Growing up an athlete, I always struggled with flexibility. Basketball, Soccer, Track, and even Gymnastics – my body always felt stiff and limited. For anyone who has ever played sports or exercised, lack of flexibility seems to be a pretty common theme. And while you don’t need to be bendy like a gymnast, there are many, many benefits to stretching, which I have personally found through yoga.
While there are many other ways to stretch on your own, Yoga has been a go-to not just for improving flexibility, but also for core strength, balance, increasing strength, alignment, body awareness, and focus!
It’s easy to write off stretching before or after a workout, but I am here to tell you… don’t! Before I began consistently stretching, I was always stiff, prone to injuries, and struggled to progress in my workouts. Below are just a few reasons that I became a huge advocate for stretching/yoga:
- Compliments strength by creating more space and movement surrounding your joints
- Improvement of endurance by holding yoga poses and using all muscles in your body to move through yoga sequences
- Improves body awareness by focusing on alignment, muscles, and joints
- Certain types of yoga (Yin, Deep Stretch) can be relaxing and meditative, and it releases stress
- Everyone deals with stress differently by holding it in different areas of the body – yoga helps release tension & built up stress through the combination of movement and stretching
- During the Industrial revolution, there were many more jobs that involved moving and standing, and there were no lower back issues. Now, many of us have lower back issues due to tight hips, psoas, quad muscles, all from sitting at a desk all day. The unique movements of yoga help increasea mobility in the body, leading to less pain & more freedom of movement
- Stretching the muscles surrounding your joints gives them more flexibility and mobility
So when is the best time to stretch?
Sometimes muscles are so tight that just stretching won’t work. Like a Chinese finger trap – the muscles must be shortened, then stretched to release. So working out the muscle first, then stretching right after is key to releasing tight muscles.
My favorite time to stretch is through Vinyasa yoga, where the technique of Dynamic Stretching is used, or immediately after a long run or workout when my muscles are warmed up and have a lot of blood flowing to them. As long as you are getting a stretch in, it doesn’t matter when – just find what works best for YOU!
So if you are completely new to stretching/yoga, where the heck do you begin?
Just 5 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. I swear by this – I committed to 5 minutes of stretching a day, and noticed results within just 1 month of being consistent. I picked a few poses, then held them while watching TV or reading. Super easy, and it wasn’t something that added much time to my already-busy days. The more you stretch, the more your body gets used to it, and it starts to feel GOOD (I promise!). Trust me, forward folds used to be my least favorite thing to do in the world!
After a month of consistent stretching/yoga, I noticed my workouts were changing – I was running faster, had less pain/tightness in my hips, and my legs didn’t feel like bricks when I went on runs! My body started to feel like it moved with more ease, and my lower back pain started to decrease.
**Please note that consistency is key. When you stretch, you are creating a new set-length for your muscles. If you only stretch once a week, your muscles will not stay at that new length. Think of it like working out – if you don’t work out, you’ll lose muscle, endurance, etc. Same with stretching – keep up with it, and you’ll notice results over time.
So what poses can be done if you just stretch for 5 minutes a day?
Below are a handful of yoga stretches that can be done every day, or every other day. I’ve included poses for every area of the body, depending on what you are looking to focus on. Pick a few for each day, and watch the magic of your body opening up after just 1 month!
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Down Dog
Stretches: Hamstrings, Calves, Upper back, Shoulders, Pecs
Strengthens: Shoulders, arms, and engages the core while pushing the hips up
Misc: Lengthens the spine, releasing compression from poor posture or running
Time: Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat 2-3 times
Paschimottanasana: Standing Forward Fold
Stretches: Hamstrings, Calves, Lower back
Strengthens: Mental strengthener 😉
Misc: Contract your quads in order to relax your hamstrings
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times
Stretches: Shins, arches of feet
Misc: Modify if the first option is too intense
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times each side
Option 2 (Modification):
Stretches: Ankles, achilles heels, groin, back, and opens up the hips
Misc: Use elbows to push knees out for a more intense stretch on the inner thighs
Time: Hold for 1 minute
Option 2 (Modification):
Supta Gomukhasana/ Reclined Cow-Face Pose
Stretches: Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis
Strengthens: arms, if you are pulling legs towards you
Misc: Pull feet towards you for a more intense stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side
To enter: lay on back – cross one leg over the other, bending both. Reach hands to grab outer edges of feet, ankles, shins, or knees.
