Ester Marsh: How to work on a strong core

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

Last week’s column created some great conversation about the “midsection.” So yes, if it has been there a while, it’s going to take some time to get rid of it! I have said this before, and will say it again — you cannot out-exercise a bad diet.

Too many times, people are setting goals which are unattainable. Looking at heredity, age, medical challenges and fitness level, the body you want might never be accomplished. Remember, beautiful bodies come in different sizes and shapes! Now, make sure it is a healthy body! A healthy diet, regular exercise and preventative checkups with your doctor are a must. Are you ready to work on your core?

First of all, doing a lot of abdominal exercises each workout is not going to burn the fat off your belly. You cannot 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. Remember, you cannot out exercise a bad diet, so this is my favorite and highly recommend it.

• Eat less calories and burn more by exercising. 

Now on to posture. You can do 200 situps 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. When doing an abdominal exercise, bring your belly button to the inner spine. When crunching, your belly should stay in or go in instead of pushing it out.

Are you ready for the best exercise to get a strong core? You can do this anywhere, anytime! “Suck” your belly in all day long! Engage the core by lengthening your spine and tightening the abdominal muscles. You 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 you 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! They move with wherever your belly wants to hang. Get button-up pants with a belt, but don’t have the belt very 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, now when you are “hanging” the belt 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? It’s a journey to a healthier you!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley YMCA.

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