The Friday 5: My 5 Favorite Balancing Poses

Hey everyone! For today’s Friday Five I am going to talk about my five favorite leg strengtheners. This post was inspired by Judy’s post on the importance of single leg stability. It’s super important for runners to have strong legs, but also have stabilizing muscles in our legs for balance. So these five yoga postures (and movements) not only help gain stabilizing muscles in your legs and hips, but also a lot of strength and flexibility. Remember to do each posture on both sides!! Also, Sydney (my cat) is featured in all of the photos. 🙂

Standing Splits

We’ll just start with a posture that I find incredibly challenging. It requires extremely flexible hamstrings and hips, which not all of us have. Start with your feet together in a forward fold. Then shift your weight to one side and lift the opposite leg as high as you can. Once the leg is lifted, draw the hip of the lifted leg down very slightly. As a modification, you can use blocks or books beneath the hands or bend the standing leg.

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Standing Splits – For me this is one of the most challenging poses

Standing Stick to Knee to chest

This is a movement, not just a single posture. Start in standing and reach your arms up over head. Shift your weight to one side and hinge forward at the hips while lifting the opposite leg. Stop wherever you start to lose balance. Eventually you may get to the point you that you can create a “T” with your torso and legs. This is called Standing Stick. Hold for one breath, and then begin to lift back up, bend the lifted leg and once you are upright, pull the lifted leg in towards your chest. Return back to standing sticks. Make sure to draw your hips in towards center so that one hip isn’t popping out. Repeat 4 times and do both sides.

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Standing Sticks

 

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Standing Knee to Chest

 Standing hand to big toe pose

This is another very challenging pose that requires a lot of flexibility. Start in standing. Shift your weight to the left and draw the right knee towards chest. Then, draw that knee up a little higher than you think you need to using your right hand hand. Take the index and middle finger of your right hand around your right big toe. Begin to draw the leg forward and then out towards the side. The leg does not need to be straight, and as with any standing posture, feel free to lean up against a wall. Make sure that your left hip is not popping out and try and draw it in towards center. Repeat on the other side.

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Hand to Big Toe Pose

Eagle Pose to Standing Stick

This is a bit of a strange posture. Start in standing by taking your right arm over your left arm and see if you can bring your palms together (if not, that’s ok. Just get it as close as you can). Make sure your feet are together and then bend the knees and drop your seating bones back (like there is a chair behind you). Take your left leg over your right (just like your arms are but the legs and arms are opposite). You can try to wrap your right ankle around your left leg, if not, just let the foot stick out. This is Eagle Pose. Hold for a breath or two.

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Eagle Pose

Then, unravel the right leg away from the left leg (keep the arms the way they are) and start to kick that leg straight back. Now you are in standing stick again, with the arms in a different variation. Take a breath and then slowly come back into eagle pose. Repeat 4x and do both sides.

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Standing Sticks with Eagle Arms

 Half Moon Pose

Most people benefit from a block or pile of books for this pose (or chair as well). Take the block and place it out in front of your feet. Come to standing and hinge forward at the hips for a forward fold. Place your right hand on the block and make sure your wrist is stacked under the shoulder. Shift your weight to your right foot, take your left hand to your left hip and begin to lift the left leg up. Keep the foot flexed and take your left hip above your right hip so your left toes are facing towards the left. Maybe lift that left hand.

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Half Moon Pose

Thanks everyone for checking this out and thanks to Mar on the Run, Eat Pray Run, and You Signed Up for What?! for hosting the linkup.

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What is your favorite balancing posture? Do you work on single leg stabilization?

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A1A Half Marathon Race Recap!!

Wow… it has been a long time since I raced. I was hurt in September last year, which put an early end to my fall season. Luckily I am back, healthy, and back racing! On Sunday, I ran the A1A Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had intended to PR and was even shooting for my first sub-1:50. Unfortunately, it was not my day, and that is not how the race went. It was a grueling 13.1, but I learned a lot and I feel more confident heading into the 6th week of my full-marathon training.

