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Ester Marsh: Abs of steel instead of a muffin top

Even after a cold snap, the weather is finally getting warmer and closer to bathing suit season. I have had many requests about what to do about the “muffin top” lately.

I wish I had a magic wand to miraculously give you what you wish, but as I have mentioned before, it takes work and dedication to get a healthy body.

Can you see I didn’t say the body you want? Many times people are setting goals that are unattainable. Looking at heredity, age, medical challenges and fitness level, the body you “want” might never be accomplished.

Before I depress you too much, I love it when people accept their body for what it is. Beautiful bodies come in different sizes and shapes. But make sure it is a healthy body!

A healthy diet, regular exercise and preventative checkups with your doctor are a must.

So are you ready to work on your core?

First, doing a lot of abdominal exercises in each workout isn’t going to burn the fat off your belly. You can’t spot reduce with exercise. To burn fat, your calorie intake needs to be less then the calories you burn. You can do that in three ways;

• Eat fewer calories than what you are burning with everyday life.

• Eat a healthy, balanced diet and burn more calories by exercising. (This is my favorite because your body tightens up while losing weight.)

• Eat fewer calories and burn more by exercising.

Now that we have covered the “fat part,” we are going to another important piece: exercise.

You can do 200 sit-ups or crunches a day using the abdominal crunch machine in every workout and that will not help you very much if you let your belly “hang” the rest of the day or do the exercise incorrectly. Gravity will push everything to the outside, so when doing an abdominal exercise, bring your belly button toward the inner spine. When crunching, your belly should stay in, or go in, instead of pushing out.

Are you ready for the best exercise to get a strong core?

“Suck” your belly in all day long! I know it’s a little disappointing. No pill or belt to help with the problem.

You can engage your core by lengthening your spine and tightening the abdominal muscles. But you still have to be able to breathe. Start with a little at a time. You will be amazed how many times you forget.

It will not only flatten you belly, it will help your posture, plus your lower back will thank you. Abdominal exercises do work. It definitely strengthens your abdominals, but don’t forget to work the opposite muscles in the lower back.

The core is the front, sides and back. A good tip is to get out of the elastic waist pants since they move wherever your belly wants to “hang.” Get button-up pants, preferably with a belt, but don’t have the belt too tight (probably one or two holes looser than usual.) Have your belly “sucked in” where you feel comfortable and feel you can keep it there. The belt should be comfortable, and when you are “hanging” the belt it will give you pressure reminding you to suck it back in!

Many group exercise classes will take time to work on the core, if a class setting works for you or have a certified personal trainer help you get the right exercises for you. And, most important, be patient…How long did it take you to get your body where it is today? It didn’t happen overnight right?

Ester H. Marsh is Health and Fitness Director of the JF Hurley family YMCA.

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