Stretches: Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc: Roll to outer edge of front foot to stretch inner thigh & open hip joint. Slightly squeeze glute to allow your quad muscle to relax.
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side
Low Lunge w/Quad Stretch
Stretches: Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc: Modify – place towel under knee if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side
Parsva Balasana/Thread the Needle
Stretches: Shoulders, Chest, Arms, Upper back, Neck
Misc: Modify – place towel under knees if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Repeat on other side
Janu Sirsasana/Head-to-knee Forward Bend
Stretches: Shoulders, Spine, Upper back, Hamstrings, Groin
Misc: Modify – wrap a towel or strap around your foot if you cannot reach
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side
Reclined Twisted Figure-4
Stretches: Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis, IT band, TFL, Spine
Misc: Pull knee closer towards you for a deeper stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side
To enter: lay on back withbent knees. Place your nakle on the opposite knee, creating a “4” with your legs. Drop your legs to the side so that your foot is flat on the ground.
And that’s it! No need to do every single stretch in one sitting – just choose a few and call it a night 🙂 If you are new to yoga and are interested in taking a class, I recommend going to a yin or deep stretch yoga class – both are slower-paced, perfect for beginners, and offer many variations + props. **If you are in the South Florida area, pop-in to my Deep Stretch class on Wednesday’s at 6:30 pm!
Any other good stretches that you have done to compliment your workout as an athlete? Leave a comment below!
How I figured out my food intolerances
For my entire 20’s, I’ve struggled with food allergies, digestive issues, sinus issues, and brain fog. After trying different supplements, getting allergy tests at an ENT office, and trying different diets (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc), nothing was helping.
After a little more research, I stumbled upon a business that had just opened in Columbus, Ohio – Rock N Shock Fitness. Rock N Shock is an all-female community focused on getting you in the best shape of your life. The owner, Danielle Miranda, spent years developing a system that encompasses the entire body, internally and externally, to get you to your healthiest self. This is done with initial testing to find out what is really going on with your body – food & non-food intolerance tests, nutritional deficiencies, metal toxicity, V02, and RMR testing. There are other tests that can be done, like DNA testing, and oxygen therapy + infrared saunas for detoxification. After getting your results, you can choose to work with someone on your diet + begin a workout plan based on your fitness level.
**The intolerance testing (without metal toxicity) was $250, and the V02/RMR test (membership pricing included) was another $125.
To get started, I made an initial appointment with Rock N Shock to discuss my fitness/nutrition goals, and what I was looking to get out of working with them. After speaking with the owner, she gave me a tour of the facilities and explained my options based on what we talked about.
I chose the below services:
V02 testing – to measure my physical fitness level
RMR – to find my resting metabolic rate (how many calories am I burning just sitting here?)
Intolerance testing – what foods am I eating that are causing issues?
Nutritional deficiencies – what does my body need more of?
**I fully intended to begin the workout program after receiving my results, but ended up moving to Florida.
I booked a second appointment to get all of the testing done, and it took less than an hour – a few strands of hair were taken for the intolerance testing & nutritional deficiencies, and the RMR & V02 test took about 30 minutes. I also couldn’t eat 2 hours before the test, and minimal to no exercise is recommended the day before so your body is fully rested & ready for the test. (I went on a 16 mile hike the day before, so don’t be like me!)
To begin, I had to breathe into a tube hooked to a computer for 10-15 minutes for my RMR test.
You can only blow through the tube, so you have to wear a clip on your nose – see above :p
You can watch the screen while you are blowing to make sure that everything is being recorded properly – I am not sure exactly how it all works, but after blowing for 10-15 minutes, I was relieved to be done!
After the RMR test, I was hooked up to a mask, attached to a hose – think Bane from Batman. The hose was hooked up to a computer, and I had to run with the mask on. It looks a little scary, but you can breathe just fine.
