When things tighten up

Last week, as I was trying to fit in my long run, 17km in preparation with my half marathon mid September, I just couldn’t do it.

It’s not that I didn’t have the time or motivated enough to get it done. It went even a lack of physical fitness. I had a plan. A beautiful scenic route and 2-3 tentative times that I could get it done based on that days activities and the weather.

BUT, I just couldn’t run. I didn’t run.

It all started a week prior to this. It was on my last long run, that I decided to challenge myself and run in the mid day heat, since my half marathon is taking place after my Gabriela swims and Rebecca bikes. SO, you guessed it, I am running in the midway heat. That is not my ideal half marathon weather. I really enjoy racing fall mornings, when the weather is warm-is, but still a little cool.

After my exhausting long run the week before, I was spent. I should have showered and taken the time to foam roll, rest while drinking my post run protein shake. BUT, that isn’t what happened.

I jumped in the shower very quickly, changed and headed to my moms place to make dinner. My back, my legs, my neck were all in need of a good stretch. I ignored that feeling and just kept making dinner. That was a mistake.

That weekend, I also completed so many tasks outdoors and moved in ways that I don’t normally move. I climbed up ladders to clean gutters, power washed 2 trailers and 2 decks, create a clearing through brush , mowed the lawn, weed whip ditches. It was a very busy weekend. Combine that with a lack of stretching, and well, that’s the mess I was in.

My hips were sore. Both of them, but one side more than the other. The leg felt heavy. SO I booked a massage therapy appointment.

Active Release

AH, massage day Thursday. Perfect time to get a massage. I still have a day to recover from the massage before my long run. While my amazing therapist Michel worked her magic, it still wasn’t enough this time. I really did a number on my leg. Didn’t matter what I tried, I just couldn’t release the tight muscles around that hip. Which meant, I couldn’t walk without pain, let alone run 17km.

You see, I am stubborn. There is no way that I accept the fact that my sore hip prevented me from running my long run. I may have to post pone it a little, It may not be all in one session, but I will get that run in, with proper form. I won’t run with poor form. That is a sure way to get injured.

Stretching and foam rolling every few hours for a few days and finally, my tight quad finally decided to release the tension. AH! Partial pain relief.

I am getting ready to run my long run later today, on a Wednesday. Crazy, I know. Running long on other days than sat and Sunday.

While I may not get the full 17km in, I am very confidant that I will run 10km. I have plans to run the following 7 in the morning before work, should I not get the full 17 in tonight.

Sometimes, you have to modify things to make it fit your life and the things that happen. I could just say, F-it. I’ll just skip this week, but in reality, I don’t want to.

Have you had something interfere with your plan? What did you and what changes have you made to make it happen?

Until next time, have a great active week.

Olympic vs Try a Tri

Which one should I do?

Last weekend, while at the West Nippissing Cycle for Charity, (which I will blog about this later), I met the race director of the Kiwanis Club of Nippissing triathlon.

I was so excited to hear there was a triathlon so close to my cottage. I was looking forward to a sprint triathlon at the end of June. When I checked out the website, I realized there wasn’t a sprint. My choices are Olympic distance or Try-a-Tri. While I am physically fit enough to complete an Olympic triathlon, I didn’t want to race anything longer than a sprint this year. But, since I am a seasoned triathlete, should I be registering for a Try-a-Tri? At this point, the struggle is real. Here are a few facts.

Olympic distance triathlon

An Olympic distance triathlon, also known as 5150 is typically

  • 1.5 km swim
  • 40 km bike
  • 10 km run

The Kiwanis triathlon in North Bay on June 30th is

  • 1 km swim
  • 31 km bike
  • 8.5 km run.

The distance is actually shorter than the typical 5150 that I have raced in the past. While I can do this distance, I would be treating this race as a training day more than a race day. I am not racing long distance this season. I want to fall in love with training as well as sprinting.

Perhaps, I should race one part of the Olympic, and just use the other 2 disciplines as training as a training session. This would be a great time to practice my transitions.

However, I am thinking that I can race the try a tri since it’s shorter and faster.

Try a Tri Distance triathlon

The try a tri distance was created for people to get a feel of triathlon racing. It’s meant as an entry point. It’s short enough that with a little bit of training, athletes can give racing a try.

The Kiwanis triathlon in North Bay Try-a-Tri is

  • 300 m swim
  • 10 km bike
  • 2 km run

Now, that seems just a little too short for me. But, perhaps I could race this. This could be a great test on pushing myself throughout the entire race, including fast transitions. This could be part of my Sprint season.

