stretching

How and Why to Fit In Yoga

Who needs yoga? Probably everybody. How many of us are hunched over a computer all day at work? {raises hand} How many of us are hunched over with our smart phones? {raises hand} How many of us are runners that don’t cross-train or stretch nearly enough?

There is an endless list of the who and why we all need yoga. I started doing yoga on a regular basis due to an injury. I knew my flexibility was atrocious. I’ve always struggled with this. After trying too many different things to even count, desperately trying to find a cure to my knee issues, I turned to yoga. I thought maybe it would help. It couldn’t hurt, right?

I’ve said it before, but yoga is not my favorite thing in the world. I’d like to say I love it because in some ways I do love it. But mostly it’s something I make myself do because I know it’s good for me. I thought I would warm up to it after a year of yoga once a week but not so much. I’m still going because I know it helps my body–even if I haven’t fallen in love with it yet.

Someone said something to me recently that was kind of a lightbulb moment. They were talking about how older people don’t know how to fall and that’s why they fall and really hurt themselves and can’t get back up off the floor. Staying physically fit into your senior years can only benefit you. Ever since that was said to me I’ve wondered, where do I see myself at my grandmother’s age? Will I be able to get off the floor if I fall down? I like to think that when I’m in my 80’s I’ll still be walking, swimming and doing yoga. Gentle things that keep my body moving. That’s my hope anyways.

sideplank

How Yoga Helped Me

As someone riddled with anxiety, I find myself holding my breathe throughout the day. I know this contributes to anxiety but it’s a hard habit to break because most of the time I don’t know I’m doing it. Yoga has helped remind me that I need to breathe. Duh!

My flexibility is improving. It’s not fantastic yet but it’s getting so much better!

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I have much better stability. Poses that used to make me fall over are now easy. I LOVE Tree Pose. It’s one of my favorites.

My injury has improved. I cannot blame that entirely on yoga. I think the kettle bell training and focused weight training on trouble areas has contributed a lot but yoga has definitely helped.

I feel less anxious. I’m still working on harnessing that peaceful feeling when I leave the class. It’s still pretty fleeting, but it’s there!

How To Fit In Yoga

Making time to do yoga is hard. I get it. It’s low impact, it’s slow, you don’t burn as many calories. I am with you there on that. When I’m used to burning 700+ calories in a kettlebell class or 500+ calories running, burning 200 in an hour of slow moving yoga sounds boring and like a waste of time. I had to change my thinking on this and remind myself WHY I was doing yoga. Focus less on the calories, less on the burn, and focus on the benefits.

The good news is that you don’t need an expensive gym membership or yoga studio pass to do yoga. There are so many cheap and free ways to do it. (Check out this post as a good start: The 5 Yoga Poses You Should Do Every Morning.)

Do some yoga first thing in the morning. Even if it’s just 15-20 minutes of yoga practice, it’s better than nothing and it’s a good start to the day. It might even wake you up! (I don’t know about you, but I still need coffee!)

Get a yoga DVD from the library and practice at home.

Stream yoga videos on Netflix.

Buy a Groupon for a local yoga studio and go with a friend. I found that going to yoga with a friend in the beginning helped me stay motivated. I got to see her and she kept me from bailing.

Go to the yoga class at your gym after your workout. If you still can’t justify spending a whole hour doing yoga, try going to the first 30 minutes of yoga after you’re done working out. Use it as your cool-down/stretch time.

Google yoga videos. Or check out YogaToday – for $10 a month you get unlimited yoga classes. I’m actually considering checking this out because it would be nice to try and fit in some more yoga in between my regular classes.

Learn a few yoga poses and incorporate them into your daily routine. Get into the habit of doing some stretches at work. Sure it might look weird to do downward dog in your cubicle but I bet your back and neck would appreciate it after sitting in front of a computer all day.

It doesn’t have to be a full class. If you can’t commit to an hour long, instructor lead yoga class, do what you can. Start small. With all good habits it just takes time to make them your norm!

How do you incorporate yoga into your life?

R is for Runner’s Knee

R is for Runner’s Knee

As promised, this is a post about the physical therapy I’m doing to rehab my knees. My hope is that this Runner’s Knee isn’t a permanent fixture in my life. I know a lot of runners suffer from this and other ailments. I think as a whole all of us could stand to do some strengthening exercises to prevent injuries. I clearly neglected certain parts of my body which led to this current situation (don’t ask me how, I still think it’s weird that all the strength training I did didn’t strengthen the muscles around my knees).

As with every injury I’ve had in the past, I’ve learned how to work around it so I could still be active. This post is about a recent workout that I’ll use as an example of how even while injured, I can still get a quality sweat in and I’ll also share the PT I’m doing.

I started with the bike, very light resistance, and did about 15 minutes of it staying within 80-95 rmps, as the doctor ordered. I felt really good and like I could keep going but I didn’t want to push it so I stopped after 15 minutes. I’m glad I took it easy on the first day so I can continue to do it more often.

After the bike, I spent about 30 minutes working on an ab routine. This is what I did:

And boy did I feel it! I did 30 minutes of the ab exercises and about half way through they were shaking with every move. The next day they were sore, and the day after that! Intense! After the ab exercises, I hit the machines for some upper body exercises (arms and chest mostly).

Physical Therapy Exercises

My physical therapist gave me some advice. He said not to sit with knees bent more than 90 degrees. No running, no squats, no stairs, no breaststroke in the pool. The fact that he cleared me for some like biking is okay by me. At least it’s something. Here are the exercises I’m supposed to do:

Straight Leg Raises

This is for quad strengthening. I rest on my forearms and tighten the inside of my thigh muscle, with opposite knee bent. I life my straight leg 8-10 inches from the ground, keeping the leg straight. My doctor wants me to work up to 75 repetitions! Right now I can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. And I definitely feel them. Eventually I’ll add some weights to my legs.

Quad Stretch

This one is fairly easy for me. It’s a stretch I already do after running. Pull the foot back until the stretch is felt in the front thigh.

Hip or TFL Stretch

This one is weird. I’m supposed to stand, cross one foot over the other and then bend, except when I do it I don’t feel anything. I need to ask the physical therapist about this one.

There is an alternative IT band stretch that I’ve been doing and like a lot. You lay flat on the ground and use a strap or jump rope to assist in the stretch. I put one fit in the strap and with leg straight, stretch it over the other leg with it slightly raised. I definitely feel the IT band stretch with this one.

Sitting Hamstring Stretch

I already do this one in my stretching repertoire.

Straight Leg Raise with External Leg Rotation

This is just like the other straight leg exercise but I’m laying flat on the ground and I’m supposed to turn one leg out while I lift it. Also, the other leg is flat on the ground. This one is a lot harder to do than the first leg raise.

Hip Abduction

This one is also easy for me. I could do 50 of these before I feel anything. I lay on my side with the leg that’s on the ground bent, then the top leg is straight. I tighten my thigh muscles and lift the leg. Doctor’s orders: 10-20 times per side and 1-2 sets each session.

Hip Adduction

This one is fun but a challenge. I can barely do two in a row. It’s similar to the above hip exercise except with this one, the leg on the floor is straight, the top leg is bent over it and the leg underneath is the one I raise. It’s HARD. It hurts!

Despite not being able to run, I still got in a great workout. I worked my abs, I did all of my physical therapy exercises and I also had time for the weight lifting machines. I am no stranger to injury and while it’s very maddening and if you’re like me and lack patience…being sidelined for a long time is frustrating. But try and find ANY activity that you can do to stay active. It will definitely help your mood while you recover!

QUESTION: Have you seen a physical therapist for an injury? What improvements did you see with the exercises?

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