Thursday, March 30, 2017

5 Essential Stretches for Happy Legs

After having a meniscectomy on my left knee (after two ACLs a lifetime ago), I rehabbed and returned to running and other fitness activities a little happy camper. About a year later, that same knee became very unhappy and for the longest time, I didn't know why. I could hike, run, yoga...and then out of the blue my knee would hurt. It got so bad that I stopped running.

It took many visits with my chiropractor and an osteopath to figure out what I should have known all along: Stretching is essential for happy legs (and knees)!

The muscles in my left leg are weaker because of my knee injury and therefore work harder. Working harder causes the muscles to tighten putting a strain on my joints ---> in my case my knee feels this directly. If I take the time to stretch the muscles, the tightness is reduced and the strain removed.

If you are like me and struggling to solve a pain issue and are not stretching enough, please try these 5 Essential Stretches for Happy Legs.

Here's how they look after a warmup walk to the plaza in my neighborhood.

Quad stretch - Standing upright I pull my leg behind me with the same side hand. While pulling my foot toward my butt and keeping my knee pointed down, I focus on keeping my hips forward. It is not my goal to touch my foot to my butt, but to feel the stretch on the front of my leg.

Hamstring stretch - Standing with the leg to be stretched a little ahead of me, I keep that leg straight while bending the other knee slowly. At the same time I lean forward at the hip keeping my chest up. While in the stretch I focus on keeping my hips back ---> when I make this adjustment, I instantly feel the difference in the stretch. This stretch can also be done with the leg elevated or better yet, laying down.

Glute stretch - While standing upright, I raise one leg and pull it toward my chest with both hands. While keeping my body still and hips forward, I pull my leg across my body until I feel the stretch. I try not to allow my upper body to twist.

Hip & glute stretch (aka standing pigeon pose) - I place my ankle just above the opposite knee and then sit back slowly. I try to sink as low as I can, keep my hips square and top knee flat to increase the stretch.

Calf stretches - There are two sets of calf muscles to stretch. The first stretch is most common. While standing I step one leg back and bend forward with the other. I keep the back leg straight and the foot on the ground for the entire stretch.

The second stretch is similar. I bring the same leg in a little closer and bend the knee to feel a little different stretch.

What I'm wearing: top, capris, shoes

These are the stretches that are working for me and helped get me back in my running shoes. I do them after every workout and sometimes in the middle of a workout.

PS -Always warm up your muscles before performing any type of stretching.

PPS - I am not a doctor. I am only sharing what has worked for me personally.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Running Feels Good + Random Discounts I Found on Twitter

After a day of not doing much beyond going to a meeting and walking around Central, it felt good to get up and run today. On Sunday I increased my intervals to 90:60 seconds run:walk and everything went smoothly, so I did the same today. I also switched up my route and brought mrC with me.

We live in the middle of the two main parts of Discovery Bay. We walked down the big hill from our apartment (we'll call it a warmup) and as soon as it was flat enough (my knee is not fond of downhills and this is a really big one), we started running intervals.

For the first time, I ran along the beach. I've been watching other runners do this since we moved here in November and it made me so happy to finally join the party. I imagine that one day I might be able to end my run at the beach and jump in to cool off. That would be fun!

Chatting with a friend who happened to walk by

While I ran, I thought about how awesome it felt. I was relaxed, well about 80% relaxed, but that's HUGE. It's been a long time since I was able to relax and not think about every single step I was making. It was nice to be able to just let my mind wander. I found myself thinking of all the ways my run felt good.

It felt good --->

to get up and run
to say I'm going for a run
to plan new running routes
to aim for longer distances
to enjoy running more often
to be drenched in post run sweat

When you're a runner, you are always on the lookout for deals and sales, am I right? For you ---> Random discounts I found on Twitter:

Oh, and can't forget my own!

Fill in the blank: the last time I ran, it felt good  _____________

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Biking in Hong Kong: Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk

I love a good bike ride (like this and this), but it's even better on a gorgeous day with a gorgeous group of fellow expats from the American Women's Association. 

