03-03-2015

5 Mile Treadmill Workout

I’ve been doing this treadmill workout recently because I cannot do steady pace runs on the “dreadmill” for the life of me. I GET SO BORED. Props to all you training for a spring marathon on the treadmill. 5 miles is about my limit.

So I made up an interval type run that focused on speed with some hills thrown in, which really helps pass the time. I actually had a really good 4 mile treadmill run yesterday thanks to this workout.

Anyway, here’s my 5 mile treadmill workout:

5 Mile Treadmill Workout
Something I like to do on the hill intervals is speed up for 15 seconds at the end. So if I’m running 45 seconds at 7.0 speed, in the last few seconds I’ll lower the incline back down but then crank it up to around 7.5 and run that for 15 seconds before I take that one minute break. I think that helps with feeling stronger on hills in races, because you’ll be trained to speed up at the top once it flattens out as opposed to slowing down or walking.

You can play around with how many of those 2 minute intervals you want to do or at what pace. Same with the hills. With the hill intervals, just pick something you can hold for 1 minute for the first one (challenging but not TOO challenging), and that last interval should really be killer for 30 seconds.

Let me know if you try this out, I always like hearing feedback!

What types of treadmill workouts do you do? Are you able to just do steady state runs?

Some of you have suggested podcasts instead of music…if you listen to podcasts please leave me some suggestions!

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03-02-2015

Week 9/52 of Training – 2015 + Workout Playlist 14

Last week’s training wasn’t the best so I’m not even going to go through day by day haha. I ran twice. It was just a busy week and the weekend was also packed, so it just didn’t happen. Oh well, this week will be better!

I did a track workout (well, on the treadmill) Tuesday, which was 6×400 meters at 8.2 (7:19 pace). This is slowly getting a bit easier…it’s still super challenging but the weird thing is that now when I run at my 5K race pace (8:20ish) that feels so much slower! I guess that’s a good thing :) I’m running a 5K on March 14 so we’ll see what kind of shape I’m in.

I also did a tempo workout on Thursday for 5 miles. I’ll be sharing that treadmill workout this week because it really helps the time go by faster. It’s a mix of intervals and hill runs. 

Anyway, today I wanted to share a new workout playlist! I’ve been obsessed with “Honey, I’m Good” by Andy Grammer. I probably play it once every day lol. Listen to it! It’s so catchy. The rest of my picks are typical top 40 songs, but those are the ones that pump me up the most during runs.

newplaylist14

Check out this dance crew dancing to 7/11. I wish I had moves like that! One of my 2015 goals is to take a hip hop dance class…we’ll see how that turns out ;)

What songs are on your current playlist? Please share in the comments so I can add it to mine!

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02-26-2015

Does The Fat Burning Zone Still Exist?

Last week I was at a spin class, and the instructor had us do a steady ride for a song or two, and said we’d be burning more calories in this aerobic pace because we were in the fat burning zone. Then she said we should come to her endurance ride because it would be 90 minutes in the fat burning zone. I was thinking to myself, “Wait what? Is the fat burning zone still a thing?” I haven’t heard that terminology in forever, so I started doing some research…aka Googling :-P

Does the fat burning zone still exist? Or is HIIT better?

From what I remembered, the fat burning zone was maintain your heart rate at a certain rate in order to burn the most fat/calories. So why is this the case, supposedly? Here’s a great explanation from Active:

The fat-burning zone is a concept that the body burns a greater amount of fat at lower-intensity aerobic exercise than it does at higher intensities. Actually, the body burns a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities. At lower intensities the body may burn 50 percent of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35 percent. But at higher intensities you burn way more total calories—and more fat calories overall—than you do at lower intensities.

Very interesting. And that’s what I was thinking in the class. We did a lot of hill rides and sprints and in my mind, that probably burns more calories overall than a steady pace. Furthermore, us runners know that the more you do something at a certain pace/rate, the more your body adapts. If you’re in the aerobic zone for every workout for months, eventually you will plateau. Speaking of plateau, I wrote about a few ways to beat that pesky plateau a while ago.

