Thursday, June 30, 2011

Core Work is Fun and Easy!

I have a love-hate relationship with core work.  I love what it has done for my running and my overall fitness, but for some reason I still hate to do it.  It’s arguably the most important cross-training you can do and certainly the simplest and it takes the least amount of time, so why doesn’t core work get more love?  I can get into a routine for long periods of time where I’m really good about core work, but then I’ll start slacking again.  As soon as I do, though, I notice a difference – my back aches after a long run or even after work.

In my efforts to re-commit to core work, here’s a little photo essay of why it’s easy and fun.  This entire routine takes about ten minutes (just two or three times a week and you’ll see results) and only requires one piece of equipment – a stability ball I picked up at Target two years ago for about 20 bucks.

Core Work 002Me and “Bally” ready to rock.


Let’s start with the basics.  I almost always do these first because I hate them the most.  Must be 8th grade PE flashbacks or something, but sit-ups make me cringe.  I do 25 of these.

Core Work 085   Start in the down position.

Core Work 084   Then lift your head and torso up.  It doesn’t have to be far, just enough to engage your abdominals.


Next, I do something easier.  This is how I motivate myself to do the whole routine – I alternate between easy moves and hard ones.  The easy ones are like a reward.  This one can be done with a medicine ball, too, if you’d like a little more challenge.  I love working my obliques because this is a move that you can totally see results from – these are your “six pack” muscles.  I do 25 in each direction.

Core Work 112   Start by holding the ball about waist-high in front of you.

Core Work 117   Hold in your abs and twist all the way to your right.  (Sorry this is blurry, my photographer was a 12-year old!) 

Core Work 121  Then twist all the way to your left – that’s one repetition.


Okay, back to something more difficult – push-ups!  I do 25 of these.  Positioning the ball all the way at your feet is the most challenging, and putting it closer to your waist makes them easier.  I usually aim for somewhere near my knees.

Core Work 071   Up.

Core Work 068   And down – nose to the ground!


Yay, time for something easy again!  These are super simple and really good for your back.  Just be sure not to hyper-extend.  I do 25 of these.

Core Work 015   Lay on the ball with it positioned under your stomach.

Core Work 016   Then raise your head and trunk straight up.  That’s it – easy peasy!


Okay, time for some glute work!  I do 25 of these on each leg.  Good form is really important on any sort of squats – don’t let your knees go past your toes.  Focus on keeping your weight in your heels and pushing your booty back.  Since I used to be a preschool teacher, I sing the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” while I’m doing this one to remind myself to keep my shoulders, knees and toes in line.  Ha, ha!

Core Work 094   Stand with one foot on the ground and one foot on top of the ball.

Core Work 095   Lower yourself into a squat (note the shoulders, knees and toes).  For me, this is so much harder than it looks!  I am balance-challenged.  I’ll post some of the maaaaaaaany outtakes of me falling off the ball on this one!


I know these don’t really qualify as “easy” but wait ‘til you see what comes next!  I start with a straight Bridge for 30 seconds, then do 25 Bridge Curls.  These are good for your back, your glutes and your hamstrings.

Core Work 122   Lie on your back with your feet up on the ball.  Raise your booty off the ground until your whole body is a straight line, like a reverse plank.  Hold this for 30 seconds.

Core Work 130   Bend your knees and roll the ball towards your booty, keeping your hips lifted off the ground.

Core Work 132   Then push it back out to the starting position.  When I first started doing this exercise I could only manage 10 reps.

Apolo Ohnos

I have no idea what these might really be called.  I saw Apolo Ohno doing this exercise on one of those Olympics blurbs about the athletes and he made it look so easy, I thought I would give it a try.  OMG, the first time I did this I could only do FOUR reps!  It works your lower abdominals, which are the weakest of my core muscles.  I’ve worked up to 15 reps on a good day, but mostly I make myself do 10.

Core Work 101   Lie flat on your back with the ball in your hands over your head.

Core Work 102   Simultaneously lift your hands and legs.

Core Work 103   Transfer the ball to your feet.

Core Work 106   Lower the ball to the ground, but don’t stop there!

Core Work 107   Up it goes again.

Core Work 109   Transfer it back to your hands.

Core Work 111   And lower it back to the starting position.  That’s ONE repetition!


I save these for last, not because they’re easy, but because I absolutely love them!  Working my arms makes me feel so strong and you will definitely see the results of this one – no more “bingo arms” that keep waving after you’ve stopped!  I do 25 of these.

Core Work 139   Start by sitting on a firm surface (you can use a couch, a table or a chair) with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet on the ball.  Brace yourself with straight arms, but don’t lock your elbows.

Core Work 137   Lower yourself down until your arms form a 90 degree angle.

Core Work 136   Lift yourself back up to the starting position and repeat.

And that’s it!  Anybody (including me!) can take ten minutes out of their day to be a better runner, a better cyclist, a better athlete.  Show your core a little love today.


Melissa said...

This looks like a great workout...thank you for posting!!

Julie said...

You lucky duck...I can't wait for my photographer to become 12...or even 10... :-)

I totally want to start working on my core more... starting like right now! I am positive that a stronger core would have helped alleviate some back pain issues on race day for me.

I'll do your plan tomorrow!

milesforbreakfast said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I am horrible with doing core work but have been doing it more consistently lately because I know the benefits are huge

Char said...

That's it! I'm going to pump up my swiss ball again.

Running Ricig said...

looking good!! I hate core work too! My balance ball has actually been uninflated since we moved (a year and a half ago). I should probably dig that back out.

Lancer!! said...

Apolo Ohnos. That looks like it could be a tough one, considering all the steps for just one rep. May have to try those at the gym.

Michael said...

Wow, great workout!! Thanks for posting! I am terrible about getting my core workout in even though I know I need to...esp with a bad back.

Amber said...

I love this! I am in serious need of some core work!!

Colleen said...

This is a great reminder that I've been neglecting my core! :) Thanks for the pictures too! hehehe!

ajh said...

I am a little shocked at the new car in my yard I haven't bought too. Not such a different world.
I have been on the phone with my cousin - a used car salesman - and he tells me it is the oldest trick in the book. Not sure. However he has given me a ton of questions to ask. I have now done a ton of Internet research. I am finding more loan info. I have found out about incentives. I am researching other dealers (we don't have tons -a small state. So I am a more informed consumer than yesterday. We'll see what happens. I really like the car but my car is still driveable for now. My stomach is a mess and I am up not running but doing more research. I need a run and need to get out there!
Thanks for listening.

Christi said...

I suck at doing core as well. I wish I could get it in my head that it is no big deal but my head keeps struggling with me.

Good luck!

bobbi said...

I ADORE you for putting this on here (and with PICTURES for core dummies like me!) - I need to get back at it...Thanks!

Julie said...

ok...I never did it the other day...but I'm doing it RIGHT NOW!! I'll check in later to tell you how I feel ;-)

The Green Girl said...

You rock so hard for doing this. Thank you for sharing!