Core strength, where art thou?

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written about fitness, and honestly, my posting as a whole has been erratic lately so I’m sorry. I’m back now and just in case you forgot why I’m writing about my exercise routine, here’s a reminder. Anyway, let’s get down to business.

In spite of my once hopeful attitude, I have abandoned running and haven’t been out since the Terry Fox Run on September 20 and instead I have recommitted myself to yoga and pilates. While I recognize the need to incorporate more cardiovascular activity into my routine, overall I have to admit that I’m much happier doing this instead of dragging myself out to do laps. My return to yoga and pilates came about in a roundabout way because at the beginning of October I received an email notice from my former studio reminding me that I had until the end of this month to use the remainder of my pass. I was elated and the last few weeks have been wonderful as I get to return to a place I’m familiar with that offers me challenging and fun instruction. The only thing is that, well, it’s really hard to go back.

Hello? Core strength? You still there? ;/
Hello? Core strength? You still there? ;/

Even though I’ve been somewhat keeping up with a fitness schedule, nothing compares to the pilates classes I take at this studio in terms of rigour and now, after months of not going, I’m not in the shape that I once was. I accept that it takes time to see improvement because unlike running, when I take yoga and pilates, I afford myself some leniency and am much kinder to myself in terms of my shortcomings. However, with that being said, I’m still not happy with how much progress I’ve lost. Having a strong core is a huge component of  having a strong and healthy body, and I’m not just talking about it from a vanity standpoint. The core is a complex series of muscles comprised of many different groups but if you’re anything like me and don’t know the proper terminology, just imagine the muscles running from the top of your abs all the way down to your pelvic floor on BOTH sides of your body.

Yes that’s right, both the front abdominal muscles we’re all told we need for a “beach body” and the back muscles as well. I’m not shaming anyone for not knowing this information because you see it sometimes when you go to the gym, the people that do thousands of crunches but only spend a small fraction of time and effort on their backs, and it’s easy to understand why they fall into this routine. If you pick up a health magazine (I have to admit that the women’s fitness magazines are often the worst offenders), you’ll find, in any given issue, “101 ways to get flat abs” but only minor mentions of back exercise, and I would tell you to be cautious of this. In yoga we talk about this all the time – the importance of training both sides of the body because the two help to support one another – and it’s something you consider if you’re putting together your own workout plan (if you’re using a trainer or guide, follow their advice.)

Anyone with a basic knowledge of the human body or physiology is probably rolling their eyes at how poorly I’ve described all of this and it’s true because I’m not a doctor, so please consult someone that knows what they’re talking about before undertaking any training program. However, if you regularly exercise and want to test your core strength here are a few basic exercises that can help you determine where you stand. Here’s what I do know for certain though: having a strong core has many practical benefits including strength, stability and balance, as well as injury prevention.

I did the test and my results aren’t horrible but I recognize that work needs to be done. I can see that on a practical level when I’m in my pilates classes because there are certain moves like the roll-up that I struggle with even though I can hold other poses quite well. Nonetheless I’ll keep working at it in the studio, and will probably spend a bit of time looking up some other training programs too. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them! Has anyone done the Tracy Anderson Method (yeah, yeah I read celebrity gossip but seriously, look at Gwyneth Paltrow’s body!)? Or what about Kayla Itsines? Suggestions? Recommendations? Advice? Anyway, the most important thing for me right now is to keep trying and things I hope, will come together in good time.

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