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. 


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