The past three weeks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time getting to know my “core”. No, I haven’t been sitting in an ashram, or contemplating whether I’m good (mostly evil). Instead, I’ve been doing a variety of exercises designed to strengthen my abs, hip flexors, lower back, pelvis, hips, and a bunch of other things I can’t even pronounce.
If you had told me 6 weeks ago that I would struggle with each of these activities, I would have been haughty and indignant. I was well-trained for the Chicago Triathlon. I had been swimming, biking, and running (though less so on the running part) – and working out 6 days a week. I felt comfortable on the bike; strong in the water; and just a bit wobbly on the run.
But I’ve learned an important lesson with Edie, the physical therapist I’m loving right about now. Just because you have a strength, a base, and a love for a sport doesn’t mean you can’t get better, stronger, faster. It sounds simple, and I know that this is a lesson I should have learned before now, but to be frank, in the past few years I got cocky. I relied on a certain base level of fitness, knew how to listen to my body, and shirked my “core” strength building activities.
And eventually, my body let me know it wanted reinforcements. So tonight, as I watched Grey’s Anatomy (because I love watching Meredith get all conflicted about saving her Dad while I’m doing ab-tighteners and Kegels), I worked on the Core. Bridges? Check. Stability ball squats? Check. Monster walks? Check. (And some choice cuss words as I made my way down the hall, with a rubber band thingie wrapped around my ankles). It’s hard work, making your body stronger, and it takes time. But it’s what I have to do.
Because this body is the only one I’ve got. I use it to run races, and get around town, and see those amazing sunrises on the lakefront on my bike. And I can’t do any of that if I’m injured.
Want to Strengthen Your Core?
I know, you were thinking this was just a drive-by read, where you weren’t going to do any work – ha! Attached below are some great links to some of the exercises I’m doing right now – and you should too. I’ve only picked the ones that I know are easier to work on when you’re dealing with some extra weight – so don’t let any of these intimidate you!
Bridges – Click here for more info, including photos an explanation, and a “how to”.
Bridge with a Fitness Ball – Click here for the video! (I do these too and they’re hard, but worth it…)
Single Leg Abdominal Press – Click here for more info.
Quadruped – I do a modification of this – the Superman Quadruped, where I lay on the ground and reach out with one hand, and raise the opposite foot. Same idea, easier if you’re having lower back issues. Click here for more info.
Modified Plank – Every time I see a “plank” recommendation in Runner’s World, I want to scream – because you just can’t ask a 250 pound woman to start core exercises doing a plank. This modified one is a great alternative. Click here for more info.
Plank with a Fitness Ball – Again, this is a GREAT modification – and a great strengthening exercise. Click here for more info.
Superman – This is the “real” Superman – also good to strengthen your lower back. Click here for more information.
Abdominal Ball Raise with Fitness Ball – I’m not doing this one, but I like the idea of it. I’m aspirational that way. Click here for more info.
Finally, if you’re ready to join me in Core Building world, think about getting yourself a fitness ball. They’re pretty cheap, and Mayo has also kindly offered to help you figure out which kind to buy. I got mine at Sportmart; Dick’s, Wal-Mart, or any sports store will have them!
So now I’m off to do some more exercises that look like they shouldn’t be hard – but are. I’m going to work until I sweat, and tomorrow I’ll get up and do it again. Because in two weeks, I’m hoping to start running again. And to do that, I’m going to need all the Core support I can get.
See you on the path….