We know that fitness if a big part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity can be fun and, believe it or not, addicting! Whether you’re a novice taking the first steps toward a fitness routine or an exercise fanatic hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded training program is essential. Include these five elements within your program to create a balanced routine. Aerobic fitness, strength training, balance training, core exercises as well as flexibility and stretching cover all these areas. As a personal trainer for over a couple of decades, I have witnessed countless people in the gym injuring themselves from executing exercises improperly. Often a simple lift, twist or turn can lead to a debilitating back injury that many require months of recovery. One very common and misunderstood element is the importance of working and engaging one’s CORE. The “core” also known as the powerhouse of the body, allow smooth contractions and movements of the arms, legs and back. This contraction of the abdominals is not one people do consciously and it takes time to perfect. Different visualizing techniques are used to contract the core muscles but my favorite is described below.

Finding Your Transverse Abdominus

In order to know if you are contracting the correct muscles, it is necessary to be able to feel them working. Place your index and middle finger tips on the bony part at the front of your hips. Move your fingers in an inch towards your belly button and down an inch towards your toes. You should now be directing over the transverse muscle. Press deeply and cough. With a proper contraction you will feel a tension under your fingertips as the abdominal wall narrows. Keep your finger tips in this position and try the technique described below to familiarize yourself with this contraction.

Engaging Your Core

Take a deep breath in and then, while exhaling, gently pull your abdominals in. All the core muscles co-contract when you feel your transverse contract. If you have contracted correctly, you should feel a gentle tightening under your finger tips. If you feel a “bulge”, you are contracting too much. The correct level of activity in the core muscles should be approximately 30% of their maximum so that they have enough energy to contract continuously. It is common for beginners to hold their breath as they focus on contracting the core. Try and breathe while tightening the core muscles. This takes PRACTICE but is extremely important to learn, it can save you from injuries!

Tip 1

When exhaling, focus on “drawing up” from the pelvic floor. Imagine that you wish to stop urinating (lifting the pelvic floor). Use your naval to gently draw your belly into your spine. Think of narrowing your waist, not just flattening it. Connecting the navel to the spine protects the spine and hollows the belly by activating the deep abdominal muscles.

Tips 2

Try practicing engaging your core while washing the dishes, when stopped at a red light or even in the grocery store line-up at the till. Note: Being more active is very safe for most people. However, some people should check with their doctor before they start becoming much more physically active. Cheryl Christian is Certified Personal Trainer in British Columbia, Canada. She specializes in working with women & men all of ages in the health and fitness industry. She is passionate when it comes to teaching, sharing, and inspiring people to lead healthier lives through proper exercise, nutrition, and self-care. Cheryl understands the balance needed for long term good health. It was with that in mind that she, along with co-author Laura Kalina, wrote “Low-glycemic Meals in Minutes” Cookbook to compliment an active lifestyle.
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