Let’s also talk about the afterburn effect. You may have read in plenty of fitness magazines that the reason HIIT (high intensity interval training) is so beneficial is because of the afterburn. For hours after you’re done exercising, your body continues to burn calories, whereas after aerobic exercises, there isn’t much of an afterburn. In a study done by the University of Maine, “A low intensity exercise group cycled at a steady rate of 3.5 minutes. The higher intensity exercise group required three 15 second sprints as fast as the subjects could run.”

What were the results?

The cycling group burned 29 calories vs. 4 calories for the sprinting group during the exercise. But when you take into account the calories burned after exercise, or the afterburn effect, the numbers look much different – 39 calories burned for the cycling group vs. 65 calories burned for the sprinting group. A surprising 95% of the total calorie burn occurred after the sprinting exercise!2 Keep in mind the cycling group exercised for almost 5x longer than the sprint group (3.5 minutes vs. 45 seconds).

I’ll admit, sometimes when I do a quick hill sprint session on the treadmill and I’m done in 15-20 minutes, I feel like I should keep exercising. But it’s clear that HIIT training really does have more “bang for your buck.” Why slog along on a treadmill for hours (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration) when you could do circuit training or HIIT and be done in 20-30 minutes (and reap the same benefits if not better)?

Obviously, this all doesn’t relate to those of us who are training for a long distance race. That is always the conundrum I have. I want to burn more fat and get leaner, but I’m be training for a half marathon or a marathon, so long, steady state cardio is my life at the moment, other than track workout or tempo days. Though I have started doing circuit training for strength workouts that are high intensity and last 30 minutes. I’ve loved it so far, and it’s a good change of pace from my usual lifting routine. Here’s an example of a workout I do.

Have you heard the term “fat burning zone” used recently?

What do you think of it vs. HIIT?

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02-25-2015

How Do I Get Into Crow Pose?

This is something I have not mastered yet. I’ve been doing yoga sporadically throughout the past couple of years, and my flexibility has really increased. This year my goal is to practice more challenging poses, like crow pose and handstands (I’m no where near being able to do a handstand).

I can occasionally get into crow pose. Proof:

Crow Pose
But the problem is I can literally only hold it for 2 seconds before my hip flexor cramps up. Why does this happen?? It’s just gets tight and feels like a Charlie horse. I have tried the little tricks like placing a block under my forehead so that mentally I don’t feel like I’m going to topple over, and I’ve tried looking a few inches in front of me as opposed to straight down. Still can’t get into the pose!

So for all of you who are working on this like me, I found some more tips online to share with you (and that I’ll be trying). And if you CAN get into crow pose (jealous), here’s an article on how to make it even more challenging.

Tips For Getting Into Crow Pose

  • Place a block under your toes so that you’re more lifted (Peanut Butter Runner) – This makes sense. Perhaps this will help my mental block of feeling like I’m going to fall over.
  • Start in tripod headstand (POP Sugar) – I’m not even sure I can do this, but with the help of a wall, maybe I could and then get into crow?
  • Jump into it from downward dog (POP Sugar) – This seems kind of scary but could make sense…I’ll try not to crack open my head ;)
  • Use the block as support (FitFluential) – When I placed the block in front of my head it was mainly for mental support, it wasn’t touching my head. This video shows you how to use the block as an extra source of support by placing your forehead on it before putting your knees on your arms. Interesting!
  • Purposely fall forward (Antranik.org) – I like this tip. He suggest placing a pillow in front of your face and purposely falling forward. This helps you get over your fear of falling and allows you to feel when your body will go too far forward.
  • “Flex the bananas out of your abs.” (Antranik.org) – I don’t think I’ve been doing this. I think I’ve just been trying to balance. (He also shows how to jump into crow from downward dog)

Now I’m really excited to work on this. I need to go back to the yoga studio. I had bought 10 classes over the summer and probably still have 7 left. It’s just hard to balance yoga, cross training and lifting with running! How do you do it?

As I mentioned, I do also want to be able to do a handstand eventually. So I think I’m going to try this March yoga challenge by @beachyogagirl on Instagram.

handstand
Any tips you could provide me with would be so helpful and appreciated! Goal is to be able to do both of these by the end of 2015 ;)

Are you able to do crow pose and handstand?

What’s a challenging yoga pose for you?