Saturday

I went to the expo in the morning to pick up my bib. A1A always has a large expo with a lot of freebies and deals. I walked around, picked up some free food, and then went out to lunch with Kristina and Ali. It was great to meet them, and it kind of felt like I was meeting a celebrity or something! My mom had come with me to the expo and hung out with us at lunch as we discussed the pros and cons of Ali running the full marathon (and she did! She even PRed!).

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Kristina, Ali, me, and my mom all enjoyed some good pizza (and snacks) at Pizza Fusion!

After lunch, my mom and I made it home and we watched the Marathon Olympic Qualifiers. I gotta say… I need a friend like Amy Cragg. It was incredible how she pulled Shalane Flanagan through the end of the race and even caught her at the finish line. Seriously, Amy needs to be my training buddy!

For dinner, my parents and I went to a local Italian restaurant. This is probably where I screwed up my race. I typically eat a plant based diet and mostly keep to a vegan diet. I occasionally eat eggs, and very occasionally will eat something milk based. I decided to order pasta with a crème-based sauce, since it sounded really good. I can’t think of a worse thing to eat for someone who rarely (if ever) eats crème-based foods. And so it was not to my surprise when I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible stomach cramps. I told myself that they would subside, went back to sleep, and woke up at 3:30 am to get ready to race.

Race Day!!

I knew that my stomach did not feel right, but I figured it would probably go away after a few miles. I took a few trips to the port-a-john (which helped, for sure), and then got to my starting spot. I saw Ali as she was heading over to the corrals and tried to calm my nerves while talking to my parents.

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Ali and I hanging out at the start line. I was pretty nervous here!

Miles 1-5

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At promptly 6:00 am, the race began and I walked my way up to the starting line and took off. I wanted to hold just over an 8:30 pace for the first 5 miles, and then my plan was to take a few seconds per mile off for the rest of the race in order to PR. The only problem was, over an 8:30 pace felt labored and hard. I tried to hold it for the first three miles, but my stomach cramps kept getting worse. I pulled the pace back a bit for miles 4 and 5 in hopes to work out whatever was going on.

Miles 6-10

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By the 10K mark, I knew that I was not going to PR, so then I just told myself that I wanted a course PR. Despite the cramps, I held it together, but couldn’t stop thinking about how hard this pace seemed for me. Mile 10 was just over a 9-minute pace, which is normally a pretty chill pace for me. It did not feel chill at all. I had gotten to the out and back portion and kept telling myself that if I saw Ali or Kristina on the other side, I would take a 10-second walk break. I never saw them, but instead stopped at each water break. I usually run through the water stops, but I couldn’t keep myself from walking. By mile 10, I was starting to get worried that the 2-hour pacer would catch up to me.

Miles 11-13.1

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The last 5k of the race is along the beach with some beautiful views. I kept at it, pushing myself to get my course PR. I turned up my headphones, hoping that I could drown out my own thoughts (which were seriously telling me to just walk to last three miles).

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Even though I wasn’t feeling like I could run really fast, I did enjoy the scenery!

I looked at my watch and figured I could maybe eek out a very small PR if I busted my butt for the last three miles. I’m not actually sure if that is true. On a good day, maybe I could squeeze out a few 7:30 miles… I did at Rocky Mountain, but I was not going to manage that here. I told myself to just keep it comfortable-ish and finish. During the final mile, I saw my PR come and go. I didn’t care too much, and I was focused on just finishing. I saw my parents, Frank, and his parents by the end, and I barely had the energy to wave. I just gritted through and finished. After crossing the finish line, I doubled over hoping that would give my stomach some relief. It was definitely my most labored race finish ever.

My official finish time was 1:54:24, less than 3 minutes off my PR.

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Happy to be done!

 Post Race

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My whole family was there at the finish line. Even though I was tired, we managed to get this cute shot!

I got my medal, grabbed some Gatorade and found my family. I’ve gotta say, there is nothing like a whole lot of suffering to appreciate a race medal. I ate a little bit, hung around the finish line and even got to see Kristina finish!!

