Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's talk arms and core, part 1

Happy Monday! This is a special posting for my good friend and running buddy, Emma.
Emma and I on top of a hill overlooking Tiburon, CA reppin the LUNA gear
Everyone knows that strength training is an integral activity for a healthy and strong body (or at least you have heard it/seen it somewhere in the past couple months/years).  Among woman it gets a slightly negative rep, that we will bulk up or lose some femininity....but that is wayyy off course!!

Strength training for women (and men alike) is so important....for bone health, metabolism boosters (fat burning), blood circulation (oh yeah, less cellulite), and well being.  If done right, and with the proper nutrition, strength training will not bulk you up, but actually tone you up.  Strength training is especially important for runners...that's right, I said it, runners...Running is not all about the treadmill or the need a strong total body to succeed at running, just as much as you need the endurance and mileage (in fact you will improve endurance with strength).
I promise you won't look like this...unless there is a strict intent on getting that way
Calories in, calories out still counts with strength training (same goes for steroids...big no nos!)
You need strong arms, because they not only help to propel you through your mileage (the faster your arms move, the faster your legs will follow), but also to help you support your upper body after several miles of running.  You need a strong core to support you entire body in the run, your hips, your upper body, your back.  You need strong calves and hamstrings, to avoid overworking those quads and help support your body on the road.
Use the weights that work for you - but don't baby yourself, if 3 lb or 5 lb are easy, pick up the 8!
You should be able to feel a little sore and tired afterwards - if you don't, try the heavier weight next time
I used to think about strength training with that fear I mentioned above, bulkiness...masculine...hard to do...fear of being the only woman in the weight room and the men laughing....but then there came a time in my life, where all I could do was strength training - I wasn't able to run for some medical reasons, and guess what...I didn't bulk up, I am not a beast, but I am strong and I can support myself in a headstand or half moon pose in yoga, I can make it through pilates without crying...and at one time I could actually do a 20-push ups push-up ladder and 2 minutes of pull ups.

So last night, as I was driving home from my 90 minute restorative Flow and Chill yoga (first time doing restorative Yoga and first time out of the heated room - and still liked it :) ) I got a text from my friend Emma asking for some of my arm and core exercises.  Now I am not a personal trainer, nor am I a gym expert, but I do have some solid exercises that will work you well and leave you feeling good, not bulky.
To get one of your own, they are about $99 at a BJ's or Costco
or $95 on AmazonSource
My favorite exercises involve the Bosu ball, but can also be done with various other props you might have laying around at home is you don't own one or don't belong to a gym (most gyms have several of these).  I also like the excercises that play with your own weight, the tried and true staples (such as planks, push-ups, crunches, dips, etc...).
The full Plank: Source
As I promised Emma, I will promise you....there will be a workout page posted shortly...for now, here are a few of my favorites to hold you over...

Bosu ball:

  • Burpees: place bosu upside down (flat side up) and hold arms out in front of you, bend at waist, keeping arms and legs straight, grab each side of flat top of bosu ball. Jump both legs out and end up in plank position. Do a pushup and then jump legs back up and with arms straight stand up lifting bosu ball in front of you and over head. Repeat. Do for 15-20 reps x 3

  • free weights: grab a medium weight set of free weights and place bosu upside down.  Jump on top with a weight in each hand. Slightly bend knees.  Start with bicep curl,but don't perform the down curl, go right into overhead press, bring weights back down through second half of bicep curl and keep going until you have a triceps extension ( hyperextension of arms pressing weights towards wall behind you). Repeat. Do for 15-20 reps x 3.
    • To work legs into this move: In middle of bicep curl, right before you lift into overhead press, do a squat

  • free weights: grab a light-medium weight set of free weights and place bosu upside down.  Jump on top with a weight in each hand. Slightly bend knees or bend at waist with flat back and  head looking forward. Hold weights in each hand with arms down by your side. Concentrate on back shoulder blade muscles as you lift both arms out straight to be perpendicular to your body. Lower back down slowly. Repeat. Do 15-20 reps x 3.

All the while you are doing these you should be concentrating on keeping your core engaged and flexing your quads, butt and ab muscles.

Core work:

  • Bicycle crunches: lay on back in crunch position, lift both legs with knees bent so that you are hugging knees, extend right leg out straight and just a few inches off the ground. Hold arms to head with elbows pointing out (typical crunch position arms) and twist center of body to reach right bent elbow to left bent knee. Then bring right leg into chest and extend left leg, all while twisting center to bring left bent elbow to right bent knee. That is one rep. Start with 50 reps and build to 100 at a time (might take a few times). In total do 100 reps.
  • Planks: Start by laying on your stomach, hands tucked palm-down next to each ear.  Tuck toes under and push yourself up with a straight body into a push-up position. Start with 30 second intervals and build to minute. 3 reps ( or 3 mintutes total)
    • If a full push-up position is too difficult at first, start on your elbows - but remember to keep your butt and hips level with the rest of your body - you don't want your body to dip down in the middle or form an inverted V :)
    • There are many variations of planks - try lifting one leg for 30 seconds, then switching legs for the last 30 seconds.  Better yet...try lifting left leg and right arm out straight, for 15-30 seconds and then switch to the right leg and left arm out straight for 15-30 seconds.

  • Side planks: Start by laying on your right side, right arm extended straight past your ears, left arm bent over body and palm down in front of right shoulder, left leg stacked on top of right leg.  Using the strength in your core and left bent arm, push yourself up onto either your right elblow (modified) or right hand - so you body is in a straight line (legs still stacked) from head to toes, facing the wall in front of you (or w/e structure is in front of you - just not the ground or ceiling).  Start with 30 second intervals and build to minute. 2 reps/side ( or 2 minutes/side total)
    • There are many variations of side planks: try lifting top leg towards sky for 15-30 seconds each side.  Or better yet, try a crunch! Bend down top arm so hand is behind head (think regular crunches), then twist at core and bring top bent elbow to ground in front of you (works best with bent bottom elbow supporting body, rather than straight arm).

  • Reverse crunch: (if at home, do on ground with hands under butt bone for support) Find a free weight long flat bench (make sure it is in the horizontal flat position) lay flat on back, with legs dangling off one end (the bench should end right at your butt bone).  Reach arms under bench (CAREFULLY) and grab onto the edges.  Lift head slightly (don't need to lift if it is uncomfortable), and lift both legs together to at least parallel to the ground (so you would be in a straight body position).  If you can lift higher, that is great. Lower both legs back down slowly and repeat.  Do 20 - 25 reps x 3.

This posting was super long, so I will let you get back to the Monday grind and start working on a follow up with more exercises and strength training discussions!

Do you like to do strength training? Do you get nervous strength training will make you too bulky?

I used to not like it as much, but the more moves I learn and attempt, the more comfortable I feel and the more I tend to enjoy it.

What if your favorite strength training move?

Is it weird I really like to do burpees with the bosu ball? I love that I can feel my abs working as I lift the ball up straight-armed, and I feel strong when I lift it over head and amazed at how delicately I can bring it back to the ground!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, so much information!!
    I strength train but not enough--there's always time for a run but I always push back the resistance work.
    Favorite has to be just basic push-ups!!


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