Although most people know they want six-pack abs, fewer know what their core really is.
Your abs are part of your core, but only the very front, most external portion of your torso. Realizing this, it should become apparent why only working your rectus abdominis (the muscles we recognize as a six-pack) won’t get you the results you want for performance or appearance.
Doing crunches or sit-ups alone to get a gorgeous torso is like working solely your biceps to get great arms.
In order to look great and perform well, you have to work your way the full 360 degrees around your middle, plus hit the layers underneath. Hard on the outside with a gooey center only sounds good when discussing dessert.
Before I give you some tips on achieving a toned, strong core I want to address the importance from a performance and injury-prevention standpoint.
Why your arms need your core:
Would you position a piece of heavy machinery atop a stability ball filled with jelly? Of course not; that would be ridiculous. Imagine the mess that would lead to. For the same reason, you can’t lift something heavy with a weak core, no matter how strong your arms are. Actually, you could, you’d just hurt yourself in the process.
Why your legs need your core:
Would you like to go on a run with a stability ball filled with jelly? Of course not; that would be ridiculous, as well as really uncomfortable.
See where I’m going with this? You can’t perform well with mush in the middle. I’ve never had a great idea that began with a stability ball filled with jelly – though I imagine it would be comfortable to sit on.
While I could go on with science and examples for all the “whys” out there, I imagine you clicked on this link to get to the how, so here goes.
Warning: This is an amazing core routine, but the exercises only work when done properly. I’ve linked to what I feel are good explanations, but please reach out for additional clarification.
- Work your back. The main purpose of your core is to support your spine, so start there and the rest of your body will thank you. My favorite ways to do this are with hip raises (50+), opposite arm and leg extensions (3 sets of 10 each side), and deadlifts (30+). Work toward single leg deadlifts for an added balance challenge that will demand even more from your core. Bonus – your glutes and hamstrings will also benefit from each of these.
- Work your internal and external obliques, along with your lats with the plank and row. This move will get results even starting from a modified side plank on your knees. Do 3 sets of 15 each side.
- Work your hip flexors, obliques, transverse abdominals (bonus pelvis and leg work to boot) with the pilates single leg circle. Take the leg in each direction 10x, then straight up and down 10x, then switch sides. Work up to 2 sets.
- Get your entire core working together alternating spider planks with plank jacks. Do 10 (5 each side) of the spiders, take a 30 second rest, then get back in plank and jack your feet out and in 10 times. Do 3-5 sets.
- Burn out with a weighted cross crunch. Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee with the foot on the floor to keep your low back in proper position; opposite arm of extended leg extended over your head with a small dumbbell. As you contract at your core, raise the extended leg and cross past it’s knee with the opposite extended arm and weight so you are crossing with a bit of a rotation. Do 2 sets of 15 each side.
Here’s a video so you can concisely see how each exercise is done: https://youtu.be/vVEHl7CE-5Y
While it’s hard for me to stop at just these exercises since there are so many great ones out there, these are some of the most efficient and safest, so I’m going to call it. Having said that, no core toning is going to cut through fat the way a comprehensive nutrition and exercise plan will. In order to reach your goal, these exercises should be utilized in conjunction with other cardiovascular and strengthening workouts, and a proper diet.
Based on all the parenting articles I’ve read lately, I’ve determined that we’re all destined to fail as parents.
My husband offered that I sound angry, which I’m not. I’m simply overwhelmed by the volume of information and level of contradiction, thanks largely to social media.
Last week I read I’m inadequately (or inaccurately) using the expensive gear we have, only to be coined a helicopter parent this week for stressing safety.
I’m supposed to make sure my kids experience distress and don’t expect happiness 100% of the time, but then I need to ask them about their feelings.
We’re supposed to raise them to think for themselves by giving them options, but then we’re scolded for letting them make decisions.
You shouldn’t give your kids too much sugar or let them decide what to eat, but if you go on Pinterest for ideas for playfully introducing a variety of healthy foods you’ll be picked on for trying to be supermom. Our moms gave us moonpies, juice, soda, vienna sausages and TV dinners, and look how we turned out. Oh wait, obesity is running more rampant than ever.
