Five Tips For Managing Stress And Winning at Fat Loss

Managing stress is hard. And when the hits are piling up on you as the week goes on, it can feel like there’s literally no end in sight. Worse, it can also feel totally hopeless, like theres no way you could possibly manage the barrage of obstacles, work crisis, and relationship issues that are sure to come at you.

But alongside proper sleep, nutrition, and fitness; dealing with this stuff—and handling it all gracefully—is just as important for hitting your fat-loss and muscle-building goals. Not some, but ALL of these factors play a role in balancing our hormones and helping our bodies to run most optimally. And that's really what physique goals are all about: making things run nice.

So, while there’s no real quick fix to dealing with stress; and you’re totally right girl, you cannot control all of the things that the universe has in store for you; there’s definitely some proactive steps you can take that will not only give you quick relief and a little more center, but also help you become more mindful of the relationship between your body and your mind. So that down line, you get learn to get better at responding to the beautiful mess that is life, rather than succumbing to it.

I know, I know. If you’re like me when I’m feeling bratty, trapped, sorry for myself, and even defensive of my stress; you’re already thinking “this is just the way it is right now.” That’s one of my favorite excuses for shirking off the responsibility of self-care as well. You're not alone. The body and mind naturally resist change. 

But trust me. You can change your mind. YOU have the power to make it better in this very moment. And I bet you’ll feel a whole lot less stressed when you start making progress on your fitness goals again.

Uh-huh, girl. I went there. So, save yourself some time and misery. Let’s get to feeling better, so that we may also look better, shall we?  

This particular post is about some quick interventions that can serve as catalysts for turning your thoughts around when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. So that you have space in your brain for long term improvements that we’ll discuss later on.

Do a Quick Movement Flow

Your brain holds a map of your entire body. And the more you move, the more clear that map is. But when you dont move, that map gets blurry and so does your perspective. All the negative sensations like irritation, pain, and anxiety become amplified and stress can become increased. One of the easiest ways to decrease threat and calm yourself down is to move! And you don’t need a full on workout to send your brain those good vibes it craves. Making some shoulder and neck circles at your desk every hour helps. Getting on the floor for a quick side plank or a shin box can totally turn things around. A little bit of movement here and there will dial down your nervous system and put your body in a more advantageous state to make progress on your goals.

 

Go For a Walk

Walking is one of the best activities for alleviating stress. Walking is movement, so you will absolutely benefit from all those good vibes we talked about in the previous paragraph and improve your mood. But walking also helps improve digestive function. The quality of your thoughts relies heavily on the quality of your gut. If you can improve your metabolism, you can improve your response to stressful situations. Not to mention, you can ensure that you expend as much energy as you absorb, which is key for weight-loss and weight maintenance.

 

Call a Friend

Go for that walk, and call up a friend to go with you. That stress ball gets infinitely larger when we imagine that we are alone or that we are the only ones who have to deal with whatever it is that’s going on. But, the truth is, you’re never alone unless you choose to be. And EVERYONE has their own struggles. Just like we are meant to move, we as humans are also meant to be highly social. Blowing off some steam doing positive activities with someone who knows you and supports you can completely shift your perspective and help you get back to focusing on crushing your life and fitness goals.

 

Zone Out

There’s tons of pressure from your boss and social media hustle culture to be super focused and on your grind all day long. But, there’s a reason you are driven to scroll through instagram or pull up a game window behind your actual work. The brain fatigues just like any other muscle in your body. And while I encourage you to instead use this time to get away from all the screens, make sure it feels just as mindless. I like to grab a book for a few minutes or wash the dishes. For real. But, you can simply use the yoga practice of finding a drishti gaze and literally try to stare off into space as far as you can, even if there’s a wall two feet from you. Look past it. Zone out. And then get back to business when you’re ready with greater productivity.

