February 17, 2014

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Swirl Sister of the Week:

Amy Fitzgeraldphoto (9)

Running the distance has become a passion of mine since Thanksgiving 2009. I ran track in 7th grade but it was short lived. I began to run for exercise in college but it was never more than a few miles. In my mid 20’s, my body was attacked by Lyme disease, but at the time, the doctors could not figure out what was causing my excruciating pain. I relied on crutches for mobility and was not sure how I would ever free my body of the pain and chronic fatigue.

Fast-forward to Thanksgiving 2009, and this is the day I discovered the gift of long distance running. I pushed through the pain and ran five miles that day with my husband! I stuck with my training runs and eventually began to run pain free. I believe that running is my natural antibiotic and it is helping my body to heal from Lyme disease.

Less than a year later, I crossed the Marine Corps Marathon 2010 finish line! Since crossing my first 26.2 finish line, I have finished numerous races, including 7 marathons total, the DC Ragnar Relay 2014 (GOTR of Northern VA sponsored team/team captain), the inaugural Dopey Challenge 2014, and the JFK 50 Miler in 2012 and 2013.

My favorite race was the ING NYC Marathon 2011. This was my second marathon and I received a spot via lottery. This race is the most amazing race ever and my hope is to run it again this year! I remember a NYC marathon race veteran telling us race newbie’s on the bus that “you will not even know you are running a race until Mile 13!” She was so correct! The crowd literally lifts you up and carries you. Everywhere you look, there are people, miles deep, cheering for you! My longest training run had only been a Half marathon distance going into the race due to my illness, and when I finished, I remember crying tears of joy. It was a moment that I will never forget.

My favorite sanctuary is a long solo run surrounded by nature. It is my time to escape from the chaos of the world and reflect on what is truly important, my family, my friends and my health.

My dream race will happen on March 8, 2014. Ever since finishing my first JFK 50 Miler, I have dreamed of running a 100 Miler. 2014 was my year that I was going to run a 100 Miler until being diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease in August 2013.

My husband and I met at VA Tech and we have been married for 16 years! We live in Northern Virginia with our three future Hokies; boy/girl 11-year-old twins and a 7-year-old daughter. We also adopted a yellow lab we named Lucky, who just turned a year old. I am incredibly blessed!

Amy is excited to make her dream come true of running the Graveyard 100 in the Outerbanks, North Carolina in March.  Follow her journey at twinglesmom.blogspot.com.

Do you know anyone that should be the next Swirl Sister of the Week?  Let us know! Please nominate anyone you feel deserving; your friend, your neighbor or even yourself.  You can send your nominations to Stacey@swirlgear.com

Swirlgear Funny:

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Anna’s Avocado Fiesta

Courtesy of Anna Hung, Swirlgear Brand AmbassadorAnna Hung

Ingredients:

One avacado (not too ripped)
Black beans
Pico
Grated cheese (any type will work)
Sea salt
Lime juice
Bacon bits (optional)

Twitter-Chat Corner:

This week’s Twitter Chat will be with Rebecca McKee.twitter

Rebecca is a science based coach and owns  a Sport Lab where we do VO2Max, Metabolic Analysis, Lactate Testing as well as sport-specific protocol testing. She lives, walks, talks and breathes sports.  When she’s not coaching, she’s training. When she’s not training, she’s volunteering. When she’s not volunteering she’s sleeping, and she likes to do puzzles. She loves the beach, beaches are good things for the soul… and so is the sun! Among her accomplishments, Rebecca has qualified for the 70.3 World Championships every years since inception, raced in Florida in 2010 and Vegas all 3 years.

Join Rebecca and the rest of the Swirlgear team on the twitter chat TONIGHT at 9:00pm EST.  http://twubs.com/swirlgear

The Best Core Exercises for Runners

By: Matt Fitzgerald

There are lots of core exercises out there. You’ve got crunches, planks, ab machines and dozens of other options. Which ones should you do as a runner? Answering this question becomes easy if you first consider what your core muscles are supposed to do for you when you’re running. Once you’ve identified the responsibilities that these muscles need to fulfill, choosing the right core exercises is a simple matter of picking movements that train your core to do its various jobs more effectively.

Your core muscles have three major duties when you’re running:
*Keeps your pelvis and spine properly aligned, and stable in that alignment
*Aids the transfer of forces between the upper body and the legs
*Limits spinal rotation as you run

Let’s take a closer look at each of these responsibilities and identify a sample exercise that helps the core perform each more effectively.

