Hip Health For Runners: Exercises to Keep You Strong and Improve Your Stride

Happy Friday!

Guess what?

I’ve got a guest post up over at Herbivore Triathlete.  Herbivore Triathlete is an incredibly useful and engaging blog run by Anna (vegan triathlete extraordinaire).  I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to guest post there while she’s off enjoying a vacation with her family.

Please go check it out here and read about my tips on how to keep your runner’s body healthy and happy by maintaining strong, flexible hips.

The Surprising Benefits of Running Unscripted

I’m a planner by nature, you see.  A scheduler.  A write everything down in lists and calendars and always arrive 10 minutes early kind of gal.

I don’t generally do well with unstructured time, parts of a day carved out to just ‘relax’ (whatever that means), or scheduled plans that are changed at the last minute.

A short bridge on one of my running routes

A short bridge on one of my running routes

This is true in pretty much all parts of my life and up until recently I thought it was absolutely true in regards to my running self, as well. I’d always pretty much been running with a plan.  There was, of course, the four months of marathon training that I planned out and followed without fail.  Even prior to that very specific training, I would plan out my runs pretty precisely.  Google Maps was a big help in this, allowing me to draw out where I would run to achieve just the right amount of distance.  I’d map it, commit it to memory and head out, not deviating from my route or schedule.

All of that planning was great.  It helped me become a strong runner and got me successfully through a marathon.  But in the two months since that achievement, I’ve been a little less structured in my training – and I’ve been amazed at how well it’s going.

Of course, I still have some structure (I AM still me, after all).  I still go long every Saturday, hit intense strength training on Sundays, and fill my evenings after work with a variety of runs and bits of cross training.  I still commit to 4-6 days per week of running, plus cross-training on at least 4 days, always with one full day off of training (generally Fridays).

I love rounding this curve.

I love rounding this curve.

But, all in all, it’s a bit more free form.  I’ve been running long enough in my neighborhood by now to know it intimately.  I know the streets and the turns, which sidewalks are smooth enough to go fast on, and which ones feel like a little obstacle course with their broken cement and tree roots taking over.  I know where the hills are and which stretches always seem to create some sort of wind tunnel that I can’t understand from a meteorological standpoint.  I know which streets to take on a hot day if I want more shade and I know where to find drinking fountains if needed.

I love that I have become more familiar with distance now, knowing it by experience and feel. I don’t need to map my routes, because I know where to go for 5 miles or 6 miles or 8 miles.  I know if I want to hit 10, I just turn and add on a 2 mile stretch at a specific point along my way and when I’m going long, I know how to create loops to get me to 15, 16, 17 and so on with enough diversity of environment and elevation changes to keep it interesting.  It’s all become so natural.

My base mileage is getting strong.

This pleases me.

Reed Field and Path

A path at Reed College in my ‘hood.

My long runs are consistently longer – but they don’t necessarily feel like it.  They just feel fun and good.  Hard when I decide to make them hard and refreshing when that’s what I need, too.  My shorter runs have inched their way along also, growing in subtle increments and making my consistent weekly mileage creep upwards.

My slow, easy pace has dropped and my recovery time is shortened.

It’s all just fantastic.

There’s something quite satisfying about just building that base to be a bit more than it used to be and in feeling the positive impacts of that in my body and mind.  It’s certainly increasing my confidence as a runner.  I find myself having a bit more insight into what I can do, should do, and shouldn’t do.  If I feel the tell-tale signs that a rest day is needed, I take it.  And then I get back out there the next day and see the benefits it provided.  Maybe before too long, I’ll get up the nerve to tackle some track workouts (still something I’ve never done).

I’ve honestly never felt more like a true runner then I do right now.  I see how much there is for me to do to improve, but I also accept how much I already have.  And this time for me, a little more relaxed and a little less rigid, has been remarkably valuable to all of that.  I can foresee my lessons being learned right now only benefiting me when I do lay out a new specific training plan for that next big race.  I wonder what race that will be?

