The Acupuncture Turning Point collaborates with Nicole and Len, owners of Breathe Fitness, to help our clients be at their best.
by Nicole Lark BHK, PTS, TSCC-3
I am writing this blog with great difficulty because I am missing the coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games! Ever since I was a little kid, I become completely enthralled during the Olympics and turn into a couch potato glued to the television wanting to watch every sport and event and marvel at the refined skill of the athletes.
Watching the athletes on the television often does not give justice to their athleticism, skill set, or fitness prowess because it is hard for us to really sense how fast they are moving, how high they are jumping, or how much precision and accuracy is required with each and every subtle movement. Actually being present at the event, or having some level of personal experience with a particular sport, provides us with a much deeper appreciation for how acutely skilled or incredibly fit the athletes are in their specific discipline. The athletes make what they do look easy and almost effortless and that is a true testament to their remarkable ability and physical acumen.
Earning the chance to compete at the Olympic Games comes after dedicating years to the sport, sometimes training six or more hours a day, six days a week, and essentially living and breathing for your craft. To celebrate the Olympics, here are three exercises you can try at home that I have had my clients do at Breathe this week. Try this first one while you are watching speed skating on TV!
1) Towel Skating Strides – to test the muscular strength and endurance in your legs!
Set-Up: On hardwood or tile flooring, or in your socks on carpet, place a small towel under the ball of the right foot and drop into a low athletic stance (feet shoulder width apart, hips low, knees bent, chest up).
Execution: Staying low the entire movement, stride the right leg back and out on a 45 degrees angle until the hip, knee and ankle are fully extended (imagine a skating stride on the ice). Keep the left leg flexed at the hip, knee and ankle and try to keep a 90 degrees angle in the left knee throughout the entire movement. The head should stay level the whole time (no ‘bobbing’ up and down) and the right arm extends forward as the right leg extends backward. Repeat for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and then repeat on the left leg.
This exercise closely mimics the skating stride of a hockey player and 30 seconds is the approximate length of a typical shift.
If the stride were to be more lateral (compared to 45 degrees), this would more closely approximate the stride of a speed skater.
2) Plank Cross-Body Knee Drives – to test your rotational core strength!
Set-up: Start in a push-up position (i.e. hands shoulder width apart, elbows and wrists underneath the shoulders, feet hip width apart, and form a straight line from ears to ankles) and draw the stomach towards the spine to brace and stiffen the core.
Execution: Drive your right knee toward your right forearm and then immediately drive the knee across the body toward your left forearm, pause, and then return to the start position reversing the movement pattern. Repeat with the left leg and then repeat for 10 repetitions (i.e. 10 knee drives per leg, alternating legs). As the knee crosses the body the hips should turn to become perpendicular to the ground but not drop toward the floor. Keep the back foot glued to the ground to create more tension in the core.
This is a great exercise for nearly every sport as core strength is essential to maximizing speed, strength and power and to help with balance, agility, and first step quickness.
3) Standing Single Leg Deadlift – to test your hamstring flexibility and strength and balance.
Set-Up: Start standing tall (shoulders back and down, chest up, chin neutral) on your left foot, with your core braced and arms positioned straight down with palms facing towards your quadriceps (front thighs).
Execution: Keeping a slight bend in your left knee for the entire movement, slowly hinge at your hips so your upper body draws forward and your fingers reach toward the floor (just in front of your toes). Keep your right leg as straight as you can and lift the heel towards the ceiling as you bend forward. Only bend as far forward as the back of your standing leg will allow, press into the left heel to draw the body back up to the starting position. Make sure your spine stays straight and your hips stay square to the ground. Repeat the exercise 10 times on the left leg and then repeat on the right leg.
This is a great dynamic exercise to stretch and contract the hamstrings while challenging single leg balance (think about the incredible balance the athletes demonstrate while skating on a very thin blade on the slippery ice!).
The Olympics are quickly coming to an end and then it will be another two years (2016 Summer Olympic Games) before the television is once again connected to the cable for just shy of 3 weeks for my obsessive viewing. I hope the athletes have inspired us all to become more active and to embrace the personal satisfaction we can all derive from physical activity.
(Note: The exercises above should only be performed by healthy individuals, please consult your physician before you start if you have any injuries or medical conditions. )