HOW YOUR CORE HELPS YOU MAINTAIN STABILITY DURING RUNNING

The major joints of your body-the ankles, knees, hips, etc.-are kind of like fault lines underneath the surface of the Earth. The impact of the foot against the ground during running is a bit like an earthquake. When an earthquake occurs in an area with highly unstable faults, lots of things on the surface get broken. Similarly, runners with poor joint stability have a way of getting injured. Well-conditioned core muscles are needed to keep the spine, pelvis and hips relatively stable when impact forces travel upward from the ground through the body.

While healthy running requires a strong core, running itself doesn’t create a strong core. To strengthen your core muscles so that they do a better job of stabilizing your joints when you run, you need to do exercises that force key muscles such as the transverse abdominis-the deepest core muscle, which wraps around the lower torso like a corset-to work hard. The stability ball roll-out is one such exercise.

CORE EXERCISE #1: STABILITY BALL ROLL-OUT

Kneel on the floor facing a stability ball, lean forward slightly, and place your forearms on top of the ball. Pull your belly button toward your spine. Slowly roll the ball forward by extending your forearms out in front of you and allowing your body to tilt toward the floor. Concentrate on maintaining perfect alignment of your spine. Stop just before you’re forced to arch your back. Hold this position for three seconds and then return to the start position, exhaling as you do so. Do up to 12 repetitions.

HOW A STRONG CORE ENHANCES RUNNING PERFORMANCE

A strong core not only reduces injury risk, but also enhances running performance. In fact, better performance may be the primary benefit of having a strong core. A 2009 study by researchers at Barry University found that six weeks of core strength training significantly improved 5K race performance in a group of 28 runners.

How does a strong core enhance running performance? This question has not been definitively answered, but I suspect that strong abs allow for a more efficient transfer of forces between the upper body and the legs during running. Although the legs get all the credit, the upper body makes a crucial contribution to power generation when you run. To appreciate this, try running with your arms pinned against your sides and feel how much harder it is. A strong core creates a tighter link between the upper body and the legs so that less force generated at one end of the body is dissipated as it travels to the other end.

You can improve the capacity of your abdominal muscles to transfer forces more efficiently by including exercises that test this capacity under load. One such exercise is the standing cable high-low pull.

CORE EXERCISE #2: STANDING CABLE HIGH-LOW PULL

Stand with your left side facing a cable pulley station with a D-handle attached at shoulder height. Bend your knees slightly and place your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Use both hands to grab the handle. Your arms should be almost fully extended with your trunk twisted to the left.

Now pull the handle from this position across your body and toward the floor, stopping when your hands are outside your right ankle. This is a compound movement that involves twisting your torso to the right, shifting your weight from your left foot to your right foot, bending toward the floor, and using your shoulders to pull the handle across your body. Concentrate on initiating the movement with your trunk muscles. At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly, then return smoothly to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions. Reverse your position and repeat the exercise.

HOW A STRONG CORE HELPS YOU MOVE MORE EFFECTIVELY

Although running is a straight-ahead action, a certain amount of rotational movement of the body helps you move forward more effectively. In particular, your pelvis needs to rotate to the side as your stride opens up to allow your push-off leg to extend farther behind you. But while this happens, you want your torso to stay locked in a forward-facing position, which requires that your spine avoid rotating with your pelvis. If your spine does rotate with your pelvis, you will waste energy in much the same way you’ll waste energy if you pull with one oar at a time instead of with both oars together in a rowboat.

Runners with a weak core tend to exhibit wasteful trunk rotation. You can eliminate this problem by consistently doing core exercises, such as the standing trunk rotation, that challenge the abdominal muscles. Strong abdominal muscles resist rotational forces.

STANDING TRUNK ROTATION

Stand with your left side facing a cable pulley station with a handle attached at shoulder height. Grasp the handle with both hands and fully extend the arms. Begin with your torso rotated toward the handle and tension in the cable (i.e. the weight stack is slightly elevated from the resting position). Rotate your torso to the right while keeping your arms fully extended and the handle in line with the center of your chest. Keep your eyes focused on the handle as you rotate, and keep your hips locked forward. Return to the start position without allowing the weight stack to come to rest. Complete 12 repetitions, then reverse your position and repeat the exercise.

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