 

Focus On Your Breath

Breathing is something that happens whether we try or not. But if we can think about it consciously for just a few minutes throughout the day, we can guide the whole unconscious side of it in a better direction. Shallow breathing, mouth breathing, chest breathing—all the ways breath can go wrong—these inefficient strategies can send your thoughts in the wrong direction. But, a few good breaths—with focus on expanding the sides of your ribcage and belly— can bring you back to center, Sit tall, lay on your belly, or throw your feet up the wall. Get your spine nice and long(the surest way to neutral) and try to elongate your exhales, and the pause between the exhale and the inhale, as long as you can. Around 8 seconds is a good goal to shoot for. Be sure to inhale through your nose and blow air out through pursed lips. Two rounds of 5 breaths can calm your body and help you think and act from a more positive place. 

 

Be Proactive

Maybe you have some other strategies that work really well for you already. Maybe only a few of these will resonate with you. The point is, you’ve got to know and trust that you have the power to change your mind at any time, and it's a simple as taking one small action with the decisive intention of feeling better. 

Looking for more advice to look and feel your best? Getting your nutrition and fitness dialed in is one of the most important ways to both manage stress and make progress on your fat-loss goals. Don’t know where to start? Message me today to learn more about distance coaching and how it helps my clients find confidence and clarity. 

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Single-leg Deadlifts For a Stronger Backside

I’ve heard single-leg deads touted as the best “non-surgical butt lift.” My friend John Romaniello has said that the road to beautifully sculpted legs is “paved with single-leg exercises.” I completely agree. Training more single-leg, backside-focused exercises will most definitely lift your booty.

AND, apart from the obvious aesthetic value to the exercise, training single-leg deadlifts will also help you get stronger in your more typical two-legged deadlift and faster in your running stride.

HOWEVER, a single leg-deadlift is quite the advanced progression. You’ll want to master your regular kettlebell or barbell deadlift form, and exhibit exceptional single-leg balance before you start adding further complication and resistance to the pattern.

Because...

  • Maintaining balance across the foot is key for ensuring your glutes work properly

  • Hinging, as opposed to squatting is important for targeting that spot where your glutes separate from your hamstring to get that butt lift (OH YEAH, I see you girl)

  • And keeping your hips square is necessary to stabilize your pelvis and avoid stress that can lead to injury

So, as your #peachyqueen, I recommend you build competency in these three exercises, to ensure that you get the most booty gainz from your single-leg deadlifts. Spending 3-4 weeks a piece on each of these regressions can be a glute game-changer. 3x10-12 reps is a good place to start. You can always go heavier with less reps as you master the moves.

Suitcase Deadlift

Split-Stance Deadlift

Valslide Single-Leg Deadlift

BONUS, if you spend some time polishing up these exercises instead of going straight to that single-leg deadlift right away, you’ll be well on your way to building a better booty. #sophisticatedstrength

Sign up for my newsletter for more tips to start moving better and #buildabetterbutt

 

The Easiest Nutrition Fix For Fat Loss

As I discuss in an upcoming vlog (you can peep the latest one here), I've got a few major priorities when it comes to fat loss. You can certainly never underestimate the impact of consistent sleep and workouts, but right now, I'm talking about the easiest nutrition skill you can starting practicing right now!

And that is to simply eat more protein.

Eat More Protein

Eating more protein has multiple benefits. This macronutrient is involved in pretty much every chemical process that your body carries out. Proteins are kind of like the raw material of all your body's projects. Of course, they are first broken down into amino acids and reconstructed into more purposeful combinations that your body can use. But, in any case, they are needed and necessary.

By ensuring our bodies get enough protein, we fulfill an essential requirement of the myriad of processes we commonly refer to as our metabolism, making the whole thing run that much more efficiently . In simple terms, that means that we can make the most of what we've got with the least amount of energy expended.

And that my friends, is what fat-loss is all about: finding the most benefit, with the least amount of cost.

SNAP!

*** BTW You should write that one down in your notes. It's a gem.

Anyways, let's move on to your potential protests regarding this recommendation...