I joined a group of 15 women for a 21 km bike tour on the outskirts of Hong Kong. When I say outskirts, I mean just a 30 minute ride on the MTR from Central, but it feels like your a million miles away from the city.

I started my day with a couple of scrambled eggs ---> needed that protein for a bike ride! I also packed some light snacks and plenty of water for the trip. It's best to be prepared, even when lunch is planned at the end.

We picked up our bikes in Tai Wai. Only $60HKD to rent the bikes! There are lots of bike shops, but this was one that we could pick up and drop off at different locations. I wasn't expecting a mountain bike, but it worked fine. Our AWA coordinator, Regine, recommended that we take the bike for a spin near the shop before leaving to make sure everything worked.

Trekkie joggers and a linen tank were perfect for this bike ride

Our bike tour was not the Tour de France, but an enjoyable ride along the Tolo Harbour. It was simply lovely riding along the water, seeing the mountains rise behind the apartment buildings, and soak up the sunshine. 

At Science Park we made a water stop and took in the views of Wong Leng and the Pat Sin Leng mountain range across the harbour and where we would end our bike ride. A week ago I had been on top of that range looking down at the Guan Yin Statue.  

In Tai Po, we stopped to see the Tai Wong Yeh Temple located basically right on the bike path. It was a pretty place for another water stop.

In some places the path veered away from the water, but offered a very pleasant bit of shade. It was so peaceful riding along under the trees.

Eventually we arrived in the village of Tai Mei Tuk. This part of the ride was much busier with cars and pedestrians on a much narrower path, but we reached our destination without harm to anyone. You know you have arrived when you see all the bikes lining the path and an assortment of restaurants lining the parallel side street.

After returning our bikes, we walked a little way to a very friendly Italian restaurant, Jack's Terrazza, that offered an affordable set lunches menu. Clearly, I was at the party table. Tall glasses of Carlsberg for (almost) everyone. I'm not a beer drinker.

It was a long, but fun day.

Today I had another meeting in Central, but this time mrC came along so we could run some errands after. 

Like, getting acai bowls from Be-Juiced on Peel Street. What's in my bowl? peanut butter, apple granola, and kiwi. SO GOOD! mrC had blueberries, banana, and honey. He loved it.

After our light lunch, we hit up A&M (the US groceries store) and J Crew (where I snagged this awesomely soft long sleeve tee) before heading back on the ferry. We had a 30 minute wait, so it was a good thing I brought the YPPs with me.

It was an early Taco Tuesday for dinner at our house. How about you?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Simple Sunday and Workout Recap

I feel like I waited all day for the big rain that never came. The rain that I was text alerted to last night. The alert that made me anxious about getting my run in. Anxious because of the whole knee situation and the last thing I needed was to slip and fall.

No worries. I ran while the street lights were still on. It started to drizzle right as I was finishing my first loop and over-cautious me went left to my building instead of right to start another loop. I was thinking, keep it nice and simple.

Even though the drizzle never turned into a down pour and I wanted to repeat what we did on Thursday (see below), I feel good about my decision. Better safe than sorry! On another positive note, I changed up my intervals: run 90 seconds (increased +30) recover 60. I set the timer to do 15 intervals, but after the 10th one I kept going another minute to finish at our building. Total 2.24 miles.

OOTD: shorts (Athleta) similar here / tank (Athleta) exact here /
hat (Athleta) similar here / shoes (Mizuno) exact here

I also did my five favorite stretches (post coming soon) and some planks.

It's all good, I ran today! ---> I'm so happy to be wearing this shirt again (I picked it up the first time I ran ZOOMA Cape Cod and met Dimity and Sarah from Another Mother Runner). When I wasn't running, it didn't feel right to wear it. Kind of like wearing a race shirt for a race you didn't run. Am I right?

For lunch I made some buffalo chicken quinoa which I have been craving and let's be honest I will have it for dinner too. It's one of my favorite quinoa recipes and so easy.

Here's what the rest of my week looked like:

Monday - I went on a REALLY BIG hike with my friends from Shenzhen and mrC came along too. I recapped it here.

Tuesday - We recovered from Monday's hike. Smoothies were involved.

