Lets get to the CORE of the matter…

The area I hear people complain about the most is their back, and I’m not just saying that because my husband has degenerative disc disease. Second is probably the knees (my biggest struggle), but that’s a topic for another day. Did you know that approximately 31 million people in America are suffering from lower back pain at any given time! (1) That’s almost 10% of our population. What’s even crazier than that 10%, is that almost 80% experience back pain at some point in their life. I know I’ve had some back pain, nothing debilitating but enough to make me feel ouchie! If you’ve never had back pain, congrats, you probably have a strong core. So how do you get a stronger core? I’m going to be breaking down the core into a 3 part series and sharing ways to help you strengthen those muscles to support that spine.

What is the Core?

The back bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connected to the leg bone… The core is basically the middle section of your body, think spine, abdomen and hips. I’ve been studying the different muscle structures and I just have to say our bodies are fascinating! The core is made up of approximately 35 different muscle groups, so while you are working on that six pack, there are more muscles working than the stack you’ve got peaking through. One thing to consider though, just because you have a 6 pack doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got the right support for your spine. So lets focus on working from the inside out together.

The 3 Core Systems

Your core is made up of 3 different systems, there’s the Local Stabilization System, the Global Stabilization System and the Movement System. Each has a key factor in how our cores function to keep our bodies functioning effectively. Our body parts are so in sync with each other that if one part isn’t working right, it is likely damaging another part. For instance, say you injure your foot, chances are you are going to limp, which means you’re going to be favoring one side. The opposite side may get sore from over compensating. The longer that foot is injured the more you’re going to disrupt. It can go all the way up to causing a kink in your neck! To start, we are going to talk about the Local Stabilization System.

Local Stabilization System

Just like any other exercise routine, it’s best to start from the bottom and move up in intensity. The stabilization system basically tells you in it’s name what it does, it stabilizes your core. Strengthening this muscle system helps provide support from vertebra to vertebra. It helps to reduce over extending or compression of your spine. Think about balancing on one foot, not moving, all of the little muscles surrounding your ankle and helping keep your ankle supported so it doesn’t bend and get strained, it’s keeping that joint stable so there isn’t injury. By strengthening the stabilization system you are sort of adding a restrictive cushion to keep your spine safe.

Strengthening Your Stabilization System

Guess what? No sit ups are required for this system, though some of these may be new to you, I’m sure you are familiar with the plank. So that is where we will begin. I recommend adding these moves into a morning routine, crawl out of bed drink a big glass of water, stretch and do some core work. Try doing 1 exercise, resting for 30-60 seconds and doing another, repeat each circuit 2-3 times. On some of the exercises I listed an option of 12-20 reps, I recommend you starting small and working your way up to they higher reps. Overexerting yourself can result in injury, even if you feel good, you could be doing more than your body is ready for.

Disclaimer {{If you have any unique or special medical conditions, such as if you’re pregnant, or if you have a history of knee, ankle, shoulder or spinal (back or neck) problems, you must consult with a competent and reliable physician to understand all risks, contraindications and complications of starting this exercise list, and receive authorization from them before beginning. Failure to do so could result in significant injury to you and others (including, if applicable, your unborn child). By using this program, you assume all dangers, hazards and risks of injury in the use of this program.}}

Plank

Never done a plank, try this progression. Start each variation with 30 seconds and work your way up. Once you feel you’ve got a minute down, try moving on to the next variation. On the last one try holding it as long as you can, the longer you can hold the plank the higher your endurance.

  • You will need a sturdy bench or chair. Place your hands on the bench and feet on the floor. Straighten your body out so that your body forms a line from head to toe. Hold for your desired length of time.

plank on bench.jpg

  • If you’ve made it past using a bench, try doing plank from the floor in standard push up position with your knees on the floor. Make sure to keep your body in a straight line from head, to shoulders to the hip. Make sure you are flexing your stomach muscles to help keep your body straight.

knee-plank

  • Next progression is to get those knees off the ground. It helps to flex your hamstrings(back of the thigh) and glutes(behind) to help keep you straightened out and take a little bit of pressure off your shoulders. Make sure you hold that straight line from head to toe. In other words, keep your behind down with out sagging. If you can’t hold in a straight line yet please go back to your knees.

