Your Core: Much more than abs
Note: this article is one of three weekly documents that our members get access to. Each and every week they get the opportunity to learn and evolve with their Physical Fitness piece which focuses on various areas of knowledge and guidance for the physical body; their Emotional Fitness piece which delves into ways we can grow and improve our emotional/mental health; and their three workouts for their chosen distance/pace program. These three articles are just one of the many benefits of being an RC member. Want in? Make sure to join us next time we open registration for a limited time: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/TNKYAiO
So what IS your core if it’s not your abs?
Your “core” is literally that - the CORE of your body - the center, the foundation, the powerhouse of your musculature. Everything stems from your core. It’s everything from your shoulders, down to your hips and everything in between: your shoulders, chest, back, abs and pelvis. (Speaking of ab muscles - did you know that you have several layers and FOUR different ones?). Your core is also the stemming point for your arms and legs, meaning, without a strong core, they suffer as well.
Understanding what your core actually is, gives you the knowledge you need to improve it. And that’s important because a strong core:
Ready to build a stronger core? Here are 6 of my personal favorite body-weight exercises to target your core (including links to short how-to videos if you’re not sure what the exercise is). Note: these do not include sit-ups of any kind not only because they have been linked with spinal micro-fractures, many people cannot perform them with good form which can cause injuries such as the ones just noted, and they also increase strength in a non-athletic way. There are far safer and more effective exercises out there like these ones:
This week’s emotional fitness is a brief conversation around knowing our shadow selves. This topic is much deeper than we can get into in one blog post, and it’s individual to each person. Our purpose here is just to take a small step into our shadow self and ask ourselves if we know her/him and how it may manifest itself in our health and relationships.
Our shadow self is something we all have - every one of us. This is part of being human. When we know our own shadow characteristics, (or at least some of them) we can identify “ourselves” and where we might want to go deeper. Understanding ourselves takes a lot more practice (tons) than this one brief look within . Our goal at RUNClub is giving up offerings to knowing oneself, so we can be healthier and to continue to grow and expand in becoming our healthiest selves. Keeping in mind, this is not about perfectionism (which is impossible) or suppressing emotions (not healthy). It is, however, about knowing what are our own shadow tendencies, and being able to manage them so that we lessen negative consequences (and thus improve our health and happiness). This exploration may include laughter and humour too. When we see ourselves, we can also find the humour in our humanity and continue to work through the multitude of layers we ALL are (we are incredible beings!).
The key goal at RUNclub is healthy living. Becoming aware of our shadow self, assists us in our journey of healing and becoming healthier in our lives. To integrate an inner quality is to take ownership and responsibility for it, rather than rejecting, projecting onto others or denying it. The benefits are enormous: less anxiety, healing, greater compassion, calmness, understanding, and wholeness are all to be found in integration.
Some of the ways our shadow self ‘may’ show up:
Being opinionated, defensive, resisting change, self-sabotage, not believing in yourself (limiting beliefs), isolating behavior, illness, fatigue, poor health, not finding your true self (who you really are), wearing a continuous mask, repetitive thinking, repeating patterns in relationships, apathy etc.
It’s easy to want to run away from the darker parts of ourselves or to ignore them completely. But just as fighting your less-than-ideal emotions does more harm than good, so does not embracing your shadow side.
Not owning who we are—good and bad—is harmful to our health. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that participants who accept, rather than judge, their mental experiences may attain better psychological health. The reason: accepting our emotional imperfections makes them feel less detrimental and all-consuming. You might not be 100 percent happy about them, but, with acceptance, you can learn to manage how they affect you.
The Flip Side of Your Shadow Side (sometimes called your dark side):
A key to embracing your shadow side: Knowing that every dark side has a light side. When we accept the traits we might not love, that’s when that light side can shine through. When we truly know ourselves, we can have much more freedom and vibrant health (peace).
Some of the ways we can explore our shadow selves more deeply:
When we practice together we are better together. Thank you for being open and willing to practice in all forms ( physical, emotional, spiritual and mental fitness). When we change ourselves for the better, we can change the world for the better. Health truly is wealth.
Breathwork: why oxygen is our life
What does that mean?
When you focus on your breath and breathe deeply, you are activating your parasympathetic nervous system - the system in your body in charge of slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure - which helps create a feeling of calm.
Most of the time, especially in our North American culture, there is another system in our body that rules the roost more often than not: our fight or flight system (our sympathetic nervous system). This important physiological system directs our body’s rapid and involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations. It causes a flash of hormones to boost our body’s alertness by increasing blood flood and sending our heart rate soaring. While we don’t often have to outrun a predator like our ancestors did, our fight or flight response still kicks in big time in our day to day - when we have a close call in traffic; when we receive a bill in the mail that we aren’t sure how we are going to pay; when someone makes us angry and we feel we need to protect ourselves; when we have an impending deadline or too many things on the “to do” list for the day; when someone we love gets sick or hurt. There are any number of reasons that make our pulse race and our adrenaline kick-in. Add caffeine on top of all of this - which causes increased heart rate and blood flow - mimicking the products of our fight or flight response - and without realizing it, we can live in this state for hours, days and weeks at a time without much calm.
Think of a time in which you felt anger, frustration, anxiety or worry. How did your body feel? For this coach, I have learned exactly how my body responds. My body becomes tense, my shoulders and jaw rigid. Chills set in, followed by a headache and dehydration. I stop breathing deeply.