We’re told to do crafts to help develop fine motor skills and inspire creativity, but then we’re over-stimulating and playing WITH them too much when we should just send them outside (barefoot) to discover the world. Make sure you’re out there with them though…it’s dangerous and those bare feet will get some kind of parasite for sure.
One day I’m crazy for sending my child to public school rather than homeschooling and choosing our own enrichment programs; the next I’m not exposing them enough and will end up with a socially inept, awkward child.
My kids are only in one program, yet I’m bombarded by articles detailing how over-scheduled they are.
I let them get as dirty as they can, but some old guy in a parking lot takes it upon himself to remind me that boys should play in the dirt.
It goes on and on!
Share… don’t share. Teach them to respect adults, but don’t force them to hug someone… Expose them to art, music, foreign language and education from a young age, but don’t push them to learn too much when they’re young or you’ll totally screw them up forever. Did I mention over-scheduling? Don’t even get me started on discipline!
Maybe, just maybe, if we move to a farm with no technology, where my kids can only eat what they harvest, but are never around sharp tools and wear helmets at all times, maybe then some of you will be happy. BUT, someone else will call me “granola” and point to their kid who only ever eats processed food and watches TV 24/7 who happens to be the epitome of health and genius, and tell me I’m not exposing them to the real world. As parents, we can’t win…even with each other.
I appreciate all the concern and advice, but all it makes me do is second guess my decisions and my instincts as a parent. It’s too much. I’m really trying, but even that takes a beating when we’re told we’re putting too much time and thought into parenting.
None of you out there is a perfect parent, and neither am I. Thankfully, it’s not all on me. Nature plays a role, God plays a role, and there will be many other influencers and experiences that have absolutely nothing to do with mama. Please take it down a notch and let me screw up my children all by myself.
Also, what are you doing reading this article on your phone? Your child might see you and be negatively affected since you’re clearly choosing to look at it rather than watch him eat his lunch. Another one bites the dust!
Growing up, my parents taught us to give respect in order to get respect. As much as this made sense to me, at some point, I became too respect-hungry to remember the first part.
Our Sunday school class is currently learning from a series called “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. This past Sunday a few things really struck a chord with me and I feel compelled to share them.
- Not giving a man respect each day is equivalent to a man telling a woman he doesn’t love her each day.
- A man has to work harder at loving because he was made to focus on respect, and vice versa.
- Applaud respect for the desire to do well, not just for achievement.
As a part-time trainer, full-time Stay-At-Home-Mom I have been hungry to hear how appreciated and respected I am because a big paycheck doesn’t come to tell me that. When I don’t feel respected, I don’t give as much of it to my husband as kind of a tit-for-tat scenario. Since he does get a good paycheck, I have felt like it would be at best redundant, at worst a submissive admission, to praise him; as though praising him somehow tips the scales in his direction, away from me.
My husband has often offered his opinion that the feminist movement overcorrected, and I have come to agree with him. Rather than simply achieving equality so we would be offered the same opportunities, pay, etc., we’ve pushed “girl power” to the point of often belittling what our male counterparts do. Pushing them down is exactly what we’ve fought against, thus not a great example of what we want from them.
I want my husband to meet my needs, so I have to meet his. If respect is his love language, and I speak it, he will feel good, and that will benefit me ten times out of ten. From there, my children will see us both respecting each other, and they will learn to show respect. With any luck, this will keep them from sassing teachers, police officers, and their future spouses. My hope is that respect is contagious.
I say all this to open up my own thought-process, as well as my feminist fears since I’ve certainly seen and experienced oppression. It is only possible to achieve equality if we give respect across the board, regardless of race, gender, religion, etc.. The hardest part is that you have to give it the most when you are not receiving it. As difficult as that is, I believe the more you put out there, the more you will eventually get back, and the more will exist so when the scales balance it’s because all sides are full.
Ever had this conversation?
“Tell me what you want me to say.”
“But if I have to tell you, it doesn’t count.”
When we imagine what our partners dream of us doing for them we imagine grand gestures, expensive trips or gifts, things that are difficult to afford or give; but, more often, the deepest desires are simply for words 0f recognition and appreciation, or a helping hand.
If you’re reading this, there’s a chance your spouse wants to hear one or all of the phrases below. There’s an even better chance you need to hear them, too. All of the words/requests below came from people I know, who will remain anonymous, but I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t have their day improved with any one of them. Try some on. If one fits, I have a feeling it will make your house an even happier one.
