02-08-2017

My Favorite Stretching Exercises

Hi all – long time no see (chat?)!

If you follow me on Instagram (@pattyrivas13), you’ve seen I’ve been sharing some of my favorite stretches. Well, I wanted to share them here as well and talk a bit about the benefits of stretching.

Try these stretching exercises!

Re-Energize

Even if you don’t have time for a full yoga class, doing a few stretches at your desk can help increase circulation, and give you an all-natural boost of energy. (Here’s an article I found: The 5 Best Stretches For Desk Sitters)

You can also do a few gentle stretches when you wake up. I like a cross-legged seated twist or forward fold. 

Increase Range of Motion

My mom does not want to do yoga, even though she’s the most stiff person in the world. I keep telling her to do it, but she doubts that at her age she will get more flexible. This is just not true! Even with sporadic yoga classes and stretching after runs, my flexibility has increased tons over the years. Granted, I’m not like those yogis you see on Instagram, but I’m proud that I can now go all the way down in pigeon pose.

Doing stretches daily after runs, when you’re warm, will help increase flexibility and range of motion. Better range of motion = better mobility = less change of injury. When my PT started giving my exercises to increase my ankle and calf range of motion, it greatly helped my shin splint situation.

Relax The Mind

Doing a few stretches before bed can help you to relax your mind and de-stress. Just like you started the day with gentle stretching, you can end it with gentle stretching as well. Focus on each muscle you’re stretching, and then end with a good savasana/corpse pose :) Or, an exercise I like is to lay down, tense up a muscle group (let’s say your quads), and then release. Really focus on how your muscles are feeling, and releasing all of that tension. Start with your toes and move all the way up to your face.

Cool Down

Lastly, stretching is extremely important after workouts. Stretching and foam rolling (stay tuned for a foam rolling video coming this week). First foam roll, then stretch.

The videos I posted so far on my Instagram are all stretches I do on a daily basis post-exercise. Even if you only do 2-3 stretches afte a run…it’s better than nothing. And if you have to choose one, definitely go with pigeon pose!

Here are some stretches I’ve posted so far – make sure to follow me for a daily stretch through the month of February!

 

A video posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

This one is an amazing quad and hip flexor stretch. Make it more challenging by putting your back foot on a swiss ball.  

 

A video posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

This one is a great stretch for your inner thighs. Rock back and forth for a good dynamic stretch.

 

A video posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

Pigeon pose is my absolute favorite! If you aren’t yet at this level, keep an eye out on my Instagram later today for a modification. This is an amazing glute stretch and hip opener.

If you don’t stretch, I urge you to do just a few stretches after your exercises. You’ll feel better, and it’s a great way to cool the body down after a hard workout. 

Next, I’ll be talking about foam rolling and including a handy video :-) Stay tuned!

How often do you stretch?

What are your go-to stretches if you had to pick 2?

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05-04-2016

6 Basic Yoga Poses For Beginners

I went to a yoga class with my friend yesterday. It was a last minute decision, and since we were so rushed to get to class, I didn’t really get to fully explain the class or anything (it was her first yoga class ever). Afterwards she said she would have enjoyed it more if she knew the poses and didn’t feel totally clueless as to what the yoga teacher was talking about – which is totally understandable…and which is what led me to this post.

I wanted to highlight some of the basic yoga poses that are done in almost every yoga class, so that if you’ve never been to a yoga class before, you sort of know what to expect. You can also do a few online yoga videos before going, in order to feel more comfortable. 

The yoga instructor was super nice, and let her know that everyone starts somewhere – which is true of many things in the fitness world. So often we are intimidated or scared to start something…whether it’s going to yoga, or joining a running club, or going to the gym. No one was an expert the first time they showed up to any of these things.

So anyway, here are 6 basic yoga poses for beginners :)

6 Basic Yoga Poses To Know Before Your First Yoga Class! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Child’s Pose

I actually don’t really like this pose too much, but it’s a restorative pose, and one that we go into when we are taking a short break in between flows. You can go into child’s pose at any time during the class if you need a break. You can either do knees together or knees apart. I like to reach  my fingers out as far as possible, or you can rest your bands behind you by your feet.

