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.
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?!
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.
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…