What he/she needs to hear:
- You are such a great mom.
- You are sexy. Not just beautiful; sexy.
- What do you need?
- You’ve been so amazing working on your health and fitness. Let’s start doing that together.
- Tell me what you need from me.
- If I had to do again, I would still marry you again in a heartbeat.
- You’re doing a great job.
- My parents will be here in a minute to watch the kids. I’ve packed your bag and planned a getaway.
- I trust your judgment.
- You sleep in as long as you need to feel rested. I’ll get up and take care of the kids.
- I’m making dinner, cleaning up and bathing the kids tonight. Go have some “you” time.
- I know you can do it all, but let me help.
- I know the game is on tonight, so I can manage everything else while you chill.
- I’m proud of you.
- I know you could have achieved as much success as me if you hadn’t chosen to stay home and raise the kids.
- I took the liberty of hiring a maid.
- Thank you. You work so hard for us.
- I love you more today then I did on our wedding day, and I thought I loved you then.
- I could never be the person I am today without you next to me.
- You’re my best friend, and I love you even when I’m really pissed at you.
- I feel the most at ease when I’m with you.
- Nothing I can do will ever truly show you how much I love you, but I’m willing to keep giving it a shot if you will.
- Let’s go talk to a counselor just for preventative maintenance.
- How can I help?
- You work incredibly hard. I’m inherently impressed.
- I’m home, your shift is over, relax.
At work, employees are reviewed annually (if not more frequently) to discuss performance, areas of opportunity, and if a raise has been earned.
What if this same approach was taken at home?
Perhaps I should narrow the focus even more, because I’m only talking about reviewing a marriage. Children are “reviewed” very frequently already since the assumption is for required growth and discipline; rather than equal, mature partners.
This blog is assuming you respect your spouse as much as you do your boss, and are aware that marriage requires work. Hopefully those are 2 easy boxes to check, otherwise you really should not have gotten married.
This blog also acknowledges I am not a relationship expert; just your average married person with a keyboard, access to the internet, and (occasionally) an audience.
How would this work?
Marriage reviews are touchy because the hierarchy is muddled, as is the raise structure; not to mention the sensitivity surrounding how roles and tasks are weighted in order of difficulty and importance.
We’ve acknowledged that this won’t be easy, but, think of why it is important to connect and check-in with your spouse.
- A certain employer probably isn’t a forever relationship, but marriage is.
- If there is room for improvement, wouldn’t you rather know? Furthermore, wouldn’t you rather find out when you are emotionally prepared to engage rather than hearing the dreaded, “We need to talk.”?
- Don’t you have things you would like to address at an appropriate time, without spilling every grievance during a heated argument?
What about a raise structure?
- No one wants to hear criticism “just for fun”, but everyone loves an incentive, so make hearing each other out a rewarded behavior.
- Rewards are ideally based on each other’s love language(s), and they all start on the table. If someone dishes it, but can’t take it, something comes off the table.
- Schedule the review for a time when you can address thoughts distraction free, and, ideally, sober.
Put your big kid pants on for this. If you can sit through a review by a boss who you are not in love with, you can certainly open your ears, mind and heart to your spouse. It will sting more to hear criticism from a loved one, but work and tough love comes with marriage-territory.
If you can’t manage this on your own, enlist the help of a counselor of some sort. You do preventative maintenance on your car, and it didn’t make any vows to you about sickness and health, etcetera; so be open to doing the maintenance on your marriage.
I have never been happier than I am now, with my (complete) family of four.
My pregnancy days are behind me, since we’re stopping at two, and I’m so in love with my family.
The 1st time around
Everything about Aidan’s (baby #1) entry into the world was dramatic. The poor guy gets dogged on every time we talk about how easy his sister has been.
I was nervous the whole pregnancy because of a previous early miscarriage. I passed out a couple of times and, after 22 hours of tough labor, rife with his heart rate scaring us half to death, I ended up having a cesarean section. Then, he had a painful, shallow latch for feeding initially, but as a newbie it took me a month to figure it out, and it caused my supply to be just enough – so pumping was never an easy option. Having said all that, I breastfed for just over 12 months, and although he was a tough baby (I don’t think we slept for a year), he’s an amazing toddler, and an outstanding big brother.
