To squat or not to squat is the question often asked among those that exercise and are seeking to improve their physical fitness and performance.I’ve heard all the arguments for squats and against squats, and there is some truth to both sides.
Here are a few of the myths and facts of the squat:
- “Squats are the best overall lower body exercise.” That is mostly true; squats are great for developing the entire lower body, if safely and appropriately executed. Squats have a pretty big learning curve.
- “Squats are bad for your knees.” This can be true, if you are squatting with incorrect form and squatting over your knees too much.
- “Squats are bad for your back.” Again, this can be true if you are using bad form, or too much weight.
Done correctly squats are one of the best exercises to strengthen the core, as well as the ligament and tendon structures of the knee joint.
Steps for a basic squat set up:
- With the barbell resting on a stand, slide under the bar and place in on the traps, just above the rear delts. Grasp the bar firmly with the hands at a comfortable width with the elbows back.
- Inhale deeply (this intrathoracic pressure helps keep the torso from collapsing forward), lightly arch the back by rotating the pelvis forward, contract the abdominal core, look straight ahead, and remove the barbell from the rack.
- Step back one or two steps and stop with both feet parallel to each other (or with toes pointing slightly outward). Your feet should be about shoulder width apart. Bend forward from the hips, and avoid rounding the back in order to prevent injury.
- When the thighs are horizontal to the floor, straighten the legs and lift the torso to return to the initial start position.
- Exhale at the end of the movement.
Keep in mind this is a very simple explanation of how to do a squat. Each person will squat differently based on their body type, femur length and hip width.
Should you add squats to your workout program? Yes!! Not only are squats great for developing lower body strength and power, but they are also great for developing the cardiovascular system.
Lastly, let’s address how low you should be squatting. Everybody including my dogs and my buddies’ 2 year old kid has an opinion on this. The best answer is as low as you can safely go with maintaining proper form. Obviously using lighter weight you should be able to go lower. There is nothing anatomically wrong with squatting all the way to the bottom (ass to grass as it is called).
In conclusion, eat your vegetables, drink your protein and do your squats!
As a professional runner of 12 years, you could say I’m just as much an expert at injuries as I am at racing around the world. Injuries are part of the deal. And I’ve learned that while they are the absolute worst for taking you out of the activities you love most, they are also opportunities. Yep, opportunities. Sometimes you really have to squint to see the silver lining, but it’s there. And since I’m 5 months into my recovery from achilles surgery with NO running (gasp), I don’t have to squint anymore to appreciate what those opportunities are. I’ve lived them. So next time you find yourself sidelined from your favorite sport, here are three tips for how to not only survive, but thrive through injury.
- Find the chink in your armor:
When I get an injury, my first reaction is usually full of expletives. But my second reaction is to surrender and look for the root cause. An injury doesn’t just happen. There is a reason, a weakness somewhere that prompted it. A sore achilles isn’t about the achilles. For example, it could be the result of poor glute and hip mobility or mechanics, and if you don’t take care of it, it will manifest in some other way as soon as your achilles calms down. An injury is always an opportunity to fine tune the machine so you can come back even stronger. Have a PT help you with the detective work and make a plan for you.
- Listen to podcasts
One of the things I miss most when I’m unable to run is having time to listen and deeply dive into music, uninterrupted. I have a 2 year old, and own my own business with my husband, so without running, I don’t get a lot of time to really listen to music. There’s something about being out in nature that feels like you are making your very own music video to whatever music you are listening to, bringing it all to life in a way being in the gym never can. Cross training on the elliptical just isn’t the same. So when I’m injured, I listen to podcasts instead. A good podcast gets my mind completely absorbed the way music in nature does, and the time flies by. Not only that but I learn new things. Podcasts literally get me out the door to do the cross training cardio that I would otherwise dread, because it is the only time I get to listen to them.
- Take it out of the lab
Sports can be this great laboratory for being your best self, pushing your limits, setting goals, and refining your body, mind, and spirit for the task at hand. It builds confidence, and perspective. But the point of the laboratory is to take what you learn about yourself and apply it to the outside world. Injury is a good time to put that into practice. Be that kickass climber in the office, or for your family. Attack a problem in your community or your household with the same intellectual curiosity you apply to improving the bike leg of your triathlon. That’s the ultimate test of your athleticism: it’s exchange rate in your every day life.
So while injuries will always suck, (let’s be honest), trust me when I say that these tips will make all the difference.
Yours in Sport,
Photo by Adam Clark
- Don’t listen to your parents when they tell you to go to graduate school and become a lawyer, doctor or businessperson. Don’t listen to anyone. They don’t understand your dream. Only you know what’s possible for you.
- Live within your means. Move to a place where you can do that and ski regularly. There aren’t too many ski towns like that left, but they are out there. Don’t acquire debt. Then ski a lot. Find other pros or aspiring pros to ski with. Contact local videographers and photographers to shoot.