You're Not Eating Enough

Now you might say "But Coach, I heard eating too much protein can damage your organs."

Well, dear I have an answer for that.

Of course, if one eats TOO MUCH protein (which is a very subjective value btw), it's reasonably possible to assume the kidneys can be affected. BUT, it's also very unlikely that you are anywhere close to this very subjective amount. It's also very unlikely that you are anywhere close to consistently hitting the number you need to support fat-loss in the first place, which is typically the lowest benchmark that nutritionists suggest you hit. So, we really don't need to discuss what "too much" is anyway.

And even further, formation of kidney stones and other potential harm to these vital organs (which is really what we're talking about), has much more to do with the amount of water you are drinking. Byproducts of increased protein intake are excreted normally, without any harm done, in the pee of adequately hydrated humans.

"But Miss Ashleigh, I eat enough protein every day."

Oh dear, I've got an answer for that too. I know you came up with that reply way too quickly. You likely scanned the last 24 hours, and the ease with which two to three instances where you ingested some protein came to mind, led you to conclude that you're doing just fine. But, unless you ran some numbers and calculations in your head, I'm going to say this is not really a fact you could know with any kind of certainty.

Not to worry. It's a common human error to highlight the negative possibilities and grossly overestimate the actuals, as demonstrated by both of these complaints.

The Fix

Let's work together to figure out the truth. In the next three days, I want you to plug in what you eat to any macro app. I personally like to use MyMacros+ as it easily connects me to my clients, but choose whatever program suits you. 

Figure out the average amount of protein you eat. You'll find this number represented in terms of grams. And then just try to increase it by about 20 grams. That's as easy as adding one quality Greek yogurt, two eggs, or half a cup of chicken. And since that amounts to an average of less than $2 per serving, it's also way cheaper than that weird skinny tea or the currently trending fat-loss superfood.

Hit that number consistently for a few weeks(I said weeks, not days! And a "few" means at least three. I did not say "a couple"). Forget about why you were practicing this skill in the first place. And then pull on that pair of skinny jeans you reserve for the moments when you feel really good about yourself, and try em' on again. I know you also save these for your greatest self-shaming moments too, but this won't be one of those. See also: stop doing that.

And stand in front of the mirror as long as you like admiring your work. Because real talk: you're most beautiful when you're being the most kind to your body. And giving it the nutrition it needs is part of fulfilling that purpose.

Even More Fat Loss

Increasing your protein intake by 20 grams will make a huge difference. However, you might have even further room for improvement, and by that I mean, more room to create in those sexy, skinny jeans. To find out what that fat-loss benchmark is, plus even more fat loss habits, check out my latest vlog here.

What Would a *blank* Person Do?

January is historically always about optimism.

But February? Well, more often than not, this month is really all about guilt.

We approach our resolutions bright eyed and hopeful. We make a list. We check it off. We pat ourselves on the back for every single small triumph.

Until we slip up.

And then suddenly all of our accomplishments disappear from our memory. We begin to replace them with a new list.

We now have a record of our failures. And they seem to have added up so much faster than the good things we previously tallied.

They shifted our mindset. And our brains silently drew a conclusion from all the data: That we, as people, are just as bad as the decisions we got hung up on.

You might not have even realized this subtle shift. But you've probably operated on it as some point in your life.

Don't worry. You're not alone. It's in our DNA. Our brains are just hard wired to focus on the silly stuff. 

The problem is, when we label ourselves as "bad," we tend to make decisions that are accordingly bad.

And this derails all of our intentions to cultivate real change.

Stop the train before you crash in a fire of anxiety and self-deprication, with a full bag of Tostitos. 

When you find yourself keeping score and you need a little fresh perspective, come back to the present with this simple question: Ask yourself,

"What would a *blank* person do?"

And you can insert any adjective that fits your intention or describes the kind of human you want to be.

Good, smart, mindful, graceful, wise, responsible, enlightened, whatever suits you.

