Until recently, I thought “core” meant the center of an apple. I certainly never identified it as a part of my anatomy. But evidently, I too have a “core.” And boy, did it need work.
I’ve never jumped on new exercise fads. I know my limits. I’ve always been far too clumsy for the fancy footwork of kickboxing, aerobics or dance. Instead I stuck to cycling class and weights, which kept me strapped in or safely planted on the ground. It turns out, however, that my clumsiness is partly the result of a flimsy core. Simply put, the core encompasses the abdominal, back, pelvic and hip muscles that provide stability and balance. They can be weakened by underuse, aging and, certainly in my case, pregnancy.
My fitness-instructor friend, Lauretta, recommended suspension training. Designed to strengthen core muscles, this class looked like circus school: people were hanging in all sorts of tortuous positions–pikes, pull-ups, lunges and worse. They had their hands and/or feet in long straps clipped to the ceiling and were using gravity and body weight for resistance. Yikes.
I was terrified, but enrolled anyway, certain I’d topple over once I got in the straps. And that’s exactly what happened. But I got up, and spent the next two months holding the wall for balance. I also couldn’t keep myself in the plank position for more than five seconds, much less do a push up while down there. It was brutal.
Little by little, all that’s changed. Nearly a year—and a river of sweat–later, I can keep up with the class. I’ve moved off the wall, I rarely fall—and suspension training is my absolute favorite exercise. I’m still a long way from six-pack abs, but I’ve new balance and strength in and out of the gym.
Of course, the final piece of the puzzle is eating the right foods. I don’t want to undo all my hard work, so I seek out fitness-friendly snacks that are low in fat and healthful. Popcorn is a great post-workout choice. It’s a whole grain food that adds fiber to my diet—and there are plenty of ways to keep it lean, like this yummy chili lime recipe. Who knows? There may be six-pack abs in my future after all.
Chili Lime Popcorn Snack Mix
Yield: 1 quart
- 1 quart popped popcorn
- 1 teaspoon brewer’s yeast powder (or nutritional yeast; available in health food stores)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 300° F.
- Spread popcorn on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle yeast powder, lime juice, chili powder and salt over popcorn.
- Heat about 7 minutes and toss just before serving. Serve warm.