BUT, I have done triathlons before. I have done multiple 70.3’s. I’m not new to triathlons. Should I really be racing this? What will the other competitors think? Will I make a new athlete feel less than?

On the other hand, I haven’t tried for speed. This would be something new for me as well.

What should I do?

This is a hard decision to make. In the morning, I will be asking my triathlon friends what I should do.

I can see benefits for both races. I’m torn. I just haven’t decided. Since I have already missed the discounted price, I have a little bit of time to make my decision.

In the mean time, I will race my 10 K this weekend at the Midland Butter Tart Trot and I will see how it goes.

What would you do? Would you do the Olympic distance as a training session or the try a tri? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Season of Speed

This is my season of speed. I’ve traded my longer distance racing for shorter and faster races this year.
Training is different. Shorter and more intense, but I kind of like it. It’s a welcomed change from the last few years.


Monday nights are now my track night. For an hour, I get together with a few women, and run fast. While I don’t always feel like attending, I am always glad after I am done.
While we all run at different speeds, track allows us to run together and socialize between reps and sets.

Do you train on a track? Do you run intervals with others or do you prefer running solo?

Ready, Set, GO!

I signed up for the Ragnar 31 day challenge 2019. That means that I committed to being active every single day for January.

Why did I sign up? I signed up to get motivated again to start moving. I signed up to have accountability to exercise everyday. I signed up because of peer pressure.

Most of my friends I’ve met thought running and triathlon. That’s how we socialize. That’s how we spend time together. It’s how we roll.

While on vacation, I have started

Ready to Train Again

My crazy busy fun filled jam packed schedule.

It’s been a heck of a year. Injuries , losses and disappointments. Since my last major race, I really haven’t been in the mood to train. The idea of getting up early, to get on the bike or go for a swim or a run really didn’t appeal to me. I have been distracting myself with other things, saying I am too busy to train.

While some days, my crazy busy fun filled jam packed schedule doesn’t allow me to train, I know that If I really wanted to, I would have made the time.

Don’t match, don’t care. I’m comfy.

Today, the last few days of 2018, I am finally getting that loving feeling towards triathlon training again. I am looking for a new bike and looking forward to my “play dates” on the trainer with my friends in different cities and provinces via Rouvy.

As a way to get things rolling and to build in some accountability, I’ve signed up for Ragnar’s 31 day challenge where I get active every day in January. I’m making some dates to workout with my friends at least once a week for January. Yes, I am penciling in some date this week, just as I would plan an appointment, blocking out the time. Hopefully this will help me get back in the swing of things.

While I still have no interest in the Ironman distance this year, I will definitely be doing some training this month. There are a few races on my calendar already. Some of them I have paid the entry fee, others, I will do so shortly. All of the races I have planned are “fun for me” races for a variety of reasons.

  1. Around the Bay 30K, 3 person relay. Sunday March 31st.
  2. The New Tecumseth Memorial 5K and Half Marathon. Sunday April 28th.
  3. Ragnar Niagara Road Relay. May 31 to June 1st.
  4. Butter Tart Trot 10K. Saturday June 8th
  5. Tri Muskokan Triathlon. June 23rd
  6. Ragnar Cottage Country Trail. August 24-25th.
  7. Fall destination race to be determined based on where we go.

While I have been on vacation for a few days, spending time with family, I have made it a point of being active every single day. I have gone on long walks in the cold, snowshoeing and skating on the outdoor rink.

2019 is a new year. A new beginning.

What races are you signed up for? Send your race list via written word or via voice memo to Trichatlg@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Positive outlook to sustaining an injury

Last week, I was rear ended while driving to work to cover another coaches clients for the day. I was five minutes away from my destination when the incident occurred.
I was at a complete stop because of the car in front of me. the car immediately behind me changed lanes and the truck behind him kept going, right into the back of my SUV.
I was in shock as I didn’t see it coming. Tea spilled everywhere. I was in shock and a little confused on what happened. As time went on, I felt my neck tightening and my wrist hurt. It wasn’t until I woke up from a nap, before heading to the Dr’s office, that I realized my right leg that was on the brake peddle was also affected.
The Doctor diagnosed it as whiplash. Told me to take it easy for a while, lots of stretching and resting.

