The Core of it All


So what’s in your core? Is it faith? Activism about the environment? Or are you the crunchy-granola type who’s passionate about healthy diets? Whoever you are, you no doubt have core convictions on how to live your life. On that score, I say good on you. We’re nothing without some strongly-held beliefs.

But unfortunately I’m not really talking about that kind of core here. I’m speaking of more about something that I’ve woefully neglected for probably all of my adult life: my core muscles.

It’s not that this was completely unknown to me. I was familiar with them in the same abstract way I know much about the food pyramid. I’d seen references made to them made by Important People on TV or in articles. But it just never seemed relevant to me.

Until now.

The “Core,” as it’s called, are those muscles within the abdomen, hips and lower back; together they represent our body’s inner core. These are the muscles which support the pelvic girdle and spine, plus help to facilitate movements for our hips and torso. We need all of them for getting up, sitting down, laying down, and generally moving about in our world. Collectively they’re very important to us. They’re the muscles which are intrinsic to most of our basic movements.

Wait a second… I have a girdle?!

Well, if it was good enough for Lawrence Olivier…

All of this came up several weeks ago during a visit to my chiropractor. The regular guy wasn’t there; in his place was a young doctor I’d never seen before who was covering. My first reaction to seeing him was pique at the front desk receptionist for not alerting to this switcheroo. But within minutes this guy had my full attention because he started asking me all kinds of questions about my gym and stretching routine.

I started going to a chiropractor about ten years ago because of neck pain. With occasional monthly adjustments, I’ve found that they are helpful and effective. In spite of the handful of relocations that we’ve made since my retirement, I’ve been lucky at each place we’ve lived to find a practice that I like, this particular one included.

As I bragged away to this doctor about how good I am with stretching after aerobic workouts, he became curious about precisely what kind of stretches I was doing. A horrible creature of habit, I’ve been doing pretty much the same routine for the last 20 years or so, and I proceeded to explain in great detail about my patented six minute stretching routine.

Yes, that’s right, six minutes. I know it’s that long because I always finish it in the time it takes two songs to play on my iPod. How’s that for scientific? Well, okay, if it’s a standard Beatles or Stevie Wonder song, yes, it’s about six minutes. A Yes, Genesis, or Pink Floyd tune? All bets are off. Those prog bands with their fancy time signatures aren’t necessarily gym-friendly.

The good doctor at this point had enough information to determine that my stretching routine wasn’t up to snuff at all. For one thing, it consisted mainly of only one decent exercise which wasn’t in any way helping my neck, something called a “Bridge” stretch. I’ve been doing it for years and never bothered to learn its name.

The bridge stretch. Source: Prevention

Although the bridge stretch is helpful, its main benefit is for the glute muscles; not so much for the upper back, shoulders, and neck that I thought I was helping all these years from doing it.

So, if I haven’t yet lost you, this means that I can now say with complete assurance that my butt muscles are in primo shape. Daniel Craig’s got nothing on this boy.

Not only did the wonderful fill-in chiropractor then start to explain the importance of core muscles, but he actually got down on the floor and started to teach me a new routine that I can now replicate at the gym myself. Voila! This new drill works to stretch and maintain the very muscles which heretofore I’d been ignoring. Oops.

For those curious, it’s similar to a few of the examples I found afterwards via this link.

The earlier six minute routine has now grown to a more robust 15 minute one, which depending on who’s playing on my iPod, is about 4-5 songs in length. I trust I’m not being too technical here.

And the results? Well, it’s been about six weeks now, and I am feeling a difference. Normally my neck is stiff and painful after working at my part-time job; the result of which is from looking down for prolonged periods while updating lawbooks. Thankfully, though, I’m beginning to see a dramatic lessening in that discomfort. I’m also experiencing much less stiffness just getting out of bed each morning.

Exercise for seniors provides innumerable benefits, both physical and mental. According to the CDC, the recommended amount of activity for seniors is two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week; and for muscle-strengthening activities, two or more days a week that work on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

I trust I’ll need several more months of monitoring to see if these core stretches show signs of real, tangible improvement. For now I’m just grateful to know about it, and if nothing else I have a new trick in my bag that is helping to keep me limber.

Oh, and that old Bridge stretch? I’m keeping that one for sure, thank you very much. I’ve been reminding Gorgeous on a regular basis lately how amazing my glutes are. She keeps walking away each time; I guess everybody has their own exercise routine.

Until next time…

36 thoughts on “The Core of it All

  1. Hi Marty, I was immediately concerned that this was going to be a post about an Abs workout. Whew, thankfully not! And then I read further…..

    O.K. Marty, very important information. I mean it. Staying healthy is a priority in our life. I also have a bad habit of doing the same 6 minute stretching routine.

