If you’ve been following this series of posts , then you’ve probably already taken the first step towards your bodacious beach bod . That is, you’ve made a commitment to yourself to do something healthy everyday so you can make healthy living a habit.
If you decided to walk for a half an hour instead of watch a TV show you’re not even really interested in anyways, then you and I have something in common. That’s how I began my health journey over a year ago (and lost 43 lbs and 43 inches since then, for those who don’t already know).
Today, I’d like to share with you the second healthy activity I strategically implemented into my regime. Every second day – while I watched TV and after my 30 minute walk – I performed 1 set each of 5 core exercises which took all of 20 minutes.
Step #2 to your Beach Bod: Core Exercises
Your core is basically made up of your abdominal, lower back, butt and pelvic muscles. It is your center, where nature intended all your movements to originate from. Core strength will give you core stability , which will improve your balance, posture , breathing, mental and physical acuity while at the same time decreasing chances of injury as well as chronic back and neck pain (in most cases).
Sounds like a cure-all, doesn’t it? It IS. Core exercise is resistance training using your own body weight. This means that it builds muscle (which speeds up your metabolism) and strengthens your bones (this deserves its own post but trust me here). Plus there’s no real equipment needed besides your own body – so it’s ultra convenient and cheap !
However, I’d suggest a couple more items from the equipment department:
- Floor mat – I use a yoga mat I got from Winners for $20
- Stop watch – or a clock with a second hand
Pick 5 core exercises to start with, for instance these are my favourites:
- The Plank (modified)
- The Superman
- Pushups (modified)
- The Bridge
- The Bicycle or The Bird Dog (scroll down in this link to Figures 6A – 6E)
- Quality vs. quantity. Did you notice I didn’t include how many repetitions were in 1 set? That’s because it’s more important to do them well with perfect technique, than doing lots of them. You will get better and faster results if you practice the movements working the muscles that the exercises were designed to work. Try reading the instructions in the above links several times, or rereading them just before you do them the first few times. Do as many as you can to make your own individualized set.
- Forgive yourself, have patience and keep up your routine! At first, it will be difficult to perform these exercises perfectly. But as your muscles get stronger, you’ll be able to feel them more when you contract them. As time goes on (like 3 weeks), you’ll be able to better distinguish which muscles you’re working and whether they are the right or wrong ones. Have faith that you and your body will get it right eventually through practice.
- Take your time and enjoy it. Resist rushing through your core exercises. It’s only 15 minutes for 5 of them (that’s an average of only 3 minutes each!) and if you’re doing them during commercials, then you’re not missing anything. Go slowly and get your head into it by concentrating on what your body is doing. Forget about the bills and your list of things to do. This is your health time; your investment into a better and longer life.
- Really work it, work it hard. You can maximize the benefit of the exercise if you really focus on the movement. Sure, it’s difficult while those muscles are tensed but, man, I promise that the calm after the storm is so blessed! Besides, by really getting into it and putting your heart and mind into the exercises, you’re also practicing being “in the moment." When you get tired or your mind wanders, it’s time to move onto the next core exercise.
- Breathing. Holding your breath makes it harder to perform the movements. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Exhale when the exercise is the hardest (muscles are contracted) and inhale when it’s the easiest (muscles are being stretched).
- Stretch. Help your body recover by removing the lactic acid that exercise produces. Stretching, as well as exercising, is one of the best ways to relax and relieve stress. I like to move into a restorative yoga pose between exercises.
Core exercises are my favourite because they take no time at all, so even on a really busy day I can fit them in my morning routine, fulfilling my promise of daily exercise. They are also extremely effective, working even the deepest internal abdominal muscles. Best of all, they leave me feeling balanced and calm – whether I’m just starting my day or ending it.
What are your thoughts on core strength? Anyone want to share their favourite core exercises?
Stay tuned to Step 3 in the Bodacious Beach Bod Series!