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Fitness Friday – Weight Training For Injury Prevention

Well hello there and welcome to another Fitness Friday! This week I’m talking about weight training for injury prevention. I suspect this may turn into yet another series of posts, as there are so many common injuries and even more ways to prevent them!

Today’s specific focus will be on running related injuries and what exercises you need to be doing on your cross-training days to make sure your running isn’t sidelined.

I would say the take-home point of my personal training course was that everything in the body is connected. Muscles, joints and tendons rely on one another to move in perfect unison. If there are any imbalances, then repetitive motion (or lack of motion) will heighten it and lead to injury.

Common running injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, “runner’s knee,” IT band syndrome and hip flexor issues can sometimes be prevented by making sure those areas are all properly supported by strong muscles.

Now, if you are already suffering from any of these ailments, I have to stress that you get the okay from a doc before lifting weights in the gym. Self-diagnosing is bad enough, but self-treating is even worse!

The following is just a snippet of the moves that should be added to your strength training roster on your off-running days (because you are strength training – right?? *glare*). I’ll let you know how to do them, what area it works, what it can prevent, and at the end I’ll let you know how to put it all together. Sooo… let’s get to it!

 

Furniture Lift

How To Do it: Sit in a chair with your toes tucked under a desk, shelf or couch. Lift your toes as if you’re lifting the piece of furniture with them, hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat.

Works: Your anterior tibialis, aka the small muscle in your shin. Dorsiflexion of the foot, what we usually think of as flexing our foot and toes upward, is the only motion that will work that muscle. What common exercise can you think of that incorporates this foot motion with resistance on your toes? Nothing? Exactly. This is something you can do while trying not to fall asleep at your desk and it could help those nagging running pains immensely.

Prevents: Shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, pulled calf

 

Calf Raise

How To Do It: Stand on a step (with the option of holding dumbbells) with just your toes on the surface and heels hanging off. Push up onto your toes, then let your weight sink into your heels past the step. Repeat! This is really difficult if you have bad balance, so the standing or seated calf machines at the gym will do just fine.

Works: The gastrocnemius (upper calf) muscle and soleus (lower calf).

Prevents: Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, pulled calf

Inner Thigh Lift

How To Do It: Lay on your side, bend your top leg and bring that foot in front of you. Hold on to that foot with your top hand to keep it stable, then flex your outstretched leg, lifting and lowering it to the ground.

Works: Adductor muscles (aka your inner thigh)

Prevents: Runner’s knee

Side note: You can also work your outer thigh from this position. Keep your top leg outstretched, hold a dumbbell in place on your outer thigh to add extra weight, then lift and lower it. This will also hit your IT band and help with IT band sydrome.

 

Plie Squat

How To Do It: Take on a wiiiide stance with your toes pointed slightly outward. Grab a weight, keeping your shoulders back and chest forward, stick your butt back and squat down, then push back up.

Works: Inner thighs, glutes, quadriceps.

Prevents: Hip injury, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome

Side note: I highly recommend waiting until the weight area is empty before doing this one. It’s a little friendly! :P

 

Bulgarian Split Squat

 
How To Do It: Place the top of your foot on a bench or high step, take a biiiig step out (like, an extra few inches out from where you’re comfortable). Bend your forward leg, squatting down until your back knee almost hits the floor, then push through your heel back up.

Works: Quadriceps, glutes.

Prevents: Hip injury, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome.

 

Prone Leg Raise on Ball 

How To Do It: Lie face down (“prone”) on an exercise ball and roll forward until your pelvis (a classier way of saying “crotch”) is on the top of the ball. Place your palms on the floor, and with your feet slightly separated, raise your legs into the air, then lower.

Works: Lower back, hips, glutes, hamstrings.

Prevents: Hip injury, IT band syndrome.

 

Stiff Leg Deadlift

How To Do It: Grab a barbell or dumbbells (start light), with a very slight bend to the knees, tip forward at the hips, keeping your back straight and shoulders back. Bring the weight down until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs, then engage your hamstrings to pull the weight back up.

Works: Hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower back.

Prevents: Hip injury, IT band syndrome, pulled calf.

 

Single Leg Deadlift


How To Do It: Same deal as the stiff leg deadlift, except when you come down, bring one of your legs straight back. When you come back up, only tap the floor with that moving foot, before you immediately bring it back again. That prevents any rest from happening during the set and ensures your muscles will stay engaged.

