Germany. Core & Inner Thighs. Beauty.

Hope you’re having a great start to your week!

If you were going for Germany in the World Cup, let’s keep celebrating together. If you were going for Argentina, I’m sorry. You deserved that Cup by the end of the first half, the second half was full of mistakes and well, the extra time wasn’t too hot for you either. I’m a huge Germany fan. I know, people call me a bandwagoner cause I’m “supposed” to solely cheer for the USA. I cheer for the US, just whenever they’re not playing for Germany. For the last 3 World Cups (pretty much as far back as I can remember) I’ve cheered for Germany and I couldn’t be prouder!

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Ahh! Look at the hotness that is Podolski! Thank goodness he can play for Germany! & please tell me that Muller’s facial expressions don’t make you wanna just go have the time of your life with him? And poor Tiger, this match literally had him sweating… and bleeding. It was worth it!

Now, as a continuation of what is supposed to be a series of posts that are meant to help share my experience on my back/hip injury, here are two workouts that I did this week using a medicine ball.

This first workout is called an inner thigh squeeze. What you do is place a small medicine ball in between your knees and squeeze. When you squeeze, you must activate your core and inner thighs. Remember that a strong core will help strengthen your back and during this exercise it will help stabilize your back. You can also use an inflatable ball, the more air the bigger challenge you will have. At the therapists office, I do 20-30 reps.

This next workout is a different version of the bridge exercise I had discussed on a previous post. The only difference in this version is that you have a medicine ball under one foot. So you lay flat on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a medicine ball under your right foot, keep your left foot flat on the floor. The rest is just a normal bridge. Activate your core and lift your hips off the floor. Make sure to keep your body in a straight line as you lift your hips, hold for at least 3 seconds and bring your body back to the starting position. Do 20 reps with the right foot, then switch and do another 20 reps with the left foot.

It's a bit hard to take a video of myself doing this workout, and this is the closest image I found to give you a visual. However, instead of your other foot being extended, your foot needs to remain on the floor.

It’s a bit hard to take a video of myself doing this workout, and this is the closest image I found to give you a visual. However, instead of your other foot being extended, your foot needs to remain on the floor.

 

I’ve got two sessions this week, one Tuesday afternoon and one Friday morning. I’m hoping that I can begin running at the therapists office. He said that he would like for me to begin running under his supervision first and I’m hoping that that day comes this week. I did ask him about the possibility of jumping rope and he stated that although he won’t completely say no, he suggests that I find alternative workouts so that I don’t disrupt my back so soon due to the jumping movement. After doing some research on Google, which hasn’t been much help, I’ve come to the conclusion that modified burpees might be the way to go. Modified burpees are basically slow paced, very deliberate and more focused on proper form rather than intensity. So for example, I wouldn’t jump back from the push up position to the squat position and then jump up, I would just go back to the squat position and come upright and then repeat.

Do you have any suggestions on exercises that can be done as an alternative to jump rope?

 

Before you leave, take a look at the following video. You might have already seen it on the social media of your choice but I just found it and it made me smile. As a person who has struggled for years with her weight and the process of getting into her best possible shape, as a person who let herself go during a 6 year relationship, as a person who after 6 years of a relationship ended up single and is just trying to remember the beauty of life and learning to appreciate myself, alone, not because I can’t be with anyone but because I need to be with only myself for a while. As that person, and many more, I am glad there are videos and songs like these, relaying a message that needs to be heard.  Enjoy!

Update. Dior. Germany. Run. All in One.

Just a quick update on my status:

Summer semesters are the worst. Started a new class two weeks ago and my body is still getting accustomed to the new sleep pattern so I’ve been a bit bummed out lately. Unfortunately, the worse part is that my body will get accustomed to the new schedule, probably by the end of this week and then school ends at the end of July and it’ll have to adapt to a new schedule once again.

Oh well. We do what we have to in order to achieve success in every way.

This past week, I was not able to make it to my therapy sessions, however, I know the workouts and stretches that we have been doing and I was still able to set aside at least 30 minutes at home just for stretching. Now, that I feel my back pain has been reduced enough, I have been doing some relatively easy chest/back and lower body workouts which are also helping me keep track of my progress.  Last Monday, I did unfortunately feel enough back pain to want to sleep in and skip class but the rest of the week has been a breeze.