Me? When I don't know what to do next -- when I can't seem to figure out what the right thing is and I've been sweating the small stuff real hard...

How would a real ass, boss bitch, sophisticated lady handle her shit?

And then everything is quite clear.

#sophisticatedladyshit #bossy #sophisticatedstrength

How To Quit Falling Off the Wagon

...And Maintain Motivation To Reach Your Goals

Throughout the REGULAR calendar year, there are no true mindset trends among my clients. 

But, I find that as my lovelies return from the unordinary -- travel and celebrations —  and get back into their normal routines and habits from more relaxed existence , many begin to look back on their holiday breaks with regret. 

Like this week for instance, I've heard the phrase “I need to get back on the wagon" A LOT.

Pretty harmless. Very typical assessment. I could easily breeze right past this comment and direct them to the first exercise of the day.

But instead, I stop them in their tracks every time. And we sit on the big cushy gym mats at Drive and discuss this very important truth:

A tumble -- or even a few! -- should never be considered a complete derail.

If you get lost on a journey, you’re still on that journey. You are quite possibly just a decision or two -- maybe a missed week of workouts or a couple of seasonal beverages -- to the right of the path.

But, you still have the map in your hands.

You may find it easy to get discouraged by these sidetracks and tempting to rip up that map in a fit of frustration or a delusion of doubt. 

But remember this.

You can easily recalibrate your coordinates and calculate a new route at any time. You may still proceed to your same intended destination. It’s just a matter of resetting your own internal GPS and continuing to move forward.

There will be some times that hitting cruise control will be easy and available. These are moments that we should not take for granted. They will even occur more frequently further down the road -- after we have become more seasoned travelers.

But it’s super important to note that bad weather, road blocks, and traffic are always possible. No matter how long we've been on the trail. They are part of normal every day life. And completely out of our control. 

What you can control though, is your willingness to decide that these obstacles ARE part of the journey. Because in fact, how we respond to these particular challenges, is what ultimately determines our long term success.

It’s perspective. You can react to the challenges and mishaps with exasperation and despondency. Or you can choose to face the tough spots with an unperturbed demeanor. 

And I’ve got some real advice that you can begin to utilize right away. Because I believe, you can't really change your mindset without the accompanying supportive action. 

Prepare yourself for the journey

Willpower is finite. Decision making fatigue is real. Every choice we make diminishes our ability to make further choices, just like every rep in the gym diminishes our energy for the next set.

Mental burnout and physical fatigue can even be the culprit of some of these "off the rails" moments. These are the times you'll find that even the most motivational memes are meaningless to the cause of turning around your thoughts. And that stupid cheesecake you didn't even want, wins.

We need to plan ahead as best we can to protect ourselves from exhaustion, so that we can make decisions with more ease.

Make your decisions easier

Rid your kitchen of the leftover holiday sweets and any food that can trigger those "off the rails" thoughts. Now girl, this does not mean you need to toss all the good stuff. Throw away JUST the foods that make you feel like you are no longer on the path. Example: I NEED to throw away the Christmas cookies. But, I keep the ice-cream that is a usual indulgence of my non-holiday life.

Make an appointment to move

Whether it's signing in to all of your classes on Sunday (when your brain is most fresh)or planning to meet friends at the rock climbing gym at a specific time, find a way to eliminate the question of "Am I going to move today?"

I practice this myself by grabbing training programs from other coaches at Drive and creating accountability. Make it a no-brainer and make it enjoyable so you don't have to waste energy on deciding if you are going to get out of bed. Prepay for that trainer session you've been meaning to make and go.

Plan out as many meals as you can.

I work in New York so I see some of the busiest people on the planet. So, priority number one is to figure out how to make sure they have the right fuel to get through each day.

 If your schedule is stacked and you cannot prepare and cook your own meals, there is likely a service in your area that can. The more meals you have accounted for in advance, the less you have to worry about while your knee-deep in a proposal that was really due yesterday. Consider that convenience when you are balking over the time it takes to food shop or the money you spend on to-go meals.

