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The 13 Best Yoga Poses for Runners


When I first started running, I thought for sure it would be a bad combination with yoga. Running is repetitive, it can be hard on the body, and it's fast.

After my first few runs, I felt sore and tight, despite my thorough stretching session afterwards. I spent all that time practicing yoga to loosen my muscles; it seemed silly to then tighten them up with one little run.

A few runs and a bit of research later, I changed my mind. Running and yoga complement each other quite well, and I don't need to end up sore and tight after my runs.

The breath control (pranayama) we practice in yoga actually helps me keep my breathing even when runs get tough, and it's especially helpful after a hard run. Plus, there is a certain peace that accompanies running (and walking). That repetitive motion allows your mind to clear, and the path that lies before allows your eyes to focus on the horizon. Add some motivating music, and you've got quite the relaxing and stress-relieving workout!

My friend Bob (BOBBYD31) SparkMailed me recently to ask about yoga. He's a runner and, like many of you, battles tight hips and hamstrings. He wanted to try yoga but wasn't sure where to start. I gave him some suggestions for DVDs and books--and did one better. I'm a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, so I decided to create a routine for him and other runners to help them stretch out after a run and keep his muscles healthy and loose.

Here are a baker's dozen poses to help runners (and cyclists and walkers). Hold each pose for 5 breaths or longer if you'd like. You'll need a mat and a yoga block (or a chair) for these poses.

Posted 3/22/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 214 comments   195,552 views
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8 Hip Flexor Stretches and Exercises for Healthy Hips


The hip flexors are the group of muscles that allow you to lift your knees toward your chest and bend forward from the hips.  What is collectively referred to as the hip flexors is actually a group of muscles that includes the iliopsoas, the thigh muscles (rectus femoris, Sartorius and tensor fasciae latae), and the inner thigh muscles (adductor longus and brevis, pectineus and gracilis).
 
Tight hip flexors are a common problem among those of us who spend a lot of the day sitting at a desk.  When you spend a lot of time in a seated position, the hip flexors remain in a shortened position. Over time, the shortened muscles become “tight," which leads to its own set of problems.
 
Tight hip flexors can result in lower back pain, hip pain and injury.  A lot of strain is put on those muscles during activities that involve sprinting and kicking.  For example, runners are more prone to hip flexor injuries because of the small, repetitive movement during running.   But even if you’re not an athlete, hip flexor injuries can occur during everyday activities (for instance, slipping and falling or running to catch a bus).  When those tight muscles are suddenly stretched beyond what they are accustomed to, you might also experience pain in the upper groin region, typically where the hip meets the pelvis.   
 
Simple hip-strengthening and stretching exercises can help keep these muscles from becoming tight, therefore decreasing your risk of injury and discomfort.  Try these stretches daily and incorporate a few of the strength exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week.
Posted 3/15/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nancy Howard : 74 comments   1,416,425 views
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10 Exercises That Target the Triceps


Spring is around the corner, which means you'll be bringing your short sleeved and sleeveless tops out of storage in no time. Speaking of baring your arms: Are yours in tip-top shape? If not, you could help build strength and muscle tone in the most common problem area of the arms—the triceps—by adding some additional triceps exercises to your workout plan.
Posted 3/4/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 39 comments   319,903 views
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5 Full-Body Exercises That Save You Time


When you work out smarter, you don't necessarily have to exercise longer or harder in order to get results. "Lack of time" is the most common reason why people don't exercise, but is that really a good excuse? Truth is: You don't really need a lot of time to get a great workout. Short bouts of exercise—when done right—can give just as much benefit as longer workouts. Don't believe me? Try these 5 moves for just one minute each for a 5-minute workout that has full-body benefits!
Posted 1/23/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 28 comments   54,722 views
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5 Exercises for Stronger, More Flexible Feet


Over the past three decades, fitness shoe manufacturers have developed advanced technology to cushion and control motion in our feet and ankles. While this advanced support can feel great, it doesn't allow our joints and soft tissue to articulate normally. As a result, we've disconnected with our feet! Much of our losses in flexibility and mobility can be attributed to the fact that our feet have become stiff and weak.   A healthy, aligned and balanced body begins in your feet—and then translates through your entire kinetic chain (ankle, knee, hip, lower back).
 