The person running the test started the treadmill low, with a little incline. Over time, she did timed intervals for increasing my pace & the incline, then back down again. At any time, when you feel like you cannot go any farther, you can tell them to stop the treadmill. Depending on how in-shape you are, it can be anywhere from 4 minutes to 20 minutes before you throw in the towel. I lasted about 11-12 minutes, which was the point where I felt like my muscles had no juice left in them (I could still breathe ok!). Below was about the halfway point for me – I was up to 6 or 7 on the treadmill, and things were really starting to get tough!
Normally when you throw in the towel, it’s not because you can’t breathe – it’s because your muscles are being deprived of oxygen, and the V02 test basically measures how well your body uses oxygen. The RNS site describes what exactly the test measures:
…how effectively your body consumes and uses oxygen, your breathing patterns, recovery of heart and lungs, calorie expenditure at various heart rates, your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. We will be able to identify the exact heartbeat your body turns anaerobic and exact heart rate zones for you to train and compete at in order to stop you from “hitting the wall “and then allow you to maximise every minute of every session and race.
After the test was complete, I had to wait a bit for my hair analysis to come back. After about a month, I went back in to take a look at my final results:
It was honestly a bit of a shock to learn that I had food intolerances to things I ate almost everyday – olives/olive oil, strawberries, sweet potatoes, carrots… basically, all things I thought were healthy, but were really things my body was rejecting! On top of that, I had amino acid and Vitamin B12 deficiencies. After talking over my results, I decided to cut out the foods on the list, as well as begin supplementing with a few vitamins. So, for the past 8 months, I’ve noticed an increase in energy, less brain fog, and less reactions to food after eating (I used to get mini panic attacks after eating sweet potatoes & anything with olive oil in it!).
As for the V02 & RMR test results, they basically just confirmed that I have a high metabolism, and I workout….a lot. If I had stayed in Ohio & started a workout plan with RNS, it would have been to increase strength & speed & make my training more efficient.
Depending on your results & your end goal, everyone will be different! There are no bad results – because once you know where you are physically & nutritionally, you can only improve from there!
If you are in the Columbus, OH area, check out RNS (for women only, sorry guys!)… If not, google intolerance testing/v02 test/RMR test & your city/state… there are places all over the US that can do this type of testing for you. If you are looking to lose weight, get in better shape, get on a food plan, figure out why you are tired, improve your physical performance, or get more energy, I recommend investing in some sort of testing.
Overall, I highly recommend getting some sort of nutritional & physical fitness testing done – it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health! We can do what we think is the best for our bodies, but there might always be something that we are missing.
I hope this helps – if anyone has done anything similar, comment below on your experience & if/how it has helped!
**Please note I did not receive anything in return for this blog post – I am writing this from my own personal experience, and I paid for every service received. I am writing this post in hopes that it helps anyone else interested in finding answers for their health, or for improving their physical fitness!
Yes, that’s correct. Don’t get me wrong – I love how I feel during & after a good, slow, short run – but a long, tough run? All. Mental. Running is not something that I am a natural at – which, if you know me, makes me really, really mad. Being super competitive by nature, if I’m not good at something, I am going to practice it and do it over, and over and over again… pushing myself until I’ve gotten to a place where I think I am good at it, or have mastered it to the level that satisfies me.
Unfortunately, running is something that I never feel satisfied with. Whether I’m running a 10 minute easy training pace, or a 7:30 minute race pace, it never feels “easy.” There are people who rarely workout and can just get up and run an easy 7 minute pace (especially men.. do you guys have hidden springs in your legs or something??), and there are people like me, and maybe you, who try and try and can’t get past a certain point unless an immense amount of time is dedicated to getting better.
So why do I run? I run because it’s a challenge. I run because I want to improve myself. And because mentally, it’s a battle I have won once I have completed a race. I also run because others can’t – and as I’ve been physically limited & unable to walk, I am grateful that I have the ability to do so now.