Last Day for Warrior Pose Book Giveaway!

bookJust a shout out to alert everyone that today is the last day to enter the giveaway for your own copy of Warrior Pose:  How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life.

Who needs a little summer reading???

Head on over to my book review and leave a comment by midnight (PST) in order to enter to win.

Book Review: Warrior Pose, With A Giveaway to Win Your Own Copy!

War correspondent and ultra-yogi aren’t exactly two identities naturally linked in my mind.  At least they weren’t until I read Bhava Ram’s Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life.  And, now, just like that, they are.

I read quite a lot of memoirs, but despite my broad exposure to them, Ram’s (aka Brad Willis) stands out as particularly remarkable.  Plus, if you’re in need of a healthy dose of inspiration, this should do it.

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The story goes something like this.  Willis leaves small town America to rise up through the ranks and become a successful, hard working war correspondent, traversing the globe to cover stories of international importance.  Already, you’ve got an interesting story, right?  Willis, however, suffers an injury (a broken back), which he tries to hide and live with.  As to be expected, the injury worsens over time and, through desperate attempts to cope, Willis finds himself addicted to alcohol, pain medication, and unable to maintain his career.

Then, he gets cancer.

Yep.  That’s right.  Cancer.

Things were not looking so great for our friend, Willis.

The story that takes over from there tells of Willis’ discovery of yoga, re-discovery of his sense of self, and a transformational journey to his own health and wellness: body, mind, and spirit.

I will confess that when I started this book, I was most interested in the parts about his days as a war correspondent.  My mind was piqued by stories of war, travel, and the human condition.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the rest of the book.  I tend to be somewhat wary of stories that speak of such dramatic transformation through spiritual means of any sort, so my guard was a bit up.  Surprisingly to me, as Willis’ story of his career shifted into the discovery of himself as Bhava Ram, I found myself remaining just as engaged and just as intrigued as I was at the start.

Yoga may or not be your thing, but I see in this book a narrative of embracing humility, exploring possibilities, and developing wisdom that just about anyone can relate to.  Yoga is the conduit through which Ram found these things for himself, but surely there is any number of methods that could be used for similar journeys.  And, if yoga is your thing, Ram’s story will uphold the belief of the restorative powers of a dedicated and consistent yoga practice.

Read this book for some international adventure, sure, but also read this book for a bit of inspiration and, just maybe, a dash of motivation to try some new approaches in your own life.

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And, now, for the giveaway.

Ram and his publisher have agreed to offer a copy of Warrior Pose to one lucky reader of Move Eat Create.  If you would like to get your hands on your very own copy, please leave a comment below.  Each reader may enter once.  Comments will be counted and ordered, a winner will be selected with a random number generator, and said winner will be contacted via email, as well as listed here on this blog post.  The giveaway opens now and will run through Wednesday, 7/17/13 at midnight (PST).  My apologies to non-US living friends, but the giveaway is only open to those who can take shipping within the U.S.  Be sure to include your email with your post so that I can contact you if you win.

This giveaway has closed.  Congratulations to zebveg who won a copy of Warrior Pose!  Thank you to all who entered.

Disclaimer:  Though I was provided a copy of this book free of charge and invited to attend a workshop with Ram, all opinions about the book are completely my own. 

Good luck and happy reading!

A (Brief) Race Report: C.A.T. 5k

On almost a whim, I decided to register for the C.A.T. (Cancer Awareness & Treatment) 5k held on the Fourth of July.  Having spent the last several months focusing on building endurance (and then subsequent recovery time) for the Newport Marathon, I had not done any speed work for slower races.  I had no idea how I would perform, but wanted to get out and see what I would do at my post-marathon training baseline fitness level.

The C.A.T. 5k is a walk and run event held in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, and raises funds for a local cancer treatment center.  The courseCAT 5k travels through the center of the town and along some lovely residential streets, as well.  1000 participants were on hand for the event, along with dozens of friendly and courteous volunteers.  I didn’t get any pictures, as I went alone and brought nothing beyond what I needed for the race, but it was an enjoyable morning.