URGH! I really didn’t need that a mere 50 days before my race in Michigan, the first of 2 A races this season. BUT, 50 days is still better then a few days before.

Thankfully, I was on vacation the next day, This would give me some time to heal. After 4 days, I felt significantly better and tried to go for a run. Lessoned learned. That 30 minute run causes a significant amount of pain for several hours and a huge headache for several days. I was not ready to resume my regular training. My Wonder Woman suit was in the laundry.

While I was and still am sore, things could have been much worse. Many little things combined turned an awful situation into a “that’s not fun” type of situation.

1. I had gone to the gym that morning and got my spin session in before the drive to the other gym. My muscles were warmed up and not stiff from sleeping all night.

2. I get massaged on a semi regular basis. So I am not as stiff as a block of cement. There is some give.

3. I eat well, including lots of fruits and vegetables. This helps my body repair when there is a trauma like this one.

4. I take supplements including magnesium and a NRF2 activator that helps me with inflammation and muscle contraction.

5. I drink a lot of water. By that time at 7:07am , I had already consumed 2L of water and was half way through a large cup of tea.

6. I followed the Doc’s recommendation to do my stretching several times a day.

7. While I tried to train, I listen to my body. I know the difference between pain and discomfort. Being uncomfortable is ok. Very uncomfortable is still OK, but pain is never a good sign during activity. Not this kind of pain anyway.

8. While I am competitive and really want to focus on my training, I know that modifications are part of the process right now. Running short slow distance are manageable. Fast and long are still out of the question, for now.

9. Other modification include riding the trainer instead of going outside. That way, I don’t have to put significant amount of weight on my wrist and when my neck tightens up, I can sit up and stretch, while still peddling.

10. I know that this injury was sustained from a trauma and not from a mistake in training, There is a start time and hopefully soon a time when this will be in the past.

11. I am more focused on getting on the quality training session that I need. I am trying to maximize the workouts that I am able to do.

12. I am reading a lot more and focusing on the of the little things I can change in my swim and bike.

13. I have the great support though this.

14. the training time that I missed while on vacation allowed me to sit on the beach with my family and just enjoy being in the present moment.

15. I know I will be better. The quote “…the days are long and the years are short” comes to mind. In a year from now, I will see that moment as a blip my radar.

While this is never a “fun” thing to go through, I am very grateful that I am able to work through this.

As I am writing this article, I realize that Michigan Titanium 70.3 is only 39 days away while the Barrelman 70.3 Triathlon is 67 days away.

Have you sustained in injury? How have you coped with it? Any tips or advice you would like to share with me?

The Tri Muskokan Race Report

Last sunday was race day.  While I haven’t been training as much as I would like, this race was a training race in preparation for my 2 upcoming  “A” races, the Michigan Titanium 70.3 and the Multisport Rev 3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 70.3. For me, the Tri Muskokan, besides being the most awesome race that I look forward to each year, it’s also a reset. It’s usually the first or second race of the season, therefore it’s a chance to see how much work I have to put in to make sure I am fully ready for the rest of the season.

I was part of a relay team with my friend Jax.  I swam and ran while she was the cyclist.  Together we were the Tri-Angels. A fellow Baydog commented that we should have been the Du-Angels as there were only 2 of us.  Yupe!  That would have worked too.  Jax is the same cyclist who raced with me last year at the Barrelman 70.3 relay with the team name Jim’s Angels in honor of her father. She lost her father a few months before that race while I lost mine a few months after that race.  We are both Daddy’s girls who lost their fathers.  Today, we raced for them, Jim and Don.

Enough of the sappy stuff.  Tri Muskokan is our club championship race.  There is a friendly rivalry between the Barrie Baydogs and the Muskoka Triathlon club. This all started approx. 4 years ago when the Tri Muskokan Sprint and Try a tri came on my radar. Race directors Rich, Lindsay and Brian, with the rest of the team have made this an event you don’t want to miss.  Every year, there is a new little surprise to make the experience just a little better. If you want to hear about the race over the years, we have 4 podcasts episodes available in the archives.