Photo source

Low Push-up To Up Dog

Low push-up (or chaturanga) into up dog is part of almost every flow in a yoga class. If you’re not able to do a low push-up yet (like me) you can skip it and just go into downward facing dog, which I’ll talk about in a second. So here is low push-up:

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and from this pose you flow into upward facing dog:

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I have a really tough time with this flow because I can’t yet get low enough in low push-up, but I am working on it! Once you’re in upward dog, you will go right into downward facing dog usually, so I’ll talk about that next!

Downward Facing Dog

From up-dog, you curl your toes under and then basically stick your butt up into the sky. You want to maintain a flat back. If you need to bend your knees to keep your back flat, then do so. Your down-dog should look something like this, depending on your flexbility:

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If you need to modify it, it can look like this:

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This is also used as a break sometimes in between certain poses, or as the beginning of different flows (like downward dog into lunges, etc. which I’ll talk about in a second). Notice how their backs are flat and it is one straight line from their butt to the crown of their heads. That is key!

Warrior Poses

Warrior 1,2, and 3 are usually all done within a class. Definitely 1 and 2. So let’s go over them. Here’s Warrior 1, which is basically a lunge with your hands overhead:

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Basically, throughout any pose or sequence, you want to make sure your neck and spine are in a neutral position. You don’t want to be slouching or hunched over. I always like the cue “chest up, shoulders up.” Ok so moving on to Warrior 2…

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Something my yoga instructor has been saying a lot to me about this pose is to make sure your ribs don’t collapse. In this pose, many people tend to bend at the ribs, instead of getting deeper into the lunge. So as you lower down, keep your ribs and spine straight up. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t doing this until the instructor came over and straightened me out. Only bend at the knee – it is so challenging but such a great leg and glute exercise! And here’s the last one, Warrior 3:

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This woman makes it look easy! I have a lot of trouble in this pose (and any balancing pose haha). But definitely a great one, especially for runners. As always, spine and neck should be straight. Really engage your core and plant your foot down. If you fall out of it, no problem, just get back into it. In most classes I am always falling all over the place :-P

Triangle Pose

I’m not yet flexibile enough to do this pose without blocks – which is a good point to address: use blocks if you have to! There is no shame in that. They really help get you into certain poses. Most yoga studios provide them for you. If you’re unsure how to use them, you can as your instructor before class. For this specific pose, I put the block on the inside of my foot and place my hand on it for support, but those who are more flexible will be able to reach down to the floor. Always remember to hinge at the hip. My instructor says the first movement is, “reach out as if you’re going to shake someone’s hand” then keep reaching until you can’t reach anymore and THEN hinge at the hip and lower yourself down, keeping your spine straight. If it bends at all, then you need blocks. See how this woman’s torso is totally straight?

Photo source

Pigeon Pose

Ahhh, my favorite pose. I do this one after all of my runs. It’s a great hip opener and glute stretch. Let me show you a few different variations. So this is full on pigeon pose:

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You can also place your head on the floor, as long as your hips stay squared off (not leaning to one side). If this is too deep of a stretch for you, here are two modifications:

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Or you can lie on your back and do it this way:

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Pull your knee in and you will still feel just as much of a stretch. Build up to pigeon pose.

So hopefully outlining a few basic yoga poses will help you before you go to your first class! Don’t feel intimidated at all. Instructors are there to help you, align you and show you the right way to do each move. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask before or after class.

Oh and every yoga class ends with you laying on your back with your eyes closed and relaxing for a bit…so enjoy! :-)

What are your favorite yoga poses if you’re a yogi?

Have you ever gone to your first fitness class and felt clueless?

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05-27-2015

5 Things You Can Do To Be A Better Runner Right Now

If you’re a runner, you are probably trying to consistently improve. You know certain things, like building up mileage or nailing a PR, take time. However, there are things you can start doing today that will immediately impact your running. Let’s take a look at what those things are :)

Start doing these 5 things today to become a better runner!

Hip Openers

Most runners have tight hip flexors…it’s a common complaint. But tight hips can lead to a myriad of problems and biomechanical issues like lower back pain. When your hip flexors are tight, it can cause anterior pelvic tilt (your lower back arches, belly sticks), which is what can lead to back pain.