Wednesday - I would have gone for a run, but I had a meeting in Central for a committee I'm going to be working on.

Thursday - mrC and I went for an interval run: 23 x 1 minute run with 1 minute recovery. The number 23 was based on the 2 loop route we did last time. It was just as good this time plus we added the promenade for a grand total of 4.65 miles! Another long run PB for year. And I played around some more with our GoPro.

Friday - Last Friday's class was cancelled because the instructor was sick and Monday I hiked, so I was really looking forward to Bodystep. It was a crowded class but that didn't stop me from burning over 600 calories!

I love this drawstring bag because of the pockets on the outside - really comes in handy!

Saturday - I was feeling a little under-motivated. I thought I would go to the Fitness Center but instead I went for a walk. It's nice to see the flowers popping color again, but it's been gray and overcast most days around here. I'm over it the way the Northeast is over snow in the US.

Speaking of the Northeast...the Boston Marathon is just three weeks away and I saw this floating around social media. I hope there is a way to see it online.

Do you run in the rain? 
What do you do after you run?
Do you plan to see BOSTON?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wilson Trail: Sections 9 and 10

I missed a few hard core hikes while mrC and I were in the US (thankfully there will be make-ups!), but I was happy to be able to join my SWIC hiking friends for the final stages of the Wilson Trail in Hong Kong and mrC decided to come with me, bonus.

Friendly warning: It was a long hike, so this is a long post.

From the MTR, we took a bus and then walked a couple of kilometers to the reservoir. Stage 9 of the Wilson Trail starts on the summit of Cloudy Hill, which the group had already done. We started where they finished, at the Hok Tau Reservoir, about 3.5 km into stage 9. After walking around the reservoir, we immediately began climbing up into the mountain range of Pat Seng Lin Country Park.

It's a good thing I ate those egg muffins I pre-made yesterday for breakfast because we had to climb and climb and climb! The rocky trail and stone steps pushed up into the low clouds that hung over the mountain range.

By the time we reached the top, we had stopped to refill water bottles, enjoyed some snacks, spotted carnivorous flowers and the clouds started clearing for us. 

I highly recommend carrying a mini water filtration system when hiking.

Snack time

These plants eat mosquitoes - love them!

Once on the ridge, the trek high above the tree tops began. This is where a lot of us started shedding layers. We had to follow the trail over several peaks, such as Ping Fung Shan, Lai Pek Shan, and Wong Leng, before reaching the most challenging and final part of section 9 ---> Pat Sin Leng range.

Loving the GoPro and chest strap just wish the battery lasted longer

At Wong Leng, the highest peak of the day at 639 meters and about midway on the ridge, we could look back and see how far we had come and look ahead to how much more hiking we had to do. Plus the panoramas over Plover Cove and the Guan Yin Statue at Tsz Shan Monastery were stunning.

Hill after gut-wrenching hill, we had to climb the eight peaks of Pat Sin Leng, known as The Eight Immortals named for ancient spirits in Chinese mythology. At the final peak, Hsien Ku Fung, 7.1 km from the reservoir, we reached the end of section 9.

My Eddie Bauer backpack was perfect for this all day hike

One more peak to go!

The start of section 10 with views over to mainland China into Shenzhen (our old expat home) was all downhill. The slow wooded descent past rock pools, streams, and abandoned villages was a welcome escape from the beating sun. At a small stream crossing we stopped for water refilling and lunch before making our way to the end of the Wilson Trail at Nam Chung Village.

Hello, Shenzhen!

The water filtration assemble line

Tired and sun burned

We made it!

The terrain of section 10 was rocky and sometimes slippery from the rain the day before (three of us took spills, me included), but the 6.8km went by much faster than the 7.1km of section 9. I was very relieved when we arrived at the bus stop for a ride to the MTR.

This was a looonnnng hike. Long distance, long day, long travel time. And it was totally worth it!

I am now more than halfway done with the Wilson Trail. You can read my previous posts by clicking a link below:

Hiking: Wilson Trail Stages 1 & 2
Hiking: Wilson Trail Stages 3 & 4

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