The Swim: It all started with a train ride down to the water.  What a pleasant surprise. The athletes hoped on an old fashioned trolley train from the corner down to the water.  What a fun way to get to the start line.  Then, I’m not sure what happened, but I managed to get my wetsuit on backwards. I didn’t notice till my fellow Baydog, all the way from Sackville New Brunswick started laughing.  The mad rush set in to get it off and on once again.  This time the proper way. Luckily, I got it done with a few minutes to spare. I took a few minutes to get in the zone, to get my head in the place where I race.  The book by Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall “The Brave Athlete. Calm the F*ch Down” talks about changing our focus like we change the channels on our TV.  Sometimes we need to focus on the outer and sometimes in inner.  Sometimes we need to look at things broadly and other times we need to focus in.  In the past that mistake could have cost me the mental space I need to have a good race.  Instead of being focused on the “now” I would have replayed the mistake in my head over and over, not being in the present moment of the race, resulting in a less than optimal result. I simply changed the channel.  It’s not something you can try it once and master it.  I’ve been practicing during my workouts.  Well, this time it paid off.  I was now on MY racing channel.

Since I was part of a relay, I was in the first wave of swimmers along with the fast men.  At 8:00 am we were off.  Since this was my 4th year swimming the Tri Muskokan, I was familiar with the river.  I also stayed right of the course this time instead of the usual left side I have been swimming as one of the race directors shared a little secret with us on the trolley. He said the current runs in such a way that the water is faster on the right side of the river.  I am not sure if it was the current of the fact that I was in the first wave of swimmers, but I had a great swim.  It felt good. I was only hit by 1 swimmer, 3 times and my goggles stayed on. Always a bonus in a race.  Of course opting to use my huge aqua-sphere goggles was a good choice too.  Those babies stay on.

Long strong strokes throughout, I was sighting every 8-10 strokes in the beginning aiming for the pontoon boat along the shore.  From there, I aimed for the big orange arch at water exit.  I did have to breaststroke once near the end (as I don’t have prescription goggles) to assess where the exit spot was.  There was also more athletes around me in the water, making it a little harder to move, I mean swim.  I could have picked up the speed a little in the second half of the swim, since I had time to recover while Jax was on the bike course, before I had to run. Something that will get noted on my race plan for next year.  The run from the water to transition is somewhat far at the Tri Muskokan and it seems to be up a hill.  Almost to transition, former club president Mark was running by me.  Once again I managed to swim faster than him. He still managed to get to transition before me, but that’s ok.  For me, it’s just a little internal victory he knows nothing about.

The timing chip was passed and Jax was off.  Time to get changed and ready to run.  The bike course is quite hilly.  While Jax is a great cyclist, I had no idea how long she would be on the course.  A great tip for all the relay teams out there, note the color of clothing your cyclist is wearing and the color of the bike.  That may help you recognize your team mate coming into transition.  Spotting Jax was fairly easy this time around.  Her Mom ran by with her phone out ready to take pictures.  That’s when I knew it was game time.  Timing chip was passed back to me and I was off.

The Run:  It was a hot day and I chose to stay in my Baydog tri suit that I wore for the swim an hour earlier. I added my HR monitor strap as well as my black Ragnar visor.  Since the sun wasn’t shining to it’s fullest at that time, I wasn’t sure if I should run with my regular glasses or my sunglasses.  That’s always a tricky one for me.  Running with prescription sunglasses means that if it gets cloudy and dark, you are stuck wearing your shades. In the end I chose the sunglasses.

The run course consists of  2 loops.  First you head down to the water by the swim transition,down a gravel road,  up “The hill”, out on the road to the track, around the track, back to the corner and start the second loop.  That hill is hard.  While I was training hills like that at the beginning of the year, I know I didn’t do nearly as much as I should have.  Looking at my training zones, I started walking when my watch indicated I was in the high 4 and low 5 zones.  Time to walk to get my heart rate down a little.  When I crested the hill, it was time to start running again even if my legs didn’t agree with it. My legs felt like lead.  My breathing labored.   Thankfully, there was an amazing volunteer stationed at the top of the hill encouraging the runners to get running again.  It’s just what I needed.  People do make a difference while you are racing. (Thank you to all the volunteers, I appreciate you)

I chose to run with a water bottle with some Nuun in my hand, even though I really didn’t need to.  I wanted to make sure I drank enough. I wanted to measure the amount of water I took in on the run. In my 7.5km run, I almost finished my 500ml bottle of water.  The water station at the Tri Muskokan is in the perfect spot, and once again, there was the famous canoe in the middle of the road to throw the empty cups. The volunteers at the station were friendly and motivating and there was enough of them since we do pass the water station 4 times.

A deer crossed the road in front of me on the run course.  That was nice to see and not something I’ve seen too many times in races.  I did see one before, years ago,  in the Toronto Womans half marathon of all places.