You are probably asking… where the heck is she going with this? While the title of this post is “I hate Running,” I wanted to use this as a gateway to speak to a few deeper thoughts about pushing ourselves, and the motives behind our decisions & actions.
I stumbled upon a video about a man named David Goggins – maybe his name rings a bell? He is a Navy SEAL, former USAF Tactical Air Control Party member (served in Iraq and Afghanistan), an ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, and triathlete. I watched a video of him on Runners World (also see below), explaining his mindset and the motivation behind his active life. [Read his story here – you will seriously be left wondering WTF HAVE I BEEN DOING WITH MY LIFE?? And also want to try to run a 100 mile race. Almost.]
While he hates running, he does it to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which gives full college grants to children of Special Ops personnel killed in the line of fire. He runs for others. And not only that, he runs because it’s hard. He doesn’t race because he wants to finish – he does it because there is no end. He is constantly looking for ways to push himself past the edge, and his only limitation is himself.
He speaks of the 40% rule – something the Navy Seals live by – meaning, when you think you are done, you are only 40% done. So after you think you’ve reached your limit, you have another 60% of reserves to keep going. Shit – right?! But not unheard of.
99% of people who start a marathon, finish. Seems crazy, but it’s true! So for anyone that has ever run a full, or a half, or is even just beginning to run – understands the mental limits they have to push past in order to keep going. When your muscles are burning, your legs feel like lead, and your lungs are on fire, you don’t stop. Why? Because you know, deep down, you are capable of so. much. more. There is something inside of us, that when taken out of our comfort zone, we can tear down our limitations and do things that seem impossible – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
If you aren’t inspired after reading/watching David Goggins story, I don’t know what else will. There are people that come into this world to break down barriers & help others realize their greatness when so much of us seem to forget it, and he is definitely one of them. So next time, when you are out on a run, or doing something that seems uncomfortable or hard, remember to ask yourself – “Am I really at my limit, or can I push myself – even just a little bit – more?” Before you know it, you’ll be running faster, doing things you have only ever dreamed of, evolving into a more bad-ass version of your current self, AND inspiring others along the way.
Feel that fire inside of you, and light the way.
A few things:
St Jude is awesome
Running through Times Square when it’s shutdown is amazing
I PR’ed my half marathon time by 1.5 minutes
I’m pretty sure I’ll be living in NYC in the next year or 2 because I love it so much
Vacations are never vacations for me
I need to learn to wear sun block & not fall asleep on the beach
I’m going to Thailand AND Ibiza in October
This past week has been an absolute whirlwind – so much, in fact, that I barely took any pictures. The race weekend was jam-packed full of running, meeting up with friends, celebrating, and spending time with family. By the time my (delayed) flight got in after midnight on Wednesday, the last thing I wanted to do was work a 12-hour day on Thursday… but, like all my travels, no regrets 🙂
How I felt by the time I got back home
I flew into NYC Friday morning, checked into my hotel, and picked up my packet. I got a good look at the race course – and I’m so glad I did! I had never run in Central Park, but apparently there are a decent amount of hills. I got the rundown on what to expect from others who have run this course before, and it was extremely helpful!
Brunch before the Expo: Grey Dog Cafe in Chelsea!
Afterwards, I took a nap before heading out to Sadelle’s – one of my new favorite places for drinks & awesome bread (with truffle honey & Icelandic sea salt – amazing!). I caught up with a friend from my Belize yoga teacher training over dinner and drinks… It never ceases to amaze me the people I stay in touch with from all of my travels!
Saturday consisted of sleeping in, then finally meeting the coordinators of the St Jude Charity & the other runners! Everyone was So nice, and I spent about 2 hours chatting with everyone. As a total group, all runners raised ~ $50,000 for St Jude!! That’s 50 Chemo treatments for children with cancer! Just absolutely amazing.
Afterwards, I went on a coffee date with a new friend, then headed over to Jivamukti Yoga to take a class with another friend I met at the Cuchira Yogance workshop I took back in December. She convinced me to go to Thailand in September with her… I mean, why not??
