Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Five Core Running Exercises

Running was not so much fun when I started. Later on after few months, I found the rhythm and started logging 3-4 miles with no problem. At that point, quite ambitiously I decide to challenge myself for a half-marathon. One day during the practice run, I noticed that my stamina and determination was supporting my ambition but the legs were not. It felt like I almost hit a wall after running 5-6 miles in a stretch and going past 6 miles appeared out of my reach. I could have easily risked a back or leg injury had I not decided to consult my running coach at the gym at that point. The consultation as well as internet based research helped me discover five core exercises for runners that aren't about gaining rock-hard abs, but rather promoting injury prevention and good running performance. The best part was that I could have easily done it anywhere I like.

Start with this routine twice a week post-run. If you stick to it for at least six weeks, the research suggests you should see improvements in your running and significantly mitigate the risk of any injury.

1. Side Leg Raises: Lie on your right side with your arm extended under your head. Raise your left leg upwards as far as is oomfortable and slowly lower it back down. Complete 15 to 20 reps on each side.

2. Clamshells: Lie on your right side, but this time bend your knees, like you're getting ready to get in the fetal position. With your bent legs stacked on top of one another, open up the clamshell by lifting your left knee upwards, keeping your feet together. Complete 15 to 20 reps on each side.

3. Donkey Kicks: Get on all fours, keeping your back straight and supporting your hips. Take your bent right leg and kick it back and upwards before bringing it back to the starting position. Complete 20 to 25 reps on each side.

4. Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. With your arms at your sides, deliberately raise your butt and lower back off the floor until your body forms a diagonal line from your knees to your torso to your head. Hold for two seconds and lower back down. Complete 10 to 15 reps.

5. Planks: Get in push-up position, but instead of supporting your body with your hands,
go down to your forearms. Hold this position, making sure not to let your midsection sag towards the ground. Complete four to six reps for 30 seconds per repetition.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Running to get a tobacco free life

Nicotine is addictive, nobody can deny it. You talk to any smoker or a tobacco user about abandoning this habit and you will immediately discern that it is an extremely hard habit to break.  But running can truly help break the cycle of addiction. I don’t remember how many times I failed in my attempts to quit smoking until I took on running.  A 2007 study in the journal "Psychopharmacology" reported that 10 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity was associated with a decreased desire for nicotine. A 2008 study in "Mental Health and Physical Activity" indicated moderate exercise could decrease nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Researchers reported in 2010 in the "Journal of Sports Sciences" that moderate exercise reduces the craving for nicotine, and that running reduces this craving longer when compared to walking or no activity. 

Why?   Because running gives you something else to focus on. It is a new challenge for the smoked brain to figure out and therefore the urge for nicotine gets diluted in the process. One of my neighbors, a retired senior facilities manager at Houston Institute of Technology smoked for 45 years and then one day quit smoking after embracing the new passion of running. He has dropped 30 pounds since then and ran two ultra-marathons, a half-marathon, and some shorter races.

What is the secret?   Take one little benchmark at a time. At first, decide that every time you crave for a cigarette or tobacco, you will put on running shoes and try to run to the mailbox or any point—about 25 yards away. Quite expectedly, the first time, by the time you get there you will be all huffing and puffing and wanted to throw up. But eventually you will make the progress with more small steps. Then pick another point little farther and try to run to it, and then walk to the next one, and continue like that. Eventually you will start running around the park, and then hitting a nearby trail.

How the life will change?  The more you run, the better you will feel. Once you start logging more kilometers or miles in a week, you will notice a drastic change in your confidence level and overall personality. You will no longer gasp for breath anymore.  I can’t tell you how fresh you would feel lying on the bed and taking very long deep breaths at night for the first time, which is something you may not been able to do in years. 

It is fun, folks. And once you clinch it, you would wish that you should have done it earlier.  The more you go for running, the more you will drift away from tobacco and its withdrawal symptoms. Running is not about speed; it’s about just being out there.  Just do it without bothering for the speed or performance. Too much focus on producing results will lead to too little focus on enjoying the experience. The key is enjoyment, which will push you out of the grip of tobacco.