Fall Fitness: Getting To The Core

Fall Fitness: Getting To The Core

What does it really take to go from "fit" to "buff"?

If you watch weekend infomercials, somewhere in the neighborhood of three easy payments of $39.95 and as little as ten minutes per day.  Just pick up the phone and call - NOW!

Despite the passive-aggressive sales pitch, I'm pretty sure those buff models were already buff before they even heard of whatever-the-hell-is-being-advertised.  If it really only took ten minutes - the amount of time I've agonized over my opening sentence - wouldn't everyone look like a Hollywood Superstar?

There has to be something out there that isn't a gimmick.

Rather than search the Interwebs for DVDs or the latest, greatest, destined-to-be-a-very-expensive-clothes-hanger-in-the-basement piece of fitness equipment, I tried something completely different.

I went to the library.

I knew what I didn't want.  No more follow-along instructional videos for me.   The last time I tried one,  the Yoga lady / contortionist barked commands so quickly I ended up knotted like a pretzel on the floor in front of the TV.  It's hard to dial 9-1-1 from the downward child / angry warrior dog pose...

I also wanted to avoid anything that called for a specialized piece of equipment.  I already have an entire YMCA's worth of the latest weight machines, free weights, and cardio equipment at my disposal.  If I can avoid paying one of their trainers to show me how to use each piece, even better.

As a cyclist, I get more than my share of cardio with quite a bit of lower body conditioning thrown in.  From the waist up, however, not much is required to keep a bike moving forward.  That's one of the reasons cyclists snap collarbones like Chinese take-out chopsticks whenever they fall.

My goals for the off-season are fairly straightforward.  I would like improved flexibility, better balance (I fall over trying to put on a pair of socks), stronger abs, and greater upper body strength.  I found a message that addressed all my needs in Mark Verstegen's book, Core Performance.

Without spoiling the ending of this suspense filled, page turning tome, the key to fitness is core strength.  By activating and strengthening the muscles from your shoulders to your abs and your back to your hips - your core - you can improve your flexibility and increase your strength.  Rather than just working the larger muscle groups in a targeted manner (as is common in most weight training programs), Core Performance focuses on smaller muscles working in conjunction with one another.

In summary, the objective is to "craft a more functional body that's leaner, stronger, and more explosive."

The book is an easy read, explaining the reasons why you need to focus on your core while giving real world examples of the professional athletes Mark has trained with this program.  It also has great instructions (with pictures!) for each of the suggested exercises.  With a day-by-day program to follow, once you familiarize yourself with each exercise, you have everything necessary to get started.

It's time for me to set my specific goals and get with the program.  I'm pretty confident that this is the right approach for a cyclist looking to go from fit to buff in the off-season.   Only time will tell if I can execute this with the proper level of enthusiasm and dedication.

The book starts with asking you to sign a pledge, honestly evaluate your current level of fitness, and set personal goals.  Putting it all in writing for yourself may very well be the hardest part to getting started.

My first goal will probably be the most difficult; do not overeat on Thanksgiving!

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