- Figure out your personal brand and start building it. Keep your social media pages and websites updated with information that shows who you are. Research your ski idols and figure out how they built their careers. Contact potential sponsors that align with the personal brand you’ve developed.
- Plan to spend some time each week on the computer. Being in charge of a ski career is similar to running a small business. Prepare to learn how to do your own accounting, marketing, advertising, sales, negotiations and production.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Start working on them. Figure out what your sponsors goals are, and figure out how you can contribute to their goals. Being able to throw a double cork or skiing the gnarliest line doesn’t mean you should get sponsored. Figure out the value you can bring to the companies you want to work for.
- Keep a job with a flexible schedule that allows you to ski during the day until you can make enough skiing to quit your job. Live with your parents (even though you disagree about your career choices doesn’t mean you can’t be agreeable to live around) or couch surf with friends. If you travel, keep it cheap. Offer to make dinner for the hosts whose couches you will be crashing on. Do dishes, keep it tidy. Leave any “base camp” you visit cleaner and better than you found it.
- When you’re not skiing, and you’re trying to make ends meet, Hustle. Pick up odd jobs. Organize and run yard sales for your friends and families to make some extra skrilla. You’d be amazed at how much you can make for piles of stuff people want to get rid of. Get a food sponsor. You gotta eat.
- When you do get that call from the photographer, it’s time to get some shots in the bag. Be professional. Show up on time, with your gear organized. Don’t be hungover. Don’t talk too much, listen to the direction from the photographer. Now you are going to realize that being a pro skier isn’t exactly what you think it is. Powder days are spent moving at snail paces with film crews. Shooting is about finding quality snow and terrain, not how many laps you can get in.
- Develop a thick skin for rejection and public criticism. You will hear a lot of nos, from sponsors, from photographers, from other athletes. Keep doing what you love and persisting. Have fun and be safe. Make sure you have health insurance and consider disability insurance.
The engine of my ’94 Nissan Sentra sputtered as I turned the key. My $300 mountain bike was jammed in the back seat of my car (affectionately named The Tough Bastard) and I muscled my way through the turns up the switchbacks to Sandia Peak Ski Area outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. My car didn’t have power steering, but it took me where I wanted to go. I was about to line up for my first mountain bike race; never mind the fact that I had only started mountain biking 3 weeks ago. I labeled myself as a runner at the time and was excited to try something new. When I strapped that very first crisp number plate to my handlebar, I didn’t realize it would change my life. It’s now been over a decade since I started mountain bike racing and it still baffles me that I have made a career out of my passion and travel the world doing it. It’s the adventures and the long shots I’ve taken that continue to define me.
The Tough Little Bastard.
I started as an eager XC racer (that’s 15-20 mile total racing distance) and started racing in the “pro” category 2 years later. When I like something, I’m all in and I went head first into cycling (and tried to avoid going head first when I crashed although it happens on occasion). I enjoyed the competition but after several years, I grew bored racing for 1.5 hours in the same places and riding around in circles. I felt like there was something missing. It seemed that XC racing was more about beating other people and less about a personal challenge. 5 years ago I changed my discipline to ultra endurance mountain biking. The romance of long rides on the unexplored Rocky Mountain backcountry trails clutched at my spirit. I’d unsnap the lid of the black sharpie and trace massive trail loops on maps, load my pack with food and water, and set off to see what would happen and how long it would take. I was struggling with motivation to do the 1.5 hour short interval training rides necessary for XC racing because for me, they lacked substance. There wasn’t a lot of adventure in staring at my bike computer doing intervals on the same stretch of road or trail though it’s almost required if you want to get faster! With an unquenchable thirst for more, I started picking the longest and hardest single and multi-day events around the USA. I found my niche; 100 milers and stage (multi-day) racing. I was able to progress and start winning races around the world and racing across regions of countries like Sri Lanka, Haiti, Nepal, Mongolia, and Morocco and even winning a World Championship. I am hooked because it makes me feel alive.
One of my races through the Sahara Desert
Stage racing, particularly in third world countries teaches you more about yourself than you could ever learn during the daily grind. It strips you down to the essentials- food, water, basic shelter, and getting from point A to point B in one piece. You live like the locals. You learn the importance of community because that group of people you are racing with and against for a week is all you know. They become your family. Everyone has one and the same label: “mountain biker”; as opposed to the labels and expectations that society can place on us in a city. Rich, poor, big house, small house, CEO, janitor- none of those descriptors matter at a stage race. Dinners are spent sharing stories of what you saw or of personal encounters creating true camaraderie. To top it off, no matter what the fitness or skill level of rider, you are physically pushing yourself to the limit for days on end in foreign conditions. If you are not mentally strong, it will break you. I’ve learned some incredible life lessons from racing. Lessons that I use in my every day life, for work, and in relationships.
