Do you know that there is a part of you that is ‘unemployed’? It is my best revelation concerning exercising with RA and I am eager to share it with you…As an RA sufferer of 32 years my focus has naturally been on my joints and muscles. When they hurt they get your attention! In the process I kind of lost sight of the rest of my body. On the 18th May 2012 I have been doing Pilates for one year. Pilates focusses on controlled movement from A STRONG CORE. The word ‘core’ was not on my radar screen and what a revelation it has been for me!
For the past thirty two years I have been trying to exercise my RA body but I never had any real success, I now understand it was because I was focussing on the wrong parts of me. My focus was on moving my arms & legs. I usually exercise in water and for me exercise = movement. As long as I was moving I thought I was exercising. But I was exercising in an unbalanced way and that leads to injuries. At last I have been delivered from mindless exercise.
Gary, my Pilates instructor, has taught me that THE STARTING PLACE OF ALL MOVEMENT SHOULD BE THE CORE. For those of you who are as ignorant as I was, your CORE = your ABDOMEN, LOWER & UPPER BACK, HIPS, BUTTOCKS & INNER THIGHS. For the more technically minded I found an impressive list:
- Rectus Abdominis – located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the “six-pack” due to it’s appearance in fit and thin individuals.
- Erector Spinae- This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
- Multifidus – located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
- External Obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen.
- Internal Obliques – located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
- Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
- Hip Flexors – located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, sartorius
- Gluteus medius and minimus – located at the side of the hip
- Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis – located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
- Hip adductors – located at medial thigh.
Your core is also called your POWERHOUSE. This is good news for those with a healthy body but for RA sufferers this is the best news ever!!! I discovered that I could use a part of me that didn’t hurt! I was so shocked and excited that I began referring to my core as ‘the Unemployed’ it was a part of me that I had never used to help me exercise. What a discovery. It has changed EVERYTHING about exercising for me.
You definitely need one-on-one training from a good Pilates trainer to understand what the core is all about. When speaking to friends about the core they tend to point vaguely to their tummies/belly button but it is SO much more. Pilates is the best investment I have ever made in my health. For the first time I believe that I can grow older and get stronger. I am pleased to say that ‘the Unemployed’ is now ‘Employed’ and as it gets stronger so my strength and quality of life improves. Here are just a few benefits of a strong core:
A STRONG CORE REDUCES BACK PAIN – many people have sore backs because of weak and unbalanced core muscles. Even if you have degeneration of the spine you can help your situation a lot by strengthening the muscles to support the damaged joints.
A STRONG CORE HELPS YOU EXERCISE/PERFORM BETTER – my arms just float up and power is transferred to them when my spine is stabilized. I have learnt that all powerful movements originate from the centre of the body outwards, and never from the arms and legs alone. Athletes and dancers all know the importance of a strong core. My mission is to make RA sufferers aware that their core strength is their secret weapon to a stronger more flexible body. You CAN EXERCISE when you get the right help.
A STRONG CORE IMPROVES YOUR POSTURE – friends are constantly making comments over my improved posture. When I leave my Pilates class I walk taller and feel a million dollars!
More next time….