I honestly didn’t realize other parents of infants WERE sleeping. I thought all babies were just like mine. Even though it was rough, we were willing to go through it again.
Funny, I spent my first pregnancy worried about Aidan, and my second pregnancy… worried about Aidan.
Because he was my first baby and we were already “established,” I was very nervous about him adjusting, and about him hitting the baby. I had no idea how much our attempts to prepare him were sinking in, and really wasn’t sure what he would think of having a baby sister. Turns out, he was born to be a big brother. He’s loving, gentle and helpful. I didn’t know I could love him anymore than I already did, but I do!
About a girl
Kennedy (baby #2) entered the world via VBAC after 9 hours of labor and 1 hour of pushing. It was such a relaxing experience – if one can say that about labor. I requested an epidural right away since I determined I’d felt enough contractions to last a lifetime with Aidan, and my husband and I watched episodes of “Homeland” on the iPad. Every now and then he’d look at my chart and announce I’d just had a huge contraction. I have no regrets about not feeling those suckers.
After latching on fairly easily (considering their mouths are the tiniest when your boobs are the largest), she went right to sleep without even being swaddled. We were astonished! We had heard of baby’s sleeping, we’d just never witnessed it. Aidan needed the 5 S’s all the time, and frankly, we could’ve used S’s 6 & 7!
I’m really glad my tough baby was my first baby so I could really focus on him, and I’m really glad labor was easy this time so I could continue to love on him and pick him up as I always have.
Kennedy was back to her birth weight in record time, so we were cleared to let her sleep. This was also drastically different as Aidan had to be woken to eat and they monitored his weight closely for the first month. Miss K came out on a 3-hour schedule and always gives us a longer stretch at night.
My recovery this time has been completely different from the first time. Unlike post-surgery, post-VBAC I was able to walk around as soon as I felt up to it. It was wonderful!
My body is bouncing back faster this time as well. Some of that is because I was able to be active sooner, and some is because I’m in a better place nutritionally. I have products to help with energy, strength and weight loss that I ran by my doctor, which is good because I have a deadline for being back in shape. My sister is getting married in November! Baby weight is temporary, but wedding photos are forever. Thankfully, chasing a toddler around while carrying an infant is quite sporty, I’m back to exercising, I gained less weight this time around, and I’m nursing.
Why is the second child so much easier?
I’m sure anxiety was a large factor in our first experience as parents. It’s impossible to be second child parents until you actually have a second child.
Parenting is more fun this go round since we aren’t second-guessing ourselves or each other. First time, it was the blind leading the blind, which can get pretty ugly when you’re tired.
I questioned whether or not to share this entry since it is very personal, but I decided to because our first and second experiences having a baby were so different. We always knew we wanted two children, and I can’t wait to see how these two, unique love bugs turnout.
I thought I was busy when I was single, then I thought I was busy when I got married, then I thought I was busy when I had one child. Now, I know I’m busy. And… back to it! Cheers!
When I started my weight loss journey in December I never imagined I would look the way I do now. I have always been a gym junky, and just figured my genetics were awful and that I would never be a thin, fit woman. After losing about 10 pounds on my own my body just shut down on me. I stopped losing fat, and I wasn’t making gains anymore. I kept working harder and harder for 2 more weeks and after not seeing any more results I went and found Katie at the gym. I was amazed at the time she took to understand what I wanted from my sessions and where I was struggling. I am a former college athlete and have dealt with numerous coaches and trainers, and I can honestly say no one has worked me out as hard as Katie did. In our 8 weeks together not only did I see amazing changes in my body, but I also saw huge changes in my mental approach to working out, and how I see myself. Not only did I find an amazing trainer when I found Katie, but I found a mentor. –Kate Coffey
Kate, I can’t tell you how amazing your testimonial made me feel or how much I enjoyed working with and getting to know you. You’re going to do great things and make a difference! -KR
When hunger strikes, be it at meal time or late-night, it’s a minute too late to plan a healthy meal. Once you’re hungry, it’s hard to make healthy decisions, especially if they take time to prepare.
For all the complicated diets out there, this one is really simple, and only relies on one ingredient. Apples.
