Tag Archives: medicine balls

The long snowy road to recovery

2014-02-13 10.58.22

This has been one of the snowiest winters on record


“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


As I am sure many of you know, due to the lingering soreness in my right knee and the brutal winter, I haven’t been running much these days. Fortunately, my knee doesn’t feel as bad as it used to when I run, indicating it is healing. Slowly, but surely I am making progress. I just have to be patient.

Here is what I have been doing for the past several weeks to help my knee heal and to stay in shape:

The ankle weights I use

1) Doing leg lifts on the floor, face up, with ankle weights about 3 times per week. I tend to do about 4 sets of 20 reps for each leg. This helps maintain muscle and can stimulate healing of the injured area. Besides this I use resistance bands to strengthen my hips and do the bicycle maneuver to strengthen my abs. I do these exercises even when not injured, but usually a little less often, and fewer sets.

2) For the past few weeks, about once or twice per week I would stuff a 23 lb medicine ball into my backpack and walk around the neighborhood with it. It should go without saying that this gets tiring after a while, making a 2.5 mile walk feel more like an 8 mile walk. The idea behind this is that if I can’t run or walk very far, I should increase the intensity of short bursts of exercise.

3) Similar to the idea above, I would often juggle at home with my heavier balls, mostly my 1 lb balls, and sometimes my three 2.25 lb Exerball set. As my arm endurance improved, I eventually started joggling outside with the heavy Exerballs. Three 2.25 lb balls may not sound like much, but doing this for a little over 2 miles a few days ago was very tiring, and is a new record for me. Doing this while going up hills is especially grueling.

This mostly upper body cardio can be challenging, and inside or outside helped my heart maintain its endurance capacity. Unlike joggling with very light balls(1/3 lb or less, what I normally use), my arms feel the burn while doing this instead of my legs.

4) If the weather outside was too nasty, or my legs didn’t feel like running, I would do stair-climbing for 20 to 30 minutes. I continue to do this sometimes, but I am running more these days.

5) Besides this, I have been more strict than usual over making sure I get a recovery snack or drink immediately after a workout, even bringing energy bars with me for short runs which I don’t usually do. Delaying replenishing depleted blood sugar, and/or fluids and electrolytes may slow the healing process or even increase the risk of re-injury.

6) What I don’t do is about as important as what I do to help heal this injury. Basically, I’ve done no speed-work, little to no hill running(until recently), no squats(they bother my knee), no stretching, and nothing beyond 16 miles(did 16 nearly 2 weeks ago). Sometimes it’s a little hard to resist trying to run fast, but all the ice and snow outside makes it difficult to run fast for long. Besides this, no drugs, no pills, no herbs, no voodoo, no “therapy” based on pseudo-science.

Thanks to this regimen, and being patient(which isn’t easy!)I am happy to report that my mileage has greatly increased this week. And it seems all my neighbors and acquaintances I ran into while joggling around town were about as thrilled as I was. “Where were you?!” many of them were asking. I’m not back to where I was before, but I am slowly getting there. I can’t wait until spring!

Warning: If you are injured, don’t try out any of the exercises I am doing before seeing a sports medicine doctor or therapist or finding out what kind of injury you have. If you don’t know what kind of injury you have, doing any of these things may make it worse. Fortunately for me, this seems to be just a bad case of runner’s knee, nothing too serious. A sports medicine doctor I consulted a long time ago suggested the ankle weights exercises.

If you’ve had a similar injury and want to share some tips, please go right ahead!

Heavy ball juggling and joggling

IMG_1266If you want to make juggling or joggling even more challenging(assuming you’re a proficient juggler), you can add a strength training element to it by juggling heavy balls. This can help build stamina even better than if you are using lighter juggling balls or bean bags, to prepare you for joggling marathons or if you want to build strength to juggle for hours on end. It is one of the best ways to target the muscles used for juggling.

In the above photo, the 3 red balls I am joggling with are 2.25 lb(1.02 kg) ExerBalls by Dube(they come in different weights and these are the heaviest). This may not seem like much, but after several minutes of juggling these babies while standing still you will feel exhausted, unless you’re a bodybuilder. If I try to joggle with them, I can’t go for more than a few minutes with these. Very tiring, but what a rush! You really can get a nice high from joggling with these heavy balls. It’s cardio, strength-training, and coordination training all in one!

They probably help build explosiveness; think of it sort of like juggling mini medicine balls. They are made of rubber and stuffed with lead or steel balls to add weight to them. They are kind of pricey, a set of 3 going for $60. I got mine as a gift(not from the company).

You can always try making your own from tennis balls like I have, though they are much lighter. The juggling balls I am joggling with in the photo below are tennis balls stuffed with pennies. Just cut a small slit on the side with a knife to push the pennies in, put glue or epoxy over the slit, let it dry, and then cover liberally with duct tape. These weigh about 1 lb(0.45 kg) each. I made these 2.5 years ago and have had no problems with them.

IMG_1269They are not as challenging to juggle as the heavier Exerballs, but they can still help build endurance in your arms. Since they are 1 lb each, I can joggle with these for miles and miles, but I have to be careful no one is around since if these hit someone they can hurt(the Exerballs are even more dangerous in this regard). On days when I don’t joggle, I juggle these homemade juggling balls as an upper body cardio exercise, since juggling with regular, light-weight balls isn’t much of a cardio exercise to me. So they are helpful cross-trainers, good for maintaining aerobic fitness on days I don’t run or joggle. Either of these balls are good for quick warm-up exercises before joggling with regular balls, though I usually prefer the lighter, penny-stuffed balls for warm ups.

Joggling with either of these types of heavy balls is one of the ultimate calorie-burning exercises(especially if you are running up a hill), so it’s good to try this out if you are trying to lose weight.

Just make sure you are proficient in juggling lighter balls before trying either of these. You don’t want to drop them on your feet, trust me.