Welcome to my new fitness, wellness, health column. I'm looking forward to being a part of your healthy lifestyle and helping keep you healthy to the CORE. I consider myself a "Core-aholic" (yes, I made that term up) but I am basically hooked on anything core related. Why? Because I believe that core (like in an apple) is center to everything in our lives and our body --if you build and maintain a healthy 'core' (physically & mentally) you'll have a solid foundation for a healthy, balanced life. This column will focus on many areas of what I consider to be "core" related including fitness, inspiration, wellness and heatlh (hence the column title Jodi's "Core"ner.) So thank you for joining me here in this column to help, encourage and impact you in a positive, healthy way. I welcome feedback (see my email below this column). Feel free to reach out with any questions, tips, etc. I feel that if it concerns you, it may also concern your neighbor and that's why we're here at TAP. I even may include a piece of your email in a future "Core" ner!
Let's start today talking about physical core and your body. From the minute we start our day our core goes into action. Don't believe me? Think of when you wake and sit up in bed. Do you have a tough time bringing your upper body to an upright position? I once did. However now, after a few years of daily Pilates and core exercises such as planks (which I'll discuss in a bit), I use my core without even thinking about it. I automatically sit up pulling belly back to spine and lifting up through my core region (never needing to place my hands down first onto the mattress. I also no longer pull up using my neck and shoulders first to assist me getting to a seated position as I had for so many previous years). A strong core really is key!
When speaking of physical core, the major muscles of the core are in the area of the belly, as well as the mid and lower back (not the shoulders) and peripherally including the hips, shoulders. The core muscles aid in good posture and help align the spine, your ribs and pelvis. Mark Verstegen, author of "Core Performance" (Rodale 2004) states the following key points regarding a stronger core:
1) It reduces and prevents pain : "A strong core stabilizes you and works like a natural brace for your joints".
2) It makes you look taller and thinner: "When you strengthen your upper back and shoulders, the muscles are pulled back & down, removing any trace of a hunch".
3) It delays the aging process: "A strong core keeps your body aligned so that you can function properly".
4) It improves mental function: "Having a stable & aligned spine allows your brain to receive your body's messages more efficiently".
5) It improves performance: "Stabilizing your core hones your fine motor skills, so you can react quickly and stay balanced or unstable surfaces".
So now you may be asking: how do I strengthen my core? My absolute favorite: PLANKS, PLANKS PLANKS (aside from core-aholic, I'm also a" plank-aholic"). There are so many variations. I suggest you check out YouTube and enter keyword "plank". You'll find some great instructional videos and the many variations of a plank--and there are MANY variations out there!! Start out with a basic plank daily, 1-2 a day. If new to planks start out holding a basic plank for 15 seconds, working up to 20 seconds, 30 seconds and so on--eventually holding it in good form for 2 minutes. Remember, it takes time so be patient!
Here's a great image of a forearm/elbows under shoulders plank:
When planking, always remember: FORM 1st! You must be aware of your hand/arm placement (wrists under shoulders or elbows under shoulders when in a forearm plank), draw shoulders down your back, apply a little pressure into your heels, keep neck neutral and aligned with spine and always engage the abdominal region during the entire time you are holding that plank--no matter which plank you are doing! I'm always reminding my training clients and group fitness classes to think that someone punched them in the belly. You'd pull your belly in and that's how it should feel the entire time you are in a plank (so every few seconds think "belly punched" and pull it in!) If you have never done planks before &/or it's been a while, PLEASE listen to your body and START OFF SLOWLY and BE PATIENT! Like a beautiful flower growing from a seed--you need to nurture it, condition it and take daily care of it and over time you will have that beautiful flower you are anxious to see. Your core also needs to slowly develop strength and you will see over a few weeks you are beginning to get stronger, hold the pose longer, etc. When you look back in a few months you'll be amazed at how far you've come--trust me! I tell people this all the time and I know they don't always believe me. Then months later they are so proud to share with me how long they can now hold a plank and are excited knowing how far they've come...their core "blossoming" as they can finally see just how beautifully their hard work and dedication has paid off!
Remember: NEVER GIVE UP--practice does make perfect....power 2 your CORE!