C. Beth.
C. Beth run.
C. Beth smile.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strengthening & stretching exercises

I was asked by my friend Autumn what my home workouts involve. I'd like to post here the various strengthening and stretching exercises I do at home.

First, though, a disclaimer--I bet an expert could come up with more organized, structured workouts than I do. I'm far from being an expert, and I don't suggest you do any of this without consulting your doctor.

My at-home workout

My total workout is usually somewhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes but that can certainly vary depending how many exercises you do. I actually like to do strengthening exercises three times a week, but since I've been running five times a week lately, I'm lucky to fit in my two strengthening workouts! I work out in front of the TV. (I get bored otherwise.)

Part A: Foam Roller
First I usually use my foam roller to roll out any sore or tight muscles in my legs. Don't just roll; when you get to a tight spot, focus on it for a little while to loosen it up. You can find various other uses of the foam roller doing a Google search.

I should do a bit of warm-up (marching in place, etc.) but usually don't!

Part B: Strengthening exercises
I try to choose a variety of upper body, core, and lower body exercises. My workouts usually include about 9 exercises. I alternate three exercises, doing three sets of each. (I usually do 10-12 reps per set.) I choose 3 more exercises, and repeat the process, then 3 more.

I have five-pound weights and eight-pound weights. I use the eight pound for most exercises, but some exercises I need a lower weight. Your weights may vary (lighter or heavier.)

Click the exercise name to see information on how to do it.

Upper body:
  1. Overhead tricep extensions (Careful; don't use weight(s) too heavy or drop your weight(s) on your head!)
  2. Tricep extensions
  3. Fly (I do these laying on the floor since I don't have a bench.) Note: The Fly link has a big variety of dumbbell exercises; some of them I don't do, but I may incorporate more of them. I just discovered this article!)
  4. Upright rows
  5. Bent over rows
  6. Bicep curls (I do both arms at once)
  7. Hammer curls
  8. Shoulder presses (I do both arms at once)
  9. Lateral raises (I have to use my five pounders for this. It's a tough one!)
  10. Chest presses (I do these on the floor)

Lower body:
  1. Hip exercises (These are three different exercises, and I love them! You do need a resistance band for them. I use the one that came with my Wii EA Sports Active game. The article I've linked to convinced me that hip exercises might help stabilize my knees, which I was having some issues with. I did these very consistently for a time, and I think they really helped. However, losing the shoes and improving my running form helped much more! Since these are such good exercises for runners, I try to make sure I do these exercises at least once a week, preferably more often, sometimes doing them on days that aren't normal strength training days.)
  2. Straight leg raises (Laying on your back, for quads. In the link, scroll to "SUPER QUADS.")
  3. Straight leg raises (Laying on your stomach, for hamstrings. In the link, scroll to "HAM AND LEGS." I was told at a running store do three sets of quad exercises for every two sets of hamstring exercises, since running already tends to strengthen the hamstrings more than the quads. I try to make sure I do my quad and hamstring exercises at least once a week, preferably more often, sometimes doing them on days that aren't normal strength training days.)
  4. Dumbbell squats (Make sure knees don't go in front of toes.)
  5. Note that lunges can be great; they just tend to hurt my knees sometimes, so I shy away from them. Google it to find lots of options for lunges.
  6. Side leg raises & inside leg raises (These are two separate exercises, but I'm listing them together because I always do them together; it's convenient.)
  7. Calf raises or heel raises and dips
Core or whole body:
  1. Bicycle
  2. Plank on elbows & toes
  3. Push-ups
  4. Sit-ups
  5. Curl downs
Part C: Stretching exercises
Do at least one stretch for each area, after each run and after each strengthening workout. I hold my stretches for 15-30 seconds each.
  1. Calves: Wall push-up #1 or Gastroc stretch. (These are pretty much the same stretch; one is with both legs and the other is one at a time. One at a time seems to be a better stretch, but both at a time is faster and may be fine if you don't suffer from calf tightness.)
  2. Lower calves: Wall push-up #2 or Soleus stretch.
  3. Back: Back scratch (I tend to forget to do this one after running, but it's good to do! A loose upper body helps with running form.)
  4. Hamstring: Prone hamstring stretch (my favorite!) or standing hamstring stretch.
  5. Quadriceps: Standing quad stretch or prone quad stretch
  6. Groin: Groin stretch
  7. Hips: Hip stretch (Look at the "General Hip Stretch" on the link. However, I learned mine a bit differently. Instead of crossing my legs, I have them in the basic position they're in for the groin stretch, except that one foot is in front of the other (instead of the feet being pushed together.) You should feel the stretch in one hip as you lean forward. Then move the other foot to the front, and lean forward again to stretch the other hip.)
  8. Hip flexors: Hip flexor stretch (I don't regularly do this, but sometimes I feel like I need it.)
  9. IT (iliotibial) band: IT band stretch #1, #2, or #3. (I don't like #2, but a lot of people use it!)
  10. Arms and back: I really need to do more arm and back stretches, particularly after my strengthening workouts. It looks like there are several listed at this link.
That's it, my at-home exercises! It sounds like a lot! But remember, I don't do it all at once. I'm able to stay pretty motivated because I know that strengthening and stretching help me be a better runner. I don't love hand weights or stretches...but I love running, and I want to stay healthy so that I can keep running. (And hey, it doesn't hurt to look in the mirror and see some toned muscles too!)


Jennifer said...

Hi C. Beth!

I have a couple of questions for you: with kids at home, when do you make the time for all this exercising? Do you get up very early or wait til they're in bed?

also, did you have a trainer when you first started running? How did you learn all that you now know?

I'm not at all in great shape, but I'd like to change that. It all just seems a little overwhelming and I'm not sure where to start!

C. Beth said...

Hi, Jennifer!

Most of my running is in the mornings, early. My husband and I have a schedule worked out; he can go do workouts certain days of the week, and I can go other days. So I'm leaving before he leaves for work if it's a weekday. One of us is always with the kids that way.

I do my strength/stretching workouts in front of the TV after the kids are in bed. We watch quite a bit of evening TV anyway, so that's a good time for me to do these workouts.

I didn't have a running coach (except a few track workouts with a group and a trainer several months after I started), and I think I was doing it all wrong! When I decided to try barefoot running I did a ton of reading online about how to have the proper barefoot running form, and I'm continuing to do plenty of reading on barefoot running and running in general. That's helped a lot.

I wish I'd discovered barefoot running and its potential benefits when I first started; it would have in some ways I think been an easier transition instead of running with shoes for 8 months and then having to re-learn to run, without shoes. If you're just thinking of starting, I'd say do some research into barefoot and minimalist running, and into running styles like Chi, Pose, & Evolution. These are gentle running styles that might help you a lot.

Good luck!

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