Saturday, June 22, 2013

Legs, legs, legs

Some people hate leg day at the gym.  Personally, I love it.  Perhaps that is because I grew up with a badonk so I'm a little used to having a little more power in my lower extremities.  But I also love watching how strong my legs are getting! There has been a pretty big transformation in my legs since I started running. While there are still areas of improvement (outer and inner thighs), I've learned to stop hating my thighs.
(I've come a long way since this happened:

I decided that having hips and an ass was ok, but if they were going to be big they were going to be strong.  So that's my goal.

Here is the current plan of attack, one day a week:

  • 15-20 min of cardio, usually speed intervals on the stair climber (FAST)
Then, 3 sets of 10 with the following:
  • Sumo squats in the rack- once we increased the weight past 40lbs, we moved over the cage out of safety.  I felt like a big girl moving to that part of the gym! Currently at 85lbs- quads, calves, and core
  • Leg press - resistance press - currently at 200lbs and about to increase* - quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
  • Leg curls - currently at 60lbs for both legs (30 if doing seperately) - hamstrings
  • Deadlifts - currently at 60lbs but about to increase  - hamstrings, glutes, quads, adductor, and lower back.
*Christi noticed this was more than the majority of the guys who used the machines after us that night, as they were only pressing 45. We were feeling a little smug...

And then.. squats, squats, squats!
  • Side squats - alternating side to side - inner/outer thighs
  • Jump squats - honestly, I kind of hate these. My heart rate starts racing and I'm out of breath after each set. This is all a good thing, but I like to complain nonetheless. - quads and calves - the plyometric workout also aids in fat burning
  • Split Squat / Alternating lunges - currently doing these while holding 15lb barbells. This seems light, but it really isn't.  Moving this up to 17 or 20 next week. - quads, glutes, and hamstrings 
  • Plie squats holding a disc weight (currently at 10lbs) 10 second hold at end of last rep in plie position (calves permitting) - glutes, hips, inner thighs
(Often each set has plank holds in between just for kicks).

Usually, this workout is done at the beginning of the week. This gives my body some time to rest over the weekend, so everything is ready to move forward for the next week.  Last week, due to some scheduling conflicts (i.e. we were hungover on Monday), this workout got moved to the end of the week (Thursday night). This meant that the major leg workout went after a sprint workout, sandwiched between two running days.  This meant for really tired legs and one of the most difficult runs EVER on Friday am. But, I pushed forward and vowed never to do that again. This also meant for angry calves, so I had some trouble with holding my plies and using the leg curl machine (this is supposed to be for hamstrings, but you rest the bar right behind the ankles so the calves assist in the rep.). My calves were tightening and I got scared of a charlie horse.  Did.Not.Like.This.

Each week we have a sprint workout, either standalone on the treadmill at lunch, or as part of one of the runs on the track.  Doing sprint intervals on the track is visually easier, because you can sprint the straight sides and then calmly run the curves (you don't want to sprint the curves because you will run awkwardly on your feet and this can cause injury).  Treadmill can be easier on the mind when you are feeling a little extra tired and need a little extra boost to keep going. I am not a huge fan of the treadmill, because I feel like sometimes I go slower than I need to, and I notice it is easier to lose the natural form because your ground is propelling you, rather than your own body. But with it being summer, I have to pick my battles, as I cannot stomach 4:00am more than 2 times a week (and lunchtime or late morning runs are just too brutal to handle).

Wednesday, I noticed for the first time that I was feeling a little bit of pain in my lumbar spine/lower back while I was sprinting. It wasn't a bad pain and it didn't continue when I was done running, but it was enough to make me notice it and wonder why it was happening. When I sprint I like to envision myself as one of those crazy fast Olympic runners, although I realize the actual reality of what I look like is probably not nearly as glamorous. Lucky for me, there isn't a mirror at the track. :)

Lower back pain while running can be caused by a couple of different things:
1. Weak/inefficient Gluteous Maximus muscles:

Weak or inhibited muscles in the glutes means that your legs can't swing with the full motion that they are capable of.  The body has to find a way to compensate for this, so this can lead to running with an extended or hiked back to get that extra range of motion in order to propel forward at high speed.  

2. The Psoas Muscle
The Psoas muscle is a muscle that crosses across the front of the hip joint and aides in helping the hip flex forward.  This basically fights the glutes during the running process as one is constantly trying to pull your leg forward while the other is pulling it back. When this is tight, it can lead to arched back compensation.

While I certainly do not think I have weak glutes, I did notice my hamstrings were pretty tight even after the weekend off. Likely this meant that my hip flexors/glutes were tight as well and trying to compensate for my hamstrings.  It's likely that the discomfort I was feeling was due to the fact that it really needed stretching before I started the run, leading to the sensitivity in my lower back during the sprints.  I will have to make sure I start a better stretching routine the night before and morning of my sprint workouts.  I've also read that my upper body needs to be stretched as well, as the arm swing is equally important while sprinting. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Round 2.

