Core values

by Karen Bowen

Now that winter and slippery walking conditions are just around the corner, it’s a good time to take a fitness inventory. Make sure your balance and flexibility are good enough to keep you upright on ice and snow. Maintaining a strong core is essential.

Having a strong core means that the muscles in your pelvis, hips, lower back, and abdomen work well together, giving you better balance and stability in all physical activities, like tarping a load, lifting a tool, or bending to lower your dolly. A strong core can also reduce fatigue, injuries, poor posture, and reduce back pain.

On the road, it’s hard to maintain a regular fitness program, but you can do core exercises anywhere. No gym membership is required. These exercises, coordinating the action of your abdominal and back muscles – the plank, bicycle crunch, dead bug, and bridge – are designed specifically to stabilize and strengthen your core. Since they can be done at home, in your motel room, or in your bunk, they are convenient additions to your current fitness activities.

To complete a plank exercise, lift your body off the ground into a push-up position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. Hold your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Keep your abdominal and back muscles tight. Maintain this position for at least 30 seconds while breathing deeply.

Increase the time as your endurance builds.

For a crunch exercise, start by lying on the ground, with your lower back pressed flat on the floor and your head and shoulders raised slightly above it. Place your hands lightly on the sides of your head, but don’t knit your fingers behind and be careful not to yank your head with your hands during the exercise.

Lift one leg just off the ground and extend it out. Lift the other leg and bend your knee towards your chest. At the same time, twist through your core so the opposite arm moves towards the raised knee. Your elbow doesn’t need to touch your knee, so just concentrate on moving your core as you turn your torso.

To keep your elbow in the same position relative to your head throughout, focus on bringing your shoulder to the opposite knee as you move, rather than elbow to knee. Be sure to lower your active leg and arm at the same time, while bringing up the opposite two limbs to mirror the movement. Aim for three sets of 10 reps on each alternating side.

For a dead bug exercise, lay flat on your back with your arms held out in front of you pointing to the ceiling. Then bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degree angles like you are sitting in a chair. Throughout the exercise, keep your back as flat against the floor as possible – your hand shouldn’t fit between your back and the floor. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg at the same time, exhaling as you go. Keep going until your arm and leg are just above the floor and keep your back against the ground. Then, slowly lift your arm and leg to the starting position and repeat with the opposite limbs. Try beginning with three sets of five reps on each side, and increase as you’re able while maintaining your form.

For a bridge exercise, begin by lying on your back with your knees bent with your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Avoid tilting your hips.

Tighten your abdominal muscles and then raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold your body in this position for as long as you can without breaking your form. Repeat 10 times.

Completing core-strengthening exercises will build inner strength and increase your stability.

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