Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ab Lab, Part II

When it's 85 degrees and humid by 7:30 in the morning, I'm hardly skipping out the door looking forward to sweating through yesterday's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It's hot summer days like today that make me miss winter runs, even with all of the layers and hazards cold weather running entails. All I had to do this morning was put one foot in front of the other for 6.7 miles (with 5 quick strides to avoid getting too comfortable in the marathoner's shuffle). That's all. It wasn't a long run, a tempo run, a hill workout, a speed workout, or even a particularly challenging course. I was actually under orders to take it easy (in preparation for tomorrow's hard run) and I left at 6:30 so the heat wouldn't be too oppressive.

Doesn't sound so bad, right? It wasn't even the slightest bit fun. I felt like I was slogging through a thick wall of humidity, with no escape from the suffocatingly hot sun. I tried, in vain, to convince myself that it was all mental (as I watched steam curl up from the pavement ahead). With salt stinging my heavy-lidded eyes and no cold water in sight (besides a waving sprinkler down a side street that I seriously considered making a detour for), all I could think about was the dreadful prospect of the afternoon run. I'm going to be out here again, in less than 7 hours. 

Post-run Hydration 

After I got home and polished off a few Poland Spring's (and watched the thermometer climb higher and higher into the "red" zone), I decided against running another 4 miles at 3 o'clock. The extra 300-400 calories I'd burn plodding along just weren't worth it to me...not when it was 96 degrees in the shade and the clothes on the line were drying in half an hour. A 4 mile "recovery" run through a sauna on a very tired set of legs wasn't going to help me physically or mentally. Enter the beauty of doing a second workout inside, with the AC blasting. I've done a post about Ab Lab before, but it's about time to share some more exercises to add into the mix. I've never done the exact same core circuit twice - muscle confusion is a great thing!

For new readers, here's the general idea:
-Ab Lab is comprised of any 8 ab exercises
-Each of the 8 exercises is performed nonstop for a 50 second period
-After each individual exercise there is a 10 second rest
-When all 8 exercises have been completed, there is a full 60 second break
-The circuit gets repeated 3 times (24 minutes in total)

1. The windmill with straight legs 
Position yourself on your back, with your legs extended perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your feet together and your legs as straight as possible, lower your legs and begin to make a circular motion. Both hips should be on the ground at all times. Make sure your legs are swooping around like a windmill (you shouldn't just be tracing little circles with your feet). Complete one full revolution before reversing the direction. Try to keep your spine anchored to the floor and don't slide your hands under your butt as a cheat.

2. The "wiggle"
The name of this exercise should serve as an indication of the awkward motion to come. I recommend you try this one in the privacy of your own home - but it burns like crazy once you get the motion down! Position yourself on your back, with the soles of your feet together and your kneecaps pointing outwards. Lift your head and shoulders off the ground and bring one knee in to meet your elbow. Then switch to the opposite side (basically it should feel like you're wiggling side to side). Make sure you're not just bringing your elbows to your knees like you would in a bicycle crunch!

3. Split leg pulses
Position yourself on your back, with one leg outstretched a few inches off of the ground and one leg sticking straight up perpendicular to the floor. Lift your head and shoulders up and crunch up another couple of inches for 1, 2, 3 pulses. After the third pulse, switch the position of your legs, briefly rest your upper body, and repeat.

4. Double leg drop with scissor kicks
Position yourself on your back, with your arms draped loosely by your sides and your legs extended perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your feet together, slowly lower your legs until they are hovering a few inches off of the ground. Flutter both feet in a scissor kick motion for a couple of seconds and bring your legs back up to the initial position. Repeat. Again, make a concerted effort to keep your legs straight and your hands out from under you!

5. Plank with arms on a Swiss ball
This exercise always makes me shake all over. Think of a regular plank, only instead of bracing your elbows or hands on the ground, use a Swiss ball. Make sure you don't sacrifice your form as you try not to tip over...I always have Brother #3 on hand to yell "head up!" and "drop those shoulders!"

6.  Long-arm crunch with a medicine ball 
This exercise always wears out my upper body before my abs. Position yourself on your back, with your arms extended by your ears. Hold a medicine ball (or a dumbbell) in your hands. Your outstretched arms shouldn't move from that spot just behind your ears. All you're doing is trying to curl your upper body into your chest with your arms still sticking out behind you. The "crunching" motion itself shouldn't be that drastic - the point is to make sure only your core isn't getting any help from your upper body's momentum.

7. Swiss ball pass
This exercise, when I'm not too tired to do it properly, always has me moaning and groaning when I try to sit up in bed the next morning. Lie on your back with your legs stretched out on the floor and your arms fully extended over your head. Grab a Swiss ball with your hands and crunch up to meet your legs in the middle. Pass the ball to your feet and lower your legs slowly to hover a couple of inches off the ground. Lift your legs back up to the middle and transfer the ball to your hands again. Slowly lower your upper body until it's a couple of inches off the ground. Repeat. Don't let the ball touch the ground!

8. Side plank with hip drops 
This one is just your dear old friend the side plank, only with rapid-fire hip drops added into the equation. Get in a side plank, lower your hips towards the ground, and then lift them back up until you're back in the generic side plank position. Go for 25 seconds and then switch sides.

No comments:

Post a Comment