Good to the Core

One of the top New Year’s resolutions people make is to exercise more. And that’s a good thing for backcountry enthusiasts. A strong body means more power, stamina, enjoyment, and less risk of injury while in the outdoors.

I run outside when Ma Nature lets me and use the indoor track or treadmill when it gets too icy. Running’s good for maintaining cardio fitness. I’ve started a new weightlifting routine in an effort to build up my leg muscles for telemarking. But the one thing my own routine tends to ignore is the core.

The core is the area around the middle of your body. You know, that one that tends to grow at this time of year! The space between your hips and ribs is also your center of gravity. Having a strong core not only provides increased protection and bracing for your back, it allows for controlled movement. If you’ve ever side-hilled across a scree slope, you’ve put your core to the ultimate test.  Hikers and skiers with strong cores have greater stability in their travels.

Side-hilling on scree is great core workout!

So the big question is – how do you get a strong core?  In the past, sit-ups were all the rage. Dozens and dozens of sit-ups. More recently, core stability is promoted with a variety of sit-up style exercises on balls. I took a different core strengthening class recently with a registered physical therapist. It focused on engaging the pelvic floor muscles first and then adding in the lower abdominals; not a single sit-up in sight. 

Instead, we spent a lot of time learning to feel and engage each muscle before advancing into exercises such as bridges (on your back) and planks (on your front). Correct posture, alignment, and breathing are critical. To me it is similar to practicing yoga, only the exercises (or positions) are different. When done correctly, the strength of the core felt while in a plank position is noticeable. 

So if you’re joining me in beating the crowd and starting your resolutions now – I mean, why wait? – then go for cardio, go for strength and go for the core.

Core Points:

  • Sign up for a core class in your area.
  • If there are no group sessions, consider hiring a personal trainer to help you develop a core workout.
  • Do the class or exercises with someone else. It helps keep you going, plus you have someone to judge your form and let you know when you’ve lost it!

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