I kept my running in Zone 4 for most of the race.  Thirty-two minutes in Zone 4, Twelve mines in Zone 5 and 4 minutes in Zone 3.  That’s pretty good.  It was hard, but I felt great.

I ran into the finishing shute, I hear my name being called.  Many spectators, all clapping and cheering.  Got a high 5 from Jax and a hug from Rich,The energy was amazing.

Unfortunately, I missed seeing Rebecca cross the finish line, but watched many other athletes come in including Tania, our Baydog from Sackville and our club president Louise completing her first Tri a try.

As usual, the food was amazing. More than just bananas and bagels, I had a veggie burger, different vegetables and even a yummy chick pea salad.  Every year, I tell myself that I will take a picture of the food, but I still don’t have a picture after 4 years. Perhaps someone will send me one that I can post here for you to see the amazing food served for the athletes.

Awards and prizes were given out.  The Baydogs managed to get most club participants award again this year.  The Muskoka club isn’t eligible to win that one.  We tied the Muskoka club with 4 points a piece in the club championship, and in the end, we won the tie breaker.  The Barrie Baydogs came home with 2 trophies.

All in all, it was a great race day.  I’m waiting for registration to open up to sign up for next year.

Will you be joining me?

 

Stand up tall and get unbalanced to strengthen the core

Vertical or standing is the last of the 4 squares on the Robertson training system arrow. This changes the stability.  While when we initially think of vertical or tall standing, we usually think of standing on 2 feet, shoulder width apart.  That is the stance that is most talked about in gyms by fitness instructors 

Go ahead and try the exercises in last weeks article, Get on your knees to strengthen your core, but this time on 2 feet instead of your knees.  Feel how that changes.  Does it make it harder?

When you are on 2 feet, shoulder width apart, you are fairly stable in vertical.  Your ankles are stacked under your hips and your shoulders over your hips.  Now changing your base of support will certainly affect your stability.  A wider base of support means more stability while a narrow bass means less stability.

If you have completed the exercises in the last 3 articles, you will notice that you engaged your core more and more, as you moved up the arrow.  When you decrease stability, you increase the work your core has to do so maintain stability.

Let’s take the overhead press as our example.  In this picture, the feet are shoulder width apart and stacked under the hips and shoulders.  Stable, right?  

 

 

Try it with your feet together.  Can you feel your core firing just a little more?

 

Now try the same exercise with your feet together in an off set position.  How does that feel?  Change the lead leg.  Does that change anything?

Shoulder press with one foot in front of the other is the next exercise you should be trying. Again try with the left foot forward, then the right.  Can you hold that position for 10 seconds?  How about 30?

 

 

Let’s decrease the base of support from 2 feet to one foot.  Look at the shirt line of the athlete in the black clothes.  Her hips appear to be parallel to the floor, while the athlete with the white shirt on the left appears to have allowed her left hip to drop. When you lift one leg off the ground maintain your pelvis parallel to the floor.

If you are feel like even more of a challenge, experiment with different surfaces. 

First try one foot on the unstable surface and one foot on solid ground like the picture on the right. Experiment with different surfaces.  How does it feel?  Then try both legs.  A Bosu ball is great for this.  Bosu actually stands for Both Sides Up, meaning, you can use it by standing on the ball part with the flat surface on the floor like the picture on the left.  You can also use it the other way with the ball side down, standing on the flat surface.

Ultimately I would like to be able to stand on a ball like the elephant and be able to move my arms in a chest press and over head press.  Perhaps Ill add a few squats or two in the mix.

What is your stability goal?

 

Till next time, have a great active week.

Get on your knees to work your core.

Tall kneeling and half kneeling exercises are  the third square on the Robertson Training System Arrow.  This is where things start getting interesting and start mimicking real life positional situations while still maintaining some stability.  Working in this position, you are not as stable as the quadruped exercises, but are still more stable then standing exercises.  The arms are being used and moving away from the core.  Further away you move your hands, the more your core has to engage to maintain stability.

It’s important to start these exercises without additional weight in your hands.  Just the weight of the hands and arms moving further away from the body is enough to create some resistance.  Engaging your glutes and core muscle is a must to complete these exercises properly.

Before we start with the exercises, we will define the starting position.  After completing an exercise, go back to the starting position. This will allow you to reset and ensure you create the proper patterns.

