Member Spotlight: Ann Paserchia

Member Spotlight: Ann Paserchia

At 64 years old, From Fat to Finish Line’s Run Your First Mile graduate Ann Paserchia wants to tell everyone that it’s never too late to start running.

The journey begins with the first step

social media post about running first mile“I always admired watching other people run. I was kind of envious of them. I would see Jennifer Roe, a friend of mine from my Weight Watchers group and one of the founders of From Fat to Finish Line run races like the New York City Marathon and I was in awe. I would ask her all sorts of questions about running. She told me about their amazing FFTFL community group and that they were beta testing a free Run Your First Mile Training Plan program. I decided to see if I could run too.”

Ann signed up for the program and began her running journey. Week by week, she completed the steps that Head Coach Rik Akey sent. She not only enjoyed the plan but also credits the support she received from the group for her success in keeping going.

“There’s no stopping me now. I am feeling stronger and seeing changes on the scale. It has boosted my confidence and self-esteem.

Proud Graduate

Ann is not only a proud graduate of the Run Your First Mile program but went on to complete the beta test of FFTFL’s Run Your First 5K Training Plan program as well. She is now currently one of the beta testers of the FFTFL Run Your First 10K Training Plan program and is looking forward to a healthy future that includes a running lifestyle. “There’s no stopping me now. I am feeling stronger and seeing changes on the scale. It has boosted my confidence and self-esteem. ‘I know I can’ has been my mantra since starting this journey.”

Ann believes that getting fitted for good shoes, setting small achievable goals, and listening to your body is key. She says, “I would’ve never imagined that at 64 years old I would start running and loving it. You can do it too. Ease into it slowly and just take one day at a time.”

'I know I can’ has been my mantra since starting this running journey. - Ann Paserchia Click To Tweet

Congratulations, Ann!


 

From Fat to Finish Line Run Your First Mile Training ProgramWant to give our free Run Your First Mile Training Plan a try? Enroll today!

5 Squat Variations for Runners

5 Squat Variations for Runners

As a runner, what one strength exercise mimics running? A squat. For what is running but is a series of coordinated single-leg squats. Once you master the proper form a body weight squat, you can challenge yourself with countless squat variations.

We’ll cover the following squat variations in this Workout Wednesday: Body weight squat, Lateral squat, Wall squat, Seat Tap squat, and Single-leg squat.

Before we begin, here’s a quick note about posture, foot stance, and knees. Maintain the curves in your spine, look straight ahead and engage your core. For more detail, see 5 Keys to Improving Your Posture. Use a hip or shoulder-width athletic stance with toes slightly pointed outwards. A wider base provides more stability. If feet are turned out too far (12-15 degrees), you can put undo stress on your joints. Alternatively, you may want to practice your squats with feet parallel with toes pointing forward. If you are unable to squat with toes pointing forward, you may need to do some mobility work. (Watch for future posts about mobility drills). For either foot placement, knees should track toward your second toe (the toe next to your big toe).  And, overall, the key is to perform each exercise with good form, slowly, through a full range of controlled motion.

To perform a perfect body weight squat, you will use a combination of glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and core muscles. The depth of the squat should be comfortable. With practice, your squat depth will have your thighs parallel to the ground. The flexibility of your hips and ankles impact the movement and depth of a squat. For example, if you have tight ankles/calves, your heels may lift. If this happens, raise your heels with a support. Tight hips and hamstrings might hyperextend your low back. So aim to keep the spine neutral.

BASIC SQUAT

man demonstrating basic squat form

  • Stand with feet wider than hip width and toes turned out slightly (or feet parallel). Stabilize your shoulders.
  • Engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine. Keep the chest lifted and chin parallel to the floor.
  • Downward phase: Inhale. Hinge at the hips, shift them back and down while your knees bend. The torso will begin to lean forward. Keep the spine neutral without tucking the tail or arching the low back. Continue to lower until your thighs are nearly parallel or parallel to the floor. Knees shouldn’t go too far past your toes.
  • Upward phase: Keep the knees aligned with the toes and weight evenly distributed between the balls and heels of the feet. Exhale and press into your feet as the hips and torso rise to standing.