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02-24-2015

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

Today I want to talk about proper exercise form. A friend of mine just joined Crossfit and was telling me about an incident. Now before I start, I’m not bashing Crossfit. But I am bashing personal trainers who don’t teach proper form and who don’t modify exercises for beginners.

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

My friend is someone who is new to lifting…I personally don’t think she should be thrown into a barbell deadlift right away, but she was. The next day she was telling me how her back was killing her and she couldn’t even stand up straight because she was so sore. I asked her how much weight she did. She said she asked one trainer who said, “Ummm…just do 95 lbs,” which she knew would be too heavy, so she asked another trainer who said 70 or 75 lbs, I can’t remember.

There are some major problems here. One being, why is she doing a barbell deadlift as a beginner as opposed to learning proper form with lighter weights first? Two, what are those weights??? And why are these trainers just throwing around random numbers?? She sucked it up and did it, and then couldn’t walk up-right for a few days because her lower back was killing her, which usually means proper form was not used during the deadlift.

This actually happened to me once too. I went to a group bootcamp class and one of the exercises was a barbell deadlift. The trainer made it heavy enough for the strongest person in the class but it was way too heavy for me, which I expressed. But he told me to try it anyway. So I did (and couldn’t go down far enough either but he kept telling me to go all the way down), and I couldn’t walk for a few days because my back was killing me.

I’ve written about proper form cues for deadlifts before, but I want to talk about it again. Yes, the deadlift does recruit lower back muscles, but your lower back shouldn’t be that sore afterwards. You should mainly feel it in your hamstrings and glutes.

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • As you lower the weight, keep your core tight, which will keep you from only using your lower back.
  • As you lift the weight back up, focus on squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your back flat throughout the exercise.
  • Keep your neck neutral, don’t look up and crane your neck. Look a few inches ahead of you or down – whatever keeps your neck in line with your spine.

There’s nothing wrong with starting with a lighter weight or modifying exercises. And that’s what personal trainers are for!! That’s what this rant is about. The trainers in the experiences above should have realized that the weight was too heavy, and also been there to provide form cues for my friend so that this didn’t happen. It makes me nervous that as someone who is a total beginner to lifting (she’s only really done exercise DVDs) she’s thrown into barbell exercises and Olympic exercises.

Here are a few glute/hamstring exercises that you can do as you build up to a full deadlift:

  • Glute/hip raises –> make it more challenging by adding a plate or barbell onto your hips
  • Romanian dumbbell deadlifts –> progress it by increasing dumbbell weight until you feel comfortable with this exercise
  • Romanian barbell deadlifts could be the next step from the above exercise.
  • Trap bar deadlifts are a good way to take some load off the lower back.

I’d say my favorite would be Romanian dumbbell deadlifts. Easy to progress and you’ll really feel it building strength in your hamstrings.

If you don’t have a trainer, just do some research on how to progress. Trainers I follow with great tips are Tony Gentilcore and Bret Contreras (“The Glute Guy”).

If you do have a trainer, make sure you hold them accountable. Speak up if you’re afraid something is too heavy or too challenging for you. There is no shame in that! Better to be safe than injured. Ask them questions about the exercise. What muscles should it recruit? Where should you feel it? What’s the point of doing it? What are some modifications?

Okay, rant over ;)

If you’re a Crossfitter, how does your gym help those who are totally new to lifting?

Have you had a bad personal trainer experience?

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02-23-2015

Training week 8/52 – 2015

And just like that, it’s already the last week of February. Is it spring yet??

This past week was pretty good workout wise. Ran 5 miles for the first time since November and felt great. Also ran outside for the first time all winter! Sunday was a nice 40 degrees – perfect for running.

Here’s the week in training:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: 3 mile treadmill run. I wanted to run a 5K the weekend before but didn’t end up doing it because it was cold and snowing. So today I figured I’d try to see what pace I could hold for 5K. Well I held my 5K pace for a mile and a half and then had to turn it down to 9:15 pace. Running workouts on a treadmill is so hard for me mentally! I just can’t wait until I can get back on the track. I also wore my new TrainWithMarc shirt – I love the color and logo! If you want to order one, check out Coach Marc’s website. Also did a short lifting session post-run.

twmshirt
Thursday – 5 mile treadmill run. Did a speed/hill workout which I’ll write about this week because it really helped those miles fly by.