 Tall Kneeing starting position.

  • Get on your knees with your shins on the floor.
  • Relax your feet so the tops of the feet are against the floor and the soles of the feet facing up towards the ceiling
  • Stack your hips and shoulders above your knees.
  • Relax your neck.

 

One Half kneeling position.

  • Start in the kneeling position
  • Bring one knee forward in a 90 degrees angle
  • Stack your knee above the ankle
  • In the basic position, the ankle is aligned with the shoulder
  • In  the tight rope position, the ankle is inline with the nose (shown in this picture)

 

Before your start your exercises, get into the basic tall- kneeling position. Notice what is tight. Start from the bottom and work your way up to the top. If your knees are uncomfortable being directly on the floor, feel free to place a rolled up towel or a small mat under your legs and knees. Be mindful of the towel or mat thickness as that can have an impact on your hip angle.  Are your glutes tight?  Relax your glutes and engage them to stay in the proper starting position.  Notice the feelings in your lower back.

Is there tightness.  Is the natural curve present?  Are your abs engaged?  Can you feel a stretch in your thoracic (mid back) spine?  Are your shoulders up towards your ears or are they down and relaxed?  Is one shoulder tighter than the other?  How does your neck feel?  Is there tension?  Can you let that tension go? Can you relax your face, especially the area between your eyes?

Now, start with your right leg and get into your half kneeling position.  Are you stable?  Are your hip flexors tight?  Can you relax that group of muscles?

Now we are ready to work.

Before we start adding weights to the following exercises, let’s start with some basic movements we already do throughout the day. We reach forward, up, same side and cross body, with either one hand or both hands.  The goal of these exercises is to keep the core, (the rectangle from your shoulders to your hips) straight and steady.  From the outside, this will look easy.  Internally, you should feel like your core is firing to maintain stability. The further away you move your hands from the body, the harder it should feel. Physio and Occupational therapists often use these exercises with their patients sitting at the bed side after a stroke to start re-engaging the core.

Tall Kneeling position: 

Move your arms in each of the positions below.  Start with the right arm, follow up with the left, then finish it up with both arms at the same time.

 

Start with lighter weight and work your way up to a heavier weight progressively.

 

Overhead press:  single arm

Theraband shoulder flexion, AKA, Shoulder T pulls

Theraband Shoulder extension AKA straight arms pull back

 

 

Cable chest height cable pulls

 

Cable straight Arm Pull:  Single Arm or Double Arms

 

 

 

Ball Rotation

Dumbell Lateral Raise

 

 

 

Give these exercises a try.  See how you feel.  Are you able to complete the movements without rotating your trunk?  Can you feel you core muscles engage?

Next week, we will be reviewing vertical exercises and the variations that can make the exercises harder or easier.

Hands and knees core exercises. Is this a little more challenging?

Last week, I wrote about Supine (on you back) and Prone (on you belly) exercises.  That was the first block on the Robertson Training System arrow. 

Today, we explore quadruped exercises meaning they are done on your hands and knees.  This is the second block on the arrow.

Table Top position or pose. Start on your hands and knee, shoulder width apart, back flat.  Be sure to stack your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips directly over your knees.  Tega from SocialHermit.me demonstrates this position very well in the picture on right.  This will become the position you return to in between your movements.  Try to distribute your weight evenly between all 4 points of contact. It should feel comfortable.  If you feel some tightness, just notice it. Have someone take a picture of you in this position.  Are you aligned?  Are you balanced left and right?  Are you at the center of front and back? Readjust your position until you are in a similar position as Tega in the picture.

https://www.whyiexercise.com/exercises-for-low-back-pain.html

Cat and Camel is one of the exercises I started doing in physiotherapy and was pleasantly surprised when my yoga teacher had us doing that pose in one of our yoga class.  I always feel better when I do this on a regular basis.  Why is this movement important?  According to Live Healthy  the Cat and Camel is a “gentle exercise that stretches and strengthens the muscles that stabilize the spine, including the back extensors and abdominals. When performed daily, the exercise can help improve the function of the back and decrease many irritating ailments.”  Be sure to use your breath when performing the movement.  Inhale and lift your lower rib cage, exhale and lower your chest towards the floor.  Relax your neck.

Backwards quadruped weight shift. Starting from the basic table top position, shift your hips back without pushing back with your arms.  Initiate he movement from your hips. Hold.  Return to starting position. Do this for several repetitions. The video describes 2 ways of  completing the movements.  One is biased towards flexion and the second one is biased towards extension. Both are equally important.

