Colfax Marathon Week 2

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Hey guys!

I know I am late on this training recap, but things have been a little crazy around here. We’ve had a few major ups and downs, and I have been feeling a little emotionally drained. Regardless, I have still been training and running has been going well. I had a fantastic long run that ended with a mile at 7:30. I’m starting to feel fast again, and it’s great to let loose and see how fast I can go.

Key Workouts: 800 repeats, 10-mile long run

Monday: Rest + Vinyasa Yoga

Tuesday: 5-mile easy run (9:24/mi) + Yin Yoga

This must have been pretty uneventful because I don’t even remember it.

Wednesday: 1.5 mile WU 4×800 1.5 mile CD + Hatha Yoga

It was SO NICE to get back to the track. I was really happy just to be there. The 800m was my event in high school track and it feels fantastic to get back to my sprinting roots. I tried to hold back a little, since this was not intended to be a threshold workout. I was looking to just dip my toe back into the pool of track. I can’t believe how much I missed it.

Thursday: 4-mile easy run (9:32/mi) + Yin Yoga

I took Frank with me on an easy run. He did three miles, and I ran one alone. I try to take him with me on at least one easy run per week because he really holds me accountable to a slower pace. My last mile alone was at 8:30 pace, so that kind defeated the purpose of the slow run. I’m still working on going slower. 🙂

Friday: Rest Day + Yin Yoga

Saturday: 5 miles easy, but on some hills

I was meeting up with the Kansas Caving Society in Lawrence, so I figured I’d go out for a run to take advantage of the hillier terrain out there. I kept things slow, but there were certainly a few quad-burning moments.

Sunday: 10-mile LSD (9:06/mi)

This was a classically awesome long run. It was my first time hitting double digits since the Route 66 Marathon. I kept the first half slow and gradually got faster as I went along. By the time I was done, I was hitting sub-8:00 paces. It was crazy. I felt so fantastic.

Total: 30 miles

Next week (which is actually this week): I have two key workouts (a 12 mile LSD and a 7 mile tempo run). Unfortunately, this week is not going as well as last week, so although I intended to get 35 miles in, I will definitely not be hitting that. More on that later.

Hope all is well with you! How has your training been going? What kind of run do you do to build confidence in your fitness level?

Look at Sydney all tired and not biting me.

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Make Sensations, Not Shapes

I am oddly flexible for a runner. I can get my palms to the ground without bending my knees, do a full splits, and I have a pretty fantastic backbend. So, it probably does not surprise you that when I talk to runners about yoga, the first thing I hear is that they are not flexible enough to do it. Well, guys, I am here to convince you that you are ALWAYS flexible enough to do yoga!

Ever since Yoga Journal Magazine started publishing professional yogis on their covers, the focus of yoga moved to the shape of one’s body in a particular posture. In a forward fold, the focus was on how Sean Corne could get her belly flat on her thighs with a smile on her face. People who had a naturally large range of motion in their hips, hamstrings, and lower backs looked at these photos and knew that they could make the same shape. But what about athletes? What about runners? What about every normal person? What is yoga when you can’t touch your toes and when that shape is just not something your body does?

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Later was the birth of Instagram, where advanced shape-making yogis were able to show off their beautiful bodies in postures that just looked like a wild contortion. This further distanced runners from yoga because in reality, many of those shapes were simply NOT going to happen for them. Running changes your body and makes your muscles stronger and tighter. For many of us, postures like Compass Pose are just out of our natural range of motion.

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So, if you can’t participate in the full version of the yoga postures, what is a runner to do in a yoga class?

Make sensations, not shapes!

 Next time you are at your yoga mat, instead of focusing on getting the palms to the floor with the legs straight in a forward fold, focus on the SENSATION you are feeling in the legs. In a forward fold, notice where you feel the sensation and notice how slight changes in the posture can change the sensation dramatically. It is important to realize that no two people will look the same and feel the same in the same posture. So instead of making that forward fold look like it does on Instagram, make it FEEL right. Make sure that, although your knees are bent in a forward fold, that you have sensation in the hamstring muscle, NOT in the lower back or the back of the knees.

 Next time you are in a yoga class, grab some blocks and straps. USE THEM! Modifications to a posture are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign that we understand that yoga is there to create space and sensation, not to create a picture worthy shape. In reality, modifications are a sign of strength.