As a pioneer in foot fitness (Sole Training®) and barefoot training (The willPower Method®), I've been helping everyday clients and athletes strengthen, stretch and train from the feet on up for more than 10 years. If you're intrigued by barefoot running/training or thinking of trying minimalist shoes, you must start working on your feet first. And even if barefoot training isn't something you're considering, everyone can still benefit from building foot and ankle mobility and strength.
 
Are you tired of wearing uncomfortable orthotics or getting painful cortisone injections? Are you dealing with an old injury or plantar fasciitis? Are you finding that your balance skills are not what they used to be?
 
These five exercises will help you to strengthen and stretch all ten toes, and develop flexible strength from the ground up.  Over time you will enjoy improved balance in daily activities and workouts, a stronger walking/running stride, increased circulation and mobility throughout the feet and ankles, and significant reductions of foot, leg and lower back pain and injuries. All it takes is five minutes a day!
Posted 11/30/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 35 comments   58,688 views
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Prevent Holiday Pounds with the 12 Moves of Christmas Workout!


The holiday season has officially started, and you may have already noticed your fitness routine start to slip a little. To keep your motivation high in the crazy days ahead, we've created this fun, calorie-blasting cardio and strength circuit workout. The 12 moves in this routine don't require any sort of equipment, so you can do them anywhere. (No more excuses for skipping out on exercise during holiday travels!) Plus, did we mention that it's FUN? This workout constantly switches from one move to the next, so you never have time to get bored.
Posted 11/27/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 47 comments   43,586 views
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Torch Calories with the Turkey Burner Workout!


I created this simple, five-exercise workout circuit to get your heart pumping and your muscles moving so you can torch some serious post-Thanksgiving calories. It doesn't use any equipment, and it can be done anywhere, even in a small hotel/guest room! The quicker you move and the more times you repeat the circuit, the higher your calorie burn will be.
 
Are you up for the challenge? Try it today and then comment below to tell us how you did!
Posted 11/14/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 127 comments   142,174 views
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5 Exercises that Sculpt, Strengthen & Soothe Back Pain


In today’s world, we all sit for too many hours each day. We drive instead of walking. We take the escalator instead of climbing the stairs. As a result, our posture suffers—and our necks get tight because we spend hours looking down at our smart phones. (What's so "smart" about that?) We forget to breathe because we are constantly multi-tasking. And as a result, we suffer from a multiplicity of ailments, especially chronic shoulder tension and back pain. We are more "connected" than we have ever been, yet we are increasingly disconnected from ourselves and what we need to do to truly live vital, healthy, and inspired lives.
 
So what can you do? The answer is MOVE. But more specifically, strengthen your core, which can help stabilize your spine, improving its fluidity and flexibility.
 
The following simple exercises are a powerful antidote to all that sitting. They are a potent time-saving combination of Pilates moves and yoga poses that will help you stop pain in its tracks, reduce stress (which can also contribute to back pain), and improve your spinal alignment. This series also stretches and strengthens the core and back.
 
So, want to feel stronger and longer, leaner and meaner, more fluid and flexible in just a few minutes? Grab your mat, and let’s get started!
Posted 10/26/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 19 comments   45,793 views
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Video: Simple 6-Minute Cardio Workout


You don't need any fancy equipment to get a good work out. You don't even need a lot of space!
 
I teamed up with my friend Cassey from Blogilates.com to create this simple cardio workout to help you burn lots of calories in just a few minutes. As an added bonus, it's super quiet! You can do this if you have sleeping kiddos at home or even if you're trying to be quiet for your downstairs neighbors.
 
Are you ready to try it?
Posted 10/19/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 46 comments   66,111 views
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A 5-Minute Workout to Work Your Butt Off


What does it really take to have a great butt besides good genes and, well, good jeans? For those of us who weren't born looking like supermodels, it takes a little work (the sweating kind, not the surgical kind).

To help you reshape your rear, I created a simple plan that takes just five minutes per day. If you're thinking, "Hey, I thought there was no such thing as 'spot' training," don't worry. It's true that using specific muscles won't help you trim that area of your body. That's why this plan combines fat-burning Tabata cardio intervals with targeted toning moves for your glutes. Along with your healthy, calorie-controlled diet from SparkPeople.com, you're sure to see results in how your jeans fit and how your body looks. Are you ready to try it?
Posted 10/12/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 32 comments   102,402 views
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Poll: Which Season is Your Favorite for Outdoor Exercise?