Oh , and sleep.

You'll find that if you allow your brain a good eight hours to shut down every night, you can make more intelligent and smart decisions in a snap while awake.

Be present in the moment

This one is particularly difficult for most of us who are over scheduled and under fueled. We begin to worry only about the outcome, what's happening next. Thoughts like: "But I can't eat lunch because I gotta be skinnier by Spring Break!" "If I don't get this cardio in now, I won't look good in this dress on Saturday." The pressure begins to build and our willpower is threatened. But if we can be mindful of what we are feeling right now, what's happening right now -- we can realize what's important to our bodies right now.

Breathe.

Notice how taking a few good belly and ribcage expanding inhales with a nice slow exhale, can suddenly provide more possible solutions to your toughest decisions. There are moments throughout the week that I feel like the walls are about to cave in on me and those "whatever, nothing matters" thoughts start to creep in. I come back to my breath for a few moments and suddenly even a New York City subway car looks bright with possibility. 

Change your perspective.

Use the tough spots where you have limited options or limited willpower as welcome challenge. These are the places you get to practice your problem-solving skills. And each challenge you respond to with this even eagerness will build your confidence and add a sense of ease to the obstacles you are sure to meet in the future.

Reflect back

How we perceive our past decisions also influences our present and future decisions. We begin to create a story of who we are based on where we've been. So, it's important that we take a look back and acknowledge the wins. Because over time, more wins begins to change our perception of ourselves and who we are as confident and powerful individuals. This is how the road becomes easier over time, as I mentioned earlier.

If your story is about a chick who takes care of herself and does the right things to reach her goals, you will likely take better care of yourself and do what you need to do to continue to reach your goals. 

Log more than just food and workouts

Log your food and workouts. But more importantly for our purpose, don’t forget to include some notes on the events of the day. This practice can help us not only to become more mindful, but to reflect back with the additional knowledge of how your decisions were influenced by everything else that was going on, including the obstacles. This could be the difference between logging a loss or a win.

Just be nice

And as you are logging, SCRATCH THAT, keep this one in mind all of the time: Be kind to yourself. Take a constructive approach to the critique of your less than stellar decisions and remain objective.

Realize that making the best decision out of the choices that you have available, is the truest definition of perfection.  

You don't ever have to fall off

So, where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish in 2017?

Change is hard. Creating new habits is certainly not easy. Just skip the harsh judgements and the "should" and the inspirational posts. You have only to decide that the goal is worth it in your next tough decision. And you are already on your way.

 

The Sophisticated Way To Tackle the Holidays

It's my favorite time of year!

The windows at Saks. Choosing gifts for my loved ones. Cuddling up on the couch with my siblings to watch Christmas movies. Getting together with old friends. The good cheer from strangers on the street.

I love it all.

And let us not forget the holiday parties and traditional meals!

Don't even talk to me about Paleo this or that. I have a list for Saturday's Thanksgiving shopping and the first item on it is butter. The second is vodka.

I'm going to keep this post short, because we're all about to be very short on time; and for very good reason.

Do yourself a favor. Don't go overboard in the gym. Don't restrict yourself. And don't look on the upcoming temptations to indulge, with any kind of dread. 

Stay consistent with your fitness. Give your body what it needs to feel good. And be present in the moment. 

These practices are easier said than done. So, I'm going to give you my top tips for tackling the holidays like the cool and confident chick you are the rest of the year.

Because truthfully, a couple of cookies won't kill you, but a month of spiked cortisol from stressing over every little bite and workout might.

Prioritize Protein

If you've been through my Sophisticated Eats challenge, you know this is basically rule #1 for me. Protein helps you keep up with your physique goals and will also keep you more satisfied and full throughout the day. Translation: you won't want to eat the whole pumpkin pie, just a piece.

Get Those Greens

If you're going to eating less than stellar, planning ahead to ensure you get your greens every day will help you make the most of your nutrition through digestion, and keep your tummy happy at the same time.