 

Forward quadruped weight shift. In the basic table top position, move your left hand forward approx 20-30 cm, then move your right hand forward to it’s parallel to your left.  Your hands should be slightly in front of you. Shift your body forward towards your hands.  This should allow your shoulders to stack on top of your wrists  in the end position.  It it doesn’t, change your hand position.   Hold.  Return to starting position.  Repeat this movement for several repetitions.

Diagonal weight shift.  Start in your table top or starting position with our hands shoulder width apart and your knee hip distance apart.  Shift your weight back diagonally onto your right hip, then onto your left arm putting as much weight as you can on the right hip and left arm as you can.  Come back to neutral position.  Repeat the motion on the other side, shifting your weight on your left hip and your right arm.  Come back to neutral and repeat this movement several times

 

Un weight one. Adding a dowel or broom stick on your back will provide your with instant feedback if you are keeping your core strong while completing these exercises.  This is where the fun begins. If you maintain stability in your core, the dowel will stay in place.  If there is some movment, the dowel will shift a little. When too much movement occurs, the dowels falls off.  That simple.  The goal of the exercise if to eventually keep the dowel in place.

In our starting position we have all 4 points of contact on the floor.  Even when completing the exercises above, all 4 points of contact remained on the floor, which provides stability.  Un weight one point of contact will reduce the stability and will engage your core muscles to take over the task of stabilizing and keeping the broom stick in place.  Starting from the stable table top position with your shoulders and hips stacked, lift your left hand off the ground, just enough to slide a sheet of paper under your hand.  A very small movement.  How does that feel?  What is happening in your body?  What’s happening with the dowel?  Hold your hand off the ground for a count of 10 then place it back on the floor.  Repeat the same thing with the right hand.  How does that feel?  Does lifting your right hand feel easier then than lifting your left?  Now try it with your left knee, then your right knee.  Is it easier to lift the arms or the legs? Just note how you feel. There is no right or wrong, just a starting point.

Once this feels comfortable and you can un-weight one contact point at a time for a count of 10, while managing to keep the broom stick on your back, you are ready to progress to lifting and extending one limb at a time.  This is called Quadruped with one limb extension. This is the foundation for the bird dog exercise that we often see in many gyms and physiotherapy clinics.

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One limb extensions with the broom stick on your back is fun the first few times that you try it.  Starting from the basic table top position your hands shoulder width apart, shoulders directly over your wrists, you knee hip distance apart, with your hips stacked over your knees, your neck relaxed, extend your left arm forward.  Hold for a count of 5-10, return to the starting position.  Repeat with the right arm, then left leg then right leg.  Minimize movement in the rest of your body.  Too much movement will result in the broom stick falling off.  The movement should come from the limb you are extending.  That movement should be easy and feel light.  Don’t worry how high you can get the movement.  Just work on full extension of the limb while maintaining stability in the rest of the body. It should look easy and effortless but your core should be engaging. Turning your thumb up while you extend your arm forward, engages your lats, which is a good thing.

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Bird Dog, also known as opposite arm and leg extension.  While we walk, we bring opposite arm and leg forward at the same time.  Right leg, left arm then left leg, right arm.  That’s why you hold the cane in the opposite your weak or sore leg.  Remember to engage your core, maintain stability in your from your shoulders to your hips and the only movement comes from the limbs you are moving.  The moving limbs should move with ease.  Thumb up to engage your lats.  Complete several reps on one side, coming back to the starting position in between repetitions.  Try it on the other side.

Variations and progression will challenge you as your progress. Gray Cooks Edge of Ability concept is important to note when completing core exercises. Work in the green zone.

Variation 1.  Complete 10 reps on one side without touching your points of contact on the ground.  It’s harder than it looks if you are trying to maintain good form throughout the exercise.

Variation 2:  Same side arm and leg extension.  Right leg extends back with Right arm extending forward.

Variation 3:  Add a crunch, get on your toes

Variation 4:  Add twists and bands

While there are many variations that I haven’t mentioned, it’s important to note that proper form should always be the basis of every exercise you do.  That does not mean you cannot challenge yourself, it just means that if your form is no longer there, stop the exercise and rest or move on to the next one.  Continuing to exercise past the point of proper form can lead to dysfunctions or injury.

Have fun and let me know your favorite variation of the Bird Dog.