Most trips I take aren’t personal – I always take yoga classes or workshops at other studios everywhere I go in order to learn more as a teacher and grow my own practice. I always take a ton of learnings back, and I think Jivamukti is my favorite yoga class I have taken to date! I am planning my next trip to NYC in the next month or so to check out a few other studios – next time I might not come back 😉
Afterwards, I made it back to my hotel and prepped for the race, laying everything out so I could sleep in a little longer in the morning. Fast forward a very sleepless night (who doesn’t get nervous the night before a race??), I hopped on a train and headed to Central Park. Since there were over 20K runners, it was a bit hectic… meaning, I was sprinting to my corral at 7:30 before they closed it…. I ended up being fine, but looked like a crazy person. My hands were full of water, gu, my gloves, an extra shirt… I think next time I am going to bring a friend to run this race with me!
The race has been my favorite to-date – central park was a bit hilly, but I ended up running a negative split & PR’ing by 1.5 minutes. It wasn’t my goal time, but considering I missed 2 months of training due to tendinitis & no speed work… I’ll take it!
The last half of the course is pretty much downhill/flat once you get out of Central Park, and running through Times Square was unreal! It’s the only other time it’s closed off besides New Years, so it’s a treat to run through the streets. I wanted to take pictures/run with my go pro, but also didn’t want to slow myself down any more… hence the lack of pictures.
Once I finished the race, I couldn’t believe how organized NYRR was… I immediately had a blanket & my medal handed to me, and was then directed to go pick up a bag full of post-race hydration & snacks. I was on the train back to my hotel within 20 minutes of crossing the finish line!
My body was hurting, so I took a shower and headed to a water spa for the day. I ended up spending the most time in the nap room after sitting in the saunas… much needed! Afterwards, I stopped to grab some food before my massage:
Avocado Toast + Lemon, Ginger & Honey Tea
Yep, I’ll probably move to the city just for the food.
After my massage, I showered & went out with a friend for dinner & drinks. I’ve been wanting to go to Black Tap – I follow their instagram, and the milkshakes look Unreal. The burger was really good, but my stomach was not ready for that milkshake (the amount of gu’s consumed during my race always makes me not want to eat for a week straight). It was sooo sweet & peanut-buttery! But look at it. It looks so.so.good.
Following dinner with more drinks, we ended up not crashing until 2 or 3…or maybe later… drinking celebratory drinks after finishing a half marathon is totally necessary, so no regrets.
4:30 am rolls around, and my airport shuttle was waiting to take me to JFK… family was waiting for me in Florida! 4 hours later, and I’m hanging out with my cousins… ok, I was napping off a hangover, but AFTER I hung out with my cousins!! It was actually too cold & windy to go to the beach, so we stayed in, and my cousin’s fiance cooked us smoked wings on the grill. So.So.Good.
On the 2nd & 3rd day, we were burnt to a crisp (blisters on my ear :(), but it was so relaxing and nice to not have to worry about work!
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Wednesday night, I boarded my (delayed) flight back to Ohio , arriving home around 12:30 am. Note: The entire right side of my body was completely red & sun burnt – I looked like 2-face from batman. Seriously, not a comfortable flight back.
So what’s next for running? Resting up the next few weeks, then training for another half… I am determined to get under 1:50! Any suggestions on great courses? I will definitely be running this half again next year – and seriously recommend anyone who likes to run to do it! It actually went by really quickly, but it was so well organized, and the actual course basically sets you up to PR/negative split.
Upcoming travels: NYC in a month. San Francisco in June (TBD-my bank account kind of hates me right now). Thailand & Ibiza in September/October.
Yep, Thailand AND Ibiza! Flights are booked to Thailand and from Ibiza… All I need to do is buy my connecting flight from Thailand to Ibiza! So Yoga retreat with a friend, taught by 2 famous yogi’s for 1 week in Thailand, then jetting off to Ibiza the week after with a few of my favorite people! More yoga, relaxing, and dancing. I’ll be gone for almost a month! More to come on this…. 🙂
So what’s everyone else up to? Travel plans? Has anyone ever been to Thailand or Ibiza? Tips on running a sub- 1:50 half marathon? Best half marathons to run?