pu plank.jpg

  • Final progression is to plank on your forearms instead of hands. All the same rules apply. Keep your body in a straight line, flex what your mama gave ya!

forearm plank.jpg

Marching

This isn’t the marching you are probably thinking of. It’s going to be done on the floor laying on your back.

marching

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, lay your arms by your sides.
  • Make sure you keep your stomach tucked in, pretend you are pushing your belly button to the spine to help keep your abs drawn in during the whole exercise.
  • Begin by lifting one bent leg till your calf is parallel to the ground, once you reach the that point hold it for 1 to 2 seconds and slowly lower back to the floor. Repeat for the opposite leg. Raise each leg for a total of 12-20 reps per side.

Two-Leg Floor Bridge

Do you remember doing back bends as a kid? That is what this move reminds me of. Sort of like that but not nearly as difficult, thankfully!

2 leg floor.jpg

  • Lay on your back again, same position as marching, with your feet hip width apart on the ground, also you are going to point your arms out to make your body look like a ‘T’ from a birds eye view.
  • Slowly lift your pelvis off the floor until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Then slowly lower it back to the ground. Repeat this movement 12-20 times.

 Floor Prone Cobra

Maybe you have done yoga in the past, and recognize the term Cobra. This move is a little bit different as you can see. It has the arms extended instead of having them under your shoulders.

cobra.jpg

  • Lie face down on the floor with you hands extended out. Flex your buns and squeeze your shoulders together.
  • Lift your chest off the floor and rotate your thumbs to point up towards the ceiling. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds and then lower your chest back to the ground. (Please note: My form in the floor position is a little off… Try to keep your chin tucked in, kind of like you’re holding an apple underneath. My photographer has checked out for the day so this is what I had to work with.) Repeat this move 12-20 times.

Feeling STRONGER already?

Maybe it’s time to move on to your Global Stabilization System. If you are interested in learning about the other 2 core systems, check back in a couple weeks for a new list of exercises to try!

 

(1) https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics

 

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Peanut Butter Puppy Treats

Not only is my health important but so is the health of my family. My pups are included in that. I actually had to put my girls on doggie diet food because they were putting on too much weight. (Yes, I know we need to go on walks more often.) Since I’ve become a stay at home mom, they are exposed to more food droppings in the kitchen. (I’m a messy cook!) I’ve since discovered that they love broccoli as much as I do. 😍

But the whole point to this is that my girls have become a little spoiled with the boys and I being home all the time. We are going to be working on some behavior issues. They are food motivated dogs, so it shouldn’t be hard to break these bad habits. Although, keeping them out of the kitchen might mean I have to sweep more often.

I used to buy treats at the store and cut them up into small pieces for training. I don’t like buying the store bought dog treats anymore because I learned that they have a lot of unnecessary filler and stuff that isn’t necessarily good for dogs. A friend of mine gave me a recipe for treats a while back and I decided to tweak it for a couple of reasons. Reason number one, wheat doesn’t agree with my girls, it tends to make them gassy. And number two, since my diet is vegan, not saying my dogs are vegan, I just don’t keep cow milk in my fridge. So tweaking was done and my pups seem to approve. Dogs love coconut so I figured why not use coconut flour and coconut milk to give them an extra dose of love?!?

Ingredients:

  • 2 C coconut flour (you could use wheat)
  • 1 C peanut butter
  • 1 C unsweetened coconut milk (you could use cow milk)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder

First step: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Mix all ingredients. Add a little more milk if mixture is too dry. Next time I’ll probably add a little more milk.


Cut into little treats for training purposes or big ones just for puppy lovins, or you could roll them into small balls and smoosh with a fork. They don’t spread out much when the baked so you can space them pretty closely together on the cookie sheet.


Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and let cool. Store excess treats in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to use. Otherwise keep in an airtight jar in a cool place for easy access. All good girls deserve treats!

Happy Tails!

I think the best part about these treats is there are only 4 ingredients and super fast and easy to make. The amount of treats I got out of this batch should last for a couple of months without having to make more. Plus my girls seem to like them. After they ate their man cookies they were licking the floor for every crumb they could find! Hope your pups like them as much as mine do. ❤