Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Shoes!! A thank you for Uncle Marty :-)

Let it be known...I have big feet. As most of you know, I'm 5'-11" and I constantly bemoan the fact that it is nigh on impossible to shod my size 11 1/2 feet. Do you realize that us size 11 1/2ers are totally ignored by most shoe manufacturers? If a shoe even comes in a size 11 and 12 there is no in between size...EVER! Ok, by this point you've realized that this post probably has nothing to do with food. It wasn't really supposed to be a rant either. But at least now you've got a slight understanding of my frustrations in the shoe department.
This has been an even bigger problem since I started working out last year and wanted some 11 1/2 sneeks in a womans shoe. And now we come to the gist of the post...
This is a biiiiiiig huuuuuuuge thank you to my Uncle Marty and Auntie Judy who hunted down a pair of awesome 11 1/2 women's Asics for me and then sneaky-style gave them to me for my birthday! They're not a drab "boy" color, and they are not too wide for my most of the men's shoes I've had to purchase in the past. No, they're perfect size 11 1/2 womens shoes! :-) So thanks a million guys!

For Uncle Marty:
I've tried to come up with some of the exercises I do that focus on strengthening the back and general core muscles for you. Be careful when you do them...I'd hate to make your gimpy back worse! Really important too is just making sure that you stretch those hamstrings at least 3 times during the day. I forgot to take photos of some of the simple stretches I do, but I'm sure they're not anything you haven't done before. My physical therapist had me stretch my hamstrings by putting my heel up on a chair and bend forward at the waist with a flat back (~15 per leg, then repeat for 3-4 times a day). The second thing he had me do was to lay on my back and draw my left knee up to my right shoulder and hold for 1.5 minutes. Then do the same with the other knee...really relaxing into it. Do this one 3 times a day too. Just making sure to do those two stretches throughout the day really made a difference for me.
This first exercise I'll write up REALLY helped build up my back and get over the constant lower back pain. Seems simple, and it is...but that's good, because maybe you'll do them. :-)

Cobras 1:
(2 sets, work up to 20 reps per set)

This is a good place to start for strengthening your back. Get a mat (hopefully squishier than the yoga mat pictured!) and lay face down, arms at your sides with palms down.

I'd like you to concentrate on keeping your spine in a neutral position. This means tilting your pelvis forward and drawing your tummy in and up. Hope that makes sense. The first photo is me just flat on the floor...

But in this photo, you'll see that my pelvis is tilted forward and I'm drawing my belly button to my spine. This is a neutral position for the spine. Just be conscious of trying to do this in most of these exercises.

Ok, so back to the cobras...Start face down, arms at your sides palms down (ok, I just realized that my palms are up! This is one of the reshoots and I wasn't concentrating. D'oh. A case of do as I say not as I do!) :-), spine neutral.
Now lift your torso, arms and legs at the same time for about a count of 2. Just a nice easy motion, don't stretch beyond what you're comfortable with and keep your face down. "You're not a hood ornament" said my trainer. ;-)

When you feel strong enough you can move on to doing these on the ball. I actually go back and forth between the two depending on how I'm feeling each day.

Cobra 2 (on the ball):
(2 sets of 20)

Back yourself up to a wall to steady yourself while draped over the exercise ball. You can link your thumbs together if you want.

Now lift your torso and arms up for about a count of 2. Do 2 sets of 20.

Crunches on the ball 1:
(2 sets work up to 40 reps per set)

Doing crunches on the ball will make you use your core for balance. To start out bend your knees and tilt your back to 45 degrees. This will be your starting postion for this beginning crunch.

Now with hands behind your head, neck relaxed! and looking at your abs, curl up in a crunch.

Ball Crunch 2:
(2 sets work up to 40 per set)

At this stage, you'll lean back over the ball keeping your legs at a 90 degree angle to the floor.
Just do a normal crunch. You'll have to work harder than in Ball Crunch 1 since you're bent back further over the ball, but your back will need to be a little stronger to do this.

Ball Crunch 3:

If Ball Crunch 2 is getting too easy for you, hoist those feet up against a wall at about a 90 degree angle and do the crunches like that. Each time you move to another stage with these, you might need to lower the amount you do. Work up to doing 40 per set.

