Saturday, February 23, 2008

Core Strength

ORN: 10.3 miles, 1:43:18, 10:13/mile, R5/W1

Several folks have asked me about my new work on core strength. Well, it sounds more ostentatious than it is…so hang on for the simple explanation.

I first heard of core strength back in the Michael Jordan/Scotty Pippen heydays for the Chicago Bulls. The team trainer worked overtime to build core strength for the Bulls, his theory being a strong core was necessary to hold up to the pounding of all the jumping and running in the NBA. Their data of lack of injury time seemed to support his contention.

Last fall, I wondered what I might do to keep injuries at bay and the subject of strengthening the core came up again. Cool idea, but how to do it?? Being a pragmatic guy, a card-carrying engineer, I needed to distill it to something simple I could actually do.

After a lot of looking, I realized the humble sit up and push up could do the trick.

With no equipment required, no traveling to a gym or need to go outside, these simple exercises just worked for me. Seeing as the Army has used these two, along with running, as the basis for it’s evaluation of fitness for a long time, I figured it had some merit.

What has surprised me is how I’ve grown to really enjoy these two simple exercises. I started them in late November and now am doing them almost daily. I usually do them in the morning, either just before or just after my shower, right on the bedroom floor. I actually look forward to doing them.

I started at about 12 each and have worked up to and am holding at 25 reps for each exercise, each day. Now, my challenge to myself is to do each of the 25 with perfect form. Sit ups with the back straight, head up, slowly and smoothly. Push ups with the entire body straight, smooth down and up, getting the upper arm parallel to the floor at the bottom of each cycle. It is amazing how hard it is to get perfect form for 25 straight exercises. Yet, I find it a really cool challenge. On a good day, I do about a third of them perfectly.

I’ve also added leg extensions on an only weight bench I had in the basement from before my current running era. 40 pounds with 16 reps is the current daily regimen there…I’m hoping to build the quads to compensate for my over pronating floppy feet.

It is amazing to me how much I notice the improved core strength. It just feels like I have a firm, wide belt holding my midsection in place. I particularly notice it getting into and out of chairs. Is it helping my running??? I don’t know for sure…this winter weather we’re endlessly having has made any objective assessment outdoors difficult. Yet I’m positive it is not hurting a thing. And I learn a lot from these simple, humble exercises, done in a simple disciplined way.

Thanks for asking. And persevere.


Mary Gee said...

Good for you! I am sure those humble exercises work great. I am trying something similar and hope I get as good results as you have gotten.

Wes said...

Core strength is a good thing, as is working the upper body. It keeps the body in balance, as well as stronger. You are a better man than me though. I can't do situps without wanting to puke, so I've settled on crunches :-) I'm almost up to 25 reps in the three different crunches I do.

I get to do push ups in my next 4 week phase. I'm doing planks now. I'm not sure whether or not I'm really looking forward to that or not :-)

Keep up the good work, Joe!!

WADDLER26.2 said...

As much as have hated to admit it, Core strength is important. Coach just talked to me this morning about needing to work on it.

david said...

When I think of building the core, I think I'm going to have to spend time in the gym using machines that were designed by a sadist. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes simple is best.

Sarah said...

Love the back to basics approach. Of course, you're not going to make any money marketing that program unless you can come up with a catchy name for it. : )

Backofpack said...

Joe - I think it is great! And for what it's worth, as a Pilates instructor, I always focus on form. I'd rather see my class do two of an exercise with perfect form than 20 with sloppy form.

I think you should add two more things to your work out to strengthen your core from the back. One would be Arrow, the other is hovering your chest off the ground. I'll see if I can find a couple links and email them to you.

Darrell said...

I'm pretty sure that it has to be helping, if not running, at least overall fitness. At the very least I'm convinced its not hurting.

I'm intersted in this arrow and hovering chest Michelle speaks of. I've been doing planks, both front and lateral, as well as leg raises laying on my back. Both easily done at home on the bedroom floor, probably before the shower.

David said...

Dang if we aren't doing the same thing again. Sit ups are easy for me.
Push ups require great care with my faulty shoulder. Planking is actually easier for me that way and just as effective.
Holding the form and making the movement slowly is good.
I also alternate balancing on one foot and work to move my other leg in all different directions to allow my core to adjust and re-balance.