Works: Hips, lower back, hamstrings, glutes.

Prevents: Hip injury, IT band syndrome.

 

Hamstring Curl on Ball

How To Do It: Lay on your back with your heels resting on the top of an exercise ball. With your arms at your sides, pop your hips up so your body is in a straight line. Roll the ball towards you so your knees come in and the bottom of your feet roll onto the ball. Roll back, keep your hips up and repeat.

Works: Hamstrings, calves, hips.

Prevents: Hip injury, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, pulled calf.

 

Again, this is just a snippet of the moves that are out there. I specifically chose several weight bearing exercises as I’m a true believe that you need a heavy load to build muscle strength. But because of this, that’s why they’re best for preventing injuries and not treating existing injuries unless you get an okay from your sports doc!

Now, I’m not going to give you a program to follow or anything. Instead I’m going to give you a checklist. Here are the muscles I want you working in every resistance workout:

  • lower back
  • hips
  • glutes
  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • calves
  • shins

Go back and check which muscles are being worked in all these exercises. Once you have a list where each of the above muscles are worked at least once, you’re good to go! I always recommend to do strength training 2-3 times a week, but I cut a little slack for people who are training for something longer than a 10k. Once a week at the very least!

 

Question of the Day: Have you ever suffered from an exercise related injury? I injured my hip last spring training for my first 5k. Classic overuse injury compounded by the fact that I was running in old sneakers. Couldn’t run for the two months leading up to my triathlon and had to take two straight weeks off all activity. A year later and I’ve finally got my hips strong enough that they don’t give me any trouble anymore when I run :)

Fitness Friday – The Perfect Squat

Happy Fitness Friday!! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend lined up :) I’ve got some fun things in store, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. Ohno. For today is the day of all things fitness here on The Great Balancing Act. Or it is for the next 55 minutes until the clock strikes midnight… better get to it!

Today’s fitness post is a continuation of my “Perfect” series. I started by describing The Perfect Push Up and The Perfect Plank. Today, I will take you through…

The Perfect Squat.

 

When old-school weight lifting moves are being discussed, an Arnold photo is a must ;)

Much like the push up and plank, a squat is a very difficult move to execute perfectly. In order to hit all the proper muscles without injuring yourself, it’s imperative that you get the motion of the squat down.

I like to start people on a wall squat with a ball. Rolling down with the ball on your back allows you to get your butt back and keeps your chest up without having to try as hard. Plus, it’s much better on your knees than a regular squat. A squat essentially works your butt and thighs, with the emphasis on your glutes and quadriceps.

Another way to learn proper squat form is to sit back on to a step or chair to learn just how far back your butt needs to be and feel what muscles should be engaged in your legs.

Things to remember when performing a squat:

  1. Get that butt back!!! I don’t care how silly you feel, pop out your behind and pretend like you’re sitting back on an invisible chair.
  2. Lock your feet and heels to the ground. Your heels should never raise off the ground. I repeat, your heels should never raise. Rocking up to your toes as you bring your bodyweight up feels easier, which means you’re cheating yourself out of the exercise.
  3. Keep your shoulders back & down and chest up proud. People have a tendency to round their shoulders and back, but this is a squat, not a forward fold.
  4. Whoever told you to point your toes outward was lying. Pointing your toes to opposite walls is not natural to our body mechanics. When beginning, keep your toes hip-width apart and facing forward.
  5. Lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Deep squats are an advanced move, don’t compromise your knees and form to get your ass to the grass.

Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight squat without a ball, you can add some weight for added resistance. Some people prefer to hold dumbbells at their side.

 

Or you can grab a body bar and place it on the “shelf” of your back (what I like to call the “sweet spot”).

Eventually, even that will get too easy. Then it will be time to graduate to the squat rack.

I’m surprised by how many people don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “squat rack.” This is one of the most basic pieces equipment for any gym. Do not confuse it with a smith machine. A squat rack has a removable olympic bar that rests on adjustable pegs. The olympic bar is just a really long silver bar that weighs 45 lbs. Be sure you can squat with 45 lbs before using it!

All you have to do is set the bar slightly lower that shoulder-height. Add your plates and don’t forget the metal pins that slide on either side in case you lose it and the plates fall off. Find that “sweet spot” between your shoulders, lift the bar using your legs, and step out from the rack.