I am pleased to report that, despite not having worked on my speed much at all over the last several months, I did set a new PR for the 5k distance!  This progress is quite exciting and makes me think that with some additional focus and attention, I can continue to bring down my time.

So, how did I do?

I finished in 62nd place, in a time of 24:16.  I would love to get my 5k time down to under 23 minutes, so that’s something to shoot for.  Next up on my race calendar is the Pints to Pasta 10k in September.  I’ll certainly be adding some speed work into my training to see what I can do there!

Stripped: The Experience and Exposure of Running My First Marathon

Nearly a month has passed since I completed my first marathon.  Since then, I have sat down many times with the intention of writing a post about what I learned through the process of training for and completing the 26.2.  My plan was to make a list and offer up my mistakes and successes as tools for others starting their own marathon quest, but every time I’ve started to do this I’ve gotten stuck.

I’ve gotten stuck because while I did learn many things worth sharing, I keep coming back to one key, core lesson.  So that’s what I’ve decided to share with you today.

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

I learned, more than any other thing, what it feels like to be stripped down to the very core of my being.  To be raw, exposed, and so completely of my self.

Here is my journey to that place.

At the start of my race, I imagine I was like many other first-time marathoners.  I had about a million and a half thoughts and feelings running through me, many of them contradictory, all of them clamoring for attention.

There was both excitement and anticipation (obviously). There was fear and apprehension (seems typical).  There was tiredness (who sleeps well the night before a big race?!), but there was also exuberant energy (thank you, adrenaline).

There were the voices of logic and reason (“Remember your training.  Don’t start out too fast.”), of pride (“I am so impressed with myself for getting here.  I am a badass.”), and of skepticism (“Who am I kidding?  I didn’t nearly train enough!”).

There was gratitude (seriously, I’m lucky to have two people here today to support me, cheer me on, and believe in my success), as well as anger (also seriously, certain other people didn’t even bother to text me good luck?!).

And more.

Runners along cars and mile 11 sign post - edited

Then the ‘gun’ went off and over the course of 26.2 miles, it all got stripped away.

First went the adrenaline-fueled, childlike excitement.  After the first 3-4 miles, I had to let it go.  The realization sets in of what I’m doing and I know I need to be focused on the present moment, the lifting and planting of my Mizuno-clad feet.  There is no room for exuberance that hasn’t yet achieved its goal.

Next the apprehension is shaken off.  I’m here.  I’m doing it.  It’s happening.  There is no sound reason to believe I can’t finish, so get your head in the game, Rose (my last name).  You’ve started this; you’re finishing it.

Another few miles down the road and I could feel the anger slipping away.  It ate up too much energy.  It didn’t make people’s actions (or lack thereof) okay, but I needed my energy for the race.  They didn’t get to have any of it right now.

Further on goes the vanity.  Sweaty, knowing as you pass by those clicking cameras that the look on your face will be anything but attractive, but who cares?  A few bad pictures are absolutely worth the end result.

Further still, deep into the race, when inklings of pain and discomfort begin to manifest, all bravado and lingering facades are dropped.  It doesn’t matter anymore if I’m smiling at bystanders, if I’m exuding confidence, or making it ‘look easy.’  All of that has to go because all that matters is what I’m doing – one foot in front of the other, with as much speed and precision as I’m capable of.  Period.

All of this stuff, these extraneous feelings and thoughts that seem so important on so many days and in so many moments suddenly just.  don’t.  matter.

What’s left then without them?

Finish Sign 2 - edited

Well, the simple, honest, and most accurate answer is just Me.

What I learned, you see, is that there is a point in a marathon when all of the expectations, the pressures, the images we create, and the faces we wear, are all gone.

All I was left with – all that I had in those moments – was the truest part of my own self.  Stripped of ego and artifice, I have never been so raw and essentially in tune with my self than I was during those last few miles.

There’s something about that – something incredible about that – testing your limits and pouring the sum of your physical and mental energy into a singular activity, for a sustained amount of time, that strips you of pretty much everything else.

