Some years ago, I was watching “The Office” and I remember something that Steve Carrell’s character, Michael Scott, said in the episode “Money” when he describes his “Core Blaster Extreme.” In the episode, Michael Scott has a lot of debt and is meeting with one of his accountant employees, Oscar Martinez (played by Oscar Nuñez,) who asked about the “Core Blaster Extreme.” Michael explains how this thing works out your core: your back core and your arm core. He then talks about how the Marine Core uses this contraption and speculates that’s how they got “core” (whether he is talking about the exercise contraption or the Marine Core; I don’t know.) It was then that is dawned on me: Michael Scott nor I (at the time of the episode release) know what “core” really is. Better yet: why is having a good core important? Well, I have since fully realized what core is, and I actually learned a little bit more about the importance why having a strong core is important.
What is core and why is it important?
To put it simply, core is anything of the body minus the arms and legs. So building up core strength plays into a few muscle groups, mainly the chest, abdominal and back muscles.
Ever heard the term “solid” when somebody describes another person’s body? My first thought was that whomever was saying that was simply referring to the muscles, but there is a little bit more to that. We have organs in our bodies, and when there is muscle and fat around the organs, they are cushioned and held in place. The fat acts like a shock absorber for the organs and spaces them apart, while the muscles can keep organs from moving about. Having the muscle there provides a solid framework to our bodies and the organs within. So, having strong abdominal and lower back muscles would be important, because we have most of our organs below the ribcage.
In my personal experience, as a runner, I find that having strong muscles in the abs and lower back to be very important. When I have stronger abdominal and lower back muscles, my runs go smoother and I have little to no stomach cramps (after not eating for a few hours.) Seriously, it works. Also, having stong ab and lower back muscles make all other activities run smoothly as well, from hiking to rock climbing. The best part is: strengthening the important core muscles are simple and do not take up too much of your time.
Ways to improve your core:
- Fitness Ball Desk Chair: Having a giant ball to sit on is actually a lot more of a workout than you would think, but really it can work out your back and it keeps your butt comfortable. These are somewhat popular in offices, and they are much cheaper than office chairs too. Actually, fitness balls are pretty cheap and easy to find, just stay away from scissors.
- Sit-ups: Although some people say that sit-ups and crunches are bad for you, I don’t find anything wrong with them. They help shape your abs and should not be too strenuous for the average-sized person (disclaimer: if you have a “gut” or anything of that sort, most ab-strengthening exercises will be more difficult for you. But that just gives more incentive to lose weight … or give up, but never give up.) Also, if you have a fitness ball, you can use it to do hyperextension sit-ups, and that works out your back as well as your abs.
- Planks: Doing a few minutes of planks every day will really work your core. Doing a minute of a straight plank and a minute for a side plank, for each side of your body, will greatly strengthen your abs and back. However, these three minutes will be the longest minutes of your day. I would suggest doing these with someone or watching a video. Just be sure not to laugh, because laughter tends to ruin any exercise you do.
- Laughing: So laughing is not good while you are trying to do an exercise, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t laugh altogether. Find something that will make you laugh for a while (at least five minutes) and realize why your “sides hurt.” (It’s because you got a little workout!)
- Being active: This one is should be obvious: we want to have a strong core to make our activities of choice run smoother, but we can also do our activities of choice and it will also strengthen our core. Although your activities, whatever they may be, may not work your core as much as core-focused exercises, it does not mean that your activities will not work out your core at least a little.
Whatever it is you do, make sure that you have fun doing it, because the point of all of this is to go on fun adventures. This just makes it easier for you to enjoy your adventures and not get too tired during your fun excursions. Comment below your favorite core exercises and look forward to future posts. More fun posts are coming. Until then: happy ventures!