elisa jones trail running

Engaging the Core

There’s a sign at my gym that says “Core is the new black.” 

I get what they are saying, or implying; that physically training your core is the new essential. I agree that it is essential, but it is a far from new concept. My first lessons in core were in music class- as most of my lessons were. Back then it started with talk about the diaphragm, which, though the concept is still propagated in the music education realm, is both a fallacy and a misnomer.

Reach out and touch your arm. Good. You know what your arm is. Now flex your arm. Excellent! You’re a fast learner! Now touch your diaphragm. Can’t? Okay. Can you flex it? No? So you neither know where it is, nor have developed control over it? Then how can we expect an 11-year-old flute player to?

I rejected this concept very early in my teacing career. About the same time I learned about human anatomy. It isn’t the thin muscle that separates your thorasic and abdominal cavities that aids in the control of air- it is the strong “core” muscles of the abdomen. I’ll bet if I asked you to point to your tummy you could, right? What about flexing it, like you’re doing a push-up? Of course you can! Bravo! You just engaged your core! It is this feeling that music teachers desire their students to develop. If I could meet the person who came up with the idea of “let’s control the diaphragm” I would probably kick him in the shins for being a complete ninny.

Okay. Enough said. Having been thoroughly educated in the control of air and engagement of the core from a young age, it can be assumed I have a fairly good grasp on the subject. And yet, if you were like my swim coach and said, “Engage your core now and see how much faster your body goes through the water”, you would be disappointed. I know exactly what to do while singing, playing, doing pilates or yoga….but when I’m swimming, running, or biking, my core resembles more of a tender noodle-filled pouch than a redwood tree.

 

I’ve decided to rectify the problem by doing something extremely profound: practicing it. Consciously.  Like I did on my run to Independence Monument today. Why not? The day was intensely beautiful, I was feeling particularly strong, and I am going to be off my feet and on the bike for the next few days. Embrace these moments, right?

I discovered very quickly that though I may not run faster with my core activated, I felt more secure. I felt stronger. I could have tripped, but not fallen. I felt the strength extend through my legs, and down my arms. My entire being filling with energy and light from this centralized energy source- focused.

Which lead me to think about life, like I always do when I’m struck with profound concepts like this. The core isn’t just the muscles around our body that hold us up, but we have a spiritual and emotional core than equally sustain us.

How often do we focus and engage our core? Is it something that we only do when we already know how? When we are standing our ground, or being challenged? Or can we improve our entire being by taking the time to practice, to engage our core, our center, every chance we get? How much stronger will we be as a whole? If we are to trip, do we fall?

I propose that the core of every aspect of our being can “be the new black”, can be our renewed focus. Only each one of us can decide how that will make us strong.

Also, I got a new jersey. It’s adorable, and pink. I think pink is my new black.

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