Are you looking for something fun to do in Fort Lauderdale this Thanksgiving? Join 3000 walkers, joggers, runners and paddle boarders as they race in the 4th annual Fort Lauderdale Turkey Trot and Paddle. The event is the perfect prelude to your holiday meal. This year, you can make the meaning of Thanksgiving all the more fulfilling knowing that It Feels Good, To Do Good for your body and the Fort Lauderdale community.

Preparing for a 5k Run – 2k Paddle in Just Under 2 Weeks

In part 2 of this 2-part series ‘Stronger Foundations. Better Results.’, Michael Kuang of Syphon Fitness (Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Yoga Teacher), is focusing on helping you strengthen the lower part (hips and legs) of your body to reduce injury and improve form. Plus, having strong, flexible hips and legs will help you run or paddle board more efficiently.

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The Importance of Lower Body Strength for Running and Paddle Boarding

In Part 1 of the Stronger Foundations. Better Results. blog post, the focus was on the upper body and core. In this post I will be focusing on the lower body. With just a couple of weeks to get yourself ready, it’s important to be proactive about staying injury free and to take the proper steps to ensure you have a good race.

Remember, training for any sport takes dedication and discipline. Being patient is a challenge, but the rewards are great.

Feet and Ankles

Let’s start with the feet and ankles, as this is the only part of our bodies that come in contact with the ground when we run or stand on a paddle board. There are 26 bones in each foot, which is 1/4 of the bones in our body. Each foot contains about 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The issue with our feet is that they are mostly very weak, due to the shoes we wear.

Being proactive about preventing injuries is key to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few techniques you can use to help bring proper alignment and strength to the feet and ankles. These will also help with flexibility and range of motion.

To begin you will need a foam roller and tennis ball. The roller/tennis ball will help break down any knots in the tissue and bring blood flow back into the muscle.

 Foam Roll Plantar Facia

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We first begin by working the Plantar Facia, or arch of the foot, and breaking down the knots in the tissues. Using a tennis ball, roll it on the bottom of the foot, pressing weight into the ball with the foot. This gives a mild to intense massage to the bottom of the foot. Be sure to hold any points of tension for about 30 seconds each.

Stretch The Foot

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Next, stretch the plantar facia by extending the toes or lifting them up. This helps to release any tension in the arch of the foot.

Strengthen The Foot

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Now after you’ve stretched each foot, it is time to work on strengthen them. Begin by curling the toes. A great exercise, is to try and grab small objects off the ground with your toes. In this case I used a pen. I first grab the pen with my toes and release. Now you try it. Pick up the object 10-15 times using each foot.

Lower Legs

Next, we move up the leg a bit and work on our calf muscles, as they help control how the foot and ankles move.

Foam Roll Calfs

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Use a firm foam roller on the calf muscles. Make sure to go from just below the back of the knee, down to the back of the heel. Find a couple of areas with tension and hold for 30 seconds each.

Stretch The Calf

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Get into a Downward Facing Dog, as this is one of the best ways I’ve found to stretch the calf. Come down on your hand and knees. Keep your hands firmly pressing into the ground. Then, start to lift the knees, and press the hips up towards the air. Work on pressing one heel down at a time to work into each leg. Eventually press both heels down and straighten out both legs. You should be able to press both heels down to the ground with the feet parallel and lift the toes, if not you have some work to do.

Strengthen The Calf

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Calf raises will strengthen the muscle. Slightly pigeon toe your feet so the heels are further apart than the toes, lift the heels and press into the second and big toe. Doing this about 15-20 times for 2-3 rounds.

 Upper Legs and Hips

Next we focus towards the knees and hips, as these two body parts have a big correlation with each other. Working to stretch and open the hips will be a tremendous help for the way you run. Spending 40+ hours a week in a seated position causes many postural imbalances in these areas, but there are 5 things I recommend you focus on.

