Best Way to Treat Achilles Tendonitis: Stretching & Moderation

graphic pic of Achilles tendon anatomyIf you are active in sports, you may have experienced discomfort or soreness in your Achilles (uh-KIL-eez) tendon at one time or another, or you may have heard one of your friends complain about Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon connects the large calf muscles to the back of your heel. If you trace your finger along the back of your leg staring at the heel and moving upward toward the knee, you will appreciate both the Achilles tendon as well as the calf muscles, which pull on it from above.

What causes Achilles tendonitis? Continue reading “Best Way to Treat Achilles Tendonitis: Stretching & Moderation”

The Plank: Strengthening the Core

The Plank is one of my favorite exercises in the Gym. Here’s my write-up cross-posted from Aches & Joints.


The core is commonly thought of as only your abs, but consists of multiple muscle groups in your abdomen, back and pelvis. Core muscles are engaged during all activities requiring a coordinated movement of the upper and lower body. They generate the force and power required for many activities, while simultaneously playing a foundational role in stabilizing the torso.

Our modern sedentary lifestyle does nothing to working these important core muscles and over time result in their weakening, and the consequent injuries from seemingly simple tasks.]

There are various ways to strengthen these core muscles. The PLANK, for instance, is easy to perform, effective and appropriate for any age and fitness level. With no special equipment, the plank can be performed on a carpeted floor or mat in your living room, in the gym between sets of other exercises, or at the end of a workout. Also, the plank literally only takes a minute!

In performing the plank, you hold a steady position by isometrically contracting the deep stabilizing abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus), while keeping the lower back (erector spinae and multifidi) stable, fighting fatigue and simultaneously building endurance. This exercise is not appropriate if you have any shoulder weakness or injury.


Step by Step: How to perform and hold the Plank
Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

  • Have a wrist watch or clock nearby to track time
  • Start with palms on the floor, shoulder distance apart (see above), then lower to forearms only with and elbows directly below the shoulders as demonstrated below
  • It may be easier for many to start with knees and elbows on a mat
  • Extend legs back, one at a time, straightening the knees and balancing on your toes
  • Keep your body straight as a plank (see below)
  • Relax your neck and look down at the floor
  • As you fatigue, there will be a tendency for your hips to sag. Squeeze your deep abdominal muscles and glutes, and hold your hips in line with the rest of the body
  • For starters, hold the position for 30 seconds and work up to 60 seconds or longer
  • Rest on your knees; when ready, repeat plank for two additional sets

Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints


For a more challenging workout: In the plank position, alternately lift and move each leg outwards (see demonstration below)
Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints


Julie Schlenkerman, Personal Trainer, Clubs at Charles River ParkThe Plank was demonstrated by Julie Schlenkerman, certified personal trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park, Boston, MA.

Julie is an avid runner and ran the 2009 Boston Marathon in 3:16:14!

Here is wishing Julie the very best for the Boston Marathon tomorrow.

Run Julie Run!


From My Archives: Simple exercises & Related articles

11 Essential Things to do Before a Long Run

(pic by Martineric from here)

Despite a tear in my medial meniscus, I hope to run the New York City Marathon on November 7, 2010. The long runs are the most grueling part of marathon training. There are NO crowds to cheer you, there is no one handing out water and no friends to pat you on the back. Its just you and the demons, on a long road. And it is you alone, my friend, who will have to slay the demons.

Having a checklist helps you get psyched for the long run and reduces the stress that you may have forgotten something important. It also works like a trial run for the Marathon. So prepare a list and tweak till you get it right; then it becomes your Marathon prep checklist. Continue reading “11 Essential Things to do Before a Long Run”

Video: How to do a Pec Fly & Chest Press

I don’t do weights! But my trainer friends urge me to build muscle tone. “It will help your running,” they argue. I do anything which helps my running.
Continue reading “Video: How to do a Pec Fly & Chest Press”

Heel, Calf, Hamstring Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis

If you are a runner, sooner or later you will encounter heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis. While there is no cure, simple exercises can take care of it.

Plantar fascia is the tissue band running along the bottom of the foot. Excessive walking, running, or irritation can inflame the tissues, causing severe heel pain. See my previous article on Treating Heel Pain with simple exercises. Here is another, very effective heel-leg stretch. Similar to others, this stretch takes less than 2 minutes. Continue reading “Heel, Calf, Hamstring Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis”

Tutorial: How to do Interval Training on a Treadmill

pics of Julie Schlenkerman doing intervals on a treadmill by Arun Shanbhag

In Interval Training, you combine a short, 1 minute burst of high intensity exercise followed by a 4 minute recovery period of low to moderate intensity. You string together these 5 minute cycles, or intervals, and end up with a very intense exercise regimen with amazing consequences. Also called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a 30 min interval training is the quickest way to lose weight, get physically fit and enhance your running speed.

Benefits of Interval Training: Continue reading “Tutorial: How to do Interval Training on a Treadmill”

Scapular Exercises for Stronger Shoulders

Exercises for Strong and Healthy Shoulders
Shoulders permit our arms to move in a wide arc and perform elaborate activities. This mobility is due to superb coordination of muscles and soft tissues around the shoulder and shoulder blades (scapula, SKA-pew-la), and is essential for performing activities in a pain- and injury-free manner. See related article on Rotator Cuff complications impairing shoulder movement.

Conventional shoulder exercises strengthen the larger muscles but tend to overlook the mid-back muscles that stabilize the scapulas. This can often result in muscle imbalance and consequently, bad posture. Even non-shoulder exercises like running on a treadmill with shoulders slouched can lead to stiffness and pain. These conditions increase injury potential and thus the need for corrective exercises.

Michael Bento, personal trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park, Boston, demonstrates simple exercises you can do at home to develop shoulder strength and protect them from injury. As an added bonus, these exercises also tone the all-important core muscles.

These exercises can be performed on a stability ball as shown, or on a work bench. Dumbbells or additional weights are not required. And as I surprisingly found out last week, you can do these scapular exercises while standing, starting with the arms in front! Yaay!


Common Starting Position for Shoulder-Scapula Exercises
scapular exercises for stronger shoulders

  • Anchor heels to a wall, toes on the floor and slowly roll out on a stability ball.
  • Rest upper abdomen on the ball and straighten body forming a line from ears to ankles.
  • Pull your shoulder blades down, tuck your chin and look at the floor.
  • Start with arms straight, hands in front of the ball (or bench), fingers lightly curled, palms facing each other and thumbs pointing forward.
  • In this position, your core muscles including abdominal and gluteus muscles are engaged in stabilizing your body.
  • For a challenging core-muscle workout, move your heels away from the wall as demonstrated above and use as starting position.

Continue reading “Scapular Exercises for Stronger Shoulders”

Marine Corps Marathon 2008: The Long Slog!

Marine Corps Marathon 2008
time: 4:33:10
My Slowest Marathon!


Its been two weeks and now I can write about my slowest marathon.

The Course and the Run:
I loved the first ten miles of this course. Leaving the Pentagon, the course works its way through the narrow streets of Arlington, VA. The mass of runners then worms their way over the George Washington Parkway and through the forests of Georgetown. It was a nice incline and the heavy breathing of runners filled the cool air. As we worked uphill, sunlight filtered through fall trees and only a few feet ahead, runners disappeared in fog mingling with mist from their breath. It was a beautiful slog. Then we raced down to the center of Georgetown to a large and raucous crowd. At that point, it was only mile Ten, and I was ahead of my expected 4:00 h pace!
Continue reading “Marine Corps Marathon 2008: The Long Slog!”

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