Lower back was aching real bad, foam rolled for a few minutes, stretched and then literally fell asleep with my ice pack.

Lower back was aching real bad, foam rolled for a few minutes, stretched and then literally fell asleep with my ice pack.

I have already set up my appointments for this week and I’m looking forward to them. My body misses the 10 minutes of warmth and electrical pulses (at a very high intensity, my therapist is always amused by this) and of course the amazing lower back massage. This weeks question will be: How OK is it for me to jump rope? I’m hoping the knee impact won’t be harsh enough for him to tell me to hold off on the idea.

Now that I’ve given you my update on therapy, let me share the wonders of life with you:

Meet Dior Ariana Booker Ortega! She’s my newest baby niece and she is so freaking cute! Baby Dior was born on July 1st and I finally got to meet her on the 3rd. This is my cousin’s second baby and just like I did with Mariah, her first baby, I had to go to the hospital at least once to help her feed, change and spoil the newest member of our family. Some of the pictures below look almost identical, but she’s making different cute faces in each, lol. Babies are too cute.

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Also, if you have me on Facebook as a friend, follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might know that I am super into this World Cup. Just like I have been into the the World Cups for the last 12 years. I love soccer, I don’t play it because I am honestly and secretly a bit scared of getting hit with the ball (I once broke a nail, and not just the tip). For the past 3 World Cups, I’ve gone for Germany, why? I’ve always cheered for them and they’ve been my team for as long as I can remember. Even if Nicaragua (where my family is from) would play, I’d still go for Germany. It’s my dream to get there and live there. Anywho, I’m super excited we are in the semi finals and I’m hoping and praying for dear life that the arbitrage is not as horrible as it was during the Brazil and Colombia quarter finals. Here are some pictures of me as a super excited Germany fan:

& lastly, I haven’t ran since December. I haven’t ran in a race since November. As a runner, this is frustrating and apparently one thing runners like to talk about is running. Obviously. Attempting to focus on other projects, school and work I’ve attempted to reduce the number of times I discuss missing waking up at 6am to hurriedly get out to a race and I’ve held back the urge to go raid all these sports stores of anything running gear so that I can have it all when I finally get back to running. Apparently, I’ve succeeded at none of that. My supervisor’s friend, who I’ve only really spoken to about a total of 30 minutes in the 6 years I’ve worked at my job, has realized I’m in need of some serious help. In the past, he’s lent me his stick roller, helped me find good compression socks and given me tips on performance and nutrition. Well, here’s his newest gift to me:

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I plan on starting it as soon as school ends this semester. He’s been running halfs and fulls for a couple of years and he’s helped another great friend of mine complete her own share of races. I can’t wait!

Have you read this book? What others do you recommend?

How was your 4th of July weekend?

How strong is your World Cup Fever?! Who are you rooting for?

Back Injury: Core Workouts

Hi there!

As I mentioned last week, I will be doing a series of posts where I talk about injuries, their prevention and their treatment, including workouts, stretches and the progress that I am making towards my recovery and how it may benefit anyone with a back and an IT band injury.

In the previous post, I gave you a list of general rules that you should follow when you are suffering from an injury. Before I show you some of the workouts that I have been doing during my therapy sessions, let me tell you the injury specific rules that I have been given by my therapist for my back and IT band injury. After a few weeks of treatment, about 10 sessions, I can:

  • Walk for maximum of 30 minutes.
  • No running. The less impact on the knees, the better.
  • No biking. Even if seat is at proper height, a bike does not have back support and forces you to bend your back.
  • You can use the bike at the gym, the one with the actual chair and a back rest. No spinning. No fun bike rides.
  • Weights can be used but should be light, and not used over head.
  • Squats should preferably be done with a stability ball on your back.
  • Use proper form, when walking, sitting or bending down.
  • No heels! Specially when you’re going to be dancing for over 4 hours non stop.

Running on a treadmill takes long enough, but walking… I have no idea what to do with myself when I’m walking on a treadmill.

 

So what do I do every time I go to my therapists office?

