Get a Great Cardio and Range of Motion Workout Without “Using” Your Legs

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When it comes to my ChiRunning training I’m always trying to kill as many birds as I can with one stone, so here’s one way I can get two workouts for the price of one.

I have a running route in my neighborhood that has short, low rolling hills, the perfect configuration for a practice session I call the Strength and Stretch workout. I gave it this name because I use the uphills to strengthen my obiques, and I use the downhills to work on my lower body range of motion (ROM). Here’s how it goes:

First, I do a 5-10 minute warm-up on level ground to get my legs loose. That’s about how long it takes me to get to the start of the hills. Then, as I start up the first hill, I pull my hands in close to my chest and swing my arms in a forward and upward motion, like I’m a boxer doing an upper cut. As I swing my arms forward I use my obliques to drive my same-side hip rearward. This creates a very nice opposite balance to my forward swinging arms. As my hip is being driven rearward, my leg is relaxed so I’m not using leg strength to push myself up the hill. Instead, by obliques are driving my hips, which in turn drive my legs. The idea, on uphills, is to always use as little leg strength as possible. So if I can give all of that workload to my obliques, I’m happy to. On the next stride the opposite side of my body does the same thing. Needless to say this is a great upper body workout. The crucial thing to remember when attempting this is to NOT USE YOUR LEGS. Keep them relaxed and hills will become much easier.

On the downhill sections I’m doing a number of things. I’m focusing on keeping my shoulders facing straight forward down the hill while allowing my pelvis to rotate to it’s heart’s content so that my legs can truly open up into a nice long stride. A sense that I try to feel in my body is that as my foot touches the ground, it’s already heading rearward at the same speed as the road. As soon as I feel my foot touch down I release my hips and deeply relax everything from T12 on down.

This workout provides great core-strengthening and cardio conditioning on the uphills and ROM on the downhills. Once you get this down you can work at the next level by doing the entire workout with a metronome without missing a beat on the uphills or downhills.

I’ll be doing this workout regularly as I train for the Asheville Half Marathon in September. It’s an extremely hilly course and equally fun.

Posted in Beginners

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