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Fitness Friday – 8 Most Common Running Mistakes

Hello and happy Fitness Friday! It feels like it’s been a while, no?

Seeing as it’s the new year, I know it’s a time when a lot of people are setting race goals for 2011, or even just getting back into exercise! I’ve already gone over the 5 Most Common Weight Lifting Mistakes, but today I’m addressing the most popular form of cardio. Everyone wants to be a runner, but many of us are doing it wrong. Here are the most common running mistakes to ensure you don’t get sidelined this year.


1. You’re running too fast.

A lot of newbie runners tend to sprint right off the bat. After three minutes they feel like they’re dying and determine that running is either too hard, or they’re just not cut out for it. Fact is, it takes a looooong time to figure out what a comfortable pace is for yourself. Chances are it’s waaaaay slower than what you wish it was. If you can’t muster up a sentence, or if you’re frequently getting side stitches, try taking it down a notch. We’re not shooting for the Olympics here, there’ ain’t nothin’ wrong with a slow and steady jog.


2. You’re running too much.

Running is fantastic for releasing those feel-good endorphins. Problem is, some people get hooked. As soon as you can run, you want to do it all the time. Keep the 5-day-a-week schedules for the marathoners. If you’re a recreational runner/racer, try to take a few days off once in a while. Remember the 10% rule – never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. Jumping from 15 miles one week, to 25 miles the next is setting yourself up for injury. Shin splints for example, are usually caused by running too much too soon.


3. You’re running route sucks.


This point means two things:

a) You need to find a route that suits you. I hated running outdoors when I first started because I was doing all city routes. But then I discovered trail running and fell in love. Some people on the other hand love the noise of a city, the pavement, or even prefer a treadmill! Experiment with different settings until you find one you like best.

b) You’re doing the same route over and over. As with anything in fitness, you should be changing it up. Some streets and sidewalks are tilted, which can cause pain in one leg and not the other. Running too many hills can do a number on your achilles tendon, but not running enough won’t challenge you as a runner. It’s okay to have a favourite route, but changing it up is sometimes motivation enough to get you out the door.


4. You’re in the wrong shoes.


And I’m not just saying that because I sell running shoes for a living. I see so many people frustrated with aches and pains that are all the result of a stupid cheap shoe. Splurge the extra hundred bucks for the proper shoe, it’s worth the pain and injuries it will prevent. I know, I was off my feet for two months once thanks to a long run in old ratty shoes.


5. You’re not eating right.


If you’re cramping up, feeling lightheaded, pukey, burpey, or feeling like you gotta go youknowwhat, take another look at what you’re eating before a run. I can’t counsel you in what’s perfect for your body. It’s something that is best discovered through personal trial and error. Personally, I like a quick digesting carb (bread, banana, apple) with a little bit of nut butter about an hour before. If you’re running in the morning, make sure you’re eating a decent snack the night before so you don’t run out of energy first thing.

For me, I have to stay away from anything salty before a workout because I get so thirsty after. Worst bike ride of my life was the day I ate a bag of popcorn before setting out for 40k.


6. You’re not stretching


Runners by nature are “go-go-go” type people, which means they typically don’t have the patience for static stretching after a sweaty run. Or morning runners neglect to make time for stretching before they jet off to work. Well too bad. Just do it.

You have no idea how many injuries I see as a personal trainer because people ignored their flexibility. Back injuries that put you out of commission, plantar fasciitis that makes simple walking hard, hip injuries that make it near impossible to put pants on. If you’re running for your health, then you can stretch for your health too. Otherwise, you may just be doing more harm than good.

Click here for a list of running stretches.


7. You’re not icing.

Running causes inflammation, sometimes to the point of pain. If you’re running long distances, get into the habit of icing any trouble areas you may have for 10-15 minutes once you get in. This will help bring down the inflammation and prevent any future pain or hobbling. I still have a cranky hip from an old hip injury that I know to ice even if it doesn’t hurt right away. If I don’t, chances are I’ll get a little pain walking around for the rest of the day. Without ice, I would have given up on running a long time ago.


8. You’re not cross training.

Now that you’re following point #2, you’re finding yourself with lots of spare time. Instead of running every single day – cross train! Ride a bike, do yoga, go swimming, hop on the elliptical, take a kickboxing class. Other activities will actually improve your cardiovascular and muscular condition for running.

But most importantly, weight train. Because it’s a repetitive motion, running only uses certain muscles over and over, while others are neglected. This causes muscular imbalance in your body, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons for injury. You can hurt yourself when one part of your body is trying to compensate for a weakness in another part of your body. Runners especially need to work on their glutes, hamstrings and calves. But moreso, focus on every muscle group in the body to create equal strength overall.


Question of the Day: Runners, help me out with this list! What are some running mistakes you’d advise against?

