Welcome Spring!

Welcome spring! It’s a great time of year to head over to a local park or playground with some fitness minded friends and take advantage of the warmer sun and the cool, fresh air. You’ll need a running path, open ground space and a pullup bar. A great workout can be had by sticking with the classics.

Crossfit Virtuosity in Manhattan led by Keith Wittenstein set up the one hour bootcamp workouts shown in the following photos. The varying temperatures of spring can be seen in the clothing choices in the photos taken on two consecutive weekends in March 2009.

1 – Warmup part one – jogging/light run to warm up the muscles and some light stretching to loosen the joints

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2 – Warmup part two – burpees, lunges and squats to get the muscles, joints loose and heart rate up

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3 – Circuits – Do the following for time:

a) 5 donkey kicks or burpees

donkey kicks

b) 10 pushups

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c) 15 squats

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d) 250 M run

e) repeat in order 5-7 times

 

4 – a) additional exercises using pull-up bar: pull-ups, hanging pikes, curl-ups

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b) practice handstands w/team member supporting legs

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OR c) if you have 4 or more people divide into 2 groups for a team relay:

1. Carry team member on your back for 50M and run to pull-up bar

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2. Runner does 5 pull-ups w/assist from carried team member if necessary

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3. Carried team member sprints to beginning, picks up next team member

and starts at #1

4. Repeat until all team members have carried and done pull-ups.

5. Completed team sprints back to start

5 – Final Stretches: target all major joints and muscle groups

a) stretch arms up and back, from side to side opening the shoulders and chest     b) straddle stretch, hold ankles, bend at hips and pull down straightening spine

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c) side to side lunge

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All photos courtesy of Keith Wittenstein and Crossfit Virtuosity in New York City.

Keith Wittenstein

Keith Wittenstein

For more information about Crossfit Virtuosity visit their website at http://crossfitvirtuosity.com/ For detailed video instructions of each of the above mentioned exercises go to http://www.crossfit.com/

Why Yoga?
nordgren crop tank and short for hot yoga in azure

nordgren crop tank and short for hot yoga in azure

Why should athletes include yoga as part of their training? All sport specific training causes imbalance in the body: muscle tightness, uneven use of muscle groups, and joint stress. Running tightens the muscles in the backs of the legs. Cycling tightens the quads and hips. Swimming tightens the shoulders and back. Weight training tightens all of the muscles. This tightening and stress can cause body asymmetry and imbalance, which can lead to injury.

Cross training helps to alleviate the imbalance by using more muscle groups. It isn’t a complete solution however as the perfect complement of sports doesn’t exist. There will inevitably be parts of the body left unstrengthened. Stretching is an important component of any training routine and works most effectively post workout to release tightness in the muscles used. Yet stretching isn’t a complete solution either.

Yoga is the solution that works the human body in totality. Yoga considers the complete physical and mental organism with all of its internal systems. Yoga considers the entire architecture of the body ensuring that each system functions harmoniously. For athletes performing at any level, a strong yoga practice can re-establish balance, symmetry, and body awareness. Yoga can also close the gaps in strength left by sport specific training.

Most importantly a closer mind-body connection can be achieved through the consistent practice of yoga. By learning to focus on each specific part of the body through a series of movements that strengthen and return flexibility to muscles and joints mindfulness is established. By focusing on the activity of breathing a more conscious cohesion of brain and body occurs. The beauty of yoga is that the application of breath control, and mindfulness while performing the postures work in tandem. As greater flexibility occurs, the breath is able to deepen and strengthen. Improve mindfulness and breath and flexibility gain further ground.

My preference has always been yoga with heat – Bikram yoga practiced in a heated environment, Astanga yoga where the controlled breath is the heat generator, or any other variation of hatha yoga performed in a tropical climate. Heat loosens the muscles, tissues and joints making them more pliable and flexible. In order to bend metal one must apply heat – the same holds true for the human body. All forms of yoga however attend to the body in totality and to the connection between the mind and the body.

Essential reading for athletes: chapters 1 & 2 of Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch which provide a more detailed and articulate explanation of how yoga (specifically astanga) enables you to balance, strengthen and compose a more flexible union of the systems of the body. The chapter on Breath alone is worth the purchase price.

Bikram Yoga

nordgren Hot Yoga crop tank & short in cassisBikram Yoga backbend

left photo: nordgren Hot Yoga crop tank & short in cassis

right photo: Bikram Yoga backbend

This week we’re introducing two alternate styles of yoga that can add a different dimension to your training. The classic Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch is featured in our recommended reading section and the practice of Bikram yoga is this week’s blog posting. Both methods enhance training by working deep into muscles and joints providing healing and flexibility as well as breath control and mindfulness. Training the mind and the body to work in sync with each other is an excellent life skill and at a certain level, physical performance relies completely on the focused mind. Whatever your fitness level yoga will give you a necessary counterpoint to body-centric training.

Bikram Yoga is a 90 minute meditation while performing 26 postures in a heated room of about 101º-106ºF. Developed by Bikram Choudhury who still teaches the series from his California studio, Bikram yoga was designed to get deep into the tissues, joints & organs of the body promoting the release of toxins through sweating and the healing of injuries through deep stretching. I recommend Bikram yoga to every serious athlete of any level who is looking to improve his or her performance. Here’s why:

  1. Learn to tolerate extreme discomfort – Why? Training of any kind that makes you faster, stronger or more flexible requires a certain amount of discomfort. To the degree that you are able to allow your mind to accommodate a certain amount of discomfort, the more you can accomplish in your training. In the heated room of a Bikram studio there are multiple discomforts: the desire for air, water, relief from the heat and occasional moments of dizziness. All of these factors can be overcome and tolerated by focusing on the postures and the control of one’s breath.

  2. Promote healing and injury prevention – Each carefully executed movement in the Bikram series of postures gradually works the large muscle groups, the joints and the spine to relax and stretch, gradually moving deeper into the organs flushing fresh oxygenated blood into the tissues releasing toxins and improving circulation. Old scar tissue can become more flexible through the careful execution of each posture. Your teacher will ask at the beginning of each class if you have an injury – either old or new – and guide you through any suggested modifications. Each posture promotes balance to opposing muscle groups and to each side of the body counteracting daily repetitive strain and overuse.

  3. Improve cardiovascular function – Bikram yoga is also a cardiovascular workout. Your heart rate will be elevated throughout the class. Learning to control the breath strengthens the cardiovascular system as effectively as cardio training at increasingly elevated rates. It is somewhat akin to training at a higher altitude thereby increasing the production of red blood cells.

  4. “Come for the vanity, stay for the sanity.” – A regular Bikram yoga practice will inevitably improve your posture, and revive your circulation with the desirable side-effect of a healthy glow. It can also aid your mental well-being, perhaps by improving the function of all of your internal systems, but more importantly through stress relief and the greater ability to achieve physical and mental tolerance during your practice.

Bikram yoga studios are located in and around every major city in the world. Give it a try. Your first class will probably be somewhat overwhelming. A second and third try will get you closer to the reality of a regular practice. Allow yourself patience and time to make a final decision about whether or not Bikram yoga is for you. Please let us hear about your experiences with Bikram yoga or any other form of yoga that you enjoy!! Go to http://www.bikramyoga.com/ to locate a Bikram yoga studio near you and to find out more about this unique yoga practice.

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