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I was glad to see Kristina cross the finish line!

Overall, I had a fun race, even though things did not go as planned. I’ll have other chances at PRing in the half marathon. For now, I am focusing on Colfax. I have a few tune-up races in between, but none of those will be PR attempts. I am concentrating on slower longer mileage and making sure that I do as well as I can out at Colfax. I think this race was a good lesson and if nothing else, was an opportunity to run a little faster and hang out with my family!

The Friday Five: Five Yoga Poses for Runners

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this post, I want to do a shout out to my mom. Today is her birthday! She’s pretty awesome, and is a yoga teacher, too! I’ll be heading home in two weeks to celebrate with her.

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We do slightly resemble each other. 🙂

Thanks to Mar on the Run, Eat Pray Run DC, and You Signed Up for What?! for hosting the Friday Five Linkup. This week I’ll be talking about five yoga postures that are great for runners.

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Reclined Pigeon Pose

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Start on your back with the knees up and the cross the right ankle on to the left knee. Go ahead and lift that left foot off the ground and hug around the left thigh. Keep both feet flexed to protect your knees and ankles. This is a great stretch for the outer hip, glutes, hip flexor… pretty much everything in the hip region. If it hurts your knee, back out a little. Switch sides when you’re done.

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If you want to go deeper, come down on to your hands and knees or downward facing dog. Draw the right shin forward and place it on to the ground. Eventually (with lots and lots of yoga), your right shin will be parallel with the front of your yoga mat. Draw your left leg back a little until the entire left leg is on the ground. Make sure the ankle comes out straight from your leg. Now, bring your attention to your hips. Draw your right hip back and left hip forward and make sure that you are not flopped off to one side. Come down to your forearms or lengthen the arms long. Be sure to do both sides.

Low Lunge

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Come on to your hands and knees. Step your right foot forward between your hands and bring your left knee back maybe two inches. Make sure that your front ankle is not behind your front knee, so that your knee is stacked over the ankle joint. Now, you can lean a little dropping your pelvis towards the front heel (it wont go far, I promise), or lift up and out from your hip bones so that your hips are drawing away from the front leg (this is the more proper way to do the poster). Hang here for a few breaths with your hands on the ground or on blocks. Low lunge will really open the front part of your hips, quads, and the outer hips. It should feel really good, so if it doesn’t, back out a little.

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If you want to go deeper, tuck the back toes under and lift the back knee up. Feel as if the power from your back leg is coming from your hamstring muscle lifting towards the ceiling.

Hamstring Stretch

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This posture is a simple stretch and is super great to do right after a run. Come back into low lunge (posture before this one). Come back half way until the front leg is straight and your hips are stacked above your back knee. Flex the front foot. Place your hands onto books, blocks, or the floor and begin to draw your chest forward. Try to keep your back long, so I want you to feel like you are drawing your chest towards the toes… not your head. Breath!

 

Bridge Pose

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Alright, now that your hips are warmed up, come on to the back with the knees up and your hands by your sides with the palms down. Make sure that the feet are hip width apart. Just start by pressing your feet down into the mat as if you were standing up. The power from this posture comes from your feet! Press your hands down into the mat and draw your lower back to the floor and your belly button towards your spine. Now lift the hips up. If you want to go a little deeper, from here try to draw the shoulder blades towards each other and roll the arms under your shoulders. Press into your feet a little more and lift those hips up! Notice how much strength you have in your outer hips and glutes!

Half the Lord’s Fishes Pose (weird name, huh?)

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Come to your seating bones and extend the legs out in front of you. Take your right leg over the left leg so that your knee is bent and the palm of your foot is down. Keep your left foot flexed and take your right hand behind you right up against the spine. You want your spine to be very long. If you want to go deeper, once you have the right leg over the left, bend your left knee and draw it in so your left foot is towards your right glute. Take your right hand behind you up against the spine and either hug your right knee, or bring your left elbow to the outside of the right leg. Don’t forget to breath and do both sides.

Hope you enjoyed this short little (written) yoga practice. Gaining range of motion while working on your training will only help keep you from getting injured AND it’ll make you feel good. Namaste!