It's been quite awhile since I've posted on here, because life has been so crazy.  I am feeling the need to organize my thoughts though, so here it goes.

Up until this point, this blog has been about my struggles.  Learning to run, learning to overcome injury, learning to run through energy, learning what I can eat, what my diet will allow.  From this point forward, it's Round Two.  As things are starting to fall into place, I have more focus and dedication than ever. This is going to be spot where I can truly make a reference of all the things I learn, my favorite workouts, my favorite recipes, as well as a place to be joyous about the victories. This is also about Round 2 in my life:

I made a decision this year to go back to school to finish prerequisites to apply for a doctorate program in Physical Therapy.  All in all, if everything goes "as planned," I am looking at 5 years of school (which I started a month ago). This is possibly one of the most daunting and terrifying decisions I have ever made, but I am so ecstatic and ready for this change. I do realize that there will be days that I will question this decision, but I am thrilled at the challenge.

The past couple of years have been a trying experience at "getting into shape," and pushing myself towards a goal I once thought wasn't achievable. However, it was truly a learning experience and has changed the person I am today.  Fitness and health are no longer these pipe dreams in my head of things I wish I could have.  Running a mile is no longer a pipe dream.  Learning to eat on a restricted diet is achievable, and hell, I can still get enough protein (people are worried) to fuel 5-7 workouts a week.
You are not defined by your weaknesses.  You must turn those weaknesses into strengths.

Every single time I was injured over the past couple of years, or thrown some type of nutritional challenge or a combination of both, the research involved with figuring out and solving the problem was fascinating.  Learning how the human body works, how it all works together, and how we effect it with every single move we make and food/drink we consume (or don't), is fascinating.  It has made me want to learn more, not only to prevent things from happening, but because I want to help others as well. I can't wait to learn more and to become a resource for others to help them through their struggles, and ideally become a resource to those who need assistance before the injury/issue even happens.

As my life amps up, I'm realizing that I need to stay organized and I need to stay focused.  The other day, I referred to my life as "constant multi-tasking," because that's how I really feel right now:
  • I currently work 40 hours per week, starting at 6:30am.
  • I am currently enrolled in summer school, which is two classes, and since they are condensed, they are very full time. In August, it's school full time and work part time.
  • Due to my dietary restrictions, I am almost always either planning my food, grocery shopping/recipe searching, preparing my food for the time being or for the meals the next day, and logging my food. (This is also in part due to the fact that I am pretty much always hungry).
  • I am working out. I work out 5-7 times per week, ranging from 25 - 90 min each time.
I'm pretty much working 4 full time jobs. :) (P.S. I have an amazing boyfriend, 2 cats, friends, and family in there too...)

I'm so far succeeding at this, because I really feel that they are all equally as important to my overall health and well being.  It is super easy to lose focus and to change my priorities, but it's a matter of making the time.  There is always time.  Even when you are tired or unmotivated, you will find the time and energy once you get out of bed and show up.  I feel like it is a vicious cycle: If I do not work out, I do not sleep well. If I do not sleep well, I am tired, unfocused, and often gain weight and retain stress.  If all of these things occur, my stomach generally gets set off by the stress and I am miserable. This makes for misery and lack of focus in school and work, and literally no happy times with my friends and family and the people I want to be happy around.  It is a slippery slope.
If you are not sleeping, and you are facing a lot of stress and anxiety, I challenge you to workout a little bit every day.  You will sleep and your body will be forced to release some of the tension.

Heading into a full time school schedule and trying to balance the rest, I am incredibly dedicated to keeping my fitness routine in check. If I am sitting at a computer all day and all night, I know what the tension will do to my head and neck, so it's important to keep all of that moving.  I am also hell bent on running the P.F. Changs Half Marathon in January and am determined to enjoy all 13.2 miles of it! If I keep a regimented schedule, then come training season in the fall, (in theory) my body won't be completely shocked at the momentum of adding in the additional strength training, cross training, and additional mileage.  (Last year, by the time I got to the race, I was so tired and sore, mentally exhausted, my stomach was retaliating at every chance it could, I was injured, and I was ready for the race to be over).  The "fun" is the race! It's the reward for all the hard work and training.

Here's what's been working so far for a workout schedule:
  • Running: 2-3 times/week, with 1-2 miles of sprint interval training.  (Wednesday early am plus 1-2 lunch break runs on the treadmill). We are working on adding additional mileage, but running into a scheduling conflict with the Arizona summer sun. 
  • Cross training: Zumba! (Tuesday nights)
  • Weight training: Legs (Monday nights), arms (2 lunch time workouts/week, 1 bicep/tricep and the other chest/arm/back/shoulders)
  • Abwork.  Right now 1 lunchtime workout/week but am trying to figure out a way to get it in 3x/week integrated into other workouts). Strong core means everything else is stable, so I really need to get this one worked out.