    Re: my 25 years as a Dental Hygienist, I get it on the issues with upper back, shoulders and neck.

    I really appreciate doctors who evaluate us with fresh eyes and then demonstrate the exercises. Thank you for bringing into my radar how I should re-evaluate my routine. A great, informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I had no idea what your line of work was, Erica. I can only imagine the repetitive muscle strains you must have had from doing that work.

      I was really embarrased when I told the guy my stretching routine was only six minutes. I always knew that wasn’t enough, but I figured something was better than nothing. It turns out it was all nothing (except for my butt that is!).

      Thanks for your comments. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been exercising 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day since retirement. Some at the gym and some with my walking group. I do a gym routine (same one all the time) and have been thinking about having it evaluated to see if it’s appropriate. My gym doesn’t have a person who works with you and I’m reluctant to pay for it. Maybe I should do it. I like a routine so I don’t have to think too much about which piece of equipment to use next. It’s all pre-coffee! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, jeez, my aerobic routine is pretty much exactly the same one I’ve done for over 20 years. I’m sure my heart has benefitted, but honestly I have no ideas what my knees think of of me at at this point. I probably should have it evaluated also (my gym actually does have that service, complimentary I think).

      Five days a week? You’re a rock star!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve come to believe that the bridge exercise is what every doc/PT recommends for every ache and pain. Is there anyone over a certain age who hasn’t had it recommended to them? I do it, I like doing it so I guess I’ve been won over by the hype.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Ally. I still have it in the new routine mostly out of habit, but also because I figure it’s probably doing some good. Just as you suggest, though, I’m pretty sure the only reason I started it was because a doctor recommended it (for lower back pain).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First off, let me say I’m in awe of you and your reader’s commitment to staying healthy and in shape. But I have a fear of commitment. Probably from my divorce. That’s all the workout I needed.

    If the strain of home and yard maintenance doesn’t keep me in shape, nothing will. The weights I lift are (what feels like 3,000 lb) bags of mulch which I don’t lift properly (not from the knees) and the only time I run is if something is chasing me. Thanks though for the info on how warm-ups should be done. I’ll be sorry in a few years I didn’t follow your good advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Janis. The real story here is that I had gotten so incredibly lazy with my stretching. I love the aerobic part of going to the gym (iPod, TV’s above all the machines, people watching, etc.). But stretching and then the weights is just work, and I had been phoning-in that part for many years now. So it’s back to basics apparently. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yep, I’m a Bridger from way back. And yes, I’m stuck in that rut, too!
    My favorite ‘exercises’ of choice are walking/hiking/biking.
    However, I really really need to get after my core…I know…but I hate exercising for the sake of exercising.
    Unfortunately, it shows…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are all great activities, Laura, and obviously good for the heart. I’ll always focus more on aerobic because it’s more interesting to me. 🙄 But I’m cursed with some nagging minor neck and shoulder pains (which I hope stay minor), and I know the stretches help. I need to stay vigilant about this as I age.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I wish I could get more into exercise. There are too many other things to do with the time it takes. But I know I should be doing it. My husband walks all day for his job and then comes home and runs six miles!! He also lifts weights. So, it’s not that I don’t have a good role model. I could walk while he runs but I’d rather read a good book!! I know it’s catching up with me but I can’t get motivated. 🙁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand, Linda. It is often about the time we spend on things, likes and dislikes, etc. There are, after all, only so many hours in a day in which we can fit everything in! Still, if nothing else it’s good to get that heart moving now and then (other than watching the news that is!).

      Six miles???! Oy. I ran track in high school, but those days are over for me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Marty for that link! I started using a trainer for strength and balance that is also big on core exercises. In fact, she’s had me do all of those at one time or another, but I couldn’t remember them. By the way, my trainer is 57 years old and looks great, maybe there is hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good to hear the butt is in good shape, Marty. Ah, the holy grail of core strength. If only those young folk knew what they were in for they’d live clean and active lives from age twenty.

    (By golly there are a lot of ads in your post. Seems WordPress is starting to punish those who don’t fork out 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My body is currently struggling post home move and I had to admit to myself that my Pilates regime has more than slipped. My chiropractor recommended it as key to help avert my back’s tendency to go into spasm and it certainly did make a huge difference. But not being an exerciser at heart, I found it easier to maintain regularity with 1-2-1 sessions – till my instructor relocated. Having relocated myself, I now realise just how long ago that was. I take my hat off to you for your gym and stretching regime. Time for me to get back on the Pilates and walking my arse off regime 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all about proper maintenance, isn’t it? I really never focused on it as I should have in my younger years. I always felt that if I was active that was enough. But simply being active really doesn’t cut it the older you get. We need to focus on all of those areas of our bodies. Good luck in getting back to your Pilates. Thanks for stopping by, Deb!

      Liked by 1 person

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