What is your favorite yoga pose or stretch for runners? Feel free to give a shout out to my mom for her birthday!

 

Moving to Kansas!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post. To be honest, my life has been absolutely insane with the move. Last week I hardly got any time to run, but even with all the craziness, I managed to get a 5k watch PR on my last run with the Fleet Feet running group.

Last run was a good one! This was the first time I've seen my overall pace at 7:something!
Last run was a good one! This was the first time I’ve seen my overall pace at 7:something!

On Friday afternoon, Frank and I gathered our stuff, the cats, and hit the road. We drove through most of the night until we got to Booneville, Missouri, where some close friends live.

I don't think Elly and Sydney were very happy with the ride.
I don’t think Elly and Sydney were very happy with the ride.

On Saturday, our friends took us to some pretty parks and into Columbia, home of the Mizzou. We got some good food, chilled out and spent the night at their place.

Missouri has some pretty hiking!
Missouri has some pretty hiking!

The next day wasn’t exactly ideal. It rained ALL DAY LONG. We got to Manhattan, KS around noon and had to move our stuff in during a thunderstorm. I also did some damage to my back moving the bed, but we still managed to get some pretty good pizza walking distance from our place!

So, this was the view driving into Kansas...It's moving weather!!
So, this was the view driving into Kansas…It’s moving weather!!

I woke up Monday morning and hit up a yoga class, which helped my back a lot. Despite my pain, I couldn’t help but go out for a run. I did 4 easy miles along the river. It turns out that Kansas is really beautiful!

Beautiful river views.
Beautiful river views.

My new run group meets up on Tuesday nights, so I went 3.2 miles with them. They picked a really hilly route. Now, people think Kansas is flat. Apparently, it’s not. Like… not at all. The route included what felt like a mountain to my poor Indiana legs. I think I have some work cut out for me.

Elly is making herself right at home here in Manhattan, KS.
Elly is making herself right at home here in Manhattan, KS. I’m pretty sure this is the cutest cat in the world. 

Tomorrow I am going to check out some trails. I’ll let you know how it goes!

How has your week been? Have you conquered any new routes lately?

Pose of the Month: Some deep hip opening!

So, I kinda fell off the bandwagon in April for Pose of the Month. I figured in celebration of my marathon training, I would start it up again.

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I picked out a pose for May that I think everyone could benefit from. I have been plagued with unbelievably tight hips. This can lead to pain in my lower back and even leave me open to some pretty nasty injuries (ITBS, runner’s knee, etc.). As runner’s I know a lot of us suffer from tightness in these areas.

This month’s posture: Fire Log Pose!

I never look that happy in this posture.
I never look that happy in this posture.

To get into this posture, start in a seated position facing the front of your mat. Take your right shin and draw it parallel with the front of your mat (your right foot is by your left knee) and then stack your left shin on top of your right so that your left ankle is on top of your right knee. Now, if your knees are up by your ears, STOP! There are a few modifications you can do to fix that (this is also a good resource for modifications in this posture).

  1. Sit on a block or stack of books to elevate the hips
  2. Take your left foot in front of the right knee and place it on a block or stack of books
  3. Place a block, pillow, or stack of books under each knee to stop hyper-extension

If you have a bit more mobility in your hips you can begin to hinge forward at the hips into a forward fold.

When you are done, switch sides!

So how do I look in this posture?

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Yeah, I am not exactly picture perfect here, but THAT’S OK! I teach this posture all the time in my classes and without shame, even though I am typically the least flexible in the room.

So, practice with me for this month. Let’s do this posture every day and see where we are at in a few weeks. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Do you have tight hips? Do you have any other areas of the body that you struggle with flexibility?

Race Jitters and Goals

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‘Tis the night before race day… and I still have no idea what I want out of it. I guess that’s becoming a trend with me. I think I’ll just wake up tomorrow and see how I feel, and that will kinda determine the time that I go for.

