IMPROVING WEAKNESSES: STRONG CORE TO IMPROVE PUSH-UPS

Ah, the push-up... No words in the English lexicon can give me such a headache as the words "push-ups".  Of all the workouts and individual exercises that I consider nemesis, this is THE one that gives me the biggest headaches.  Simply because I am not good at it.  I have been doing this exercise since I joined the Army and you would think that I would have it down path.  Think again. I do enough to pass my PT test and because of it I have never achieved the 300 points max score that you can get.  The closest I have come is scoring a 285.  So this is something I have to work on.


After my foot surgery, it became even more bothersome to do it because my toes flex exactly where the surgery was.  Not convenient to say the least.  So I have been doing push ups mostly on my knees to at least maintain some of the strength.  After dissecting what is going on, I am convinced 100 percent that my problem is CORE STRENGTH.


This picture below is a normal push-up.  See how far I come.  There is a term in the Army physical fitness lingo called "breaking the plane".  Are you familiar with this term?  The plane is that point when your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and the spine is even with your elbows.  So to break the plane, you just have to dip lower so the spine is lower that the elbows.  Do you do have to take a big dip; just enough to break that line.  However when you have long arms like me, it is safer to go a little deeper. 


Why is this important to me personally? In the Army PT test you have to break the plane for a repetition to count.  If not you hear the dreaded "1, 2, 3, 4... 4... 4... 4".  You do not want that; this is energy wasted.  Now the second photo (push-ups on my knees) I am breaking the plane.  And please disregard that I was looking down but its the only photo I had.  Anyway, why is it easier for me to break the plane with one and not the other?


 

1.  Being on my knees allows me to contract my core tighter.   With the normal push up when I try to contract my core, my back tends to sag which then puts crazy pressure on my lower back and then I am like grandma for the next few days.

2.  The only other way I can avoid (only a little bit) sagging my back is repositioning my arms and going to what its known as a wide arm push-up, which works for me also because I have long arms but it burns my arms pretty fast.  Doing them on my knees allows me to bring my arms closer which in turn allows me to control the movement. 

So weak core = all kinds of problems.  And this is my own doing because I do not focus on my core as much as I should, but I have made significant strides in that area incorporating more core exercises into my routine.  My two favorites (even though they suck) are the elevated pushups (on an exercise ball) and planks. 

Now here is another indication that my core is weak.  In this first photo the only way I can maintain my balance is by engaging my stabilizing muscles.  But because these muscles (the core) are weak I have to position my arms wider (wide-arm push-up) to get a better balance.  I included the other two photos falling off the ball so you see what happens when I tried a closer arm position. 
 
Again with the lower head.  Head should be facing forward.

Planks are sucky as they come and when I do them all muscles literally shake trying to hold the position.  And I feel it working which is good.  Sorry about the "gutty" pics but could not keep my tank from bunching up.

 

These two work out have been helping me get stronger and hopefully I will see results in late October when I take my next PT test.  Do you have any favorite core strengthening tips or exercise?  Push-ups: yeay or nay for you?


In other news, I am continuing to roll on the wave of motivation I have been having and my running joy is coming back.  The weather just makes me want to go out and enjoy the outdoors... sans timer.  I have not been timing my runs.  Just going out there and enjoying it.




How are your workouts going?  Any news workouts you are trying?  I want to hear about it! :)  Have an awesome day!



post signature

DO INSPIRATION BOARDS WORK?

We all have heard about motivational boards where we keep mementoes, inspirational photos and quotes-- all with the intent of inspiring us, whether it is in our profession, personal life or fitness.  From fancy framed ones to simple Pinterest board, we all need a little motivation any which way we can get it. 
 
