Tag Archives: Crunch

Personal Training Part Three: Everyday

Ankle weights are awesome
Ankle weights are awesome!

On Saturday I ran back to Crunch for my final session with genius personal trainer Claes Passalacqua. It’d been a really long week; I needed a kick in the pants as well as the final secret series of hip and back fixers.

We started off with the Core strengthening exercises and the Glute strengthening exercises, just to warm up. Except this time I had to do the Glute series with ankle weights. Good. Lord. It felt like my leg was trapped in concrete; I could barely move it around. It felt like someone else’s leg. That I’d set on fire. We also added an inner leg lift, similar to ones I’d done for knee pain, that brought the sensations full circle.

The real magic, however, came when I stood up. The nerves and muscles firing up and down the back of the leg created this insane feeling of gravity in that leg, as if my heel was being suctioned to the ground, and my hips were being sucked out through my leg bones. It was like a huge flush of water, an avalanche, dropping through my legs. For all the yoga I’ve done, for all the teachers that have pulled my heels or hips towards the floor, THIS made me understand what “grounding” really feels like.

We built on that. The final series adapted these Core and Glute alignments to more “normal” postures, to train the body to use these new-found muscles in everyday living.

  1. Standing tall left side against the wall, with a kickball to cushion the hip. Right foot on a stair-stepping bench (could substitute a thick book), left leg dangles parallel to the right. Arms up, shoulders down. Ribs in. The challenge is to balance using the glute, not the quad, calf, or foot. Microbend the knee, send the hips back, keep the weight in the heel, hold for a minute. Crazy strength is discovered. Do both sides.
  2. Sitting down in front of a bench (or bed), lift one foot six inches off the floor. Arms up, shoulders down. Ribs in. Lower the hips towards the bed, keeping the feet parallel. Use the glute not the quad. Rest, stand up with both legs, and repeat 10 times. (For extra challenge, try to come back up. With the core and the glutes you can do it!)
  3. Bending over stand with feet hip-distance apart, lift the right foot about six inches off the floor. Microbend the other leg, send the hips slightly back. Left hand on the hip for balance, lean the heart forward and touch the left toes with the right hand. Repeat 10 times. (Similar to the Hamstring Circles recommended in Ironstrength)

I’m kind of sad to be done, even though my hip and back pain can certainly stay hidden wherever they are. I’ve got the homework I asked for, and all kinds of new sensations to play with. I’ve learned all kinds of things about yoga from cross-training, especially this strength training, and I highly recommend some intense muscular exploration for anyone who does yoga. And, I cannot even describe how immense a relief it is to have not an injury, but a plan. Thank you so much Claes!

Personal Training Part Two: The Gluteus Medius

Gluteus Medius (cut)
Gluteus Medius (cut)

Happy holidays, for and from me. My back and hip pain are just about gone; I’ve been doing the physical therapy exercises that Claes Passalacqua gave me just about every day. Week one, I’d learned his Core series, week two he increased the core work, added some spine and shoulder stretches and introduced some gluteus medius work. I had to suck it up and buy a foam roller (the thing takes up half the room), but I have not woken up with a frozen back in weeks. So. Happy.

Exercising while laying on the foam roller is interesting, it forces you to balance using deep core muscles. It can also be used to massage (roll out) the IT band and the quads, so it’s a good investment.

Claes says that a lot of people have week gluteus medius muscles the quads and the hamstrings are often overdeveloped, while the hip ab/adductors and rotators are often weak. Especially if you do running or cycling or other exercises in a repeated linear plane. And if the muscles attached to your pelvis are imbalanced, they’re going to tip or twist your hips hello back pain. We often think of “the Core” as just our abs, but it actually includes your inner thighs, outer thighs, and butt. The medius helps your legs move away from each other, back, or rotate outward. Mine was so weak that I was yelling OH MY GOD by the middle of the exercises. (I guess they’re used to that at Crunch?)

And check this out: just a few days after my session, the Times posted an article on “Dead Butt Syndrome.”

A new thought in running medicine is that almost all lower extremity injuries, whether they involve your calf, your plantar fascia or your iliotibial band, are linked to the gluteus medius…

So, for posterity (and healthy posteriors), here’s Claes’ Gluteal series. It helps hip and lower back pain, and is great for runners and other linear athletes. Do it every morning, it only takes ten minutes. Combine it with Jill Miller’s Lower Body Series (deep tissue massage) once a week and you will have the happiest hips around.

1. Pilates stance lying on one side, legs straight, hips slightly bent for balance, bottom hand supporting the head, top hand on the floor in front, keep hips perpendicular to floor, feet slightly turned out (unless it makes your hip click like mine)

  • 10 leg lifts, foot flexed just up 12″ or so
  • 10 leg lifts, foot pointed
  • 10 heel touches foot flexed, tap top heel in front and behind bottom foot
  • 10 infinities make figure 8 with top foot
  • 10 circles forward imagine you’re drawing on the far wall with the toe
  • 10 circles backward

2. Fetal position lying on one side, bend the knees to 90, support head with bottom hand and balance with other

  • 10 book covers lift top knee about 12″
  • 10 seesaws rotating hip/femur, tap top knee down (heel up), then top heel down (knee up)
  • 10 circles forward small, imagine you’re drawing with a pencil
  • 10 circles backward

So! Miracles do happen. Hips and back are healing! Just have to tackle (I mean nurture) the shoulders and wrist and I’ll be swinging again.

Look for Claes at Crunch and beyond…