Friday - Spin class. I almost didn’t go because I was feeling so tired in the morning but dragged myself there and felt great after. That quote, “I really regret that workout said no one ever” is so true. Tough class with a lot of hill climbs but I biked 20 miles this time – 2 more miles than last week!

Saturday - Off

Sunday – 4 miles…outside!! It’s funny how 40 degrees feels warm after weeks of single digits or sub-zero temps. My mom and I ran outside and felt surprisingly good for not having ran regularly in months. I think the speed workouts we’ve been doing on the treadmill have really helped.

running

This was our first real week back to running…I know it’s not crazy miles or anything but I like building up slow so as to not kill my shins. 12 miles of running plus “6 miles” of cross training (spin). Not bad I say! My shins are feeling a bit sore but that’s expected since I really didn’t run more than 2 times a week (and only 2-3 miles) from November-January. Still not 100% sure of my spring half plan…but I do know I want to enter the lottery for the Chicago Marathon this fall!

How’d your last week of training go?

Have you ran Chicago Marathon or Marine Corps Marathon? Thoughts? Please share!

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02-19-2015

How To Organize Your Workout Gear

If you’re like me, your fitness stuff makes up about 90% of your wardrobe (and laundry). I don’t really have a “system” on organizing all of it, which is what inspired me to write this post and see what others are doing. My system right now is just having a drawer for gym shirts, shorts and sports bras. And it ends up getting pretty messy since I dig through it each day to find the write outfit. So the research commenced to get some good tips from other runners and fitness lovers! So let’s talk about how to organize your workout gear:

How To Organize Your Workout Gear

Tanks & Shirts

Use shower hooks. A great idea I saw on Instagram is from @kariofitness:

 

A photo posted by Kari Merrill (@kariofitness) on


She uses shower curtain hooks to put on hangers and hang her tanks and shirts. Another instagrammer commented that in order for them to not slide around, she puts the hooks through rubber bands on the hanger. Genius I say! Easy enough to get shirts off the hooks and put them back on.

Stack vertically instead of horizontally. Why have I never thought of this? This is a great tip from Running On Lentils!

tops-1
Photo source

This will totally solve my problem of digging through my drawers, because I can just grab and go. Click through on the photo to read her full post on organization.

Roll up your shirts. If you ran out of drawer space, you can use storage bins for your shirts. I knew rolling clothes up = less space taken up, because I always do this when I pack for a trip, but never thought to do it with my workout gear. This is a tip recommended by MCM Mama Runs and Confessions of a Mother Runner. Here’s MCM Mama’s photo:

skirt-sports-skirts-capris-tights-1024x341

Photo source

Capris/Pants/Shorts

Basically the same tenants can apply here – roll them up in bins, store in your drawers or hang them. Some people use the pants hangers for their capris but I hate unclipping and clipping them in. I think for me, the best thing will be stacking vertically in my shelves.

Headbands

Use an over the door rack. You know, the ones that are for shoes or beauty? Store your headbands in those in order to quickly access them.

Use a bin or bag. Running on Lentils suggests having a separate bag for headbands and hats/visors. Yes, you might have to dig around a bit, you’ll know where they are and you can keep them hidden away in your closet.

How cool is this idea I found on Pinterest? (click through didn’t lead me to a website so I don’t know what the source is, sorry!)

145ccee743c67893257593b96e2997b2
 I found this one on Pinterest too from The Scacci House:

headbands
Photo source

I think that might be the winner for me! A ribbon stuck to the wall with some clothespins = genius idea to hang your headbands, and other stuff too like gloves!

A random tip I liked from Straighten Up With Kristen (full article below) is to create gym outfits and put them together in your drawers that way. And to have an extra outfit and sneakers in your car at all times. I can’t count how many times I’ve been out and want to go to the gym but don’t have my gear, or go to the gym and realize I forgot something like a sports bra.

Thanks to these bloggers for being organized (unlike me) and sharing their organization tips!

Here are a few other helpful links that might help you with spring cleaning:

What tips would you add on organizing your workout gear?