Now think back to a time you felt peaceful. Maybe it was sitting on a beach listening to the waves. Maybe it was watching your kids play or walking and talking with a friend or partner. Perhaps it was while you were on your own in nature, or listening to a favorite song. When you think of that moment, notice your breathing. Has it slowed? Does your body feel more relaxed? Your mind more at ease?
When we stop breathing deeply, our LIFE suffers. So do our relationships, work, and joy. When we pause, focus on breathing deeply and bring attention inward to what we are experiencing - we can see more clearly and respond in a healthier manner.
By learning to practice breathing, and to focus on it in times of turbulence, anxiety, worry, stress, fear etc., we gain the power to respond better, to BE better, to LIVE better. We gain the ability to choose calm over fear, peace over panic, acceptance over judgement, openness over defense. And this is a PRACTICE - as all things are at RUNClub. Just like we must commit to our playwork in order to see improvement in our running, we must commit to practicing our breathing in order to grow and learn. And we will not be perfect at it - any of us. But committing ourselves to the PRACTICE is what changes everything and you are here because you are committed. You already get this. You are practicing and growing and we are so proud of you.
As we head into this new week, let’s continue to practice together, specifically, our breath. A few suggestions for practice:
When we learn to control our breathing, our lives are better. And when we practice together we are better together. Thank you for being open and willing to practice - when we change ourselves for the better, we can change the world for the better. (There’s a lot of “betterness”).
Why is the ‘ nuance of language’ so important at RUNClub? So many reasons. The most important is to truly study ( together) how our language creates health or disease in ourselves and in our relationships ( all of them). Yes, language “ IS” us and language “IS” life.
Learning about ourselves (or better yet, unlearning) gives us an outstanding opportunity to shift into healthier places. This learning (and unlearning) never stops in our lifetime. Communication is an acquired skill and a huge part of the puzzle to our outer landscape. Our language reveals to us two things: Why our lives are working and/or why they are NOT. RUNClub tribe, you are open to all the deep dives that can make a difference for ourselves as individuals; as a community and as osmosis out to our friends, families, coworkers, and the world. Here we can spend time in our emotional landscape to make a big difference in our health and the health of others.
We all have the capability to exhibit language that vibrates at the highest frequency. By ‘practicing’ reliably and consistently this ‘human skill’ of language changes everything. Just like some of us can barely make toast and others have perfected crème brûlée, there is a vast continuum of knowledge and mastery over language (and body language as well). Shall we keep leaning into the Creme Brulee of healthy living? I say YES!
Gentle reminder: Our emotional fitness is not about criticizing ourselves, or each other (ever). This is a safe place for us to “move” into healthier realms, explore, learn and grow to enhance our health and wellbeing. Becoming more & more ‘awake’ is a super fun, playful and wonderful way to live. Here are a few suggestions for this week's emotional fitness playwork.
Now all of this being said, an important question: are we all perfect in the nuances and behaviours of language? Answer - uh, no ! We are human. We slip, slide and slip again. Our goal together is to slip, slide less and less through “practice”, watch all the magic and miracles that happen in our lives. The goal: more health, more happiness, more calm, more peace and living a big healthy juicy life! We are BETTERTOGETHER. Thank you for practicing together ! See you INSIDE the HUB - our place to connect, share, learn and grow.
-- Love, Coach Jo
Happy New Year amazing tribe!
2019 - WOW.
Don't you just love the start of a New Year? No matter what has happened over the last twelve months, what might be currently going on or what you're anticipating in the near future, January 1st always feels like a break, a fresh start and the chance to move forward into a new season.
It's an easy time to feel motivated and inspired to make changes, meet goals, and achieve new things. The trouble is, for most of us, that inspiration seems to wane a few weeks into the New Year. We start to encounter challenges, stresses, unexpected changes and bumps in the road; we lose some of our gumption and decide it's easier to stay where we are than let things get messy for a bit while we work through the challenges.
So knowing that this is all pretty inevitable, what do we do?
There are many people wiser than us to look to for guidance and tools for this, but we want to suggest two things: one that we are borrowing from one of those wiser than us people, and one of our own.
One: we agree with Brene Brown and suggest you "lean into the discomfort of the work." Know that things are going to be hard at times, that it will be messy and uncomfortable at others, but that at the end, if you are willing to work through it, you'll come out stronger, wiser, and better than you were before. Plus, when we lean into the discomfort, it actually makes it easier to deal with. (Disclaimer: this does NOT apply to injury or significant pain while running.)
Two: we believe you should move through it. Yes - this sounds a lot like what Brene suggests, but we mean physically. Moving your body is one of the best things that you can do to handle anything that comes your way. Running can literally change you not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. It releases those amazing happy pill endorphins; strengthens your body which in turns increases your confidence and makes your mentally stronger; and gives you access to an incredible supportive and understanding community of like-minded people who have your back in running and in life.
Movement is Change, and whether you already know this to be true or whether you have yet to experience it for yourself, we invite you to join us this year, however often you can, to lean into all the year will bring - the good and the bad - and to run/walk through it, so that at the end of this year we can be proud of all we have accomplished and who we have become, individually and together.
We can't wait to see you this year and to see you become more of who you are meant to be. We will be here for you every step of the way.
~ Your RUNClub team
Your RUNClub team - founder, coaches and guest writers!