5 Signs Your Core is Weak – And What You Should Do About It!

A strong, healthy core isn’t marked by chiseled abs or a thin waist- in fact, the abdominal muscles are just a small part of a much larger system. The muscles in your back, your glutes, trunk, and stomach all work together to keep your spine safe and your movements effective. If any of the following phenomena ring true for you, it’s likely that your core is weak and it’s time to get serious about strengthening those muscles – properly.

(If you are looking for a program right here in Portsmouth, NH that teaches you how to strengthen your core the right way- then be sure to check out our Pilates 101 programs by clicking here.)

1. Your Back Hurts

The most common side effect of a weak core is back pain, and yet most people still don’t consider core strengthening as a way to address those problems. Your core’s job is to support your spine and act as the center from which all movement stems. If those muscles are not properly conditioned – meaning, if they aren’t conditioned to engage when they are supposed to – your spine is at risk for damage, and muscular strain and tension is inevitable. The pain will most likely occur in your lower back, but can even occur in your neck, and can make simple tasks like bending, lifting, and walking totally miserable for you.

2. You Have Poor Balance

This may not be an obvious one – but one of the main culprits to poor balance is a weak core!  Your core muscles help to stabilize your pelvis and a stable pelvis allows you to have better balance.  If the muscles around your pelvis, particularly your glutes, are weak then your balance will undoubtedly be affected. This may not be an issue that you notice.  In fact, you may be so used to living with a weak core that you’re just accustomed to imbalance, and can compensate for it with other muscle and strategies.  But next time you’re walking across an icy driveway, you’re going to wish that your balance was at 100%.  Having a strong, coordinated, and engaged core helps your body to be able to quickly react to balance challenges, and keeps you from falling or hurting yourself!  If you continue to rely on compensation strategies for good balance, eventually they fail – so taking some time to properly strengthen your core is key.

3. You Always Slouch

Most people struggle to maintain good posture when they have a weak core. It’s so easy to slouch, you may not even realize you’re doing it until you start being mindful of your body.  Observe your posture right now. Are your shoulders rolled forward? Is your back missing its natural inward curve through the spine? When you adjust your posture, does it feel difficult or tiresome to maintain? If so, your core needs strengthening!  A lot of people will argue that core strength has nothing to do with your posture.  But here’s the thing, a strong core won’t preventyou from having poor posture, but poor posture will actually start to feel uncomfortable for you and less “natural” when your core is strong, conditioned, and naturally engaged.

4. You’re always “tweaking” or “straining” something

Because of the popularity and marketability of workouts that claim to give you six pack abs or amazing glutes, we sometimes forget that without a true, strong core – these workouts won’t be possible!  Eventually, your body will break down because it doesn’t have a strong foundation (your core!). Every activity, from throwing a ball for your dog to climbing stairs, is affected by the strength or weakness of your core. If you have a weak core, you’re more likely to strain muscles in your arms and legs.  I’ve actually seen a lot of knee and elbow problems that relate back to weakness in the core. If you feel like you exercise all the time but don’t seem to actually be getting stronger (aka – you keep tweaking or injuring yourself), then there is a very good chance that your core is weak!

5. You Dread Planks or Push ups

Both planks and push-ups are a great test of your core strength. A lot of people think of these more as arm exercises – but here’s a little hint – if you feel like all you are doing is strengthening your arms with these moves – then you definitely aren’t engaging your core!  If you’re still unsure as to how much work you need to put into building core strength, try holding a plank while taking 10 full deep breaths.  You should be able to maintain your plank for all the breaths without letting your back arch and certainly without feeling any back pain or tension.  If you can’t, don’t feel bad- it just means you have the opportunity to get stronger!

Even if you can hold the plank, you’re in great shape, and you never have back pain, core strengthening is still important. But odds are you’re like the rest of us, and do experience at least one of these signs of a weak core. Don’t worry! There are tons of ways to engage those muscles consistently and build strength. Our personal favorite is Pilates! Pilates is a movement system designed specifically to strengthen the whole body, starting with the core. It promotes spine health and has helped relieve a lot of back pain for many of our clients! In fact, we’re reopening our signature Pilates 101 program in January 2018. If you’re anywhere near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and want to learn more about the program, click here. Spaces are limited in order to provide each participant the personalized attention and instruction they deserve, so don’t miss your chance to sign up! We’d love to see you!