Hip flexors are usually tight because most of us sit all day in an office chair, which leads to tightening and shortening of the hip flexors, and lengthening and weakening of the glutes. Stretch your hips and do glute activating exercises people! ;)

A few of my favorite hip openers are: the usual one, where you lunge forward, put a knee on the floor and lean forward, pigeon pose (or modified pigeon pose), and butterfly. If you only have time for a few stretches after a run, make it a series of hip openers.

Yoga

Going along with the above, start doing yoga! At first you might feel a bit awkward and unnatural, but it is a great way to increase strength, flexibility and balance…which are all so important in running. Once you start practicing regularly, you’ll notice that yoga will improve your range of motion. I used to not even be able to get into pigeon pose, and now I can do it with my forehead on the floor. And I was only doing yoga like 2-3 times a week!

We all have muscle imbalances, and running can exacerbate that. Yoga will help point out those imbalances to you so you can work on them. For example, I know that my left foot can’t balance in tree pose – I’m falling all over the place. My right foot has no problem and I can stand there forever. This is an imbalance I’m trying to work on, especially if running is a series of single foot strikes! Here are 3 yoga poses you can start doing today.

Core Work

This is the number one thing I need to work on. I told you guys last week about doing the Tone It Up Bikini Abs routine and not even being able to finish it. Yikes. A strong core is what maintains your posture and keeps you running strong. A lack of core strength can cause improper running mechanics, which can lead to injuries. When a certain muscle group is weak, it means another muscle group is compensating for that weakness and overworking. Apparently, 90% of runners have weak abs!

Don’t be a statistic (speaking to myself as well here) – work on your core! We know planks are an excellent core exercise. If you don’t want to do a video, at least throw in 3-4 exercises after your runs. Here are 4 key core exercises you can start doing.

Single Leg Training

Squats, squats, squats. And maybe deadlifts. That’s usually what people think of when they hear “leg day.” But runners also need to throw in some different exercise that directly correlates with running – aka single leg exercises.

Single leg exercises not only work your legs, but also your core, since it is a balancing act. According to Active:

Single-leg balance training teaches you to isolate and strengthen specific balance muscles while improving your reaction time. Only when muscles are balanced can the body run fast and efficient for long periods of time.

Something I have yet to master is the single leg squat…I can probably squat down like 5 inches. But one of my favorite exercises is the single leg deadlift/reach, or add in dumbbells to make it more challenging. OR do a single leg deadlift into a row to throw in some upper body action too.

Only have time for one exercise? Do a single leg balance, as Jenny Hadfield suggests. I start with 30 seconds and once that is easier I move on up. I’ve also done single leg balances on a bosu ball, which is obviouslt more challenging. Once either of those feels too easy, try doing them with your eyes closed. 

Strides

I remember doing strides at the end of runs during high school cross country, and I still do them to this day. Strides are accelerations for about 20-30 seconds. 

Strides help you work on your running form and mechanics. You can really focus on your form when you’re only running for a short period of time. Focus on quick foot turnover and pumping your arms. Strides help you learn how to quickly move your feet, which is key at the end of a race. They also help stretch out your legs after a run, and add some speed to your training runs without taxing your body like a track workout. 

When doing strides, start off at your normal pace, speed up to about 90% max, then gradually slow down. Don’t abruptly start or stop. I usually do an amount equal to what I ran. For example, 3 strides after a 3 miler, 6 strides after a 6 miler. Start with 3 after your runs and gradually increase.

Like I mentioned, focus on quick foot turnover, and also on keeping everything relaxed. Really focus on how your muscles feel. Are your arms and shoulders tense? Is your face tense? Are your fists balled up? Relaaaxxxxxxx everything and work on remembering that during the home stretch of your next race.

Sure a lot of things take time when it comes to running. If you’re a marathoner, you know what you do now will improve you running perhaps months or years down the road. Building up base mileage takes time. A lot of other things take time for you to see the effects. But I believe if you start adding these 5 things into your running routine, you’ll immediately feel the changes in your running and strength.

Which of these do you do regularly/is your number 1 running priority?

What do you need to work on? (I predict a lot of comments saying “core” lol)

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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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01-17-2014

My First Hot Yoga Experience

Earlier this week, my local lululemon store posted that they were having a Blacklight Yoga Party on Thursday, at a studio in my area. I quickly RSVPed for my sister and me because we had never done hot yoga before.

