Don’t Sweat the Change: Core Strength is About More Than Just Fitness

Don't Sweat the Change

Don’t Sweat the Change: Core Strength is About More Than Just Fitness

My exercise regime is focused on core strength. I just had my 51st birthday, and without some concerted effort I can definitely see some “muffin top” happening. Some of that is just unavoidable and has more to do with a slowing metabolism and a desire to let loose and have some fun and celebration now and then. (At least, five extra pounds of fun.) I may allow my pendulum to swing a short while to the left but, as I swing back to the middle, I’m all about facing the next bar of fitness—no matter what age I am, and I love the hour I spend doing that at my local Nextbarre studio.

About five years ago, my daughter Jasmine was pregnant with her first child when she stumbled upon a local exercise studio. She excitedly told me about this great class she was taking. I thought well, she’s pregnant…it can’t be as hard as she describes it. Much to my chagrin, my quads were sore for at least six weeks, and I considered myself truly a fit person. Now, five years later, Nextbarre is my exercise hour of choice. Nextbarre is not just another method of exercise class either – there are benefits in the class beyond fitness. Let me explain…

The class itself is a one hour long core-pilates-bar-yoga-weights work-out where it leaves all, and I mean ALL muscle groups trembling. We listen to a range of motivational music and, with the exception of an occasional cheer of triumph or groan of exhaustion, the women in the class could all be considered focused athletes in their approach to this daily torture that feels oh-so-good when finished. Led by instructors that are trained by Diana Pecci, who is a local exercise guru and just won “the best of the east bay” award for fitness exercise studios, this one hour “no plateau” class has been my saving grace for pre-menopause, and there’s several other benefits that I’d like to share.

Sure, this class is the Cadillac of work outs for your muscles but there are also a few secret benefits that pay spiritual dividends. Focused exercise for more than twenty minutes promotes greater presence. Something actually shifts in your brain that allows you to slow down your inner clock to become more of a witness of your life thus more aware. When we can slow down to a greater level of presence, we enjoy life more with a heightened sense of every moment making us better parents, partners, friends and so on. What I’ve noticed is that attending these classes 3-5 times a week have really helped me reign in my energy and ground it in my body—especially in my core. I generally wake up between 4-5:15 a.m. I have my coffee, meditate, journal and post on Facebook. I blog and finish any writing I have on the agenda. Then by 8:15, I’ve got to move. My favorite is to jump in my car en route to Nextbarre. It’s time to shift energy out of my body, stretch and get into a daily groove to move, and I like the social aspects of being at a studio with other women. Our core is our trunk and literally our strength for our spine comes from the core. The core is also our spiritual power center. How important is your core to living empowered? Darn important.

The other most prominent change in my structure these past years has been to my posture and body alignment. Over time, by working with the muscles that support a neutral spine, and stretches releasing the hip flexors, and doing safe floor ab work, my pelvis has shifted allowing me to hold my ribcage in, my shoulders back, my spine neutral and my neck elongated a little more like a dancer. Before, with all the running I was doing, and driving for the kids, my shoulders were more rounded and my neck more forward. As my alignment is now more upright, on an energetic and spiritual growth level this allows the flow of energy to run up and down my spine freely through all the chakras and in alignment with my crown. When the shoulders are back it opens up my heart chakra. How important do you think physical alignment is to your mind-body-spirit connection and awareness and also to opening up yourself to joy? The answer is: Very important.

When thinking about my health, I can’t separate my spiritual life from my body or my mind. At the core, both are connected and I (my soul) reside inside. The body is the temple and house for the spirit, and I want my temple built with a solid foundation of strength. I’d rather not go into mid-life with muscle that is frail and thin as a twig – even if I appear a bit on the robust side of curvy (and, I do) than be skinny. This time in my life has required great strength from me emotionally, and I see my physical body as the vehicle. When my body feels strong and in balance I am stronger and more capable. I like to think of myself metaphorically as somewhere between a sleek sports car and a S.U.V. If I was an animal I might be a humming bird or an elephant.

As part of my summer time, I’ve also started wearing a fit bit to track my steps. With a goal of 10K steps a day and am having a lot of fun with it. I tried the calorie counting thing…only to gain five pounds! Ha! I started calling my fit bit a lying fat bit(ch)! Jokingly, I really just needed to take a look at the quantity of my food intake, and I get it…sometimes, I just eat too much! It’s all about burn rate, and mine is just sl-o-w-ing down. For me, though, calorie counting only makes me think about what I’m going to eat next, so I’m done with that. My fit bit will just be used for tracking my steps and water intake; no more calorie counting!

The Nextbarre class, in community with other women ( a few lucky men show up too) who share an hour of focused fitness, has grounded me in ways I could not have imagined when I first started out. I am super fit at fifty-one, and I’m so grateful that Diana has found the “next bar” to fitness that achieves far more than the physical to assist women in living emotionally and physically empowered lives from the core of who we are. At the core, I am strong enough to “hold the day” with focus and be the container for my life. At the core, I am poised for the next class at the Nextbarre, and if you’re local I hope you join me. Diana will be my featured guest speaker tomorrow night as we talk about the benefits of core strength and exercise.

You can join the Don’t Sweat Sisterhood call by going to this invitation.

Treasure the gifts of life and love,