Are you generally an organized person? Because I’m definitely not :-P

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02-18-2015

My WeightWatchers Review

For the past month or so, I’ve been trying to follow WeightWatchers in order to improve my eating and see some results from the gym. Nutrition has always been the hardest part for me when it comes to being healthy. I mean, for the most part I eat healthy. My main meals always include good sources of protein, fat and healthy carbs. It’s the afternoon and evening sweet cravings that get me! I never, ever get cravings for anything salty, like chips, but my sweet tooth is ridiculous. I’ve been trying to rein that in.

I really like WeightWatchers because you’re not restricted as to what you can or can’t eat. I had tried paleo and Whole30 in the past but it was just too restrictive for me. I would do it for a month but just couldn’t wait to get back to including things like oatmeal or rice in my diet. It just wasn’t for me.

WeightWatchers Review
I’m not saying WeightWatchers lets you eat anything you want…there is accountability. Basically, you get a certain number of “points” you can eat per day, which you need to calculate (I use this website). I haven’t officially joined WW yet, so I have to use websites to figure out my points (as opposed to their own website and app, which you need to pay for). I will probably sign up in the near future, just because it will make things much easier.

Anyway, you get your points value, and that’s what you can eat. So you can go ahead and eat that slice of pizza, but just know it will cost you 7 points. Vegetables and fruits have 0 points. You also get activity points (extra points if you workout that day, which you can choose whether or not to use) and a weekly allowance of 49 extra points (if you think you might splurge, like I did this past weekend at a wedding). You don’t need to use those 49 points at all if you don’t want to.

So far, I’ve lost 5 lbs in about a month, and that’s without following it 100% (weekends I’m a bit more flexible with myself). I had written up a review last year about the 21 Day Fix nutrition plan, and I’d say this is kind of comparable. You can eat what you want, as long as you track it when it comes to your points (or containers for 21 Day fix). I do plan on posting results once I finish my workout plan I’m testing out for my ebook, and continue to follow WW.

Let’s outline some Pros and Cons, in case you’re thinking about WeightWatchers:

Pros

  • Flexible eating – nothing is off limits (like grains in the paleo diet)
  • Pretty easy to calculate points. You pretty much eat the same things day in and day out (at least I do), so you’ll quickly memorize point values.
  • Easy to follow without the paid version, and even easier with paid. The paid app gives you point values for restaurants, and allows you to scan items, search for foods/dishes, etc.
  • I like the 49 weekly points you get in case you do want to splurge. I am all about moderation. If I want a cookie, I’ll have it. If I go to an event or outing, I don’t want to feel deprived.
  • Activity points are great too because the more you’re active, the more points you get per day (if you want to use them). I get 26 points, but each day I workout I get an extra 4-6 points.
  • Paid version = weekly meetings. My friend loved going to meetings and talking about issues relating to losing weight and food with others. Also a great way to meet some like-minded people.
  • Provides a different way to look at food, at least for me. I now think twice before getting a pastry from Starbucks (a small caramel square is 11 points!) and eat more vegetables and fruits because they’re 0 points and are a great way to curb hunger.

Cons

  • If you do it on your own, like me, calculating points can be a pain. Not necessarily the simple stuff (like a granola bar), but restaurant meals (how many points are in a Chipotle chicken bowl??)
  • Can also be a pain to know points for things you make. I made eggplant parm with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but didn’t measure out that stuff, so no clue how many extra points that had. I usually just guesstimate.
  • At first, you will probably feel hungry a lot like I did. I was used to eating whatever, whenever. Even though I was eating healthy snacks throughout the day, I was snacking whenever I wanted to. Following WW meant I had to have times to eat and snack, so that I didn’t use up all my points by noon. It does take some getting used to, but if you go over, no worries, that’s what your 49 points are for.

I really like this plan, and it’s probably a nutrition plan I’ve followed for the longest time. I wanted to share with you in case you’re interested or are looking for a way to hold yourself accountable with food. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d tried WeightWatchers too!

Do you have any WeightWatchers recipes you could share?

Have you/do you follow a nutrition plan, or do you just go with the flow each day?

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02-18-2015

Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

In the 2 years I’ve been working at the community college, I’ve never gotten stuck in traffic like I did today. Total standstill! And I thought today was Thursday…bummer :-P

Here are some links for you to catch up on today!

