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Getting to the Core of it all

September 10, 2010

It's the center of your body, in more ways than one

So after shouting from the mountain tops how diets suck and don’t work, are you now expecting me to shout from the mountain tops how laying on the couch like a slug is the key to a fit body?  Um, in the words of my favorite Diva, Mercedes, Hell to the No!

Dieting sucks because it doesn’t work.  It’s torture, it’s punishment and you can never stop.  Some people may view exercise the exact same way, but while our bodies weren’t made to diet, they were made to move!  Now, you may be better with cardio, or strength training; my strength is flexibility.  But we all need to Move It – our bodies are fantastic machines of muscle and joint and bone, and can do fantastically amazing things when we allow them to.

What I have learned this year, through thrown-out backs and hip bursitis, besides sounding way too old, is that I can P90X all I want, run till I’m blue in the face, and pump iron all day long, but without a STRONG CORE, there’s not much to support me.  My beloved Chiropractor put me through a core endurance test in July to figure out where my core keeps failing me – a series of timed exercises to see how I compared with national averages.  Turns out that under all that what-the-hell-did-baby-#2-do-to-you belly fat that I have some rock hard abs!  (I knew they were there!).  However, under that sleek, slender lower back of mine…nothin’.  Nada. Nyet.  I have next to no lower back strength, thanks to those gorgeous little boys in my life.

So I’ve been focusing on strengthening my lower back, through a variety of moves on an exercise ball and yoga.  While I would like to focus on cardio to help rid my tummy of the baby bulge, I’ve learned – the hard way – that there are no shortcuts.  So back strengthening it is!  If you have some of the same issues, here’s what I’ve been doing!  Have fun!

1. Exercise Ball Bridge – Using a firm exercise ball, roll your body out so that only your shoulders and head are on the ball.  The rest of your body is parallel to the floor , knees bent supporting your body.  This is the basic bridge position. The goal is to be able to slowly lift one leg at a time, hold it, then place it slowly back on the floor.  I’m still not 100% successful at this very basic goal!  But this requires your lower back to stabilize your body, and still have the strength to lift that leg just a smidge.
The long term goal here is to extend your leg straight out, not just lift it on the ground.

2. Exercise Ball Superman – Lay flat on top of the ball, backing up against a wall so that your feet are on the floor, stabilized by the wall.  Extend your torso up so that only your pelvis is on the ball.  From here, you can move your torso up and down for Back Extensions, but the better exercise is to lift your arms straight out, so that you are in Superman formation from toes to finger tips.  Hold it as long as possible.

3a. Modified Side Plank -Lay on your side, knees bent, leaning on your forearm.  Push yourself up so that only your forearm and knees are touching, and your body is at a slant.  Hold for 15, then 30, then 60 seconds, etc. Repeat on the other side.  This is the most basic plank -where I am now!

3b. Regular Side Plank – From there, your goal is to have your legs straight, and the side of your foot on the ground instead of your knee.

3c. Full Rock Star Side Plank – When you’ve mastered this, hold your upper body with a straight arm, not your forearm – you’ll look like a cross laying on its side.  Some people really go crazy and lift that top leg, like an open jumping jack.  Go Crazy if you can!

4. Bird Dog – I’ll be honest, I’d never heard it called this, but you know this move.  Start out on all fours.  Raise your right arm parallel to the ground.  The next level would be to keep that right arm out, then straighten your left leg, but keep it on the floor.  If you’re ready for full on Bird Dog, lift that left leg off the floor as you raise your left left parallel to the floor.  Hold for 15, 30, then 60 seconds, etc. Switch sides.  As my Favoritist Piloga Instructor Ever, Pam, will tell you, you want your hips to remain straight, as if you have a tray of drinks across them.

Some other decent moves are Basic Crunches and the Plank on Elbows.  I rock at both of these – and then found out from my Chiro that because they don’t challenge your cores stability, they are not as great as the moves above.  I was a bit crushed, but then that totally jived with why my abs are great, while my back is not.  So don’t knock these moves, they’re good ones, but these two alone will not give you the core your need.

Have fun everyone!

Editor’s Note:  I’ve spent over an hour trying to remedy the formatting issues, even moving/eliminating photos, re-writing sections, etc.  So sorry, I must walk away now!

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