tight?

2) Do you do much self-massage on yourself? Are you lucky enough to get in and see a pro very often?

3) What has been a hot issue you’ve noticed lots of runners talking about as of late?

Keep Your Running Training Current But Not Trying to Re-invent the Basics

Some people do pretty weird stuff. Okay, this is coming from the Queen of Quirks, but when it comes to training and workouts this runner is sometimes left scratching her head, rolling her eyes or stuffing down giggles at some of the things she’s seen and heard. Warning: I’m about to get a little runner snarky so if you continue to read it’s at your own risk and I only ask you to remember that I am not, in fact, a totally mean and wretched bi***.
fast runner
“It’s new, it’s revolutionary.” The exciting and fascinating thing about running, sports performance and learning how to best manipulate the body through training in order to get the VERY most from oneself is that it is constantly evolving. As with any science there are always new findings, theories to be tested, and lessons to be learned. Training has evolved through the decades and so have World Records.

That said, sometimes I think people take this kind of thinking a bit to far: ‘Let’s come up with something totally new, never before even thought of and I bet because it’s unlike anything else we’ve stumbled upon it will be the magic training bullet!’ Sorry, but I think runners doing Cross-Fit falls into this category.

With running, yes you should always be on the look-out for new drills, exercises, workouts, and training philosophies because there are MANY aspects in that regard that work wonders for you. But, also remember that the ‘basics’ are the foundation and not insanely complicated: run, do speed-work, do longer intervals, allow your body to recover, basic core work (ie: pedestal), some strength work, be CONSISTENT, and be prepared to hurt during your workouts. Sometimes I think people look to something else in hopes that it can help deter from the glaring fact: running hard hurts, but you have to do it, there’s no substitute.
your brain on running
For distance runners, when it comes to the weight room and strength, you’ve got two major points to keep in mind: 1) Strength, core and flexibility work IS going to greatly improve your running…but… 2) You don’t have to over-do it either. Also, remember that it’s low weight/high reps for us…you don’t need to be maxing out at the bench press. Doing more functional type exercises is also more in tune with your goals. I think it’s runners taking new ideas in the weight room or strength moves that initiate a lot of my inner giggles.

Applicable weight training is when the exercises are geared toward running actions, typically more dynamic in nature. For example if you don’t have access to a gym, doing squats, lunges, push-ups, leg lifts, bench dips or step-ups could even wind up being better than loading up crazy high weight plates on the squat bar. Now if you do have some weights, doing running arms with 5 pounders is another example of a running specific exercise. If you get in front of a mirror and swing your arms as you would running for 20-30 seconds you can also work on your form; focus on getting the ‘perfect’ arm swing (front to back, shoulders relaxed and dropped) before worrying about how fast you can swing the weights…quality is more important.

So, to the guy who had a weight place looped around a leather strap, the strap then hung around his head and he was doing neck raises…I highly doubt he’s a runner in training. True fact.
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This post could have been epic because the examples of these are legit drill/exercises and those maybe not so much, runs on longer than the Western States Race. Here are some examples of awesome drills/strength/flexibility/core to do. Bottom line, if it seems way too crazy or like the person telling you that it works seems to be trying too hard to be convincing, and a part of you wants to laugh…go with your gut and focus more on the basics. Run.

Miles Madness: Okay, to any of those awesome Team Cait Runners that have not yet emailed me: captaincait@hotmail.com their total miles for the days of 9/1-9/7 please do so and I can add those into the running total. I know the first week is a little odd-ball with the days but by next Friday when it’s time to submit it will be a full 7 days and we’ll be set on a more logical schedule…lol.
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1) What is something you’ve seen, read, or heard about that made you scratch your head or laugh inside?

2) What is an example of something that was new to you but you tried (or plan to try) and it improved your running?

3) How do you balance staying current with new training ideas and tips that will help propel your running forward and then reading things or studies that seem to ‘try too hard’ or are just straight up cray-cray? ;) I guess, how do you assess the source?

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Lights, Camera, Action…Core and Flexibility!! Video demonstrations for your running and entertainment

Turns out this runner is taking herself to Hollywood to become a movie star! If you believed me even for a second then I’m sorry. However, to make it up to you I will let you point at laugh at me here rather shortly.

Yesterday’s post was all about runners and their imbalances; why we all have them, where common ones occur and exercises that can help you strengthening your weaknesses. I talked about one of my very favorite core routines, the Pedestal Plank Routine, and today I’ve got a video demo in case my wordage wasn’t quite enough plank awesomeness.

