“You are only as young as your spine is flexible” – said the creator of Pilates, and my personal ‘core of destiny’ role model- Joseph Pilates.
I love this saying because it absolutely resonates with so many people I see at the studio on a daily basis. They all say that incorporating ‘core activation’ and mobility into their training routine, has been life changing with regards to being comfortable in their own body.
How many of you suffer from lower back pain? Feel tension in that neck and shoulders?
Headaches that make you want to hide under a pillow? The solution can be summed up into one word- CORE!!!!
So many of our body’s aches and pains are caused from bad posture, weak core muscles, lack of flexibility/mobility and the imbalance between strength and flexibility in the body.
Just think of your daily routine- how many hours are you sitting at a desk or behind a steering wheel, holding a phone or working on a computer? Some of you might be holding your baby or carrying a heavy bag… All of which will impact how your body aligns itself and learns to compensate for any weakness.
Ultimately if your body does not go into ‘protection mode’, or if it doesn’t know how to activate the support system which is your core, then muscles will tighten pulling your body out of balance and alignment – causing risk of injury.
My first piece of advice is: ‘Understand what CORE is’
The most common misconception of core is that it is just about having strong abs of steel! Yes, abdominals are a big part of your core but it is important that your inner core is made up of a lot more. Think of a 1950’s corset around the body and try to imagine these as muscles that span around your waist and upper body. I like to explain to my Core Fit Family that the core is made up of:
2. Pelvic floor muscles– the muscles in front of your hip bones that activate when coughing
3. Intercostal muscles
4. Back muscles (Erector Spinae)
5. Glutes (strong bum)
6. Flexible hamstrings and hip flexors
7. Quads (Thighs).
Ultimate core means balance between strength and flexibility so remember when you are doing strength training- you are shortening your muscles. When you are stretching you would be lengthening them. The key is to make sure all workouts have both strength and flexibility as a priority.
My second tip is: ‘Use Core as a technique’
Core work is all about using breathing that activates your pelvic floor muscles while you exhale and keeping great posture and form. Don’t just think of ‘core work’ being your hour of Pilates or Yoga but rather let this filter into your daily life – sitting behind a desk, watching TV, standing while waiting in a line – ACTIVATE YOUR CORE!
I promise you that if you learn to do this, muscle memory will kick in and within a few months those core muscles will be working naturally- almost instinctually. This natural activation will be your cure to those horrible aches and pains that so many of you have asked about.
Let’s get you PAIN FREE
First things first- if you have a serious injury or structural issue please always seek professional help first. BUT for those of you who are just suffering with general tightness and aches then this video should help with some core tips.
This short video shows a 10 minute core activation and mobility set program. I know that sometimes life gets a bit crazy and keeps you from your Pilates or Yoga class. So here is a quick daily routine that you can do at home, hotel room or wherever you are, to just get that core awake and get the muscles feeling limber and loose.
I would not recommend replacing your usual full Pilates/Yoga workout with this short set, but rather use this as a maintenance program or even as a warm-up to your own workout.
Whilst doing the workout please stay mindful of breathing properly and focusing on great form. Work slowly and try use control throughout the program.
This week’s top Core exercises I have chosen to go over in the video are:
-Warm-up and mobilize-
1. Finding your imprint spine (assessing back flexibility)
2. Pelvic lifts (Bum, back and hamstring strength together with back mobility)
3. Dead bug/Table-top (Abs and pelvic floor strength)
4. Curls (Upper abs strength)
5. Rotations (Back stretch)
6. Glute/hip stretch into hamstring release (Flexibility)
7. Stability work (Core activation)
8. Cat and Camel (Back, shoulder and neck mobility)
9. Praying crouch/child’s pose stretch (Lengthen your back and release shoulder tension)
10. Downward dog- (Stretch hamstrings, calves and center the spine)
If you can try get in at least 1-2 Pilates and/or Yoga sessions a week and keep to this DAILY 10-minute routine, within two weeks you should start to feel a difference within your body and the way you carry yourself. Muscle tightness and tension will start to decrease and soon enough you will be back/neck/head niggle free- Yeeeeeeehaaaaa!!