Mix Things Up and Do Something Good For Your Body!

May 11th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I know I’ve said this before, but it always bears repeating: our bodies are waaaay smarter than we are.  And, our bodies are always looking out for us by responding to a stress by getting stronger.  One of my favorite experts, Jason Karp, Ph. D, said it best when he refers to training as threatening your body’s survival.  In turn, your body does what it needs to do to prevent that threat the next time it comes around.

It’s one of the ways you get stronger and faster!  It’s how lifting a 10 pound weight that used to be incredibly difficult seems easy by comparison when you’re strong enough to lift a 20 pound weight for the same exercise.  And how running a ten minute mile is no longer as difficult once you’ve gotten used to running a nine minute mile.

All of that being said, it’s still critical to mix things up if you want to increase your fitness level and protect your body from injuries that can occur with repetitive stress of unvaried training.  It can be a fine line between not enough and too much!

One of the best ways to keep yourself in tip top shape and free of injury is to MIX THINGS UP when it comes to your exercise routine.  For me, that means doing a lot more than simply running.

I like these ideas from Active.com

Take a Dance Class

Replace a day you would normally spend cross training with a Zumba, hip-hop or salsa class. Runners often focus so intensely on forward movement that their quadriceps can become over-developed and as a result, the gluteal and adductor muscles that provide for stability and lateral movement can atrophy. 

These small and often forgotten muscles are necessary to keep the body balanced and to prevent injuries to the IT band, knee and ankle. You can hit the gym and build these muscles by lifting weights, but why not take a dance class that gives you a cardio benefit as well?

Zumba, hip-hop and salsa provide a balanced workout because they require dancers to move in 360 degrees around their bodies. They strengthen all major and minor muscle groups in the legs; provide a core and cardio workout, and the bonus? A dance class once a week helps break up the daunting mental block that training can inflict on the psyche.

Do Speed Work in Spin

Sprints in a high-intensity spin class have the same benefit on fast-twitch muscles as a track workout, but the impact on your joints is far less. Plus, if you aren’t part of a running group, putting together a speed workout can be overwhelming.

If you take a spin class, you get the social benefit of sweating amongst your peers and the added inspiration this brings.

Replace One Day of Strength Training With Pilates

Abdominal muscles are an integral part of running. Not only do they protect your back and keep you stable and upright, your pelvic floor helps lift the two tree trunks below your waste. So the stronger your abs, the easier each step, and the less likely you are to pull a hip flexor.

Another benefit to Pilates is that it lengthens muscles. Repetitive motion like running and standard weight lifting causes muscles to contract and tighten, which can lead to injury.

Pilates provides a balance to this shortening. It also helps bring the body into alignment by using small movements to reverse the bad habits we develop in our everyday lives. Since most injuries occur because one part of our body is compensating for another due to misalignment, Pilates is an important way we can protect ourselves.

Strengthen and Stretch Your Feet

Your feet are the most important body part when it comes to running and the common maladies of Plantar Fasciitis and a pulled IT band often start here. To remain injury-free, your feet must not only be strong, but flexible.

If you don’t live near a beach or lake with sand, and you’re not into the barefoot running shoes, then for ten minutes a day, sit with your bare or socked feet on a towel, repeatedly squeeze and try to pick it up with your toes.

To stretch your feet after this exercise and every run, sit on your heels with your knees on the floor and your toes curled under for as long as you can stand it. This yoga pose (called “Hero’s Pose”), stretches the bottom of your feet and is the single best way to prevent plantar fasciitis.

It will be painful at first, but eventually you’ll be able to get through an entire 30 minute television program.  

Replace One Short Run With a Stair Workout

Running stairs is a great cardio workout and training tool because you’re still running, but the motion is different than if you were on a flat road. It strengthens your core, all of the major and minor muscle groups in your legs, and helps with stability.

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