Anytime I want something I shouldn’t eat, or it’s a time of day I shouldn’t eat (such as late at night), I eat an apple.
In my opinion, the goodness apples offer outweighs the nutritional intake, so they don’t count toward my daily calories. In researching for this blog, I actually found studies proving that the 60 calories from the apple can actually save you about 180 calories in bad decisions, such as what you’ll consume at a meal post-apple.
Put into play, here’s what my apple trick looks like:
- I’m hungry, chips are handy, but I know I should make a salad or an omelette. I eat an apple while I make the healthy option.
- I get done working out, am suddenly famished, but don’t want to undo the good I just did by stuffing my face or pulling through somewhere for a fast snack. I eat an apple.
- It’s 9:30p, I’m watching “Game of Thrones,” and somehow I get the munchies even though someone just lost his head. I eat an apple.
Apples are sweet enough to parlay a candy craving, and the fiber and water content help fill you up. I always tell myself, if I still want what I was originally craving, I can have it after the apple. Thanks to the apple, the craving either goes away, or I indulge in less of it because I’m already more full from having the apple. It’s my version of the apple-a-day concept.
You’ll never regret having an apple. Unlike many food options out there, you’ll never say, “Man, I really shouldn’t have eaten that apple.”
Need help finding the right apple? I choose my apples by smell. I stand in the produce aisle sniffing each apple until I land on the one that makes me want to take a bite.
This trick will not work with applesauce or apple juice. Go for the whole apple, skin and all.
Plan to have a washed apple ready to eat in your car, purse, desk, gym bag… anywhere. If you have a bottle of water and an apple with you at all times, you will be setup for success. Some studies have even shown apples to be fat blockers.
I hope this trick helps you the way it helps me. Apples are an easy, inexpensive way to make a good decision each day. Let that good decision lead to more!
Here I go again, making squash pie for dinner. Although, last time it was spaghetti squash, and this time it’s butternut. Totally different…
Truth…I’m a southern girl. If it’s in a pie shell, there’s a really good chance I’m going to like it. Plus, it looks fancy even though it’s really easy.
This dish is vegetarian, but carnivores should expect a hearty, complete meal with protein. Between the eggs, nuts and cheese, you’re covered. Add it to your meatless Monday rotation.
It’s also complete from a nutritional perspective, and the flavor and vehicle is family friendly.
Savory Butternut Squash Pie
- 1 frozen pie shell
- 1 bag of frozen butternut squash
- 1 handful of frozen kale
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/3 cup parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 handful of walnuts
Preheat oven to 400.
Cook onion in olive oil until golden, add garlic, stir for one minute, add squash and kale and cook until fully defrosted, remove from heat and add to pie shell.
Whisk eggs, basil and a sprinkle of each salt and pepper. Pour over mixture in shell. Top with parmesan then walnuts.
Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Just as cold months have us clambering for thick, rich foods, warmer months are all about salads and grilling. Our bodies instinctually know we don’t need as much fat when it’s warm, but we do need more hydration, and the season is ripe for beautiful fruits and vegetables.
Below is an easy salad packed with flavor and health benefits.
Grapefruit is loaded with water, fiber, vitamin C and lycopene. It helps you feel full, slim down, fight aging cells and build immunity.
Avocados are great for eyes, skin, hair, heart, good cholesterol, fighting cravings for bad fats, absorbing other nutrients…they’re even good for unborn babies.
Walnuts help with weight management, sleep, hair, heart disease, skin, preventing cancer, diabetes and dementia, and fighting off stress.
Basil has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.
Put them all together, and you get a glow-inducing meal that tastes as amazing as it is healthy.
Grapefruit, avocado salad with chicken
- 1 package of mixed greens
- 1 bunch of basil
- 1 Grapefruit
- 1 Avocado
- 1 handful of walnuts
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon
- 1 tsp jelly (I used peach, but the fruit won’t be strong enough to alter the flavor, so use what you have)
- Salt & pepper
- Torn/cut grilled or rotisserie chicken
Wash all greens (if needed) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop up grapefruit and avocado into chunks. Mix oil, vinegar, dijon and jelly. Toast walnuts in skillet or oven. Put all ingredients, including chicken, in a large bowl, toss with dressing and serve.