Start with 10 repetitions. Perform multiple sets of 2-3x.

LATERAL SQUAT

Runners need to perform lateral movements to reduce the risk of injury. A lateral squat is an easy variation.

  • Stand tall with proper posture and abs engaged.
  • Step sideways wider than hip distance. Squat down and return to standing.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Start with 10 repetitions. Perform multiple sets of 2-3x.

WALL SQUAT

man demonstrating wall squat form

The dreaded wall squat is an isometric or static hold in a squat position against a wall. If you’ve taken a yoga class, Chair pose is the same positioning as a wall squat. If your muscles start to shake, that is fatigue setting in.

  • Standing with your back against a wall, bend your knees and lower to nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Stay here and breathe steadily. The goal is to stay here for a period of time: 15 seconds or more.
  • Return to standing. Rest and repeat.

SEAT TAP SQUAT

man demonstrating seat tap squat form

This variation will require a stationary, stable chair (no office chairs or chairs on wheels). This squat variation fires up your core stability. While maintaining proper form, perform as many squat taps as possible for 30 seconds or 1 minute.

  • Stand in front of your chair with hands on hips or with arms crossed at shoulder height.
  • Squat down to just tap your glutes to the seat of the chair then return to standing.
  • Repeat performing as many squat taps as possible for the desired amount of time.

SINGLE-LEG SQUAT

man demonstrating single leg squat form

Maintaining proper form during a single-leg squat is really challenging (I mean REALLY challenging). This is when muscle imbalances start to appear. So, be mindful of ankle stability, knee tracking (toward the second toe), and hinging (not hiking or lifting) at the hip. Practice doing this type of squat with the support of a wall, counter, or chair until everything is tracking properly. Additionally, you may want to perform these squats while facing a mirror or take a video yourself.

  • Stand near a support surface.
  • With a strong spine and stable core, squat down hinging at the hip and bending the knee.
    Note: You may not find the same depth in your single-leg squat. That’s OK!
  • Return to standing. Repeat.

Start with 10 repetitions. Perform multiple sets of 2-3x.

There you have it, a few squat variations that will make you stronger and help make you a better runner.


We will be providing weekly Wednesday Workouts. If you have an area you would like to have us feature in our workouts, let us know. Post in the comments below or send us a note. Thanks!

5 Keys to Improving Your Posture

5 Keys to Improving Your Posture

Your mother always told you…stand up straight. Well, are you? Learning to stand tall, takes awareness and practice. With a bit of effort, you can learn to strengthen your back, core, and shoulders as well as reduce low back pain—all from maintaining good posture.

With our screen-based society (phones, tablets, computers and TVs), you may notice that your shoulders are rounded, your chest is collapsed, your low back is rounded, and your neck is bent. That just sounds painful.

So, where do we start? We’ll discuss a few basic principles and then start practicing posture.

It’s important to learn proper spinal alignment so that you can maintain the four natural curves: neck-cervical spine, upper back-thoracic spine, lower back-lumbar spine, and hips – pelvis/sacrum. When in alignment, your bones are doing their structural duty and your muscles are better able to perform more efficiently.

The five keys to improving posture include foot foundation, pelvic alignment, core engagement, shoulder engagement, and spinal lengthening through energetic intention.

We’ll start with awareness exercises and bring it all together standing at a wall. Each step will build on the previous one.

For our practice, you will need a chair, a hard floor surface (maybe a yoga mat or blanket for comfort), and a wall.

1. FOOT FOUNDATION

Neutral foot alignmentYour feet are your foundation and connection to the earth. How are you standing on your feet? Are your feet parallel? Is the weight evenly distributed between the four corners of your feet (big toe, pinky toe, inner heel, and outer heel)? Are your arches engaged or collapsed? Are your ankles stacked and centered over your heels (not rolling in or out)?

Awareness Practice:

  • With bare feet, sit on a chair with feet resting on a hard surface.
  • Plant your feet and wiggle your toes.
  • Check the alignment cues above: parallel feet, weight evenly distributed, ankle alignment, and arches engaged.
  • Stand up and pay attention to your feet. Shift your weight side to side and front to back.
  • With active intention, start pushing your feet into the floor.