From there, you are good to go until you have just enough energy to get the bar back on the pegs (a clank and a grunt are welcome here ;) )

And that my friends is your basic squat! As with any weightlifting move, there are a ton of variations.

Here are some notable notables…

 
The plie squat/sumo squat. This can be done with a heavy dumbbell between your legs, or with a barbell on your back. Same rules apply here, except it targets your quads and inner thighs a little more. You’ll notice the feet are very wide and the toes are pointing outward. I said not to do this. There is debate as to whether or not this is good for your body mechanics. I say, do them sparingly and with lighter weights.

Split squat. Gosh, these are brutal. Looks almost like a stationary lunge, except the top of one foot is behind you on a bench, and you squat down on your front leg. You can also do this with dumbbells at your side or a plate/ball at your chest. This one really hits your quads.

Single-leg squat. Aka “the butt crusher.” One day after doing this exercise, it is guaranteed I will wince in pain every time I sit! :P Raise one leg off the ground either in front or behind you, and squat down on your standing leg in the usual form. Clearly, this one is for the glutes ;)


And if you can defy gravity, there’s the pistol squat. Stick one leg out parallel to the floor and lower as far as you can on the standing leg. I’m um, still working up to this one ;)

 

Remember that while throwing a pate-loaded bar on your back may look cool, it’s important you get the form and movement down to reap the benefits of a squat! Practice in front of the mirror every now and then to check in with yourself. And all you girls who are afraid that these will give you “thunder thighs,” I encourage you to give them a shot! You can burn some serious calories by adding squats to your strength training routine, and you’ll rock those daisy dukes like none other ;)

Flashback Friday!! “Feelin’ Irie Mon”

Hello!! So it seems most of you are creatures of habit. I was actually surprised!! I encourage you to go do something spontaneous!

For the first time ever, I contemplated staying in bed instead of going to the gym this morning. But I was already awake, and going back to sleep wouldn’t have guaranteed me all that much extra sleep in the long-run. Tonight I’ll just get a solid 8 hours.

Here’s how it went down:

Elliptical 20 min:

Minutes Level
3 10
2 12
1 16
2 13
1 17
2 14
1 18
2 14
1 17
2 13
1 16
2 12

Lower body:

Exercise Sets Weight Reps
Barbell Squat 3 55 lbs 12
Static Lunge 3 15 lbs ea 12
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift 3 15 lbs ea 12

Abs:

Exercise Sets Reps
Plank 1 90 sec
Side Plank 1 each side 45 sec ea
Stability Ball Roll Out 1 15
Prone Jackknife 1 15

Stairmill 10 min:

Minutes Level
1 7
1 8
1 9
1 10
1 11
1 7
1 8
1 9
1 10
1 11

 

Then I cooled down with some stretching :) Obviously, today was a lower body + abs day. I contemplated throwing a calf isolation move in there, but decided against it. Oddly, my calves are the most sore!! Well, right now anyways. I predict the pain will move to my glutes tomorrow…

In order to maximize sleep time, I prepared everything last night so all I’d have to do is just come home, shower and shovel food and coffee in my face before rushing off to work. Enter an old favourite: the breakfast cookie!!

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Today’s was a PB&J breakfast cookie. Can you believe I’ve never thought of this before?? It was awesome!!!

  • >1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp Crofter’s raspberry/yumberry jam
  • splash almond milk

All mixed together, flattened on a plate, and chilled in the fridge overnight to harden. Must do these more often on my early a.m. workout days :)

It was a busybusy day at work!! It flew by! Happy to have my first week under me. I actually got a few projects accomplished that I’ll get to see go up on the website this weekend. I’ve also got some interesting projects coming up that I’m excited to get my hands on :)

Work eats today included…

IMG_2470An awful photograph of a quark/yogurt/vanilla protein powder/strawberry combo. This is quite possibly one of the worst food pictures featured on my blog. For being so delicious, yogurt is not always photogenic.

Moving on! Lunch!

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…was delicious. Hummus, cheddar cheese, tomato, sprouts, spinach on an everything bagel. With a particularly juicy bag of baby carrots. Stellar combo, will do again!!