Do Your Own Baking And Cooking

This one has a way bigger impact than you can imagine. Food is about sharing. Through it, we share culture and experience. Cook with family. Share recipes with coworkers. Throw a potluck with friends instead of meeting at a restaurant. Connect your brain to the process to create mindfulness. How we think about food is powerful stuff. Plus, by preparing your own dishes, you're likely avoiding excess preservatives and other gunk that can challenge your digestive system.

Stay The Course

Business as usual in the gym. There is no need to punish yourself with workouts. It's that kind of extreme behavior that sabotages our success. Start a progressive program now. Something that will keep you motivated to stay on track and empowered to fight the guilt that keeps us on the treadmill until last call. 

Don't have a program?

I'm hosting a FREE Holiday Challenge to help keep you fit through December. 25 days of workouts, plus more helpful tips. Don't have a gym? With two weights -- dumbbells of kettlebells -- and a pair of running shoes, you can do these workouts anywhere.

Plus, I'll be hosting some Facebook LIVE sessions to walk you through the program and teach you the moves. Come one. Let's beat the holidays together.

SIGN UP NOW!

Crunches Are Bad For You. And This Is Exactly Why...

I Refuse To Do Crunches 

I used to feel bad about it. 

I would lay on the mat in the dark with everyone else and and pretend to be adjusting this or that on my clothes,  maybe stretching some tight muscle, or even feigning more significant fatigue.

It was a little dance I'd have to coordinate without disrupting my very near-by neighbors to get out of doing crunches in yoga class any time my favorite teacher was absent.

I just had this terrible fear, that whichever instructor was substituting, would see my refusal as a sign of disrespect.

I'm a coach. I know what it's like to be thrown into the fire, in front of someone else's loyal followers. You can literally feel the skepticism and ambivalence as you call the class to attention.

But see the thing is, those crunches that many instructors like to begin class with, are actually disrespecting me and my body. They're not "lighting up the core," as they are so innocently intended to.

These abs were not built by crunches....

These abs were not built by crunches....

So instead of acting out my silly pantomime, that stresses me out and turns my focus away from my body, I now just kick back by the candlelight, lay still on my mat, and come back to my breath.

Why am I so literally unmoving in my stance?

Joint-By-Joint Theory

Well, I have very few beefs with the practice of yoga. I personally practice yoga once a week religiously. And I'm actually completely convinced that some of our more typical yoga exercises and principles that I do disagree with, are more likely good intentioned but ill-advised Americanized interpretations of said ancient practice. See also: We're doing it wrong.

And one of those misinterpretations is the idea that the lower back, or lumbar spine, needs to be any more flexible and mobile than it already is.

In fact, most of the population already has wayyy too much movement going on there, and that needs to be put in check.

Joint-by-joint theory is also an old concept, not quite as early as yoga of course, as I believe it dates back to the late 1800's. But even by then, we had real evidence from Vladmir Janda to support our "crunches are bad" statement.

Joint-by-joint theory is the idea that the body is made up of joints that exist in alternating priority as we travel from the ankle, all the way up to the neck.

We have joints that are more mobile, sandwiched between joints that need to be more stabile. If we honor these differing responsibilities, we can build a strong and resilient body while protecting ourselves from excess stress and injury.

Let's look at the ankle as an example. in order to run, jump and walk with good mechanics, our ankles need to move really well. 

If our ankles do not move adequately, and we continue to go about our business without addressing this issue, we will likely end up with breakdown of the connective tissues in the knee as it attempts to pick up the slack.

This is why one knee surgery usually turns into two and three down the line -- by ignoring the dysfunction of the surrounding joints.

When we address the symptom without addressing the original cause, we don't actually fix the problem.

But what does this have to do with crunches?  Hang on. We've got one more principle to discuss.

The Four Knots

When we go further up the line, we find that the hip is even more important, as most of our movements as humans originate from the four knots, that is the two hips and two shoulders.

