Friday, October 24, 2014

On my mark Starfleet Officers, Engage Core!

Every time one I hear some fitness teacher say something about engaging one's core I can't help but think I have teleported to a Star Trek episode. And my days of wearing a jumpsuit are long past, thankfully for the rest of the world!

The first time a pilates teacher (who wasn't very good I now know) told me to engage me core, I sucked in my stomach as hard as I could. I was not corrected, which is why I now know she wasn't a very good teacher.

Anatomy lesson here: This is a body's core:
Whoops, how did that get in here?  Okay, quick change - this is now a Botany lesson.  The slide you see is what is left after someone has eaten a fruit of the Malus domestica, a very widely domesticated fruit tree known in English as an apple. The centre bit of the fruit, seen here, is known as the "core", which could well have come from the French word "Coeur" which means "heart".  A "cris de Coeur", in English, means an anguished cry of distress or indignation, which is what I generally produce every time I am asked to engage my core. 

That's better!  Oh my yes, that is much better!!!  ...........

Sorry, I lost my train of thought there. 

Now while this human specimen looks like he has a core that's so engaged it's practically married, that might not actually be the case.  Sorry, handsome, but overdeveloping your surface muscles until they are as tight as a drum might actually do the opposite of any intention other than to impress, as it's actually the smaller muscles inside that matter more if this guy is going to see old age upright and strong.

The so-called "six pack" muscle, the rectus abdominus, is the deceiver.  The real deal is the transversus abdominus - that's the one you need to work on if you have any hope of helping your body do what the spine is not completely able to do for those of us with scoliosis.  The obliques are also incredibly valuable in propping of the aging, scoliosis body, but when someone says "engage your core" they are generally looking at your transversus.
Life's travels have taught me that no knowledge is wasted.  One of my pilates teachers told me engaging the core is a little like the sensation of trying not to pee.  "Put your pee squeeze on" she'd intone as we grunted through an abdominal workout. 

A massage therapist said to think of it as if your internal muscles in that region of the body were picking up the four corners of a tissue, a sort of cupping lift from inside. 

And a little sprite of a dancer told me to engage from the base of the abdomen and pull up, not in, so that belly button moves higher.

A wonderful bit of advice came from a yoga teacher with huge eyes and a thick Scottish accent, telling me to feel my abdomen muscles work like they do just before I cough.  

So now when I am told to engage my core, I start to make a pre-coughing movement, moving my abs up from the inside, all the time I am trying not to pee while pretending the same pee muscles are trying to pick up a tissue.  Of course by the time I get all this done, the exercise is well on its way and I have to catch up, but I expect it will get faster with time. And I know that working in this way will strengthen and stabilize my body way more than trying to get a  row of rippling abdominus rectus muscles going. 

And that, my friends, is boldly going where no one has gone before....Now, on my mark "engage core!" (cue music)

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