Obliques 1:

I'd work up to doing 20 each side, with whatever weight feels comfortable to you. Make sure you're lowering yourself directly to the side...not leaning slightly to the front or to the back. There's more of a tendency to hurt yourself if you're not going straight to the side (so said my trainer). Keep your belly button pulled in to your spine, your neck and the arm that's holding the weight relaxed as you let it drop to your side. Be conscious of keeping your spine in a neutral position. Once you feel strong enough doing these, you can try working your obliques using the exercise ball instead...Obliques 2.

Obliques 2:
(work up to 2 sets of 20 per side)

Using a wall for balance, ease yourself onto the ball so that your right hip and thigh are resting on it. Put one foot in front of the other on the wall and when you find your balance, put your right hand behind your head and your left hand on your waist.

Drop to your side and then come back up for a side crunch. Repeat.

(2 sets of 14 reps per leg )

Holding an 8-10 lb weight in your right hand, stand feet about hip distance apart, belly button to spine. Now with a flat back, bend at the waist and let your right leg go back to balance you as your right arm with the weight drops down and across to the left (this is just used as a counterbalance, not actually doing any lifting here). Your left arm will go out to the back with your right leg. The left leg can bend a bit in a semi-squat. Relax those monkey toes on your left foot! I know they're trying to curl up in that shoe. :-) This is a great exercise that works on your balance and helps with the core muscles too. Keep reminding yourself to keep your back flat and belly button pulled in and up...thus engaging the core. Boy am I glad there's a picture for you to look at! I don't know why there's no photo of the standing position, but I'm sure you can figure that one out.

Ball pull-in:
(2 sets 14-16 reps)

If you have tight ham strings this might be hard at first. I had to stop the first time I did them and stretch so I wouldn't get a spasm! But, they're good for that core stability while you're getting a leg workout. It got much easier after that first go...I think it's just because I'd never asked my legs to do anything quite so silly before. :-)
Start on your back on a mat with your heels resting on the exercise ball, arms at your sides keeping the core tight, body in a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. You're going to need to really concentrate on relaxing your neck and shoulders in this one...not an easy thing to do. Try to rely on your core muscles for stability. The wider your arms are placed on the floor the easier it should be. Work towards getting your arms in line with your body though.

Now, draw your feet towards your bottom, keeping the same angle as when you started. Don't drop your butt. :-) Repeat.

Up-Down on Ball:

For this one, start with your feet flat on the ball and your booty up off the floor...keeping a straight line from your upper back to your knees. You're going to do quick drops of your bottom to the mat 14-16 times, keeping that ball drawn in towards your bottom the whole time. Return to the starting position after each drop.

Bench press on ball:

This is just to show you that you can do some of your upper body work on the ball too. By using the ball, you're having to work your core muscles too. Keep that booty up and legs at 90 degrees the whole time you're doing your presses. This is a bad picture, because I notice that my spine doesn't really look like it's in a neutral position. Just remember to tilt that pelvis forward and suck that belly button to your spine....can't say it enough.

Lastly, it's good to have a workout buddy.

I know this is kind of a sporadic workout...but I just wanted you to see a couple of the exercises I do that really seem to keep my back in working order. Nothing worse than a gimpy back...'cept maybe a gimpy foot Auntie J? ;-)

Big hugs to you both and I hope I can get out there really soon for in-person hugs!


Jamomisa said...

love the shoes! I am getting one of those balls! so they aren't just for sitting on and bouncing up and down on then?

Anonymous said...

Cute shoes! Looking SO fit!


Judy D said...

Fantastic. You are amazing!! Maybe these exercises will get us both in shape. Thanks for all the pics and the great descriptions. We'll start tonite.
Judy D

deb said...

maybe we should photograph ourselves at Pilates and post them - that would be hilarious! So how did you get that timer to work so you could get back on the floor and ball? would love to have been a fly on the wall.

Sara said...

happy belated birthday ... I didn't know that you were a gemini. I'm much more aware now of who the gemini are out there ...

Erndog said...

Sara- Nosiree! A wee little fishie am I. Just a little late on getting this post together...birthday is Feb. 25. :-)