  1. Hip Flexors
  2. Glutes
  3. IT Band
  4. Quadriceps
  5. Hamstrings

Again, I’d use the foam roller to work into these 5 areas.  Now this is a pretty general overview, and not everyone will need to work all 5 areas. But, you’ll know which areas you need to focus on. Please see the pictures below for each part. Remember to find a couple of areas that have tension or knots and hold the roller there for 30 seconds each. Stretches for each muscle are also in the pictures below.

 Hip Flexor

 Foam Rolling TFL

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Foam roll the front side of the hips on each side, usually where you pockets tend to be. Stay on the forearm and keep the body straight. Hold for 30 seconds.

Lunge Stretch

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From a plank position, bring one foot up between the hands. Keep your ankle just below your knee as you bend the leg. Your back leg should be straight and strong. Lower your hips down till you feel the deep stretch into the Psoas and the TFL. Hold for 30 seconds.

Lizard Lunge

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From the lunge position, bring the arms to the inside of the bent leg. You can stay with your hands on the ground or come down on your forearms like shown in the picture above. The back leg can either stay straight or bent depending on the intensity you wish to feel. Hold for 30 seconds.

 Glutes/Piriformis

 Foam Rolling Piriformis

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Muscle that runs under the glutes can cause Sciatic pain if the muscle gets tight and presses on the sciatic nerve. Bring one ankle on the opposite leg and shift the weight on to the  hip of the top leg, lifting the opposite side off the roller. Hold for 30 seconds.

 Pigeon Pose

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Deep stretch of the Piriformis. Be mindful of the knee and see if you can get the shin parallel or straight with your mat. Move your ankle in towards the hips to lessen the intensity of the stretch. Keep the back leg straight and relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds each side.

 Foam Roll IT Band

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Hold the foam roller over a knot in the IT Band (between the knee and hip). Stay on your forearm and keep the body straight. Your position here is similar to foam rolling the TFL.  Hold for 30 seconds both sides.

Square Pose

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Sit with your shins parallel and on top of each other. The ankles and knees should be on each other. Feel the stretch on the leg that is on top as you start to lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds both sides.

Quadriceps

 Foam rolling Quadriceps

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Facing down and staying on your forearms. Find a knot on either leg (between knees and hips) and hold for 30 seconds each.

 Quadricep Stretch

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Kneel and slide the knees apart about 2 feet. Bend the back leg and reach back with the hand and hold on to the foot or ankle. Pull the foot closer to the body. Hold for 30 seconds.

 Hamstring

 Foam Roll Hamstring

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Holding the foam roller on a knot in the hamstring (between knee and hip) holding 30 seconds on each side. Support yourself with your arms just below the shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds.

 Stretch Hamstring

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Seated Forward Fold-Extend both legs straight. Feet flexed, toes point up. Reach down and grab towards the foot or ankle without rounding too much in the spine and keeping the feet together. Activate the Quads and relax the Hamstring as you breathe. Hold for 30 seconds.

 Squat for Strength

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You’ve foam rolled and stretched the Hip Flexors, Piriformis IT Band, Quadriceps, and Hamstrings. Now you will then need to engage the muscles to get them to activate properly. This move is a good one that gets all of those areas moving. Come to a squat position with your feet flat and knees behind the toes. Step to the side while maintaining the squat and bring your feet back to hip distance width. Continue to the other side in the same manner. 20 side steps for 1 or 2 rounds.

Good luck to all the racers on Thanksgiving morning!

Michael Kuang is the Owner of Syphon Fitness (Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist with the National Academy of Sport Medicine, he is also a Certified Yoga Teacher). His passion to help people started when he was looking to switch careers from being an Accountant. The wellness career path has brought lots of great things to Michael’s life, including making the move from his hometown of Dallas, TX and starting the business in South Florida. His motto is “Stronger Foundations, Better Results”, referring to his training method of getting the body to move and function properly.

Photos courtesy of Erika Colin

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