In a world filled with digital distractions and exercise apathy, we are at the risk losing our core not only in the physical sense but also the very essence of who we are.
The ‘core’ can been an elusive prize to some, most desire six-pack abs and ab-crunch endlessly without truly comprehending the concept of the core. As a species, we spend less time doing physical activities and more time engaged in front of a screen. According to research, this shrinks the brain, most notably the parts governing executive function, which largely determines success in every area of life—from our sense of well-being, our academic or career success, our relationship skills.
It seems that we are getting floppier and more stupid every day.
How often have you heard your fitness trainer tell you to ‘engage the core’ and you just suck in your stomach muscles? ( And apparently, there are no core muscles in the face)
What exactly is the core and how to we get it back? I spoke to 2 experts whose life’s work has centred around the core, one physical and the other spiritual/emotional.
Stefan Lange On The Physical Core
“The core is everything except the arms and legs (front and back of body).” says Stefan Lange, personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Thanyapura, Phuket. “It’s not just about the six pack but also the deeper muscles surrounding the spine (including the transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor) that are important.”
“The core consists of 5 components – strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function. Without motor control and function, the other three components are useless.”
“You often see athletes that are strong in the large muscles and have amazing endurance yet when I ask them to stand on one leg, the cannot hold the position. Many athletes even though they have strong big muscles find it difficult to do 10-15 push ups, yet they can press 60k on the bench.”
Stefan’s packed core classes at Thanyapura which feature functional movements like push ups, planks, medicine ball passing and even feet tapping are always fun but he is insistent about maintaining good posture while performing exercise.
Core Stability First
“It is important to first achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury using static movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability”
Stefan has been in a wheelchair for 16 ½ years after getting hit by a car whilst training for a triathlon. He is the perfect advocate for a strong core.
“ Everyday, I have to lift in and out of the car, lift out to demo exercises to my students. Even before the accident, I did judo, gym, boxing, swimming, triathlon and conducted masterclass exhibitions. With stability and strength in my core, I don’t have to work so hard in my muscles, joints and tendons. I prevented a lot of inflammation and injury in my life as a result.
It is clear that Stefan is a strong believer of living a balanced life.
“ The body is a gift, we need to treat it with respect. That means resting and eating to build strength and endurance. Sometimes we need to take a step back and reflect. Our lives may be easier now but we seem to be busier than ever. We are slaves to material things. Is it not better to have a life where we don’t need so much but just enough to be happy?”
Pierre Gagnon On The Mind/ Spiritual Core
It was a question worth exploring further and who better to pose this question than with Pierre Gagnon, mind trainer at the amazing new mind centre at Thanyapura, Phuket.
“When we are a state of constant ‘busyness’ we are in a deep narrative trance. Our posterior cingulate cortex is activated and we are desensitized to the present. We lose touch with reality.”
Quieting The Internal Dialogue
“The stories we invent in our minds can go on and on and on. Yet, in reality, nothing has changed. There is still warmth, cold, hardness, softness, there is still the breath- there is the reality of sensation.”
“When we meditate we come back to this simplicity, we get rid of concepts and perceptions and come back to this moment, this breath. That, for me, is the core of being.”
“When we go back to sensation, we realise that is really what we all are and we all have that in common. The rest is just the narrative which only serves to separate us from each other. If we think in terms of sensation – we are, actually, all one.”
“When we lose our core. we lose touch with sensation. We go to survival mode…
For athletes they may have an internal dialogue that goes like this, “Can I finish? or even “I’m not good enough”. It is actually physically exhausting to do this. Most athletes who are performing at the peak are just breathing not thinking”
Those who meditate are found to have better immune system, heal faster, enjoy faster recovery and make better decisions.
Having a strong core runs deeper than sporting chiselled abs.Yet, it is ironic that 100 years ago we were more in touch with our core physically, mentally and spiritually. Today our greatest challenge is to just pause, take time to breathe and return to the core of who we were always meant to be.
But as Pierre and Stefan would agree, “It’s simple but not easy”
About the Author
Bochakorn began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.
During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.