Monthly Archives: March 2011

  • Chi Running

    If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a running enthusiast. If enthusiast is too strong a descriptor, you’re probably looking for ways to improve your time or maybe just enjoy it more. I’ve had my share of injuries. Years of gymnastics, dance and over-training will do that to you. I heard about Chi as I was searching for ways to enjoy running again. They had become painful, labored and with joint pain everywhere, I found it difficult to relax and settle into a groove.

    Ultra runner Danny Dreyer and his wife Katherine founded Chi Running in 1999. Since then it has grown into a movement. If you haven’t at least heard of it, you may have been living under a rock! So what exactly is Chi? Chi is hard to define, but has been referred to as vital force, cosmic energy and biorhythm. It is our connection to the flow of the universe and the force within the human body. Chi is not just energy, it’s what gives energy the power to be energy.

    Thanks for the lesson, Vita Girl, now what does that mean for my workout? By paying attention to your body and adopting this technique, you’ll minimize injury (at the very least) and start enjoying yourself. The key to Chi is good posture and relaxation. Form is emphasized over speed and power, as well as body alignment, arm positioning, heel strike prevention and maintaining a constant cadence.

  • Clearing the Air

    You know those runners whose minds go blank when they work out? The ones who say, “My head goes silent and I just concentrate on the road?” Well, I’m not one of them. If anything, I use the time to constructively work through the day’s events. For me, it’s cheap therapy. I go until I feel better, the problem is solved or I’m just too exhausted to worry about it anymore. So by the time the endorphin rush kicks in, I’m already halfway to Happy Land. Some of the best ideas of my life have come to me on long runs where I let my mind wander. The more there is to process, the faster the workout goes and the more refreshed I feel.

    Adversely, I find when I “concentrate on the road” my workouts seem tedious and all-around unenjoyable. I become overly occupied with the click in my left knee, the tightness of my sport bra, my breathing, my pace and how much distance I should cover. I notice other runners on the road and feel compelled to compare our strides. To me, concentrating on the road is a lot like sitting at your desk on a Friday afternoon and watching the clock tick down to 5 o’clock. But I know this is what many do when they lace their running shoes.

    No matter your preference: letting the miles fly by as you jam to your favorite tunes, periodically checking your watch as you pass pre-set road markers or letting the free time act as your therapist, there is no wrong way to enjoy your workout. Runners may take different routes, but we all end up at the same place at the end—better off than we started.

  • Types Of Runners: Waddler, Shuffler, Dinosaur, Gazelle & Shi-Shi Runners

    Everyone runs differently. The goal is to relax, fall into a rhythm and finish the race in a respectable amount of time. Right? For some participants, yes. For others, not so much. I realized this during the last race I ran. It was a long one, so I had time to make some observations. And let me tell you, you can tell a lot about a runner’s motivations by their stride.

    The Waddler: Is this person even moving? This one is the easiest to spot. There isn’t much else to say. You know exactly who I mean.

    The Shuffler: Similar to The Waddler, except they can make an impressive headway. So why the shuffle? Maybe they’re injured and have adopted this stride to minimize the impact. Maybe they don’t like the idea of having only one foot at the road at a time. Or maybe they really, really enjoy tap dancing! Who knows. All I know is this type of form reminds me of someone walking over hot coals: shoulders up and tight, bottom clinched, feet working out a little soft-shoe action. They just don’t look comfortable.

    The Dinosaur & The Paddler: Like a T-Rex with its short arms hanging limply in front as it forges through the forest, The Dinosaur is on a mission. Usually a fast-moving breed, they could improve their time if they only worked their arms into the race. I considered naming this type of runner, The Paddler, then realized it deserved a separate, yet related category. The Paddler is what The Dinosaur wants to be. The Paddler may let his arms hang down, but unlike The Dinosaur, he slaps at the air and pulls it behind him. The Dinosaur gets dusted by The Paddler, left alone and wishing evolution was a speedier process.

    The Gazelle: The most beautiful runner on the street. Carefree. They lope through the course with the boundless energy of any number of forest animals, but only the gazelle shares this runner’s grace. I’ve often wondered if they were taught this form, because you tend to see packs of The Gazelle at cross-country track meets. But after years of trying to mimic this stride and failing miserably, I now believe they were born this way.

    Like a UFO blasting into space, The Gazelle appears as a flash in the corner of your eye and then is gone. The next time you’ll see him, he’ll coolly be sipping Vitalyte and downing a banana as you cross the finish line.

    The Shi-Shi: There’s a whole lot of prissiness going on here. Usually dressed to the 9s. They look like they know what they’re doing but are too concerned about perspiration ruining their outfit to really go for it. Their stride usually has some lateral motion, some wicked hip swagger and possibly some chest protrusion. The Shi-Shi/Dinosaur hybrid is fairly common. I’ve seen many. Next to The Gazelle, they are the prettiest runners, albeit for totally different reasons.

