My Favorite Things: Core Workouts

Rounding out my favorite exercises is core workouts.  I have a love/hate relationship with these.  I do them on an almost daily basis because I both love and despise that burn.  Working your core is essential for bringing out the best runner in you.  A strong core will also help keep you healthy and avoid injuries during trainning.  It is also necessary for keeping proper form, especially as you tire on longer runs.


If you have ever run with me or taken a class with me, you know that I LOVE planks.  I am the dork that does them in the morning while I watch the news and at night while I watch “The Biggest Loser.”  I love them in all sorts of variations.  Planks work more parts of your abdominals and get deeper into the muscles than just about any other exercise.  They require no equipment and very little time.  You should seriously be doing this if not any other exercise I recommend.  Try to start with a 30 second plank and work up to one minute at a time.  Mix it up by holding a plank for 30 seconds and then switch to a side plank for 30 seconds.  Return to your regular plank for 30 seconds and then roll to the other side for 30 seconds.

Mountain Climbers:

These are fun and get deep down into the lower abs as well pretty much your entire core.  Try using paper plates on a smooth surface for an added kick.  Hold your plank position and quickly bring one knee up to the corresponding armpit and repeat with the other side.  You will look and feel like you are doing a climbing motion.  By using the plates on the floor you can use a sliding motion.  Make sure you keep your booty down.  A butt in the air is a serious cheat on this one!  Try to start with 30 seconds or around 30-40 climbs.

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Ketttlebell Reaches:

This is a great one for the lower abs and obliques.  As an added bonus it does work the upper back a bit too!  Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.  Hold a kettlebell on the floor to one side of you and lift and reach up towards the other direction just above your shoulder.  Repeat 10-20 times and then switch to the other side.  There should be a slight twist and reach motion with this exercise.


Medicine Ball Taps:

This is one that hurts so good and requires some balance which gets deeper into your core!  Sit on a mat with your feet elevated off of the floor in Boat Pose.  Hold a medicine ball in your arms and reach to your right side and tap the ball on the floor.  Lift it up and to the center then repeat to the left.  Keep those feet off of the floor and continue repeating side to side.  This can be modified with your feet on the floor as you begin.  Try to do at least 10 taps on each side and aim for 4 sets of these a few times per week.

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Note:  Both the Kettlebell Reaches and Medicine Ball Taps can be done with a simple hand weight or even a liter of water.  Always look around your home for things that can be used for these exercises if you don’t have the equipment on hand.  Almost anything can be replicated.

Ab Toe Taps:

This is a recent addition and one that I love.  Lay on your back with knees bent and legs hovering over the floor.  Extend your right leg out and then tap that heel to the ground, while the left leg remains in the starting position.  Return the right leg up and then repeat with the left leg.  You will feel this all the way from the top to the bottom of your belly muscles.  This one will leave you feeling that burn!  Make sure you are only using your legs and abs, do not lift your back off of the floor.  Place your hands on the ground by your lower back to ensure that it stays in place.

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My Favorite Things: Upper Body Exercises

In keeping with the theme of my favorite things for the beginning of this week I am going to share some of my favorite upper body exercises.  Many people often think that as runners we do not need to work our upper body.  However, a weak upper body can lead to poor form, especially as you get tired.  By keeping your entire body strong you will see improvements across the board with your running.  Plus, who doesn’t love having toned arms?!

Curls/Reverse Curls:

This simple workout will work both your biceps and triceps.  With any upper body exercise it is always important that you keep your core and shoulders nice and steady.  Never lean or swing your shoulders.  Make sure all of the work comes from the muscles you are focusing on.  Aim for light to medium weights and longer reps around 20x each exercise to work on toning and not bulking up those muscles.  Heavier weights with fewer reps are meant to build up  muscles which is the opposite of what we are looking for.  We want the tone but not the extra heft to carry around for miles!

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Rows/Shoulder Press:

This is a great combination that gets into the upper back and shoulders.  Many runners tend to either fall forward or hike up their shoulders as they tire.  By working these muscles you will find that you can maintain proper running form longer.  By doing these in combination you will find that you can effectively work and exhaust both muscle groups well.  I like to do 20-30 reps of each, one after the other.  Begin your rows by slightly hinging forward from the hips and pull in your abdominals.  Lift your arm up with your elbow pointing to the ceiling and slowly bring back down.

I recommend starting shoulder presses on a weight bench or a chair for back support.  Start with the weights at shoulder/ear level with your palms facing out away from you.  Lift both weights up and above your head to touch and then back down to starting position.  Anytime you do any exercise that involves the shoulders you should take your time and focus.  The shoulders are the most susceptible joint to injure and it is important to never over load them.

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Armpit Squeezes:

I do this one mostly for vanity’s sake.  This exercise gets into that armpit flab that ails me no matter what I do.  However, it also works your chest muscles which will help balance out your upper back muscles.  All you have to do is hold two weights about six inches away from your chest.  Press them together and use a squeezing motion.  You will feel your pectoral muscles contracting.  This is a good exercise to do larger repetitions with (see if you can do 50!).  Aim to do one or two sets until exhaustion.  Make sure you keep your back up straight and elbows pointing out!


A recycled pic. I forgot to take a few new ones.


Paddy Cakes:

This is another favorite of mine.  This works your armpits, shoulders, back, and biceps.  Hold two weights just as you would for arm pit squeezes.  Lift one weight on top of the other and lower your bottom hand.  Then bring your bottom weight above the other and continue to repeat.  It looks somewhat like you are climbing a rope or a ladder.  20-30 repetitions should do the trick. Aim for 3-5 sets and you will feel that good burn!