Featured: Tangy Crockpot Turkey Meatballs (SlimSanity)

tangy-meatballs-2-2
 How good do those look? I love any kind of meatballs, and the fact that you can make it in the crockpot is even better. I’ve been meaning to use my crockpot more but just haven’t found more recipes to try (I’m sick of the ones I make over and over again), so I’ll definitely have to try this one out! Yes, I’ve been trying to eat more meatless, but about 1-2 times a week I do eat some sort of meat. I’ll make an exception for this one ;)

  • Game Day Veggie Burgers (Her Heartland Soul) – I used to think veggie burgers would taste gross, but I really enjoy them now. My favorite are the chickpea burgers from Morning Star. This recipe looks delicious!
  • 5 Healthy Sandwich Swaps (Mom to Mom Nutrition) – Sandwiches are my favorite lunch, and these are all great ideas. Recently I’ve started swapping out turkey for more veggies, like chickpea salad. Though my favorite will always be melted cheese on turkey and toasted bread.
  • 10 Healthy Food Swaps (Fitful Focus) – Love mayo? Use avocados instead. Or use blended frozen bananas for that ice cream craving (still need to try this myself actually).
  • Breakfast Burrito Bowl with Sweet Potato Noodles (Food Faith & Fitness) – I use my Veggetti to make zucchini noodles and haven’t tried sweet potato noodles yet. I love sweet potatoes!
  • 10 Ways To Drink More Water (Jill Conyers) – This is your hydration reminder!

Have you made spiralized recipes? Share your favorite one in the comments so I can try it!

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02-17-2015

Upper Body Strength For Runners

Random start to this post but I had a good idea for a post I wanted to write the other day, and now I can’t remember what it was for the life of me! So this one will have to do ;)

I’ve noticed that gaining upper body strength has really helped my running. We all know how important core strength is, but upper body strength is just as important. Your arms are what propel you as you’re running, especially during accelerations and/or sprinting to that finish line.

For me, lifting for biceps and triceps isn’t my favorite thing to do. I much prefer exercises like pull-ups, bench press, etc. which hit those bigger muscles. And I believe those are key exercises to help you with your running as well.

Upper Body Strength For Runners

Here are a few exercises to incorporate into your strength routine:

Rows

My favorite type of row is a supported bent over dumbbell row.

Bent Over Row
Photo Source

Single arm (and leg for that matter) exercises utilize more core strength which is obviously a plus. A few cues I’d give for this exercises are:

  • Keep your back flat throughout, don’t let it sag when you lower the weight.
  • As you lower the weight, don’t use momentum to row it back up. I see people lower and let there shoulder and back go down with the weight in order to almost swing it back up. Keep your torso steady as you lower the weight, then before you row up focus on squeezing your shoulder blade/the muscles in that area to row up. Those are the muscles you want to recruit. Try to keep them “flexed” throughout the exercise.

If you have a cable machine, this exercise will really help your running, since it mimics arm strength. I was doing this one about 2-3 times per week:

 

A video posted by pattyrivas13 (@pattyrivas13) on


You want to pick a challenging weight but not one that will cause your torso to move as you pull or let the weight go. Once again, focus on using your back muscles as you pull in (think “squeeze your shoulder blades”)Pull in with force, then let it go slowly (count 3 seconds). That explosive movement will help your arm swing during that last sprint of a track workout or race. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps to start, and each week try to add more weight.

Those are my 2 favorite exercises for upper body strength relating to running, but here are a few others to incorporate into your routine:

  • Pull-ups (assisted or unassisted)
  • Negative pull-ups
  • TRX rows
  • Barbell or dumbbell overhead press
  • Push-ups (great for core strength too)
  • Bent-over barbell row
  • Inverted row
  • Lying barbell tricep extension (video) –> much more effective than tricep kickbacks and other tricep exercises.
  • Single arm dumbbell overhead press
  • Tricep rope extension

I forget what video I was watching but it was one of Mary Cain doing a track workout, and her coach (Alberto Salazar) was yelling, “Use your arms! Use your arms!” Next time you feel you’re getting tired during a run, workout or race, pump your arms harder. You’ll find that it will help you maintain your pace.

Do you incorporate these exercises into your strength routine? 

What’s your mental tip for when you are really fatigued at the end of a track workout or race but want to finish strong?

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