Snack attack…

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Two carrot protein squares that I sandwiched laughing cow cheese in (gotta have that cream cheese frosting!) and a granny apple sauce cup. I miss my homemade sauce :(

Supper was some sort of weird take on chili cheese fries…

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Butternut squash fries, turkey breast, baked beans. I’d originally planned on making these three things separate components on my plate. Then thought “what the hell” and just threw it all together.

Halfway through though, I decided it needed ketchup.
 IMG_2517 Much bettah ;)

I also got more bloggie presents today! That’s three in one week! I feel like such a lucky gal :D

Today was my belated Blogger Secret Santa package. It’s awesome. So many goodies! I’m so grateful Chandra was my BSS – you know my tastes perfectly!!

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Naturally More Almond Butter, Mrs. May’s Cran-Blueberry Crunch nut clusters, Larabar in Tropical Fruit Tart, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Pecan Pie, and a mug! (which I think may be designated my office mug). Thank you SO much!!!  

And don’t worry about it arriving late Chandra. My birthday is in two weeks, so we’ll call it a Christmas/New Years/Birthday gift ;)

Obviously, I had to dig into some of the goodies right away. I had to try this almond butter. Check out what’s in it:

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For some reason, I thought it would be ground flax. But it’s whole flax. It makes the nut butter not crunchy – but crispy!!!

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I’m in love.

In other news, I also got my first big paycheck today from my new job. It called for a little celebratory spending…

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Shoes!! Not just any shoes, but ones with heels. I’m pushing 5’7” and never wear heels because they make me feel like an Amazon Woman. But, my office is pretty dressy, and my usual clunkers just aren’t cutting it. I feel like such a grown up!

 

Not only is it TGIF ‘round these parts – but it’s also Flashback Friday!!!

I think it’s been a while since I’ve participated in Janetha’s fun bloggie feature. Today’s FF is all about my trip to Jamaica in 2008.

I’ve done the resort thang a few times, but I was reeeeally excited about Jamaica. Maybe it’s just the Bob Marley fan in me, but of all the Caribbean islands I felt it had a really distinct and interesting culture.

Of course, as any Canadian knows, if you travel in March you will fly out on the day of a snow storm. It’s a guarantee. It’s happened to me every. single. time.

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Thankfully, the weather in Jamaica was fabulous. I’m always cold, and found even the evenings stayed quite warm.

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I was definitely right about Jamaican culture. It really is distinct. They have their own language which sounds like English, but is actually reallyreally hard to understand! It’s called Patois and includes things like “feelin irie” instead of “feeling alright.”

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Before we left, everyone told us to be careful because Jamaica is a really dangerous country. This is true, I would not want to wander around by myself. But with that said, the Jamaicans we did meet were amazing people!!! Chris and I always joked that everything ran on “Jamaican time” (timely customer service does not exist) and the country’s motto is “No problem mon.”

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Chris and I did a lot of day trips. Probably too many, as we were pretty exhausted by the end. But in retrospect, I’m still happy with everything I got to see. Highlights were definitely travelling to various waterfalls.

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We also did the touristy thing to do there and climbed Dunn’s River Falls.

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It was a damn big waterfall, and tough work to climb up. Amazing though. I dunno, I’ve always had a thing for swimming in waterfalls…

Now you may be wondering why after aaallll these Flashback Fridays, I’m only just talking about this trip now? Well, I ate. A lot.

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I was a good 5+ lbs from my highest weight at the time. While it was an awesome trip, I ate and drank way too much. I continued the vacation once I came home, and skyrocketed to my highest weight soon after.

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Looking back on these pictures brings mixed emotions. It was an amazing trip (seriously, Jamaica is an fun country). But I also feel kinda sad for myself. I can’t believe I let myself get so out of control.

I wasn’t making the best food or drink choices…

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And the rum. My god the rum was good. And cheap.

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Oh, and did I mention? If you’re Canadian, it’s also guaranteed you’ll get a snowstorm when you’re trying to fly out of a foreign country in March.

100_2251 Uff.

 

Okay folks, that wraps it up for me! I’ve got some Real World to watch!

 

Question of the Day: Name one place you’ve travelled to that had amazing food. My family travelled to Germany when I was younger and I’ll always remember the bread+meat+cheese. Sounds simple, but all three were soooo much better than anything I’ve had since. There’s nothing like some authentic German bratwurst and cream cheese on a freshly baked roll.

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