And if you have a competitive streak and you really need to be better than the other people in the room at something… remind yourself that it is unlikely any of them can run 10 miles in one day. That is a little bit of ego, but hey, roll with it.

So guys, do this for me: Go to a yoga class and repeat the matra “make sensation, not shapes”. Go in with an open mind and have fun. Once you let go of attachment to particular shapes of postures, suddenly yoga gets a whole lot more fun.

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?

Short Core Sequence for Runners (and everyone else too)!

Core work is usually everyone’s least favorite exercise to do. In yoga classes, I rarely get suggestions for it, and when I do sequences with a lot of core exercises, usually everyone complains or makes some pretty mean-looking faces. Even though people don’t like it… it’s still important to do. In fact, I think the less you like it, the more important it is that you do it! So… I’ve put together a short core sequence using yoga postures. I picked sequences that should not bother your back, but still give you more strength and body awareness. Let me know what you think in the comments. Enjoy!

Do you hate doing core work? What are your least favorite exercises to do? 

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!

 

Colfax Training Week 1: Strong Start

I finished my first week of training for the Colfax Marathon, and things went great, despite the rather frigid temperatures and icy conditions. I took it slow, but getting back to higher mileage feels good. A few of my friends in Manhattan have been training with me and holding me accountable to my mileage as I start to get my fitness back. I began the week kinda feeling like I had lost a lot of fitness by taking time off, but I ended the week with a few solid runs and a bunch more confidence.

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I WISH!

Tuesday: Yoga + 3.1 miles at easy pace

I went out with the local running group in the afternoon for an easy paced run. I was definitely suffering more than I should at the pace we went, but that may have been the cold. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to do well in cold temperatures. I did some gentle yoga on my own but added a little core work at the end with inversions.

Wednesday: Yoga + 4.0 miles with fast finish

I started the day with a pretty basic vinyasa practice on my own before going out to teach at Meadowlark Hills where I teach yoga and fitness to people with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s pretty much the most fun job! In an afternoon class, one of my favorite students walked for the first time in 3 years (Go Jo!). We were both crazy excited, and we’ll be trying that out again this week. In the afternoon, I went for a run and finished with the last mile at half marathon pace. It felt good to go a little faster.

Thursday: Yoga + 5.0 miles at marathon pace

I took a morning yoga class and in the evening a few friends came over to go running. We kept it just under 9:00/mi, which I think is close to my marathon pace. This run went perfect! We ran each mile a little faster than the one before and finished with lots more gas in the tank. It’s great to have runs like these to bring up my confidence.

Friday: Yoga + 4.1 at easy pace

I took another morning yoga class that left me feeling a little sore for the rest of the day. Since I had been running for 4 days in a row, and doing tons of yoga, I figured an easy run was in order. Frank came out with me on his bike and we went around looking at houses that are up for rent (we are looking for a new place).

Saturday: Hiked 15 miles at Tallgrass Prairie

A group of us went out for a long hike at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. It’s a beautiful place with about 40 miles of trails. We wanted to make sure we hit some of the harder to get to spots of the park, so we embarked on a 15 mile hike in 6 degree weather (at least the sun came out). I got a blister on my foot, but besides that it was crazy awesome!

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The grass and hills go on forever!

Sunday: Long run got pushed back until next day due to ice and below 0 temps (do you blame me?). Kansas doesn’t salt the sidewalks or roads, so the conditions were rather treacherous. I did go to Ikea, though!

Monday: 8.1 LSD with last mile at MP

This run went as every long run should. I started slow and finished strong. Frank and Zeb came out to do 5 miles with me and I finished 3 more. It was cold out, but I stayed steady and strong. Let’s hope all of my long runs this cycle go this well! After my run, Elly was being super affectionate, so I snapped this little gem:

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Elly is perfect.

This was a solid week, and I needed it to kick off my training for Colfax. I do have A1A coming up in a few weeks, and I feel a lot more prepared for that than I thought I was. I’m super excited to up my mileage this week and keep on with this momentum.

This week:

T: 3 miles easy

W: 5 miles with hill work

Th: 3 miles easy

F: 5 miles @ MP

S: Rest

S: 10 miles LSD

How has your training been? Have the temps been cold by you? If they are, hopefully your state is better at salting and plowing than Kansas.

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?