Motivational boards, whether you call it vision board or inspiration boards, had their origin on the premise that if you put positive mental energy into the universe, you'll have positive outcomes.  I do not know about all of this.  Kind of "sounds a bit hippie to me" {she said in her dad's voice}.  But I tell you what it does for me.  It helps me focus my actions aligning them with my wishes for a positive or desired outcome.  In other words:
 

WISHES + ACTIONS = DESIRED OUTCOME {GOAL}

It is pretty simple when you think about it.  Personally I am not looking at a board to change my life; I have one {mine is on Pinterest} on fitness and running.  This is used to refer back to when I need a swift kick in the behind to get me out the door.  Before I ever had an inspiration board, I had an inspiration fridge.  Seriously, I had my most favorite running photo ever, pinned to the door of my refrigerator and it was this ad campaign for Saucony:  
 
 
I love it to this day and still have it as part of my board.  Something about it says STRENGTH & DETERMINATION and those are qualities I wish to improve upon.   I am actually working on finishing an actual board where I can pin (with push pins :)  Yes, the real deal) my favorite new motivational photos.  Here are my favorites:
 
I love this one from Kara Goucher because it speaks to me about not letting circumstances defeat you and giving it all when it is time to come back especially from an injury.  She has the best quotes.
 
 
When I am really boohooing about a run gone bad or lack of neergy, I like images and quotes that remind me to be thankful for the girt or running.  I have legs!  I have the main "equipment" required to run.  That is a blessing.  There are people out there who wish they could run or running with prosthetics.  That is determination and it fuels my thankfulness and motivation.
 
  
Then there are the ones that have the effect of the song "The Eye of Tiger" in my head.  Images and quotes that just make you want to get out there and kick some major bootie.  The ones that say "oh please, stop whinning-- this won't happen by itself.  I despise when you whine."
 
 
And finally, the ones that may seem shallow to someone but that appeal to my girlie side {please don't judge me :) Haha!}. 
 
 
Yes, these images and quotes are about the looks part, and while they are not the most important aspect of fitness and nutrition, they are a big part of why I do it.  Now I have to caveat something:
 
Just because I have these pictures DO NOT mean I want to look exactly the same way as they do.  I have a way different type of body.  I am not going to resort to drastic measures to achieve this nor will I become depressed or dejected if I do not look like this. 
 
But back to the movitational boards.  Some psychologists actually think they are unhealthy because they foster unrealistic expectations.  Wow! Talk about a mouthful!  Me?  I say bring them on.  I do not see anything unhealthy as long as one realizes that they are just there for motivation-- not an obsession to achieve exactly what one sees in the pictures.  A way to refocus when motivation is all over the place.  A way to get a quick pick me from a quote when we need a human cheerleader and one is not available.  It is a good thing. 
 
Now let's quickly talk about styles.  Really the options and choices are endless.  From big to small, framed and unframed, it is all about your taste.  One thing I personally do not like: a board with a cluttered look.  Here are some nice examples of stylish organization: 
 
CREDIT 
 
This one really speaks to my OCD self: everything the same size and dress-right-dress.
 
CREDIT
 
 This is more of an inspiration wall but I like the design.

CREDIT
 
Tell me, do you have an inspiration board?  What kind? Do you think they help you?


HAPPY WEEKEND + FAVORITE LINKS


Oh my dear weekend, you are finally here.  I am in awe how last weekend was the epitome of a beautiful summer weekend and this one is as if a switch was turned on and fall is here to stay.  This weekend we have highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s.  Yes, fall is here indeed.  And can I tell you a secret?  I am loving it. 
 
So this weekend I am planning on wrapping myself in my favorite blanket and enjoying the myriad of books I got last weekend in Lacrosse.  I'll thrown in a few Hallmark movies and this promises to be a quiet weekend.  Just the way I like it.  In case you have some spare time on your hands, here are some favorite links that I have come across.
 
 
Gorgeous Tabbouleh via Lottie + Doof
 
The Kind of Woman: Balance via Apartment 34
 
 
 
Best U.S. Cities for Fall Travel via The Effortless Chic
 
 
Dahlias: A Beautiful Consolation via La Memoire Vivre
 
Beautiful Images via Notes on Design
 
Extraordinary Lives with India Hicks
 
Have a relaxing weekend and that the days refresh you for the coming week. 
post signature
 
Friday Favorites. Friday Favorites