One of the glorious things I’ve been gifted with as I approach the wonderful age of 40 is joint pain. Specifically, my knees, hips and shoulders. I figured that a lot of the aches and pains were due to being a runner and in general someone who does mainly cardio and high intensity (high impact) classes on a regular basis.
The hip pain got bad enough recently that I thought I better see an orthopedic guy. He diagnosed me in less time than it would take him to take a pee. Handed me a script for physical therapy and he rushed off to his next patient. But the physical therapist I saw the next week was wonderful. She spent an hour with me doing various joint and muscle tests to specifically tell me what was up and help me formulate a plan.
But really stuck with me during the hour she spent with me was the discussion about my core muscles. And how I have pretty much the wimpiest set of core muscles ever. Which is a little embarrassing seeing as I’m at the gym 5-6 days a week and have been for years.
Core muscles: the abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis.
A couple of reasons for my wimpy core:
Firstly, she said that giving birth changes a woman’s body. Duh. But stuff gets shifted and never quite goes back to normal. Specifically with the core and having had two c-sections, she said stomach muscles and core are even weaker. If you don’t work to rehabilitate them after giving birth, they will stay weak!
I also tend to do only cardio, grimacing any time at the end of class when we have to do some balance/core/weight lifting of any kind.
The physical therapist has turned a new stone for me. She explained that by strengthening my core, I can help my overall balance and full body muscle health. In turn, this will help me with some of this joint pain so my hips and joints aren’t taking the brunt of all the impact of my running and other cardio activities. Makes sense, right?
Here’s some quick and easy core strengthening tips you can do at home that I’ve been learning about.
A bridge, or as I call ’em, butt-lifts. Mayo Clinic has a picture and an explanation of how to do those here. My physical therapist said this is great for improving your lower back strength too.
Knee-folds. Real Simple has a picture here.
Side-plank. Go up on your side on one elbow and hold your self up. Do both sides for even results!
Good-old fashioned crunch. Nothing pretty or complicated about it. Get it done, people!
A regular sit up. There’s so many new options for working your abs, balls, other equipment but at the end of the day, they told me at PT that sit ups and crunches still get it done!
Push-ups. When they told me push ups help with core at PT, I was all, whaaa? Cuz I hate the push up and I’d much rather use some arm weights to workout my arms. But no, apparently push ups are not just working your arms but they are helping your abs as well. Who knew.
Bicycles. This is the one where you lay on your back and put your legs in air like you are pedaling. Double the impact by lifting your head up and do some alternating crunches! Or do them separately if that’s easier for you too.
I’m doing it people! I don’t like it but my summer goal is to get a stronger core and hopefully help some of my joints and overall health. (And while I don’t think I’ll ever get abs that look like the girl in the photo above, a little extra stomach muscles never hurt anyone!)