What happened? Hopefully, your kneecaps engaged and lifted (quads engaged, muscles in the shins and calves enlivened?) If your glutes engaged, release them.

2. PELVIC ALIGNMENT

Pelvic alignment practice arched spine and neutral spineHips and low back suffer most often because this is where the load of the upper body meets the lower body–at the lumbar spine. One of the most mobile areas of the body, the pelvis is able to move in 3 planes: tucking/tilting, hiking up/down (moving the hip toward or away from your ribs), and rotating (or twisting front to back). Too much tucking or tilting of the pelvis adds stress to the low back. The goal of this practice is to discover a neutral position of the pelvis.

Awareness Practice:

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  • Hug your knees into your chest and feel your low back on the floor. Drop feet to the floor with knees bent.
  • Place hands on your waist so the pinky finger is on hips and thumbs are on lowest ribs.
  • While keeping hips on the floor, arch only the low back away from the floor. Take a deep inhalation feel the ribs expand. (tilting the pelvis back – dog tilt)
  • Exhale and press the low back into the floor rounding the curve of the spine downward. (tucking the pelvis under – cat tilt)
  • Repeat this cat/dog stretch 5-10 times.
  • Start to discover a neutral pelvis. This is when the front pelvis bone or pubis and the front of the hip bones are level with the floor. (When you come to standing, you will need to find that again.)

3. CORE ENGAGEMENT

What is your core? It’s not just the six-pack. Think of it as all of the muscles of your trunk – from shoulders to hips on the front and back of the body as well as the pelvic floor. The core muscles encircle your organs and spine like a corset to create stability and mobility. Today, we are interested in engaging the core for stability.

Awareness Practice:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent. Maintain a neutral pelvis.
  • Place hands on the waist so the pinky finger is on hips and thumbs are on lowest ribs.
  • Without sucking your belly inward, start to contract the abdominals inward – slowly like that corset is getting tighter.
  • Another way to find this activation is to press your tongue on the back of your top teeth and exhale “TH”, “F”, or “S”.  The abdominal cavity’s pressure changes and your Transverse Abdominis (TVA) are now engaged.
  • So now that you’ve found them, notice that you can control the amount of engagement – like a dimmer switch: 100%, 50%, or 25%. When standing, your core engagement should be at about 25%.

 

4. SHOULDER ENGAGEMENT

shoulders reached shoulders packedThe shoulder is highly mobile and therefore less stable joint. We are a pushing society – pushing carts, doors, and strollers. So, shoulders are typically held in a forward rounded position. With a shoulder packed placement, the chest will be more open and breathing will be easier. Let’s learn to engage and stabilize the shoulders.

Awareness practice:

You will also need a block or book.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent. Maintain a neutral pelvis.
  • Engage the core (Transverse Abdominis-TVA) 25%.
  • Hold a block between your hands with palms facing each other. Start with the block at your chest and then straighten the arms upward toward the ceiling.
  • While palms squeeze onto the block, reach upwards toward the ceiling and raise the shoulders from the floor – rounding the shoulders.
  • Still squeezing, draw your shoulders back down to the floor so they are pressing into the floor – packing the shoulders. Your collarbones should broaden.
  • Repeat a few times: inhale reach the shoulders and exhale to pack the shoulders.
  • Set the block aside and set arms at your sides. Fingertips lengthen toward your feet while shoulders press toward the floor and toward each other.

5. SPINAL ENERGETIC INTENTION

Energetic spine lengthening; man seated man standingWithout a goal, it’s hard to make progress. The energetic intention is the energy or juice muscles make toward a specific direction. To lengthen the spine or move any body part with intention, tap into that internal spark and move purposefully.

Awareness practice:

  • With bare feet, sit on a chair with feet resting firmly on a hard surface.
  • Place palms face down on your thighs.
  • Find a neutral pelvis. Maybe flex a few times with cat/dog tilt a bit to find it.
  • Engage the core (Transverse Abdominis-TVA) 25%.
  • Pack the shoulders so they are engaged squeezing backward and downwards.
  • Now, here’s the energetic intention: grow and lengthen the spine and head toward the ceiling. Can you feel yourself get taller?
  • Stay here active and engaged with full intention. Breathe comfortably.

