Friday, November 9, 2012

Core Strength

The two words 'core strength' probably hit home with most people. They associate it with working out, staying fit or having a flat six packed stomach. When you hear those words, core strength, what comes to mind? A mental cringe, an immediate contracting of your belly, or do you just exhale out or give your tummy a little jab for good measure?? No matter what you do, you know it's there, your core... something that is at the base of your whole body, the center of you physically. If you didn't have it you wouldn't be able to do or go or move or stand or sit... basically you would be immobile.
As a fitness instructor, the first thing I do at the start of class is go over how important your core is to you during class. For power, for balance, for longevity and endurance. I am constantly queuing my class participants to engage their core... 'Keep it pulled in, contracted and be aware of it as you get to the point of fatigue in your exercise routine'... I say on repeat! I tell them when you draw strength from your core it can spur a burst in your movement to help you finish your exercise set stronger, it can help you balance longer or push thru a set harder than if you were letting your core hang there, non existent, basically working against you. No matter if I am teaching cycle or an interval class, core strength is key and either makes or breaks you when it comes to improving your over all exercise routine and ability to increase your physical endurance.
Aside from the physical nature of having core strength, for me, there is also an equally important component in having core strength mentally and spiritually. For so many years I lead a life that I thought was based in faith and encompassed a spiritually sound core. I was raised in church, I believed in God, I prayed... but past that, past what was always asked of me growing up, I didn't do much to give strength to my mental and spiritual core. I basically let it hang there... non existent, working against me and I didn't even know it. I didn't know how to draw it in when I needed it most. I had no clue how to contract that mental core, or spiritual muscle when I was feeling weak or tired. Basically my life went way out of balance. I finally had to step back and ask myself some hard questions. Questions that opened my eyes to all that I had been missing. I cringed, I inhaled, and contracted to the fact that I was allowing myself to be immobile in the biggest, most important part of why I was put on this earth. My faith was lacking, I had no core strength mentally or spiritually. I asked myself....
How can you rely on a faith that you don't exercise? 
How can you fall back on a spirituality that you don't strengthen on a daily basis? 
Just like exercising and working out keeps you healthy physically, praying and meditating keeps you healthy spiritually. You can't have a strong core faith with out doing the work that comes with it too... work within yourself, within others, and work with your God! You can't have strong core strength with out doing the work that comes with that either... work in the gym, within your diet, and work with your lifestyle! A lot of times, in the beginning, I would journal to help strengthen my core. Reflection is a big player in mental and spiritual growth for me. Then as time went on I joined bible studies, prayer groups, changed the types of music I listened to, and adjusted who I spent a good portion of my time with. Basically, just reassessed my lifestyle to give it more balance, in hopes that it would help me gain some endurance where I was sorely lacking! I refocused the center of me, my core, my spirit to make myself more holistically mobile.
Not that I am any expert on spirituality or all things 'fitness'.. I couldn't be farther from that! I just know what works for me! I can't have the balance I need in life without growing in my core realtionship with God. I can't have the stability I need to teach or take a Boot Camp class without developing my core strength physically. One doesn't come without the other, balance and stability in life comes with purpose, work and focus... and most of all practice!!! I quit giving up on myself if I didn't get it right the first time. I allowed myself room to grow and change and make mistakes... I accepted balance where I knew I needed it!!!
If you need some core strength, mentally or physically...
Here are some of my favorite core strength moves.. for physical and spiritual growth:

You can find strength and motivation in all forms, in many places... but if you don't find it within yourself first, your fighting a uphill battle that doesn't have an end. Draw your core in... Give yourself strength, mentally AND physically!

Always - Abbey

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