HIIT Me Baby One More Time!

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Sorry, but I couldn’t resist! I’ve been doing a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout once a week that I’ve been loving. It kicks my butt, but I feel like it’s a great workout for runners. I know this is nothing new, and I’ve done HIIT workouts before, but this particular HIIT workout feels different from others I’ve done in the past.

Here’s what I do:

warm-up

  1. Burpee
  2. Squat
  3. Lateral slide
  4. Reverse lunge
  5. Mountain climber
  6. Scissor kick
  7. Spiderman

I do each exercise for 20 seconds at high intensity then 10 seconds of rest continuously for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, I rest for 1 minute then start the next exercise. Exercises are only done for 4 minutes, so I don’t cycle through then repeat exercises. It takes about 35 minutes not including the warmup and I am thoroughly wiped-out when I’m done.

I’ve done this workout twice and I was sore for days after the first time. I was only a little sore after the second time. I figure I’ll keep doing this series of exercises until I feel like it’s getting easier, then I’ll change out some of the exercises for others. For example, I could swap out scissor kick for leg lifts or something along those lines.

I feel like this will help me with running hills and just running in general. It should also help with dead butt syndrome. I think this workout is definitely helping to strengthen my core and my glutes. After the first time, it hurt when I would sit down or get out of a chair in particular. I probably would back off of this intense of a workout in the final couple of weeks before a half marathon, but since I’m in-between training plans, it’s the perfect opportunity for something like this.

Here are links that show how to do each exercise:

burpee

squat

lateral slide

reverse lunge

mountain climber

scissor kick

spiderman

How about you all?  Do you have a HIIT workout that you’re loving/hating right now?

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A Breakthough!

So I’ve been having a knee/calf/ankle issue for some time now (years?) that I’ve been unable to even pinpoint where the problem is, hence my lumping the three body parts together. The issue is that when I run or even walk, I’ve been hyperextending my right leg. Basically my leg is straight when it should be bent, or at least partially bent. Have I lost you? I know, it’s complicated, which is why I couldn’t figure out what was causing the problem or how to fix it.

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When I run or even walk, but especially when I’m going uphill, it looks like I’m limping. It’s not terribly noticable when I’m walking, but when I’m running, it’s easy to see something’s “not right.” I’ve even had various people ask me about it when I’ve been out walking or running. When I saw a video of myself running at a half marathon a couple of years ago, I was appalled that my form had gotten so bad. That prompted me to seek out a physical therapist, but that didn’t happen right away, because, well, I guess I just kept hoping the problem would go away, and honestly, I wasn’t in pain so I just kept going on like that.

I went to a physical therapist last fall and what I found out was:  1) I hyperextend my right leg when I walk and run and 2) I have a muscle imbalance between my right and left legs. My physical therapist gave me a bunch of exercises to do that would hopefully help balance out my left and right legs. For the several weeks I was going there, I was diligent about doing the exercises, then I slacked off for a bit, then I started doing them again after I would run. I stopped going to physical therapy because I wasn’t even sure if it was helping me and I figured I could just save myself a lot of time and money by doing the exercises on my own at home.

Lately, somewhat miraculously, I started to notice I wasn’t hyperextending my right leg as much. It’s really hard to watch yourself while you’re running but I seemed to notice something different in my gait. It wasn’t dramatic so I wasn’t even sure what was going on. Then my daughter said out of the blue a few weekends ago, “You don’t seem like you’re limping like you used to, with your knee problem.” This was fantastic to hear! I think I’m still hyperextending my knee but not as much as I was. To me, this is a breakthough.

I’ve been doing other things besides the prescribed exercises from the physical therapist. I’ve also been working on my core (with my 30 day plank challenge), doing clamshell exercises, side leg lifts, and throwing in a bit of lunges and squats even though I detest doing both of those latter exercises, but all part of helping with dead butt syndrome. I know this isn’t very scientific of me, just throwing in a bunch of changes instead of one new thing at a time, to try to figure out what exactly is working, and I’m even a scientist- I should know better. I was desperate, though. I just really wanted this problem to go away so I’ve been throwing every single thing I could think of to try to fix it. So now it seems something, or many things are working.