Unfortunately, this is going to be the weather:

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I don’t run too well in the cold, and I still haven’t even figured out what I’m wearing. I feel pretty unprepared. Lizzy will be running this as well, so I was thinking I’d run the first half with her (she’s planning on taking it slow since she’s still recovering from LA), then reassess, and either stay with her or pick it up (or slow it down if I need to).

These are my goals for the race:

If it’s a great day – Go for a sub 1:55 (8:40ish pace)

If it’s an good day – Try to hit around what I did for A1A (8:55ish pace)

If it’s just a day – Just have fun!

These goals seem reasonable, and I think I could certainly go for the sub-1:55, if my mind is in the game. Unfortunately, my mind has not really been with it. Work is driving me crazy and I have been having troubles sleeping. Hopefully some race day excitement will help calm my mind of my work problems…

Elly has been taking great care of me, though!

I really have the best cat in the world.
I really have the best cat in the world.

I should have a pretty good cheering squad out there (my husband and a few friends), so I am excited about that. Also, a bunch of my bio students are banditing the race (I know, banditing is bad, but I think it is expected at this race and I was pretty excited that they would be there). It’s also going to be a big help to have Lizzy at the starting line with me. Wish me luck!

So, seriously, what should I wear? 

Runners CAN do yoga!

I love running with people. I find it to be really beneficial and fun to delve into a more social side of running. I’m sure that it wouldn’t surprise you that on social runs, I often end up talking to people about yoga, but the conversation often goes something like this…

Runner: What do you do when you don’t run?

Me: I teach yoga.

Runner: I didn’t think runners could do yoga.

This conversation almost always sends me into a fit of rage. Of course runners can do yoga!! In fact, runners NEED yoga. Not only does it help stretch out overused and tight muscles, but the mental benefits are exactly what you need to get through the last few miles of a long run. Somehow, yoga got the rap that it is only for people who walk in ready to chill in full splits. It also got the rap of being something “extra”… not a workout, but this thing you sometimes do… like once a month… you know, if you have the time.

I promise you, consistent yoga will help your running.

This is not only because it will help keep you limber and less injury prone, but learning to quiet your mind is the only way you can beat the negative thoughts that ALL of us struggle with. Yoga teaches us about our bodies, our breath, and tendencies we might have in our thoughts. It also teaches us how to set an intension (and stick with it), it teaches us how to not fly off the handle when someone does something you don’t like, and it makes us strong. If you can do a handstand, you’ve got some serious core strength.

Check out her handstand! She is so strong!
Check out her handstand! She is so strong!

Sometimes I hear how runners probably can’t touch their toes, and that is why they can’t do yoga.

I have been running a lot longer than I have been doing yoga. I was a sprinter by the time I was 6 and I played soccer starting at 11. When I began my yoga practice (as a disgruntled adolescent that was going because their mom said they should), I could barely touch my knees. My hamstrings were like rocks. Over the years, my practice started to get more consistent and eventually, my palms were on the ground.

Standing head to knee pose took many years to build flexibility through consistency and perseverance in my yoga practice.
Standing head to knee pose took many years to build flexibility through consistency and perseverance in my yoga practice.

Am I now a better yogi because my hamstrings are loose? 

NO! Absolutely not. Nothing happened when I touched my toes, well, besides me touching my toes. No rainbows or unicorns appeared. I just touched them. No one high-fived me or threw a party. Maybe I look a little “prettier” (to Yoga Journal Magazine‘s standards) in some postures. I am, however, not “better at yoga” for it. I still lay in relaxation trying to quiet my mind, just like everyone else.

If I have not convinced you yet, here are some runner’s that practice yoga:

Scott Jurek
Shalane Flanagan
Kara Goucher
Lauren Fleshmen
Meb Kefkezighi

They practice for various reasons. Some are looking for the mental benefits, others are looking for strength and flexibility. Regardless, yoga can give you all of these things.

Elites are not the only ones! Here is a pretty awesome (AND FAST) blogger who has a beautiful yoga practice.

So, don’t let the negative talk win. All runners can do yoga. All runners should do yoga.