Whew! Posture practice is WORK!

If you feel confident that your sitting posture is stable and comfortable let’s try it when standing.

STANDING POSTURE: Mountain Pose or Tadasana

  • Stand with your back to a wall or doorway. The distance away from the wall is depends on your glutes. Heels will also be away from the wall. Back of the head will NOT touch the wall.
  • Start with feet parallel, four corners pressing downward, arches engaged and lifting, and quads engaged with kneecaps lifted.
  • Find a neutral pelvis. Use your hands to check!
  • Engage the abdominals 25%.
  • Activate and pack the shoulders. Lengthen fingers to toward the floor.
  • Engage and lengthen the spine and crown of the head toward the ceiling. Breathe comfortably.

Congratulations! You are on your way to better posture.

Where should you practice? Everywhere! Practice good posture while sitting, standing, and walking! While sitting at your desk or in your car, check your alignment and set your intention – grow taller. You can practice anytime you are standing anywhere. The next time you are at the grocery store waiting in line, practice!

How often should you practice improving your posture? As often as possible! By practicing these techniques regularly, you will build more body awareness, strength, and confidence.


We will be providing weekly Wednesday Workouts. If you have an area you would like to have us feature in our workouts, let us know. Post in the comments below or send us a note. Thanks!

4 Post-Run Stretches to Improve Flexibility

4 Post-Run Stretches to Improve Flexibility

As a runner, you run, you strength train, and you stretch, right? Well, most of the runners I know rarely, if ever, stretch after a run or even after a workout. Stretching is essential to prevent injuries, increase the range of motion, and improve flexibility. If you want your body to be more efficient in everyday life and your training (running or walking), then perform a few stretches daily.

To perform a static stretch, isolate and lengthen the muscle group by holding the muscle under tension. Hold each stretch for 10 – 30 seconds until sensation (but not pain) is felt. Breathing fully and slowly will deepen each stretch. Repeat stretching the same muscle or groups of muscles 1-2 times as necessary.

Perform these stretches once you are warmed up; after running or after your strength workout.

Man stretching calf

Rik Akey / Cynthia Akey

Calf Stretch

On the back of the lower leg are two muscles, the gastrocnemius, and the soleus. Both these muscles taper and connect to the Achilles tendon. The calf muscles create the pushing action that flexes the ankle joint (point the toes or lifts the foot) and flexes the knee joint.

  • Find support from either a wall or another surface.
  • Step back with one foot feel the stretching sensation in the calf or lower leg.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Hip Rotator Stretch

There are six external rotator muscles that rotate the hip. This muscle group allows you to move your leg back and out and rotate your leg outward. This muscle can become tight due to repetitive movements like lots of running or walking OR from sitting at a desk for more than 8 hours.

  • Find support from either a wall or a chair.
  • Cross your right ankle across your left thigh.
  • Sit back into this stretch like you are about to sit in a chair. You should feel a stretch across the back of the pelvis.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
    Man stretching hamstrings and quadriceps

Hamstring Stretch

Made up of 3 muscles, the function of the hamstring group is to bend your knees and move your hips backward. These are the muscles on the back of the thigh. So by walking and running, those muscles are getting shorter and tighter.

  • Raise leg to a low surface – the seat of a chair or rest heel on the ground. Flex at the ankle bringing the toes closer toward your knee.
  • Straighten the leg and engage or activate the front of the thigh (quads).
  • Hinge at the hip slightly to deepen the stretch.
  • Feel the stretch in the middle of the back of the thigh.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Quadriceps or Quad Stretch

These four powerful muscles are located on the front of the thigh. Their function is to extend the knee joint (straighten the leg) and also flex the hip (lift the leg). So this muscle group swings the leg forward into the next step for walking or running.

  • Find support from either a wall or a chair.
  • Securely stand on your right leg.
  • Bend the left knee so it is pointing straight down and hold the ankle.
  • To increase the sensation, stand taller, engage your abs, and activate your left glutes.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

NOTE: All of these stretches may be performed from a seated position as well.


We will be providing weekly Wednesday Workouts. If you have an area you would like to have us feature in our workouts, let us know. Post in the comments below or send us a note. Thanks!