On a recent 12 mile run on a very hilly route I’ve been running on for the past two years, I was able to run up every. single. hill. I’ve never even come close to running up every single hill on this route. I would end up going so slow and would be so out of breath, I’d end up walking until I was at least close to the top before I would start running again. To run up every hill was HUGE for me! I was elated! I took a quick photo of one of these hills just to give a little perspective, but I’m not sure the photo does it justice.

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Now I guess I’m stuck doing all of these things in hopes of forever and truly “fixing” my leg imbalance so I don’t run like I’m limping any longer. If that’s what it takes, so be it.

Dead Butt Syndrome

I think my butt may be dying.  I don’t think it’s dead because I don’t have the extreme pain that I’ve read comes with dead butt syndrome. If you’re a runner and especially a long-distance runner, you may have heard of “dead butt syndrome” or even personally experienced it. For those of you that haven’t heard of this, I’m not making it up. It’s a real condition technically known as gluteus medius tendinosis, an inflammation of the tendons in the gluteus medius, one of three large muscles that make up the butt.

People with dead butt syndrome usually have pain in their hip(s) and poor stability around their hips and pelvis. It can occur at any age. Even non-runners can develop the condition if they have a job where they sit for long periods of time each day.

Muscle imbalance is often a culprit of dead butt syndrome. People over-compensate with their already stronger hip flexors and/or quadriceps, resulting in less use of their hamstrings and gluteal (butt) muscles, which weakens the glutes over time. Us runners without perfect biomechanics are particularly prone to this problem.

Is there hope for people with a dead butt or dying butt? Yes! You can save your dead or dying butt if you’re diligent about doing some exercises to strengthen your glutes, hips, and hamstrings. There are many exercises you can do, but some of the more recommended ones include bridge, squats, side leg lifts, and clams.

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You’ll need to do lots of squats to help dead butt syndrome!

Here is an explanation of the exercises I mentioned plus a couple more:

Bridging:  lie on your back with your eyes straight up at the ceiling and your legs bent. Pull your heels as far as you comfortably can up to your butt and raise your hips towards the ceiling. Tighten your butt when you’re as high as you can go. Slowly lower your hips back down.

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Photo credit yoga.com

Bodyweight squats:  it’s very important you have proper form for squats so use a mirror to help make sure your knees aren’t going beyond your toes as you slowly lower your butt down as if you were sitting in a chair. Have someone watch you if you’re still unsure if your form is right.

Standing on one leg:  this is a great way to fire your stabilizer muscles. Make sure you have good form and your pelvis is level. Start with aiming for 30 seconds per leg and try to increase up to one minute per leg.

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Single leg squat:  also known as a “pistol squat,” where you squat down on one leg at a time, with the other raised in front. Only do this exercise if you’ve got perfect form for bodyweight squats and this doesn’t cause pain.

Side leg lifts:  lie on your side with both legs on top of each other and lift the top leg towards the ceiling. Make sure your hips are level and your bottom leg is slightly bent.

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Clams:  lie on your side and bend both legs at a 45-degree angle. Raise your top knee up toward the ceiling, keeping your heels together and keeping your hips square.

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Photo credit keywordsuggests.com

You can incorporate these into your regular post-run stretching exercises and it should only add a few more minutes to your routine. I know, I know- more stretching! I recommend seeing a physical therapist if your pain is severe or these exercises don’t seem to help any.

What I Learned from 30 Days of Plank

After reading yet another article about a “30 day plank challenge” and similar things related to doing plank exercise I was curious about what this would really do for me. I wanted to know, are the reports from other people exaggerated? Would I see any improvements in my running? Would I see improvements in my posture? Or would I not really notice much of anything?

My plan was simple. I would do a one-minute plank every day for 30 days in a row. I had been pretty good about doing core exercises these past few years, but then suddenly the gym where I work stopped having the Friday afternoon core class. Even though I promised myself I would do my own 30 minutes of core exercises at home on Fridays, I wasn’t consistent. Pretty much the only core exercises I was doing was about 5 minutes at the gym once a week and what was covered in my yoga class once a week.

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Day 1 began after going for a run with some fartleks mixed in. For all of you non-runners or new runners, fartlek is Swedish for “speed play” and basically means you mix in some short sprints with slower, more continuous running. But I digress. The point of this isn’t to talk about running, but planks, and more specifically what would happen to me after doing a one-minute plank every day for 30 days? The first day of plank felt fine. I didn’t have a problem holding it for a minute and could have gone a bit longer.