Ok, this is my last post on the St Jude yoga fundraiser, I SWEAR! And it’s only to talk about how much of a success it was! I’ve never organized or put on an event like this before, so I had no idea what to expect. The amount of people that came out and donated totally blew me away – 36 people showed up, and over $400 was donated to St Jude!!
We all squeezed into the brewery, and I led a 45 minute vinyasa flow. People that had never done yoga before showed up and did amazing! And the support from my friends.. no words.. The entire event just filled my heart up. This was such an important event to me, and I could not have done it without the support of strangers, friends, New friends, & family.
So thank you, thank you, to everyone who has supported St Jude… These children need all the help they can get after being diagnosed with cancer, and your donations help make the journey to recovery much less stressful.
If you would still like to donate, you still have time – a few days left to raise the last $600. And did I mention I’ll be matching every single donation that comes in?? So really, only $300 more! Every dollar is appreciated!
You can donate to St Jude here 🙂
Ok. So just to give everyone a recap of what’s been happening in my life:
– New part time job (in addition to my full time AND teaching yoga) – and I don’t even really consider it a job, because it’s fun!
– Planning/packing for my NYC & Florida trip in 2 weeks!
– Teaching an arm balance workshop next Sunday
-I’ve cut my runs down to spare the tendinitis in my foot. So 3 runs a week instead of 4, and doing acupuncture 1x week, cryotherapy after my long runs, Rolfing, and Active Release Therapy. (let’s just say i’m taking a hiatus from running after this half marathon for awhile…) But, so far, so good! I am going for a 14 mile run on Saturday before I begin to taper… the race is 2 weeks away!!
Sometimes I feel like an old woman with my running injuries
I’ve been experimenting with fuel for my long runs, and I think I’ve figured out exactly what I need:
- Oatmeal + banana + protein bar 2 hours before run
- 1 gu w/caffeine 5 minutes before run
- jelly beans/sports chews every few miles
- 1 Gu + 1/2 banana at mile 5/6 AND mile 9/10 (I mix together beforehand & put in ziplock bags or reusable food pouches)
- Taking sips of electrolyte water from my 12 oz handheld water bottle every once in awhile (I grab plain water along the route when I eat my gus).. BTW – just bought this, and I don’t know how I lived without it before!!!
My metabolism is fast and I burn through food really, really quickly. I joke that I need to run with a burrito in my back pocket to eat halfway through my runs.
Yes, this is a hamster eating a tiny burrito
Side note – I found out about Enduropacks online and it has been AMAZING for electrolyte replacement during my long runs. I struggle with that anytime I workout, so about 5-10 sprays in my water helps keep my levels balanced (the spray lasts a long time!). And no, I didn’t get paid or get anything free to write this… just another runner sharing tips that have helped me! 🙂
So what does everyone else take with them on long runs? Any tips on what to drink, eat, do, or NOT do??
Have you ever ran a race for charity? If so, what charity did you support & why? I’d love to hear your experience!
With 1 month away from my half marathon in NYC, I have been working hard on putting together an event to raise money for St Jude. So far, I am only about halfway to my first goal of raising $1500 for the children of St Jude ($2500 being my stretch goal!).
Luckily, Land Grant Brewing in Columbus, Ohio has joined forces with me to help! For those of you in Columbus, Ohio – mark Saturday, February 27th on your calendars! I will be teaching a 45 minute donation-based yoga class at the brewery beginning at 11 am. Following the class, $1 from every beer purchased will be donated to St Jude!
You can sign up on the Facebook page here – please arrive at 10:30 to fill out a waiver & secure a good spot to practice in the brewery!
For anyone not in Columbus, please consider donating to the children of St Jude. They are cheated of their childhood by having to battle cancer, and every child deserves to be stress free! St Jude takes care of every expense for the child AND their family, including treatment, lodging, flights, etc. St Jude is such an amazing organization, not just for taking care of children with cancer, but also researching/finding cures for cancers.
You can learn more about St Jude here!
You can donate to St Jude here – even if it’s $1, every penny counts!!
Thank you all for your support <3