Well, I start off with electrodes on my back and heat pads. He then stretches me out a bit, sees how tight certain muscles have gotten after the last visit and then gives me a massage, very good lower back massage. Then he leaves me alone to do a few core workouts.

Why core workouts if I’m dealing with a back injury?

A strong core strengthens your back. A strong core helps you improve your posture not just when sitting down, but when you workout and when you walk and in anything that you do. A strong core will help prevent injuries, specially back injuries, and it will give you stability. Think of how everything that you do uses your core.

So what are some of the core workouts that I do at the therapist’s office and at home?

This first core workout is very simple. You contract your core with your knees bent, and you bring your right knee to your chest and back down. As soon as your right foot hits the floor, bring your left knee to your chest and back down. Repeat. It’s that simple. It’s not meant to be a tough ab workout, it’s meant to help your back loosen up a bit. Start off with 10 reps. Increase by 5 reps every time.

(Sorry, it’s sideways) This second workout involves a stability ball. Lay down on your back and place the stability under your legs, knees bent.  Once again, contract your core and with your back and shoulders on the floor, move both knees to the right, back to center, stop, and then to the left. Then back to the center, right, center, left. Keep repeating. Start off with 10 reps for each side. Increase by 5 reps every time. If the twisting movement creates a discomfort, do not continue.

This workout involves a stability ball as well. With your legs straight, place your heels on the stability ball. Contract your core and bring your knees to your chest, without taking your heels off the stability ball. Repeat for at least 10 reps. Increase by 5 reps every time.

To perform the bridge exercise, lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Contract your core and lift your hips off the floor. The trick here is to squeeze your butt here and at the same time make sure that you are using your core to lift your hips. When you lift your hips keep your back straight, there is no need to lift too high. Repeat for 10 reps, holding for 3 seconds at each rise. Increase by 5 reps every time. Thankfully, this also works out your glutes.

These are a few of the core workouts that I started off with in my sessions. They sound very easy and they can be, depending on what your fitness level is when you begin any treatment, but you have to remember that core workouts will help strengthen your back and that progress is always progress. If you feel that you can start off with more than 10 reps, go ahead, just always be conscious of any discomfort or pain. Listen to your body and stop if necessary. I am up to 20 reps for some of these workouts and 30 reps for others, depending on what other workouts I combine them with.

**Please consult your physician/therapist about exercises listed above. The above workouts have been chosen for me to follow as per my physical therapists advice for treatment of my back injury.

Injuries Force Us To Listen

Injuries suck.

Injuries get you frustrated. Depressed. Stressed. Anxious. Anything horrible you can think of.

Before starting any workout or training program, be aware of how to properly care for your body & listen to warning signs.

Before starting any workout or training program, be aware of how to properly care for your body & listen to warning signs.

When you initially start working out, injuries can be erroneously considered a “shouldn’t have even tried working out” sign. When you’ve got a few months of consistent training and exercise under your belt, you consider that maybe you were doing something wrong and need to work towards fixing it. When you’ve got years of training and book reading and article stalking and you get injured, well, it’s upsetting. Specially when it hits mid training, halfway to reaching your goal.

That happened to me last year. There I was, training for my first half, a Sunday morning after an 8 hour graveyard shift and that was the day I had my 8 mile long run. I was excited. I was freaked out. I was mostly excited. For me, that meant 2 hours of running under the Miami sun, where I would be forced to run with a water bottle or my fuel belt (which I never got accustomed to) and sweat coming out of parts you didn’t even know it was possible and the sting in your eye cause we haven’t evolved enough to withstand that pain. I experienced a bit of pain, but nothing I couldn’t run through. All was great when I got home. Cooled down, stretched very little and took a shower and off to bed I went. When I woke up, dear lord, I wanted to cut off my leg. I couldn’t walk without a pain radiating from my lower back down to my right leg just above the knee. Cut back on the running and forced myself to try out yoga (only went like 3 times) and tried stretching and foam rolling at home. It helped a bit. So I went back to running. And that first mile was impossible.