I’ll spare you the day-by-day blow of what happened but here’s a summary:

For the first several days, I felt pretty much the same each day. I was a bit shaky starting around 30 seconds into it but not so bad that I wasn’t able to hold for one minute. By around day 6, it felt like it was getting easier to hold. On day 8, I did 30 minutes of core exercises in the evening then a couple of hours later did my one minute plank, so on day 9 I was a bit sore. On day 13, I felt like it was definitely getting easier to hold. Half-way though on day 15, the 60 seconds went by quicker than usual and I actually went over by 5 seconds, accidentally (I zoned out).

Then something unexpected started happening. I noticed it was a bit easier for me to run up hills on my long runs. Whereas before, I would have to walk up some of the especially steep or long hills, now I could run at least partly if not all the way up them. I didn’t expect that to happen after just doing one-minute planks for a couple of weeks! I’m not saying I could now power up every hill I came upon, but I was definitely able to run up some hills I couldn’t before.

Also, I had an easier time in my yoga class. I take a Vinyasa flow yoga class once a week that’s geared more for athletic people; it’s definitely a power yoga class. It’s tough and our instructor usually has us do something like 5-6 flow sequences where we go from plank to chaturanga then upward-facing dog to downward dog over the course of about 30 minutes, before we move on to other things. The other option is to just hang out in downward dog and skip the plank, chaturanga and upward-facing dog. If you don’t do yoga, I’ll just jump to the important part. Instead of getting through about 3-4 flow sequences then choosing downward dog for the other times, I was able to do the full flow sequences easily. I wasn’t even that tired after class. Normally I’m wiped out by the time I get home, but when I was about halfway into this plank challenge, I felt fine when I got home from yoga and wasn’t the least bit sore the next morning. I didn’t expect that.

On day 18, I did a 30 minute core workout on my own and was only a tiny bit sore the following day. For the rest of the days up to day 30, I felt like my abs had definitely gotten stronger. This is something I can stick with too. It’s hard for me to fit all of the stretching, foam rolling, etc. after I run, but this is only one minute. Even I can squeeze in an extra minute!

Now my plan is to continue doing plank every day for one minute until I reach the point where a minute feels easy, then I’ll do some side planks or dynamic planks. I’ve read conflicting information about planks, but all I know is the results I’ve personally seen, and they work for me!

 

 

 

I’m an Ambassador- Now What?

Not that kind of ambassador. Without even fully understanding what it would entail because I’ve never been an ambassador before, I submitted my request to be an ambassador for Nuun during 2017.  Guess what- I was selected!  For those of you not familiar with Nuun, it is a company famous for their hydration products.  You just add these little tablets made from plant-based ingredients to water and get tasty electrolytes to help fuel your activity whether it’s running, hiking, cycling, swimming, or whatever else you do where you’re sweating a lot.  There are 4 basic products:  nuun active, nuun energy (with caffeine), plus for nuun (with dextrose and sucrose for high intensity exercise), and nuun vitamins.

Most people that use Nuun products are very enthusiastic about them.  They are happy to promote them to other people and tell all of their friends and fellow athletes to give Nuun a try!  This is the backbone behind the Nuun ambassadorship, in my opinion.  I am happy to do this, but I am also unsure what is “expected” of me as an ambassador.

I know many of you out there are or once were Nuun ambassadors or ambassadors for other companies.  I’m asking you to help me out here.  I’m a newbie.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed for the average runner like me until I became a blogger.  I always thought companies only wanted people like elite runner Kara Goucher, who just happens to also be a Nuun ambassador this year, to tout their products.

So I ask all of you that either are currently or used to be ambassadors for products, what advice do you have for me?  Am I over-thinking this?  I’m certainly not trying to pretend like this is some huge sponsorship or anything over the top like that, for those of you not familiar with pretty much any of what I’m talking about.  I get discounts on the products and access to an online community but as far as what I’m seeing that’s pretty much it.  In return, I’m supposed to help promote their products.  Is that it in a nutshell?  For those of you that are or have been ambassadors for products, what’s been your favorite and why?

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