And I can unequivocally say that (despite being pretty generally terrified of being exposed and vulnerable) that state of self-clarity and awareness is amazing. Completely amazing.

It teaches you; at least it taught me.

It taught me about who I am, what matters to me, and what I’m capable of (and I don’t just mean physically).  The wisdom and strength I gained from that experience is unmatched.

And while I may find another time to share what I learned about fueling and training and race day preparation, this lesson is the most valuable one I could have ever hoped to have gotten.

One Runner’s Perspective on Yoga (With Pose and Video Recommendations)

I’ve vacillated over the years as to whether or not I enjoy yoga.  At times I have found it engaging and calming, at other times I have gotten easily bored and found myself impatient to get through a session.  But after years of toying with various kinds and commitments to yoga, I think I have finally discovered my happy-yoga zone.

Now, while I enjoy variety in my fitness – I strength train, I get excited about plyometrics, high intensity interval training is a good time, and so on – I am first and foremost a runner.  At this point in my life, I am confident in that last bit, which means that all of my other fitness endeavors need to work in support of and fit in around my running.

This is how I’ve found the right fit for yoga in my life.

photo credit: BrittneyBush via photopin cc

photo credit: BrittneyBush via photopin cc

Once I discovered a yoga practice that makes me a better runner, I was hooked.  Engaging in yoga sessions that stretch and strengthen the muscles I need to run feels healthy, relaxing, challenging, and worthwhile all at the same time. And, because I know I’m never going to be a super-yogi, but I am already an endurance athlete, I can connect this practice to part of a larger picture which keeps me present and motivated in my practice.

So, what’s important for me in a yoga practice, then?  Here is a run-down:

  1. It is just one component of a larger fitness calendar.  I don’t want to do yoga everyday.  I just don’t.  I generally have one yoga day a week and it is enough to stay on top of my abilities without taking up more time than I am able and willing to give it.
  2. Yoga that really focuses on strength, power, and movement keeps me much more engaged than slower, gentler forms of the activity.
  3. I am always more engaged when I am challenged.  Give me balancing poses (I love warrior three), along with various levels of progression that I can work towards, and I am a happy woman.
  4. Sessions that target muscle groups I use for running are what I’m really in to.  Building flexibility and strength in my hips and ankles, for instance, is really important to me so bring on the moves like pigeon, warrior two, and crescent.  I connect with purpose in these poses and feel their immediate, as well as long term, benefits.

While I do selected yoga poses and stretches sporadically throughout the week as I feel I need them, I have two at-home videos that I have really come to enjoy.  I generally do one of these on my rest day from running and higher intensity training.  They are:

  1. Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior yoga for the warrior

I’ve written of my love for Bob Harper before.  And, I do love him.  People who think that at home videos can’t give you the kind of workout you get in a gym, clearly have not tried Bob’s Total Body Transformation,  Ultimate Cardio Body or Pure Burn Super Strength, among others.  Since discovering Yoga for the Warrior, I have been silently hoping Bob will release another yoga DVD because this one is so good.  It’s definitely yoga for people who want to focus on strength; it offers a variety of poses and movements, and still manages to bring the peace and calm that is synonymous with yoga.  I can’t recommend this one highly enough.  Really.

  1. Kimberly Fowler’s Yoga for Athletes

This one isn’t perfect, but it is very good.  The major thing that I find faulty with this video is the instructor’s vocal inflections and repetitive use of phrases like ‘If you can . . . “, but that’s just my personal issue.  When it comes to the actual practice, this routine really does deliver poses that target areas of the body known for giving athletes trouble.  Fowler will really help open up your hips, strengthen and tone your body, and dramatically increase range of motion.  It’s a good, solid practice.

yfa_dvd_largeI can attest that incorporating these yoga videos and other poses/movements into my weekly routine has helped me work through pesky niggles picked up during running, kept me sane on rest days when I wanted to do anything but rest, and increased my overall levels of strength, balance, and agility – all things I’ve been thankful for.