Monday, January 24, 2011

January's Word of the Month

Ok, I admit it: I’m a convert.

“To what?” you might ask. To daily core and general strength exercises.

I’m not going to start preaching or drop a Tony Little infomercial on you, but, people, believe me when I tell you: This. Stuff. Works.

When a team is skidding, you often hear coaches revert to the time honored cliché: back to basics.

While I wouldn’t call my recent injury bout a skid, I certainly wouldn’t shy away from calling it a “less than ideal start to the new year.” Like any dedicated athlete, though, I didn’t want to sit idly by, let all that previous hard work go for naught, and do my best Jabba the Hut impression. Rather, I’ve taken to active rehab…trying to strengthen the areas that I could still work and will ultimately improve my running once I can return, i.e. now.

If I had to give January a word (and I must, otherwise the meaning of this post is lost), and not a four-letter word that might get a bar of soap jammed in my mouth, it would be this: elemental.


Rather than getting “back to the basics” of running, I’ve tried to incorporate exercises into my daily routine that coach Jay Johnson (the same Jay Johnson from the book “Running with the Buffaloes”) calls elemental to every runner.

These are simple core exercises targeted at the hips, glutes, abs, quads, hammies…you get where I’m going here, the parts that make our running-selves work.

I ran across these exercises about a year ago in an issue of the Running Times; however, I never did them with as much dedication as I do today. Really, it began over the summer, but I’d only do each workout following a run, whereas now, I do them whether it’s a running, lifting, or resting day.

The exercises themselves are fairly simple. In fact, the most “elemental” exercise, is a series of leg lifts a la the old-school Jane Fonda workout tapes. I can remember walking in on my mother in the family room bouncing around to Jane Fonda. I still wear the emotional scars (just kidding, mom. Love you!). But I digress….

Though they’re simple, they burn! And you quickly realize just how weak and neglected those areas are.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that while running can be so beneficial for your health, you have to take care of the parts that make the machine work. The first time I saw my ortho he asked, “Do you do anything weight-wise to make your legs stronger?” I flashed a cocky smile and said, “I run hill repeats.”

Six months later, I was back in his office.

I now see his point.

So, whether I’ve just come in from a run or am decompressing in front of the TV, I’ll take an extra 5-10 minutes to do these “elemental” exercises. Now that I’m laced up again, I can tell that, while the stamina is taking a bit more time to come back, the strength and mechanics are there.

As bad as I want to pound the electrolytes and dive mouth first into a PB-smothered bagel at the end of a long run or speed workout, I take those extra five minutes to get this dynamic cool down done.

Check out the podcast series.

To ward off that empty hunger for a few more minutes, I picture myself cresting Heartbreak Hill. Mile 21 becomes but a flash as I go by throwing waves to the BC kids. Five extra minutes a day for that?



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