Monday Medical: Core training is essential

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Now that spring weather finally has arrived in the Yampa Valley, thoughts turn to spring activities such as biking, hiking and running.

“Getting fit for spring sports is essential,” occupational therapist Marty Melland said. “You want to condition yourself in order to avoid injury.”

Spring into Fitness

In May, SportsMed will offer a series of Spring into Fitness classes. The first class starts May 6 and will be taught by occupational therapist Marty Melland and physical therapist Dave Grinnell. The class will feature indoor and outdoor stretching, cardio machines, core stability exercises, weight training and balance and stability activities. The class will run for five weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at SportsMed in Yampa Valley Medical Center. The cost of the class is $100. To sign up, call SportsMed at 970-871-2370.

Monday Medical

Monday Medical columns publish weekly in the Steamboat Today's Yampa Valley Health section. Read more columns here.

One way to improve your fitness for spring sports is to train your core.

Jen Kerr, physical therapist at SportsMed, defines the core as the muscles that attach to the spine, shoulder girdle and pelvis that provide the necessary stability to hold your body upright with good posture.

“The core is the link between the upper and lower body. It provides the transfer of energy between the two halves. Core muscles include abdominals, hip flexors and rotators, gluteals, shoulder and back muscle,” Kerr said.

Core strength can be defined as the ability to achieve and maintain alignment of the middle of the body during movement in order to enhance the efficiency of limbs farther from the middle.

Kerr explains that it is basic physics. The musculoskeletal system works as an arrangement of levers. The fulcrums of these levers must be stabilized by muscle for proper force generation. Basically, this means that if you have a stable core foundation, the arms and legs are stronger.

In a previous Monday Medical column, Kerr wrote about the dynamics of core training:

How will it help your running and biking? If you think about running, it is actually the act of falling forward and catching yourself with each step. In terms of stability, you are asking your muscles to stabilize the body over a single, narrow point of contact (the foot) approximately 150 times per minute. It’s no wonder that as core strength decreases, running form gets sloppy.

During biking, strong abdominal muscles transfer power from handlebars to pedals during uphill climbs. The core controls the small movement adjustments necessary to maintain balance during technical descents.

Injury avoidance is another benefit of core training. For example, knee pain is something that is common to bikers, runners and many other athletes. Many forms of knee pain are the result of poor alignment of the knee over the foot during a running stride or pedal stroke. Strengthening the muscles of the hip and buttocks can help maintain this proper alignment and reduce stress on the knee joint.

When should you do core training? Core training should be a complement to your exercise program. It should be included in all phases of training: base, build, taper and peak. A 10- to 15-minute aerobic warm-up of walking, jogging or biking should be performed before doing a core workout.

Exercises should start easily and slowly with a focus on form and breathing. Many people make the mistake of doing exercises that are too difficult for their current strength level at the expense of good form. This not only reinforces poor muscle substitution patterns but also can contribute to injury.

Core strength exercise come in many flavors — Pilates, yoga or less traditional methods. Pick the form that you enjoy and find challenging and get to it. You might just find that extra spring in your step or power in your pedal with a lot less effort.

Rosie Kern, MA, is the marketing and communications manager for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at rosie.kern@yvmc.org. Information for this column came from a previous article by Jen Kerr that was published by Steamboat Today in 2006.

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