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 :)

The Perfect Plank

Well, the votes are in, and salmon is the most popular fish. SO fun reading over all your favourite kinds! Mostly because I got ideas on new kinds I need to try, including walleye, sea bass, flounder, croaker, stingray and trigger.  Shellfish and other seafood is a whole other story. We will be revisiting this issue for sure! ;)

My family was up late last night, and I was actually in bed before my mom and Mark. I thought for sure I’d sleep in past 7am today. Little did I realize, my poodle also doubles as an alarm clock.


I may have been prepared to sleep past 7am, but this furball most certainly was not. I awoke much too early to the feeling of a wet nose on my face. He was wagging his little bum and rearing to go. Okay poodle. You win this time. But you didn’t need to pass out on my lap after I let you outside. Salt in the wound.

Needless to say, it was a pancake kind of morning.


My new Dairy-Free (ish) Pancakes.


Janetha asked about the nutritionals on these, and without the added Benefibre, they’re 247 calories, 6.6g fat, 9g fibre, 20g carbs and 32g protein.


I also cooked in a tbsp each of flaked coconut and walnut pieces. Oh, and I added 1/2 tsp almond extract for a little sumthin’. May-jah yums. I still can’t get over how fluffy they are!

I had a kickboxing date with my mom later this morning, and this new-to-me Banana Larabar was calling out to me as a pre-workout snack!


I usually don’t care for banana flavoured things as I find they always end up tasting artificial. But I figured the chances of that happening with this one were pretty low.



However, I think this may have been my smallest Larabar yet.


Next to my lens cover. What it didn’t have in size, it made up for in taste. Pretty darn good! Didn’t quite get to the top of my favourite flavour rakings, but it’s nowhere near Cherry Pie, which is at the bottom of the list.

I also mummified my foot.


You will notice my laptop in the background. That’s because I followed a step-by-step guide that everyone’s favourite Smoothie Girl Deb sent me. I mentioned a while ago that I was getting plantar fasciitis symptoms in my left foot, and she said taping hers up has helped her symptoms a lot. All I did was take sport tape and wrap horizontal strips on the bottom of my foot, then a vertical layer, then another horizontal layer.

I actually did this at the cottage over the weekend when my feet were bothering me while cleaning. It helped a lot! After the 45 minute kickboxing class (which despite being at a beginner level, had a great instructor) I ran 2 miles on the treadmill. Last time I ran two miles on the treadmill, I was in pain for the rest of the day – but today I feel fine! Yayyy!! Thank you Deb!!

Lunch was the usual!


A gargantuan salad with kale, tuna and feta cheese. The dressing was hummus watered down with the juice from a bottle of olives. Gooooood stuff.


I’m sure these big salads are getting redundant, but I honestly crave one a day now. Nomnom.

I may also crave chocolate after every meal.


Another Newfoundland Chocolate Company chocolate. I think this one had raspberry or strawberry mixed into the center. Not like the cheap chocolates, this blended the flavours really well!


The Perfect Plank

After doing my Perfect Push-Up post, I got a question from Angharad on proper plank form. It’s very similar to the push-up and many of the same rules apply!


Coincidentally, Lori’s strength training move of the week was also the plank! I asked her for this picture because she demonstrates it perfectly here :)

Some things to remember:

  • Do not stick your butt in the air. Your body will want to do this naturally, and sometimes you don’t even realize this is happening.
  • Conversely, don’t arch your back too much and let your belly fall toward the ground.
  • Elbows should be under your shoulders, or if you’re in a high plank, hands under your shoulders.
  • Keep your head down to make sure your whole spine is straight. It should look like a straight line from your heels to your head.
  • Speaking of your heels, push them back a little. We have a habit of pushing all our weight forward onto our arms, but balance that out by putting some weight back into your feet too. This will help with that straight line.
  • Tuck your pelvis in. Pretend like you’re gyrating it forward.
  • BREATHE. Focusing on your breaths will help you pull through.

As always, I recommend doing them in front of a mirror. You’ll eventually learn what that proper position feels like without having to look at yourself. Remember, this is a core exercise. If you feel it more in your back than in your abs, chances are your form could use some tweaking.

The plank, in my opinion, is probably the best core exercise there is. Isometric exercises (ones where you contract your muscles without movement) are great for your abs. It’s something you do in everyday movements without even realizing it. You’ll be able to perform activities with a lot more power and ease when strengthening your core this way.

That’s not to say crunches don’t help with core strength either, but the only time you’ll really notice these strength gains is when you’re actually doing crunches. Not to mention, many people perform crunches horribly wrong, and do more harm to their back than good to their abs.

Some other plank variations:

High plank


Side plank

Plank on a ball



Leg lift plank


Reverse plank


Click on the pictures if you want to see their original sources!

As usual, there are tons more plank variations, these are just the very basic ones. But you don’t need to get fancy to reap the benefits. Doing 1-3 sets of Lori’s version above, holding for as long as you can, will get the job done :)


Question of the Day: What’s your favourite ab exercise? The cable horizontal woodchop is probably mine :)


I’m hitting publish early folks! Off to see Shrek with the daddio and step-sis :)