A Pilates First-timer? You’re not Alone!

Our blog post this week comes from one of our newest team members! She tried one of our Pilates classes for the very first time and decided to write about her experience…

My name is Jenna and I’ve just begun working at CJ Physical Therapy and Wellness. This is honestly my dream job… helping people enjoy their lives without pain definitely doesn’t feel like work! I was already ecstatic to be working here, but I was even happier when my new team told me that I could drop into one of our Tower Training Pilates classes. I was able to join the group as a first-timer, with no previous experience whatsoever, and I’d love to share my experience!

Let me start with how my morning went. It was a beautiful Monday and I had planned everything to the T. I was just about to leave home when I spilled my coffee all over my clothes, my outfit to change into, and my shoes! So, I had to rush to clean up and still get to the studio on time. Needless to say, by the time I arrived I was a little flustered. (Coffee had betrayed me!) But right when I walked through the door. I was greeted by the amazing Bodie, one of the sweetest pups I know. The combination of Bodie and the gentle fragrance of essential oil and overall ambience of the office is always immediately relaxing. By the time I was on my blue mat in the studio, I was so excited to get moving!

The first thing I noticed was that the exercises were incredibly simple. Our Pilates instructor, Jen, explained everything as we went along, stopping beside each of us during repetitions to help us with form – and the form is the tricky part. I immediately realized that the seemingly easy exercises were so much more than they looked. I need to work on my balance and posture. At one point Jen called me out on the tension in my shoulders, and when I focused on relieving it I noticed she was spot on! We get so used to moving and holding our bodies a certain way that the issues are almost unnoticeable to us – until it wreaks havoc on our spine, nerves, and ligaments (or until someone amazing notices for you!). Bringing awareness to my movements and muscles made for an amazing workout, and I walked out of the studio refreshed, invigorated and relaxed!

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty fit. I’ve worked in labor-intensive jobs and enjoy hiking, going to the gym, and walking my dog. I eat as well as I can and drink lots of water. With all of this, and how passionate I am about self care, it’s exciting to see that there are other things I can do. The most important thing I’ve learned, even just from this one class, is that it’s important to move your body – but it’s an entirely different thing to know your body. And frankly, I can’t wait to get to know myself more!

If you’d like to learn more about our small group Pilates training classes, conveniently located here in Portsmouth, NH, just click right here. We welcome all levels, and love introducing beginners like Jenna to the wonderful world of Pilates!

Physical Therapy and Pilates: The Perfect Pair

We all know the joke: Patient: “When I go like this my arm hurts.” To which the doctor responds: “Well, don’t do that!” With physical therapy, just “not moving” is never an option. Instead of telling the individual in this scenario to avoid the movement altogether, I would say, “let’s do it differently.”

People have muscle and skeletal pain most often because of one or more stressors occurring in joints or muscles. When I treat a patient, I am often working to help them change the mechanics of their movement and therefore decrease or eliminate the stressors. It’s one of the main reasons why I incorporate Pilates into my treatments. It’s also why most of my patients will tell you that it is often difficult to tell where physical therapy leaves off and fitness exercises begin. And that’s precisely the way it should be.

Pilates teaches correct movement throughout the whole body. Each exercise is carefully designed to direct and reinforce the way in which a healthy musculoskeletal system should function. By practicing Pilates, you are strengthening your muscles correctly in a way that is conducive to all forms of exercise, as well as improving posture and balance. It’s a really great supplement to physical therapy because as you’re retraining or rehabilitating a specific part of your body, you have the opportunity to match that progress holistically.

Pilates-based physical therapy is excellent for those at any age who want to start an exercise program, but might be afraid of injury or pain. We offer a range of classes right out of our physical therapy practice in Portsmouth, which gives you the opportunity to combine your rehabilitation sessions with some therapeutic, strength building exercise for the whole body. Our group classes are geared towards beginners- no experience necessary! And if you’re interested, but don’t want to make a commitment, no worries. Your first class with us is totally FREE.

Want to learn more? You can check out all our class offerings and even sign up right here! We’d love to have you start your Pilates journey with us.