A strong core is highly sought after in American life. When you think of that phrase, what images come to your mind? A “six-pack,” a stomach that could take a punch, a belly that looks like you could wash laundry on it? That’s nice, but there’s something even better. Do we need to create stronger core muscles in our bodies? Absolutely – that will fend off back pain, knee problems, and neck soreness. But you don’t need your belly to look ripped in order to have a strong core. Even after I had my second child and my stomach muscles had been stretched through pregnancy twice, you can’t actually see the core muscles I’ve regained and rehabbed, but they are there under a layer of a soft space around my navel where my kids can now lay their heads when we watch television, do yoga, or read a book together.
A strong lifestyle core is what keeps me able to access fitness. And that works in reverse, as well. When I can maintain a functionally fit body I am better able to connect to my favorite things in my life.
Here is my “six-pack” for a strong core:
- Functional fitness: I have to be able to move my body pain-free throughout my day of admin, working out, sales, teaching, cooking, and driving/playing with my children.
- Family: Everyone in my family – from second cousins to my husband, and in-laws to my soon-to-be sister-in-law – is important to me. We may not always get along. There are periods of time when I love them, but I don’t like them (sorry y’all). This is a bond that is set deep within me and brings a tremendous amount of joy and warmth. Luckily, most of the time I really like them AND love them.
- Friends: There’s something that is a significant threat to those of us who dedicate a very large amount of time to work and family…losing time with your friends. Unfortunately, this often sinks to the bottom of list, after obligations to work and family. Even if I can only get this once in a while the amount of joy that I experience from a few hours with my friends is immeasurable. A date with friends can turn a cloudy day sunny.
- Freedom: This is an American thing. It is important to me and I can’t imagine life without it.
- Financial Security: This is something that I am wrestling with right now. Unfortunately, I was a late bloomer in the category of budgeting (for my parents’ generation this was sometimes referred to as “balancing a checkbook”). Finances follow the same economy as eating and exercising – you have to keep track of nourishment (cash) entering and energy spent (spending) going out. Have you ever found yourself “suddenly” dehydrated? That means that you weren’t bringing in enough water and electrolytes to replace what your body used up. But it doesn’t usually happen suddenly and neither does debt. It took me 3 years of graduate school and a handful of credit cards over that time period to accrue significant debt. Getting my finances back in order and paying down debt takes a long time, but at least I’m on the road back to financial fitness (the peace of mind for myself and my children’s future is worth it!).
- Fill in the blank: Some wiggle time to be spontaneous. Maybe the family feels like playing charades, maybe a friend needs a hand with something, or maybe one of the children gets sick. I used to pack my schedule so full of productivity (and I still fall into this trap sometimes) that I had no “wiggle room for spontaneity.” But I want to leave those extra few minutes in the morning in case one of my kids says something really funny and we need time for a good belly laugh before we leave for school.