After research and lots of “let’s see what I can do on my own to get back out there” I found myself at the Drs office telling her that my IT band was acting up. That’s what I told her. And I told her I needed to get back out there… ASAP. She sent me to the ortho and to the physical therapist. The ortho took X-rays and said that maybe just a little sciatica but nothing I should worry about excessively and just to treat it with therapy. The therapist agreed with me on the IT band and helped me stretch properly and that helped greatly. The pain was reduced immensely and I was able to train, although I had to reduce the number of miles, my speed and the number of days I trained. And I had to include stretching twice a day… everyday. I hated that part. Hating that part is what got me back to the therapist again at the beginning of this year.

Lesson learned.

That caused me to learn that I need to listen to my body. That I need to stretch more than once a week and that it shouldn’t be a quick 10 minute session. So, over the next few weeks, I will be discussing my sessions and different stretches and workouts that my therapist has me doing in order to help me with my back problems and IT band situation.

 

I will list off basic rules today. If you are injured, regardless of location:

Stop working out. This is extremely important if you are unsure of what caused the injury. If you continue to work out you only risk worsening the injury and we don’t want that. An IT band injury can be caused by simply having the seat at the wrong height on your bike. But it can also be caused due to the impact your knees receive when you are pounding the street during your runs, or bad form when squatting. Have a professional take a look at it and let your body heal properly.

Allow your body to recover naturally. Of course, take an Advil or prescribed medication from your physician if the pain is unbearable to the point where you can’t even sleep. Can the pain be reduced simply by icing it at the end of a workday? Can you add a muscle rub and give yourself a massage that can help improve your blood flow and reduce the pain a bit? After seeing a physician ask what stretches and what other steps you can take to help your body recover not necessarily quicker, but effectively.

Hydrate. This may sound stupid. Yet, it happens to me often and I’m sure it happens to one of you every once in a while. When I stop working out, I don’t feel the need to drink as much water as I used to before. Because I’m not working out in the heat, I don’t feel the need to cool down with a sip of water and I don’t realize that I need to replenish my body with the bit of sweating that I do throughout the day (I live in Miami, remember? Our summer started in December.) Lack of hydration can cause not only dryness of your skin despite the amount of lotion and moisturizers you can use but it can also be the reason why you get that cramp mid sleep.

Don’t use your injury as an excuse for ANYTHING! We stop working out and we somehow lose focus. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t let an injury postpone your goals. Continue eating healthy and doing what you were doing before and you will continue seeing results. They numbers might not be what you were seeing before but you will continue making progress and when you can finally get back to your workouts it won’t feel like you’re starting all over again. Starting all over again sucks, I’m speaking from experience. If a friend invites you out for a night out, you can go! Maria, what are you talking about? How will an injury keep you from going out? Ladies, heels. Your friend invites you to go out dancing and you refuse to go in flats or sandals so you don’t go. No, you an wear wedges which have a little more support than heels and you can still go out to dance and even burn a few calories in the process. Men, I think a more appropriate scenario for you would be playing sports. You can probably play for a bit, but be conscious of any signs your body might give you. The moment you feel any slight discomfort back off, take a quick break, stretch if you have to and go back to playing if your body allows. Your body is the boss.

This is all for today. Next post will cover some core workouts that can help strengthen and stretch your back at the same time.

I’d love to hear what rules you set and followed during an injury and how you recovered from it.

Thankfully I don't need surgery, but my I've lost count of how many times I've asked my trainer the same question: "When can I run again? What about my bike?"

Thankfully I don’t need surgery, but my I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve asked my trainer the same question: “When can I run again? What about my bike?”

Running Shoes Have a History Too

Running shoes are super important. Ill-fitting shoes, whether by wrong shoe size, lack of support or simply not the right fit for you can cause injuries, discomfort and worst of all, frustration. This will not be the post where I go deep into the “proper” shoe and the “proper” fit, but I would like to share the following info graphic and have you decide which part of the timeline stands out for you.

For me, what stands out is:

1977 – Brooks Vantage first mass market running shoe with an EVA midsole and “varus wedge” said to control pronation, heralding modern running shoe’s emphasis on cushioning and motion control. 

This stood out for me because the shoes that I use due to their amazing support are Brooks!

For some reason I couldn’t get the info graphic to load, but here is the link to the image. Click me!