Friday, August 30, 2013

Guest Blogger Lauren Leonard: The Perfect Marriage – Running & Yoga

At a race the other night, I was sharing with a friend that running is my passion. It is just in me, I run in snowstorms, I run pregnant, I run in stifling heat and humidity, I run in my sleep. But YOGA is truly what I crave. While running will always be my first love, yoga is what helps me maintain my physical and mental strength.

So how did my love for running morph into a love for yoga? Well, after ten years of pounding the pavement, my body was feeling the adverse effects of running’s repetitive, high-impact motion. My muscles and joints ached and I was starting to get minor injuries. The backs of my legs were so tight that I could hardly reach my knees when I folded forward. Trying to avoid disaster, I turned to yoga to loosen up my muscles. What I received from a regular yoga practice, however, not only improved my flexibility, it increased my overall athletic performance, and made me more vital in ALL aspects of life.

Yoga offers runners a number of benefits. Whether you are a diehard ultra-marathoner, a beginner doing a couch to 5K program, or a recreational runner never looking to race, yoga can help you:

  • ·         Reduce risk of injury
  • ·         Eliminate nagging aches and pains
  • ·         Shorten recovery times post-races
  • ·         Increase strength and flexibility
  • ·         Improve daily postural habits
  • ·         Correct and strengthen muscular imbalances
  • ·         Improve breathing patterns and increase VO2 max levels

Not a bad list for some simple stretching, right? An easy way to integrate yoga into your current exercise routine is to perform short session pre- or post- run. Below are my favorite poses that target the lower back, hamstrings and hips. Try them out for yourself!

Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid
This pose is excellent for opening up tight hamstrings, the illiotibial bands and promotes balance.

Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Step your left foot back about three feet and angle the back foot out slightly. Keep both hips facing front, squaring the hips. Draw your hands behind your back, bending the arms and clasping the elbows. Inhale as you look up, opening the chest, exhale, hinging from the hips, keeping your spine long as you fold forward over your straight right leg. To modify, slightly bend the front leg, working toward straight. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second side.
This pose is probably the best hip opener in yoga, opening the deep muscles of the hip and the hip flexors.

Start in Downward Dog. Lift your right leg up and sweep it through to your mat, folding it and placing it on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed to protect the knee. Your left leg is straight behind you with the toes pointed. Keep your hips square and level, with the left hipbone pressing toward your right foot. Inhale and press your hands into the mat, getting as much length in the spine as possible.

Exhale as you walk your hands forward on the mat, coming out to your edge. This might be on the elbows, with the arms extended all the way out or right where you started. Hold this pose for one minute. Remember to breath! Switch sides.

Seated Forward Fold
This pose stretches everything down from the spine to the hamstrings and has the added bonus of calming the mind.

Sit down with your legs extended out in front of you, heels pushing outward. Extend arms overhead by your ears, inhale and life the ribcage out of your waist drawing length in your spine.
As you exhale, begin to come forward, hinging at the hips, keeping back straight as possible. On each inhale, extend the spine, and on each exhale, come a bit farther into the forward bend. Keep the neck at the natural extension of the spine and do not round the back. Take hold of the ankles or shins, whichever you can reach.

To learn more yoga poses for runners, check out my upcoming fall class Strike a Balance. Using my first hand insights into the physical and emotional demands of running, I will walk students through poses that neutralize the impact running has on the body. This class is the perfect morning workout, offering a thirty-minute group runs followed by a thirty-minute yoga class and is open to all abilities.

Strike a Balance - Running and Yoga Come Together
Wednesdays, 6:15am, 9/4 – 10/23
Pool Lobby, Westwood High School

Register on-line today as space is limited and the class is expected to fill-up fast!!!! E-mail with questions.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Guest Blogger: An Interview with the President Norwood's Circle of Hope Foundation.

On August 22, 2013, the Napper Tandy’s Flyer 4 mile road race will make its triumphant return!  As excited as everyone in the local running community is about having the race back in action, it’s important to recognize the truly amazing foundation the proceeds are going to help.  Early on during the event planning, the race committee chose the Norwood Circle of Hope as the beneficiary of the net proceeds.  Not all of you may know about this foundation, but it changes the lives of everyone it connects with.  I sat down with Tim McDonough, the current Circle of Hope president, so he could explain the nuts and bolts of the organization, as well as why they do what they do.  

For those who aren’t aware, what exactly does the Norwood Circle of Hope do and how did it get its start?

The Norwood Circle of Hope Foundation was established in 1998 in memory of Michelle Kennedy, a young Norwood resident who suffered from leukemia.  During Michelle’s battle, people from all over Norwood joined together to support her in her time of need.  When she passed away, the foundation was started to continue that spirit.

Circle of Hope assists Norwood families with expenses that accompany a catastrophic illness depending on their need; everything from medical bills, transportation to treatment centers, equipment, and cost of living expenses.

How did you first become involved with Norwood’s Circle of Hope?

I was on the board of selectmen, and Lee Kennedy came to me and asked me if I wanted to come be on the board.  I knew about her daughter, Michelle, but didn’t really know about the organization.  We started from scratch.  Our first donation was from the Boch Fund which gave us a comfortable start.  We hit the ground running with fundraisers like the Luminary Night.  More and more people started giving donations and it all goes back to help people from Norwood.

How have you seen the organization grow in your time as a member?

We’ve become a family really.  We meet once a month at Lee’s house, and we just kick around ideas.  Requests are all anonymous, and the stories can really bring a tear to your eye.  The foundation truly fills a real need because there aren’t many groups like us.  A lot of organizations give money only to research or cures.  We’re there for people with nowhere else to turn, and whose bills are piling up. 

What’s one goal you as an organization have going forward?

We would all love to make sure that we always have enough resources to fill any need presented to us.  Everyone on the board enjoys the fundraising and the connection it forges with the community, but it’d be great to be self-sustaining one day with an endowment. 

Highlight one of your favorite memories from the past 15 years you’ve spent with the Circle of Hope?
The monthly meetings are a group of a dozen people sitting around a dining room table, enjoying each other’s company and helping people.  It’s good for Norwood and sends a very positive message about the town.  That’s what I look back fondly on the most.

Tim and the Norwood Circle of Hope are a wonderful example of the incredible things that can be accomplished right in one’s hometown.  What you can do, as a physically and socially active local runner, is come out for the Napper Tandy’s Flyer.  The person you end up helping by participating could be across town or just next door.  Come help us help each other and have a great time while we’re at it!

Thanks to guest blogger and  Charles River Running Intern, Sean Sullivan for this interview!