I also stressed how important stretching and improving your flexibility are for your running; both in preventing injuries and helping with your form and efficiency. Below I’ve demonstrated a quick flexibility routine you can do in just a couple minutes. No excuse for not being able to cram some quick stretches into your day at some point, preferably right after you finish running and are nice a sweaty. [Sweaty and your muscles are still warmed up!]

Check it out…I sure am sporting one crazy cool shirt, no?!?!? ;) Get Chicking peeps!

These videos are part of the accompanying media that I did for my latest article up now at Competitor: Improve Your Running By Becoming a Better Athlete. I’d suggest you all mosey on over there and take a read for more ways you can improve your running and get you some nice and shiny PR’s! :)
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Also, someone all about improving core strength and flexibility for runners is Coach Jay Johnson and he was an excellent resource for the article…so go check him out too!
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1) Video demonstrations, are you guys fans? Would you like to see more? I won’t blame you if you say no though…

2) How good is your balance and core strength in doing those planks; are you able to do the leg raises or are you sticking with the isometric holding for now?

3) In terms of flexibility, when do you tend to sneak in your stretching time? Don’t say never…hehe.

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Know Your Weak Spots and Care For Them: All about strengthening your calf muscles and keeping your achilles tendons healthy

As I write this I’m icing my right calf muscle; the little bugger has been a bit cranky as of late so I’m being proactive and giving it a little TLC. Let’s be honest, a runner’s reality (or regular worker-outer) comes with the creaks and squeaks, the moans and groans from the muscles and body, we’re like our own Tin Men and Tin Women. To keep those creaks from turning into the full on screams of injury we’ve got our oil cans in the way of icing, massage, stretching, and the like.

yodeler on a yak

That's your calf muscles and achilles tendon thanking you for some TLC. ;)


Everyone is different and after awhile we get to know where our squeaks tend to lie; for some it’s the perpetually tight hamstring, the plantar fascia that rears its ugly head now and then, the achilles, the IT band and so forth. Knowing our weak points is important because we can focus on being extra diligent with these areas and do all we can to prevent a flare-up.

If the calf muscles are your weak point, listen up because doing some strength moves in addition to stretching and icing will do you good. In fact, if your achilles are your weak points, working on your calf strength will in fact help with that as well. Actually, even if these aren’t your known creaks and squeaks, strengthening them isn’t going to hurt you and still help you as a runner.
fast runner
The 3 Way Calf Raise Trick and Achilles Care:

* Forward raise: Find a set of stairs and stand with the toes of both feet on the step; allow the arch and heel of your foot to hang off the back of the step and hold onto a rail for balance. Point both toes forward and lower your heels down until they are below your toes and as far down as you can reach without your toes leaving the step. Now raise up and onto your toes in a slow, controlled movement. Lower yourself back down and repeat for a set of 10-15 raises.

* Inward facing raise: With your toes on the same step, now point your toes inward so they are facing each other. Lower your heels down until they are below your toes on the step and raise up onto your toes just as you did the first time. Keep the motions slow and controlled to work the muscles; lower and repeat for a set of 10-15.

* Outward facing raise: This time point your toes away from each other, your heels will be nearly touching. Do the same lowering and then raising motion and repeat for a set of 10-15.

Start out with doing just one set of each raises and gradually work your way up until you are doing 2 to 3 sets. Be sure not to just whip through each raise and cheat a bit with momentum, it’s better to slow down so that the muscles have to really work.

By doing them in three different directions it works both of the calf muscles (the soleus and gastrocnemius) from three angles; because when you’re running you aren’t always on the same, even terrain, you take turns, you step on angles, rocks, etc. and so you aren’t always working those muscles from a single, laterally forward position. This way when you’re out running, if you step on a curb or rock funny your calf muscles won’t be so shocked and you’ll have less chances of running into an injury.

The same theory applies to your achilles tendon and by strengthening the muscles by which this tendon inserts at the top you can stave off achilles issues.

boxer

When I'm injured I'm more likely to punch a poor person in the face due to cross-training induced grouchiness. :P


Taking care of your little squeaks, creaks, and injury prone spots will not just save your sanity in being faced with an injury that makes you take time off but it will vastly improve your running. We all know that consistency, and being HEALTHY enough to run those workouts, are the key to being your best.

Take those oil cans, lube up, and run happy. :)

1) Do you have calf or achilles issues? What is your squeaky wheel?
Usually it’s the top of my hamstring right up by the glute.

2) Do you do calf strengthening moves at all?

3) What are some of your favorite strength moves, do they target some of the spots you tend to get injured?

4) If you were in Dorothy’s parade which character would you choose to be?
Hmmm…I guess the Scarecrow, he looks like he could move and run at a decent pace. Actually, scratch that, I think ToTo could beat him.

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