You can liken the kicking of a soccer ball to the crack of a whip. It all starts at the hip, with the leg following in a whipping action that terminates at the foot as it strikes the ball. This is how most movements happen. 

When our hips are not mobile, and I mean mobile, not flexible. It's important here to note that you may be passively very flexible in the hips, folding into a pigeon pose that leaves your chin on the floor in front of you with zero effort.

But, if you cannot control those ranges with strength, your hips are not actually mobile. And as you move about on your feet and get into a squat, or are even further taxed by dumbbells or barbells, that flexibility will be lost to you. 

But we as humans can be very determined when we step into the gym or onto the mat. We often disregard that the cost is higher than the benefit and risk injury for the sake of our pride (this is part of the argument against that no pain-no-gain mentality).

And when you do attempt something that is say outside your range, or past the edge (that's yoga speak for all you non-yogis), your lower back will have to move more than it should to account for the inadequacy in the hips. Can you say lower back pain?

Crunches Disrespect Your Body

So back to our original point. Why are crunches so bad?

You are probably already drawing the correct conclusions in your brain. The reasoning is two-fold.

1) Crunches violate joint-by-joint theory

Your lower back, that includes all of the vertebrae there, falls in the stability category. Instead of teaching us to protect our lumbar spines and limit movement there, to keep good space between the joints with muscular strength; crunches demand that we shorten the space between each vertebrae and add unnessecary stress to all those tiny joints. 

You would be much better off with exercises that increase the stability in your lower back, that honor the proper function of the joints like dead bugs and planks. And there are limitless variations on these two alone to keep you busy.

2) Crunches violate the theory of the four knots

It's like taking violation number one to the next level. Not only do we ask our lumbar spines to move, but to further create the motion that we are trying to execute. This creates a bad pathway in the brain. If we know we can rely on this shortcut, we'll probably just keep using it as an alternative strategy to get by in other situations beyond the crunch. That's just natural adaptation.

You need to work on your hip mobility to be able to create a better and more efficient pathway to that super low chair pose (narrow-kneed squat) you desire, as crunches will certainly have zero translation here. I'm a big fan of the high tension 90/90 stretch.

Honor The Way You Were Meant To Move

So please please please, stop doing crunches.  If you want that deep definition that separates a super strong midsection from the silly superficial abs (and who doesn't?), cut the crunches.

Focus on appreciating your body and loading up exercises that honor the way we were meant to move. As I love to say, a real good front squat with a well braced midsection is an honest 6-minute ab miracle. 

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Running Requisites

When contemplating a running program, the question that often comes to mind first, is “Where do I start?”

I mean, you inherently know you cannot just go out and run a marathon on day one. 

So you vow to be sensible. You grab the latest issue of Runners’ World or Google the best beginners’ 5K program you can find.

You might even buy yourself brand new Nike’s to protect your joints or a cute new Lululemon outfit to get motivated.

You promise to follow the plan and take things slow.

You think you’re doing all the right things. You’re being responsible.

But, what if I told you, you’ve likely already jumped the gun?

Hold up, WHAT?

Your Body Needs Preparation

September is like the second coming of the new year for fitness. The weather is just right to lace up your kicks and get outside. It feels unquestionably like the perfect time to get started on some new goal.

Your mind is definitely poised for the challenge. But maybe your body is not is not so prepared. 

Just as a football player needs to have a certain amount of skills to cut down the field, a runner also requires some foundational strengths to traverse the trails or hit the pavement.

Like any other sport, running is stressful, and in a repetitive fashion.

Your body needs to be resilient enough to withstand that stress and strong enough to power you through the mileage with relatively good mechanics.

So before we get into what you need. We must talk about what running actually is.

 

What Is Running?

As we said, running is repetitive. One run of any distance, is a very, very, very long series of single-leg hops from one leg to the other.

That means you’ve got to be able to complete a real nice hop. And repeat.