Here are the three most important.
- Attitude is a choice. We are lucky! We get to choose the lens for the world. Choosing to scan for the positive things around you instead of focusing on the negative makes you more successful and happier. Just ask Shawn Achor, Harvard PhD, author of “The Happiness Advantage.” When I see something challenging in front of me, I feel the apprehension, then laugh at it and kick its ass instead of withering and dreading how painful it’ll be.
- Be brave. It’s worth it. It takes courage to believe in your dreams and take the necessary steps to make them happen. It won’t always turn out the way you expected, but simply getting started when you want to do something will change your life. Overcoming the “what ifs” and taking action will change the way you approach all future challenges.
- You can do way more than you think. Anyone who has taken on a challenge can relate to this. You can think back and say, “Wow! I did all that!” It can be raising a child, running a marathon, or even taking guitar lessons. The more you do, the more you believe you can do.
If you live with these key points in mind as I do, you’ll find yourself doing extraordinary things! If you’d like to hear how I define success, watch my TED Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYiflJvxTac)
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Working the abdominal area has many benefits: improves posture, balance and stability, prevents injuries, draws the tummy in, flattens the tummy and increases the endurance in our back and stomach muscles. It is always great to have challenges and workouts you are easily able to complete no matter where you are – the gym, a hotel, a park or in the comforts of your home. Below are two of my staple ab moves and a favorite ab circuit…
The “Double” Crunch
The double crunch works both the lower and upper abdominal muscles at the same time. It is important to work the core because we use it in our everyday lives.
- Grab a mat and lie on your back with hands behind your head and knees slightly bent as if you were in position to do a classic crunch.
- Curl your upper abs – by lifting your head and shoulder blades toward your knees. At the same time – slowly raise and curl your knees toward your chest.
- Exhale as you curl your body parts in and inhale as your return to the start position.
Tip: “In the beginning go slow, work on form, inhales and exhales. Really concentrate on curling the abs and breathing properly. After this becomes natural try some variations: straight leg double crunches or even try using a medicine ball in-between your legs as you complete the double crunch.
20 second/10second PLANK Challenge
The plank works the core from the inside out and the core impacts our everyday life. The challenge is a short goal and fun to complete – this is a must try!
- Grab a mat or a towel and have a clock or a stopwatch ready for use.
- Lie flat on the floor resting your body on your forearms with your palms flat on the floor. Ensure your shoulders are aligned with your elbows. Make sure your legs are straight behind and touching.
- In a push-up motion using your forearms, raise your body off the floor, supporting yourself using your forearms and toes. You should have a straight line from your feet to your head. You can clasp your palms together if needed. Make sure your back is flat (no arching or sagging) and the rest of your body is straight.
- Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and do not let your stomach drop or your back arch. Remember to breathe in and out the whole time while keeping your tummy nice and tight.
- Hold this for 20 seconds then drop to the floor and rest for 10 seconds and repeat until you reach 3 minutes.
- QUICK TIPS:
Tip: “Start with a 3 minute goal and work to increase it – also try different variations of the plank such as the rocking plank, up/down plank, plank jacks and hip-dip planks. You can increase the amount of time and the type of plank. With so many variations and challenges available this should be a staple on ab days.”
ABDOMINAL WORKOUT CHALLENGE
Try combining the following routine every other day for the next 3 months with a healthy fit nutrition plan. Be sure to take a before and after photo as well as a waist measurement to track your progress. Sometimes it can be hard to see a difference because we are so hard on ourselves and we see ourselves every day. One big piece of advice is to always remember that you will never out train a bad diet. I am not saying you have to be perfect when it comes to nutrition but remember 80% of your success will come from what you eat and drink and only 20% will come from training. It is important to find a balance with food and finding time to get moving.
Complete 3 rounds of the following:
*30 bicycle kicks
*30 “double” crunches
*3 minute Plank:
(20 sec plank/10 sec rest for a total of 3 minutes)
*1.5 minute rest and repeat
*for more of a challenge if this is too easy increase crunches to 50 and plank to 5 minutes
Jaybird is a premium sports lifestyle brand that offers Innovative consumer products that enhance the athletic experience and inspire an active life. We are not just a “headphone company”. Our mission is to disruptive and redefine the active lifestyle product category, while solving real needs. A big reason for our success is the culture we have created a Jaybird and the way we have gone about sharing that experience with you.
We produce a lot of content throughout the year and that is a big part of how we engage our consumers, build genuine relationships and ultimately true brand ambassadors. Our goal is to give you something greater than just a product to relate to, instead making yo feel like you are truly part of something greater, while motivating you to get outside and get after it. The rad thing about Jaybird is we encourage and empower our employees to get out and product test in real life situations, while generating authentic content for the brand – making certain our products pass the test in any and all environments and whatever the adventure might be.
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