  • How to Make Exercise Fun

    OK, Vita Girl, I’ve got the shoes, I know the yoga poses, now how do I make working out fun?

    Many of us feel about exercise the way we felt about eating Brussels sprouts as a kid— an unsavory thing we have to do to get something we want. Back then, that something was probably dessert or pleasing our parents. Now, it’s looking and feeling good! But sometimes, against our best efforts, our exercise routines become downright uninspired. Boring. The boogey monster separating us from the couch and cocktail at the end of a long day.

    Like eating Brussels sprouts, much of the dread associated with exercise can be traced to adolescence. If you ever played sports, you were probably made to run as punishment (a missed shot, poorly executed routine, etc). An unlucky (and forever scarred) few of us, were also forced to weigh in for events. Those memories are ingrained, no matter how we try to convince ourselves we’ve moved past them.

    When I think of workout fun, I sometimes think of an old episode of Friends— the one where Phoebe and Rachel decide to run together in Central Park. Much to Rachel’s horror, Phoebe takes off sprinting with a type of form never before witnessed in the running community: legs kicking awkwardly, arms flailing, head bobbing side to side. At first, Rachel chastises Phoebe and refuses to run alongside her. Then she realizes how much fun it is and decides to adopt it.

    I’m not saying you should act like a goof and alienate members of your running club. I am saying you should channel your inner Phoebe! It doesn’t have to be all serious and VO2 max all the time either. If you’re focusing on calories burned, counting down the time left on your run, or worrying if you look funny doing an exercise, you’re tossing the fun factor out the window and should switch up your routine.

  • 5 Ways to Get Off Your Hide and Find Your Stride

    I’ve given a lot of attention to running in the past blogs. The reason for it is simple: 1) I love an excuse to get outside, listen to music and be alone with my thoughts; and 2) It gives me a high that’s comparable to eating a box of caramel turtle chocolates (minus the calories). But running isn’t for everyone. Some just don’t find it enjoyable. Others physically can’t because the impact aggravates join pain and old injuries. So what do you do if you want to get active, but aren’t sure how to get back in shape?  Here are 5 tips:

    1) It isn’t forever. Think of exercise as a date, a date who needs to impress you. While sticking to a regime is beneficial, it doesn’t mean you just have to do one thing. Also, the benefits of switching it up are well documented and keep you from plateauing. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find something you want to do day in and day out, your perfect heart-pounding exercise match, the yin to your yang. Until then, let them court you. Don’t settle. Don’t get stuck.

    2) Make it fun. Think back to when you were a kid. Running around outside, throwing the Frisbee, splashing in the pool, rolling down hills. You did those things because you thought they were fun. Remember? Hopping on your bike and riding to your friend’s house was an adventure. Right? So what’s stopping you from making it fun now?

    3) Go it alone or make it social. There are pros and cons to each. A partner will push you. Or they’ll show up and reinforce your I-don’t-feel-up-to-it-today attitude. Ask yourself how you’ll benefit with a partner. Do you mind letting someone see you sweat? Will you be more self-conscious with or without one? Sometimes distraction is good (Wow, did I really just run 5 miles while watching that tv show on the t.v. at the gym?), and sometimes it’s counterproductive (Gee, you’ve been talking my ear off the last hour and a half and I haven’t even broken a sweat.). The decision is yours.

    4) Make a game of it. Set small goals and document your progress. So what if you can only handle the treadclimber 15 minutes your first time out of the gate?  Or huff and puff the whole way through your first Body Pump class?  This will change. And you’re going to start feeling like a rockstar as your endurance improves.

    5) Reward yourself. This is really, really important. Been eyeing that super snazzy pair of running shoes? Been dreaming of a big bowl of clam linguine all week? By allowing yourself an occasional indulgence, you’re more likely to feel good about working out-- Like it’s less of a chore and more of an excuse to pamper yourself. And when it comes down to it, what could be more indulgent than the gift of health?

  • Yoga For Athletes - The Runners Lunge

    Hello again Vitalyte friends! So last week, I gave you some reasons why we should all partake in a little yoga in our lives, especially you athletes out there. Let's dive in and discuss the first of a few great poses you should be doing in yoga right now to help make yourself ready to workout. Introducing.... The Runner's Lunge Alright so with this pose begin in a standing position in which your feet are spaced hip's width apart. Move you right foot forward into a lunge, with your right knee bent and your left heel raised. Square your hips to the front of the room, drop your back knee to the ground and toe-heel your front foot to the side so that your right toes face at a 45 degree angle toward the front of the room. Either stay on your hands or drop your body by sinking into your hips so that your forearms rest on the ground at a 90 degree angle. Depending on how flexible you are, you can go farther. The point is to stretch your body as far as is comfortable towards the ground. After holding for a good 20 seconds, return to downward dog. Then kick your left leg back and bring it through into a left leg lunge. Repeat the above steps and you have now learned the runners lunge!