I was really nervous…I was afraid of sweating an insane amount and being stinky and having people be disgusted (sometimes I over-think things). My yogi friend assured me that everyone will probably smell and be insanely sweaty.

I went to social media for other tips for a first time hot yoga-er, and some common ones were:

  • Drink a lot of water in the days leading up.
  • Bring a big towel.
  • Bring a water bottle.
  • Bring an open mind.

I absolutely loved it. I have had this instructor before at lululemon’s community classes, and usually it’s pretty mellow, but this class was really upbeat and fun. We got light-up bracelets at the door too!

The class started with upbeat music, and once Timber by Pitbull & Ke$ha came on, everyone was singing and grooving along to the beat. PS – I’m obsessed with that song, I could listen to it on repeat.

This was certainly the most challenging yoga class I’ve taken. Obviously, because it was hot. But also, the sequence of movements and how long certain poses were held made it tough! The good thing was that the room wasn’t TOO hot-about 97-100 degrees. I have read other reviews of hot yoga where people have said it was too hot to even concentrate, and that’s what I was afraid of.

When people say the heat helps you get deeper in your poses, they aren’t lying! I got into my deepest downward dog, usually I have to keep my knees bent, but this time they were straight and I almost got my heels to touch the ground.

Overall, it was a great class, and I love yoga in general. She ended it on a spiritual note, reading us a quote while we lay in corpse pose. I left feeling refreshed and really wanting to commit to adding more yoga into my life.

Blacklight + yoga = awesome

My clothes were definitely soaked through afterwards, but you really feel good! I would like to add in hot yoga to me exercise routine-just need to find the time and budget ;)

Have you ever tried hot yoga? Or yoga in general?

What are your thoughts about it?

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05-13-2013

My First Yoga Class!

I randomly decided a few days ago that I wanted to try the community yoga class at my local lululemon this past Sunday. I like trying out new classes (like BodyPump 2 weeks ago) and I’ve been wanting to try yoga for a while, so I decided to go.

Not a picture from the class I took, but this is the store and the set-up

I’ve done yoga videos before, but I really wanted to try an actual class. To my surprise, the class was packed! I was a little nervous but felt more comfortable since I know the basic yoga moves, like downward-dog, chaturanga, etc.

I was not expecting to get much of a sweat. If anything, I figured I’d get a nice stretch session.

I was so wrong.

I was pretty sweat by the time the class was over! So were a lot of people. It was definitely a good workout to start the day. We did a lot of lunge poses and the chair pose which kills me (quads. burning.). Overall, I loved it. The instructor was really kind and helpful to those who were brand new. She also was just very inspirational throughout the class and I really liked the sense/vibe of the “yogi community.” We ended the class with a passage she read to us about finding inspiration and beauty in our surroundings, and taking time out of each day away from the hustle and bustle to do this. It sounded way better when she read it.

I really, really liked this class and it had me feeling good and positive for the rest of the day. The instructor was from a local hot yoga studio, which offers discounts, so I think I may try a hot yoga class! Possibly the week after my half to stretch out? Either way, I definitely plan on going back to the free Sunday classes lululemon provides.

Do you take yoga classes? Have you taken a hot yoga class? What can I expect?

 

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05-13-2013

Motivational Monday!

Officially done with grad school! This is my first week with no class and no more internships. I’m working at school over the summer anyway, while trying to launch my business, but it will be nice to have this week off.

Though, it won’t actually be off. I’m going to NYC today to meet with the CEO and founder of a large social media marketing firm (ahh! what questions should I ask?!), then Tuesday I’m going to the Westchester Digital Summit with my sister, Wednesday I am doing a photo shoot with one of my clients, Thursday I need to go to Brooklyn to pick up my bib for the Brooklyn Half, Friday is a senior reception at Rutgers, Saturday is my half marathon, and Sunday is my graduation! JEEZ. I’ll have to make sure to get plenty of sleep!

Anyways, yesterday I took my first real yoga class! It was a Lululemon community class but it was great. I definitlely want to do that more often. This class is what led to my quote below (and stay tuned for my yoga class review later today!) :

This is such an important thing to remember. We are all busy, and stressed sometimes, but it’s important to remember to take time out to relax, and also to notice the beauty around you.

How often do you take the time to notice “this wonderful world?”

 

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