So you need all the components of this skill. Lower body joints that work really nice. Hamstrings and calves that can withstand heavy loads. Trunk stability to keep you from leaking efficiency. And then the related strength to keep executing it well.

These components of preparedness are necessary to ensure that along the way of your fitness journey, you don’t hit the wall with an unexpected injury.

As many of my new clients were surprised to discover, running does not have to, and should not hurt. And it is absolutely possible to get more fit without that seemingly inevitable breakdown. 

For real.

 

You Need Skills

So I’ve enlisted the help of my good friend and colleague, Dr. Kyle Balzer, to compile a list of skills that we believe, are good indicators of a potential athlete’s readiness to run. And this includes the more casual recreational runner as well. You don't have to be a competitive athlete to call yourself a runner.

It all starts with showing up to the line with the right running requisites. How do we know what we're talking about?

Kyle is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist, with specific expertise in ensuring athletes return to the field or gym in better condition than ever; and helping clients who are injured, continue to train.

I myself am a highly qualified running coach. I’ve studied intensively under the LSU track coaches with special focus on the sprints. I’ve been around Olympic athletes in the gym. And I’ve coached cross country and track and field teams with great success, due mostly to getting my high school girls STRONG. 

Before you begin to run…

 

You should be able to forward lunge…

And what we’re really focusing on here is ankle mobility. If your ankles are locked up tight, you’re going to find lunging and running to be very tough endeavors.

How can you be sure that your joints are working well? Use a simple half kneeling assessment. Position your forward foot 4 inches from the wall. While keeping your heel down and the knee moving straight forward, can you reach the wall? 

Kyle adds that perhaps asymmetry between the two assessments is even more important. ROM in both should be within 5-10% of each other. 

What to do if they are not symmetrical or close to that 4 inches? You might want to check in with a good clinician like Kyle, or even an experienced and educated trainer to figure out why your ankles aren't moving adequately.

If you are not experiencing pain, you can also try working on the following mobility drill.

 

You should be able to load up a deadlift…

And what we’re really focusing on with this one is your ability to hinge well from the hips (as opposed to the waist), to ensure stride efficiency. And the ability to load up the legs and build strength to withstand the stressful and repetitive nature of running.

The deadlift, and all it's lateralizations, is super important for building that posterior chain strength that many runners are lacking.

Kyle points out that the single-leg version has even greater carryover. Runners should have great balance on both legs independently prior to getting started.  If that stability is present, single-leg deadlifting is a great way to build capacity within the tissue involved in single-leg landing.

Here is my absolute favorite cue for a successful single-leg deadlift.

 

You should be able to land a single leg hop…

Once you can  balance and then deadlift on a single leg, you can progress the challenge with jump training. We said running is a series of single-leg hops. So you better be able to execute one.

Kyle says plyometrics are great for creating the adaptations runners need for their sport, like creating power and absorbing stress. Hopping, bounding, and skipping are all great progressions that you can practice in the gym.

The video below is from my exercise library on YouTube. Hop out to a distance you can land successfully. Push the limit a little bit further when the hop becomes easy.

 

You should be able to dead bug like a pro…

As Kyle points out, running doesn’t require a whole lot of upper body strength. But it does require you to be able to dissociate or separate your shoulder and arms from your torso. And specifically in a reciprocal and alternating fashion. That means you need to be able to move your arms independently of your body. A dead bug requires you to do just that. Can you say core stability

Here I show you what to focus on in your dead bug practice.

 

Now let's be clear! Kyle is a doctor. But this check-list by no means serves as a doctor's clearance. If you've got major issues going on, or you're working through an injury, be sure to check in with a qualified professional IN PERSON.

We do however, wholeheartedly believe, that for the average recreational to competitive runner, proficiency in these skills can keep you much happier and healthier on the path to fitness or performance.

And contrary to current trending beliefs, running is a completely valid and useful way to increase your fitness. You just better be ready for it.

 

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