    No, why do I love this pose so much? This pose increases the strength of your hamstrings, quads and legs, it stretches your hips and glutes, provides instant energy and relaxation and relieves tension, anxiety and depression by calming the mind and bringing body awareness. This pose is so great for improving the strength of your legs and their muscles. Runners love this pose because it helps to increase running speed and endurance.

    Have I sold you yet? Seriously though, try this pose out. you will find that it will help you achieve so much more during your runs and just make you feel better overall.

    More poses to come so stick around...

  • Yoga and Running - Best Friends Forever

    Hello fellow Vitalyte fans! Let's talk about one of my favorite things - yoga and more specifically, yoga for runners - because it's something that all of you athletes out there should really start incorporating into your workout routines.

    One thing that's true about runners is that there is always a ton of wear and tear on their bodies. The constant pounding on pavement, or trail, messes with their knees, hamstrings and feet. The force of impact on each foot is about three to four times your weight, so it's honestly no wonder why so many of you are in pain. But that pain that you feel is not from the running itself, rather it's from imbalances that running causes and exacerbates.

    Fear not runner friends, you don't have to be in pain and you don't have to stop running either. You just need to add a little yoga to your life. Do so and you will be happier than a kid on Christmas morning...

    The wonderful thing about yoga is that it's goal centers around achieving internal focus and understanding one's body. As a runner, you can use yoga to balance strength, increase your range of motion and to train your body and mind. Breathing exercises in yoga will can teach you how to coordinate your breath with each movement you make. Breath awareness is also the key to reducing tension - an athlete's main handicap.

    Yoga can also help you improve your VO2 Max. Runners with a high VO2 Max have the capacity to pump large amounts of oxygen-rich blood to working muscles. Pranayama and asana conditioning helps to maximize the size of your pump and the quantity of fresh blood coursing through your body.

    Now, pain. The athlete's worst enemy. Even the most well-balanced, relaxed runners can face injury. And when one body part is off, it affects the entire rest of the body. Yoga postures can get rid of pain in any part of your body and bring that balance back to it. If you can start incorporating some yoga postures into the warm-up and cool-down portions of your workout, you will begin to see much better results.

    Stay tuned friends... in the next week, I will start introducing some great yoga poses to eliminate common athlete pains.

  • Stay Limber My Friends...

    Stretch stretch stretch! If there's one thing any athlete knows it's that stretching is just as important to a workout routine, as the working out itself. Stretching allows your muscles to stay loose and prevents injuries or strains. It also helps you keep your form while exercising, which will allow you to work out longer and acheive a lot more. I grew up as a gymnast so I definitely know all the benefits of stretching, and all the ramifications if you don't. There are definitely some things to keep in mind while stretching...

    First of all, warm up those muscles first. You need to move around a bit. I don't mean go run a marathon, but get your body warmed up. This will allow your muscles to stretch farther and keep them from tensing up.

    Now, here are the main places you should always be focusing on when stretching...

    Arms - Standing upright, reach one arm across your body and hold with the other, getting as much stretch there as you can and then switch. Stick one arm up in the air and bend at the elbow. With the other hand, reach for the hand that is hanging down and pull. Then, switch arms.

    Hamstrings - This stretch is something you could probably benefit from doing everyday. Standing upright, bend over and simply reach for your toes. Try as best as you can to keep your legs straight, but don't lock your knees.

    Quads - You may need to find something for balance with this one. Stand on one leg, bend the other leg back and hold at the ankle. Then, switch legs.

    Calves - Get into a push up position and now, sticking your rear into the air, begin stretching your calves one at a time.

    Groin stretch - In a sitting position, place the soles of your feet together so that they are touching and stick your knees out to the sides. It may be hard at first to get your knees to go closer to the ground, but it will get easier with time.

    Hip & lower back - Now that you're already on the ground, stretch one leg out and leave the other bent with your ankle resting on the ground. Reach out towards the foot of the stretched leg. You should feel a good stretch here. Now, switch legs and repeat.

    There are many other stretches you could do, if you feel up to it. Heck, it amazes me to think about how flexible I was when I was a gymnast. And yes, I would love to get back into that shape. But for now, these are the basic stretches you should be doing before working out. Make sure to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds before moving on. And as always, stay hydrated while stretching and throughout your workout to keep your muscles from cramping up. I have to throw in the customary "use Vitalyte" here, just because when it comes to a great product for keeping your muscles quenched, Vitalyte is it.

    Until next time friends... Happy exercising.

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