Risky Business: Getting To The Core

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I got into an argument with a guy recently concerning the reasons why it feels so disorienting to do a somersault when you get older.

I know, I’m “that” dinner party guest.

He claimed it had to do with the aging process of your ears and the crystals that inhabit the ear canal. I agreed that his claim had adequate standing, but only as a consequence of a deeper root cause, which led to my own claim that while the ear canal certainly ages, it’s an “use it or lose it” scenario. And then I took it up a notch and said that I felt this situation was more relevant in women, since research shows that issues like dizziness and vertigo (both often ear crystal related situations) are vastly more common in older women than in older men. Hence – remember, I’m “that” dinner party guest – my hypothesis was this:

Women typically stop moving their bodies in disorienting, ear crystal disturbing ways, thus end up being more prone to the effects of any sort of jostling to this area, which compounds the normal aging process.

Yes, I just applied a feminist stance to the art of the somersault.

And here’s where I need to make one disclaimer: I am in no way saying that women are less able to do somersaults or are at all less physical than men. No way. All I am saying is that, objectively speaking, something happens to a woman as she gets older that results in her not partaking in risky, disorienting movement.

Listen carefully and ponder on this with me. When I ask folks about their memories of who was the one who did the physical stuff with them as kids, 8 out of 10 ten times, they report back with it being their dad or their uncle or their older brother, not their mother or female guardian. Could it be that the experience of becoming a mother has anything to do with this? High likely.

Maybe we get more protective of our own bodies as a natural response to be a caretaker. Or maybe we’re just plain whooped and can’t even imagine having the energy to dig our heads in the grass and go loop-di-loo.   And, beyond that, maybe pregnancy and birth has resulted in physical trauma that has literally left our bodies as dancing marionettes without any connected strings. We have chronic pain as a result. And then we have chronic stress as a result of that pain which depletes our adrenal system which drains our energy which makes us less likely to be a spritely resilient playmate.

And now I’d like all you mommas out there to listen even more carefully: It’s not your fault.

You know the scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams’ character gets uber close to Matt Damon’s character’s face, saying over and over, “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault?” Yes, imagine me doing that right now. High drama.

(pause for effect)

Now that I’ve broken you into that acknowledgement, let’s break down why it’s not your fault exactly. It’s pretty simple: Most fitness programs for women are designed and sold around one main premise: Losing weight and being toned, not being strong from the inside out. And if they are not designed around that surface level goal, well, then they depend on you pummeling your body into submission without a care for the marionette-without-connected-strings status. So, your choice in workout programs is this: 1. Lose weight and get your skinny jeans back and don’t let the world know you grew a baby inside of you ever, or 2.   Stop belly-aching and come drag tires up a huge hill while your palms bleed from those pull-ups you couldn’t do at all.

These are both terrible options for the majority of mothers because both of them ignore the basic fact that you need specialized core-reintegation before getting all buck wild with your preferred toning and pummeling method. And re-integrating your core after having a baby (or 87 babies) is essential to your vital self and vital strength, the process of which is like learning a foreign language. You would never expect yourself to move to Russia and suddenly speak fluent conversational Russian with nary a grammar class.

It takes practice. And time. And very good instruction.

But, once you become fluent with that new language, it’s with you always, at least as long as you stay in contact with it. In your dreams even. That’s how the core works too.

So, to conclude this little soap dish, I’ll explain why this sort of core-integrated and fluent strength is so important. Hint, it’s not just so that you can enjoy a flat tummy and an un-pancake butt (although that’s an awesome perk). It’s because this sort of strength affords you the resiliency you need to be the active somersaulting, chasing, cartwheeling, falling down in the mud, reckless, and healthy risk-taking caretaker you deserve to be for your kids and for your own experience in the world.   You get to meet the aging process with intrinsic wellbeing and power so as to keep it from being an experience of detriment but one one of adventure instead.

Beyond that, on an even deeper level, you get to offer your children another level of attachment and connection by allowing them to witness what it looks like to have security sewn into your bones. You get to show them it’s ok to be an explorer regardless of gender and you get to show them what it looks like to not hide their way through life.

You show them by showing up for your core strength.

The good news here for you is that I consider it one of my life passions to teach women how exactly to strengthen their core (and show up in life). It’s pretty simple, thankfully. Your core depends on the primary function of a deep stabilizing muscle called the transverse abdominis, which wraps around your middle like a belt. The thing that makes this not so simple is that most traditional “core” exercises like crunches literally bypass the transverse abdominis. Then, combine that with our flexed forward lifestyles (driving, working, carrying, etc) and we end up with a movement pattern called synergistic dominance, which is where our smart bodies start using other less effective and efficient muscles to do what the transverse abdominis is supposed to do. This leads to a weak core, chronic pain, injury, incontinence, knee problems, shoulder issues, and other less-than-awesome physical issues.

The best way to strengthen the core and the transverse abdominis is to apply something called “abdominal bracing” and to do this with your spine in a neutral or extended position. The beauty of this sort of core training is that the transverse abdominis gets in action really quickly and can result in dramatic changes to your body and sense of connectedness. And, because I know this may all sound like a foreign language, I’ve created a mini-tutorial for you to get started with abdominal bracing.

It’s worth the somersault at least, yeah?

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