Fall will be here in just a couple weeks, which means we should be experiencing cooler temperatures very soon! During the hot summer months, many people take their workouts indoors to escape the heat, including myself. With the cooler weather that accompanies the fall season though, it's a great time to get back outside for some of your workouts.
 
Posted 9/6/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 146 comments   20,221 views
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5 Must-Do Exercises for Moms


Although I’ve always been physically active, I’ve had to force myself to focus more on strength training over the past few years.  My preference has always been cardio exercise (just because that’s what I like to do), but trying to keep up with my kids and carrying little ones around all day made me realize I needed to get stronger.  My youngest is now 10 months old and weighs over 20 pounds.  She’s not walking yet, so I still carry her on my hip for a lot of the day.  Since I don’t have lots of free time to head to the gym for long workouts, I’ve had to create my own programs that are time-efficient but still challenging.
 
My favorite workouts involve compound exercises, which combine two movements into a single exercise.  There are a number of benefits to these types of exercises:  they more closely mimic real- life movements since you rarely use muscles in isolation as you go about your day.  They also save a lot of time since you’re getting two exercises done at once. 
 
Here are 5 of my favorite exercises that target the muscles I’m using all day long, as I put one of my children down and pick up another:
Posted 8/7/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 13 comments   12,796 views
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2 Pilates Moves for a Flatter Belly


Are you still doing crunches? While there is nothing inherently wrong with that classic abdominal move (I still do them from time to time myself), we now know more than ever about core training. And with this knowledge, you can graduate to a higher level of exercise that will help you get better results from your efforts.
 
It's no secret that I love Pilates. I've been practicing and teaching it for several years now, and thanks to that consistency, I have better core strength and balance—and less back pain—than ever. One great thing about Pilates is that it helps you strengthen ALL of your core muscles. Whereas exercises like crunches only target the outermost abdominals (rectus abdominis), Pilates moves can engage and strengthen your internal and external obliques, erector spinae, and even your deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis.
 
This muscle is extremely important, but hard to target, and often neglected by exercisers. A weak transverse can contribute to back pain, poor balance and an overall weak core—even if you do hundreds of crunches a day. But when strengthened, this important muscle helps you with functional strength—and aesthetic appearance. A strong transversus acts like a corset, not only bracing your core and protecting against injury and back pain, but helping create a leaner, flatter appearance of the stomach. No amount of crunches can do that!
 
So which types of exercises best target your deep "corset" muscles? Research shows these two Pilates moves do it best.
Posted 6/13/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 19 comments   42,922 views
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8 Fun-Filled Hula Hoop Exercises for Better Fitness


In 1958 WHAM-O introduced the world to a new toy after Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr observed children in Australia playing with bamboo hoops in their exercise class. Upon their return to the States they took what they had seen and invented the plastic hoop, what we now know as the Hula Hoop. What started out as a fad in the late 1950's for kids has now turned into a fitness frenzy 53 years later. And if you don't believe swirling your hips can burn calories and tone your body, think again.

Researchers at the Exercise and Health Program at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse led by Jordan Holthusen, M.S. and John Porcari, Ph.D conducted a study of 16 advanced to intermediate female hoopers. And to their amazement, hula hooping expended similar calorie rates and raised heart rates similar to cardio kickboxing, step aerobics and boot camp classes. Although the researchers state that more studies need to be done to determine what the long-term fitness benefits to hooping will bring, one thing is for certain, when we have fun doing an activity we are more likely to participate in it. I always say something always trumps nothing, especially when it comes to exercise.

Posted 5/10/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Nancy Howard : 64 comments   115,860 views
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2 Must-Do Moves for a Better Butt


It's the pre-season for bathing suit season and that has a lot of people focusing on firming up those trouble areas that are going to get a little more exposure when they're wearing a little less clothing. I'm not immune to the pressures of looking bathing-suit-ready myself! I often tend to ramp up my workout routines if I know I'm going to be hitting the beach or hoping to spend a little more time poolside.
 
As you know, it's a combination of fat-burning cardio and muscle-toning strengthening that'll help you firm up and slim down (along with a healthy diet of course), but when it comes to those strengthening moves you try, some are definitely better than others.
 
So if you hope to improve your rear view this summer, do you know which moves are going to do the job best of all? Watch this short video to find out the best exercises you can do for your butt!
Posted 5/9/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 16 comments   23,089 views
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