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7 Lessons To Learn From A Toddler In Order To Rebound From Injury

7 Lessons To Learn From A Toddler In Order To Rebound From Injury

The next time you are faced with a running injury and forced to hang up the shoes for a while, embrace it with the energy and enthusiasm of an 11-month old and enjoy the journey back.

This past spring, as I built mileage toward my first marathon which lay on the horizon, I aggravated my IT band, and was forced to reassess my overall fitness and health. I was now resigned to strength training, cross training, stretching and icing to rehab.

None of these activities are especially dear to me, which is probably what got me into the predicament in the first place. Although I initially found myself schlepping through the motions each day as if to knock out chores on a checklist, I soon joined forces with a competent training partner, my then 11-month old son, Deacon.

In no time at all, he provided some much needed insight on how to move forward after being dealt a setback. Below are the seven lessons best learned from someone who has never even walked before.

1. Back to the basics

Before we ever learned to run, we learned to walk. And how did we do it? By building up our strength and confidence one step at a time. Much is the same when we are dealt with an injury. We have to take a step back, determine our deficiencies, and improve those areas, one step at a time.

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Tip from Deacon: Don’t feel defeated if you have to use modified or assisting devices. Deacon preferred a four-wheeled lion to help him from Point A to Point B.

2. Have a short memory

As I watched my 11-month old son encounter minor setbacks, he became frustrated. But he had an equally effective counter – a short memory. As adults, and runners, we grow accustomed to walking and running long distances.

We suddenly have that ability taken away, and there is an accompanying psychological effect. It can be disappointing when we compare a 30 minute indoor strength training routine to a two hour, outdoor 10 mile run, that we may have done just a few weeks prior. Don’t fall victim to this mind game – stay in the moment.

Tip from Deacon: If you encounter a setback, distract yourself. Cheerios work well.

3. Get plenty of rest

As he transitioned to sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and walking with assistance, Deacon put in some much needed rest, sometimes up to 12 hours a night! Don’t get me wrong, when he is tired, he still fights the notion of going to bed.

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But is our situation as injured runners (and adults) much different? As we build back our strength, our bodies also need valuable rest. As adults, we too struggle against temptation to get that much needed rest almost daily due to things like work schedules, TV, and social engagements.

Tip from Deacon: Try to get in a routine that is similar each day as bedtime approaches, and have a cue for yourself that it is approaching. Like a bath with all of your favorite toys.

4. Cross training

He crawled, he planked, he did toddler modified burpees. If Deacon woke up every day and tried to stand and walk with no help or progression, he may never have met his goal of walking.

The point being, his approach to overall fitness helped build strength and agility that would allow him to meet his goal progressively, over time. The more varied your approach (cycling, walking, strength training, swimming, etc.), the better your overall fitness will be, and the lower your risk for injury.

Tip from Deacon: Incorporate as many different toys as possible.

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5. Have fun

Imagine how weird it would look if he woke up from his nap, changed himself into workout clothes, and struggled through sets and reps with a painful look on his face. Instead, he tackles his toddler-modified workout with a smile on his face, and has fun doing it.

Whatever the exercise of the day or moment might be, add a twist or competition to it to make it fun again (plank-off, anyone?).

Tip from Deacon: Add music to your workout, and when you feel like dancing, dance!

6. Keep your intensity

Just because you are sidelined with an injury does not mean you have to slog through the rehab assignment. Without risking further injury, look for ways to maintain the intensity of each workout.

Watch a toddler barrel through playtime. They take on a circuit mentality as they cycle through activities with minimal break time.

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Tip from Deacon: Spread your workouts apart. Rather than sit between your sets, crawl (or walk, or jog, depending on injury) to the next station or exercise.

7. Remember that everyone has a different timeline

Pick up any child development book and it will give you an age that the average child will begin to walk. But we all know they don’t wake up that day and start walking, as they all have their own unique timelines.

Injury rehab is no different. Google “IT band rehab” and you will similarly find advice for how long you should take off. Again, every runner will differ. Be patient, and know you may not be “average”.

Tip from Deacon: Celebrate the smaller milestones along the way.

Featured photo credit: Yoga/Elvert Barnes via imcreator.com

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Published on July 18, 2019

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection.

Whether you have a six pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention developing better core strength is hugely important when it comes to improving your overall strength and athleticism, as well as protecting you from injuries.[1]

The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training.

While most of your muscle groups do best with just two training sessions per week,[2] you can hit your abs every other day to great effect. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Here’s my guide to the 11 best core strengthening exercises you can do at home with no equipment.

1. Planks

Let’s start with the mother of all core-strengtheners, the plank.

Planks not only work your abs and obliques, they challenge those core muscles deep inside your body that help promote stability and power. They can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.

Get down into pushup position, feet behind you, hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff (like a plank!) for as long as you can.

For a more challenging variation, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front you. Lay your forearms on the ground for support, with your elbows under your face rather than aligned with your shoulders.

2. Side Planks

To hit your obliques even harder, try this challenging variation: the side plank.

From plank position, rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff.

Don’t forget to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can.

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Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.

3. Reverse Crunches

The regular stomach crunch is a fine exercise, but when it comes to abs and core strength, you’ll want to opt for moves that are a lot more challenging.

When you can crank out 50 crunches without a problem, it’s probably time for something new.

The reverse crunch packs a wallop for your lower abs and can be done anywhere, anytime, just like the standard crunch.

Lay on your back with knees bent in crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up toward your face, then back down again.

Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.

4. Flutter Kicks

The lower abs are a problem area for a lot of people, so we’ll want to work them hard.

If that sounds like you, flutter kicks are just what the doctor ordered.

Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the floor, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession.

It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.

5. Arms High Sit-Ups

Imagine a crunch, but way harder!

Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of you.

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Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups.

Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move versus traditional crunches.

6. L-Sits

The L-Sit is outrageously difficult to perform well, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal.

To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of. You can do them on the floor, but it’s a little easier if you can elevate yourself on a pair of dumbbells, two sturdy chairs, or a similar apparatus.

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place at your sides, palms on the ground or surface, and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms.

Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength building workout.

7. Stomach Vacuums

And now for something different!

It’s easy to work your front-facing abdominal muscles, but there is another muscle group in your core that’s frequently overlooked: The transverse abdominis.

This muscle isn’t visible through your skin, but it’s incredibly important in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine.

To strengthen this muscle and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums.[3]

Standing straight and tall. Exhale all of the air out of your body and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine.

You’ll feel the transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest and then repeat.

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8. Star Planks

Planks are too effective to not utilize multiple variations of them in your routine.

The star plank engaged similar muscles to the traditional plank, but is a lot harder to hold for time.

From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide and your hands, as well.

Your body should form an X position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.

9. Boat Pose

Yogis know all about core strength, so if you want a tighter tummy, you should take a page out of their playbook.

Boat pose is an extremely difficult isometric hold that builds exceptional balance and core power.

Star in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can.

Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging!

10. Mountain Climbers

Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical.

Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and also work up a good sweat.

Get down into plank position. With your arms locked and your body tight, drive one knee at a time off the floor, up toward your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession.

It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!

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11. Russian Twists

Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love.

Get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch toward your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession.

You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps.

For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to boat pose while perform the move, or perform the twist using a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.

The Bottom Line

The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage. That’s best accomplished by sticking to a smart diet and building your fully body strength.

However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently — 3-4 times per week is perfect.

If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition as well!

Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room.

Give them a shot!

Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via unsplash.com

Reference

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