Core Development

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Now that I’ve already shared with you the importance of the core for strength and balance, (See Core and Balance), here are some exercises that help you build a strong core. The first exercises are easier; the last exercises are harder, for those of you will already developed cores seeking to enhance that development.

Side Plank

Side plank

An illustration of the “side plank, elbow” from Workout Box’s website.

In the side plank you position yourself on your elbow and maintain a 45 degree angle with the floor while in a sideways position. Hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds on first one side then the other. Repeat 3x on each side. For a visual illustration of the side plank, elbow and the regular plank, visit Workout Box’s core exercises page.


Regular Plank

Plank illustration

This plank is harder to hold than the side plank, elbow.

Next up is the regular plank. This is also a position in yoga. You are in the same position as if you are about to do a push-up: hands flat on the ground shoulder width apart with feet straight out. Refer to the photo for an illustration. Hold for 30-60 seconds. This plank is harder to do than the side plank, elbow and therefore requires a more developed core…or helps to develop that core more.



 Superman and Leg Raise Alternate

The Superman exercise

This is one part of the series. Called Superman because it looks like you’re flying like Superman!

This exercise strengthens your core in parts. The Superman does your lower back and the arms up leg raise does your abs. You start in the superman position and hold for 20-30 seconds, then roll over and hold its opposite, the leg raise / arm raise for 20-30 seconds. You then repeat two to three times, depending on your stamina and conditioning. Rest, then do the whole sequence again twice. Refer to the photo for an illustration and to Spark People’s Core Exercises article for a step-by-step synopsis.



Side Plank, Outstretched Arm

Side plank

This is (obviously) harder than the elbow plank.

When you master the side plank on your elbow, change to a fully outstretched arm. Instead of leaning on your elbow, you now lean on your hand. Keep everything else the same.¬† When you can hold you leg up, as in the 2nd photo, in the outstretched arm position, your core is pretty developed. Refer to Spark People’s Side Plank for step-by-step instructions.







Alternating Arm and Leg Balance

Alternate arm-leg balance

This requires some skill! This is an excellent core exercise for athletes.

This exercise requires a relatively strong core. I recommend this one if you are an athlete, or aspire to be one. Others can skip it. You start in plank, then you lift your right arm and left leg simultaneously and hold it for 10-20 seconds. Next, lift your left arm and right leg simultaneously and hold that position for 10-20 seconds. Repeat for a total of 3x. Rest. Do the whole sequence twice more. Refer to the illustration for details. For a video demonstration visit Men’s Health: 3 Things You Don’t Know About Your Core.


Core and Balance

Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Tiffany Wright kneeling on ball

Here I am balancing on an exercise ball. I finally did it! (Maybe the ball needs a little air?!)

A strong core is key to almost any athletic activity. Football, track, swimming, distance running, hockey…. and the list goes on. If you don’t have one, you can still be good at what you do…just not as good as you would be with a strong core. In football and track, a strong core enables you to pull your legs up higher and cover more ground or jump over obstacles. In swimming a strong core enables you to rotate more easily and pull from your body, reducing the focus on your shoulders. In all activities a strong core helps you stay erect and stabilized.

A strong core also helps your balance. It’s easier to stand on one leg without holding onto anything when the muscles that comprise your core engage for a period of time. The weaker your core, typically the less time you can hold your leg out. When you move to uneven surfaces or surfaces that move, like a Bosu ball (the half ball, typically blue, with they strong black plastic bottom), this really holds true. The stronger your core, the longer you can stand on the black side of a Bosu ball balancing on one leg.

As you get older, a lack of balance can become an issue. If you have allowed your muscles elsewhere to weaken and your bones to lose density, then a fall could pull a muscle or worse, break a bone. Many elderly people fall and break their hips. How many young people break their hips when they fall? Get my point? It’s the way you fall and the condition of your body when you fall. If you have a strong core, your better balance will significantly reduce the likelihood of a fall. If you do fall, your strong core will help you fall correctly, where you don’t land on and fracture your hip!

So now that I’ve impressed upon you all the reasons to have a strong core, what, you ask, is your core? Your core consists of the muscles of your abdominal wall which includes your abdominal muscles and your obliques. The latter are the muscles to the right and left side of your abs. Your core also consists of the muscles in your lower and middle back. Finally, your core consists of the muscles along your sides that connect your abs and obliques to your lower / middle back.

Check out the next post which will provide several different exercises, at various fitness levels, for strengthening your core.

The Eye-Liver Connection: Eyes as Windows to Liver Health

Monday, December 23rd, 2013
My eyes - looking yellow or cloudy.

My eyes – looking yellow or cloudy.

Look at the picture of me to the left. This is a picture of an old driver’s license photo. I scanned it with my home scanner a few years ago so it’s a little blurry. In this photo my eyes appear cloudy, a little yellow. For me, this is primarily due to the photo, but not completely. (Note, my teeth are looking reddish and my teeth have never been that color! But, you get my point.)

Your liver health is very important. The liver is what processes out the fatty wastes from your body and your blood. It removes environmental pollutants, drugs, alcohol and unsupportive fats. It is an amazing organ. It can even regrow if a portion is cut away in surgery and you support it with the proper nutrients.

If your liver is in perfect health, your eyes will be very white. That’s the eye-liver connection. I remembered reading this a few years ago, in a book about the raw food diet, online, in discussions of various liver cleansing supplements and in the myriad magazine, newspaper and newsletter articles I read. But you know how you know something conceptually as true, but it doesn’t resonate as the truth with you until later? Well, that’s what happened to me.

I fast periodically. I typically do a Master Cleansing fast 2-3 times per year and a green fast once a year, each for a 10-day period. I’m not advocating at this time that you do the same. I believe strongly in fasting but it took me 3 years to finally embrace it and do it after my sisters started fasting. So everyone comes around in their own due time.

Anyway, in 2010 I did a 10-day Master Cleansing fast, then decided to follow a heavy vegetable, non-processed foods, non-meat diet. (I’m not using the term vegetarian because many vegetarians still eat lots of unhealthy processed foods.) I read a few books on the raw food diet and a few books on the macrobiotic diet. I was already a fan of the latter because my Aunt Charlotte had introduced me to this. I decided to follow a modified — meaning, less restrictive — macrobiotic diet. I lived in Japan for 2.5 years and liked many of the Japanese foods that play a key role in this diet.

For lunch and dinner I ate a broad assortment of grains including many I’d never heard of before. Bulgar, wheat berries, rye berries, millet, quinoa, oat groats, amarinth and black rice. I mixed these in my rice cooker with brown rice. Each morning I drank a green smoothie– some type of frozen berries, a banana or avocado, flaxseed oil, spirulina, keffir or yogurt and another piece of fruit or vegetable. I ate (or drank) every 2-3 hours, 4-6 times per day, which is my usual.

I had 8 – 12 servings of vegetables each and every day. I did eat organic eggs and meat and wild caught fish several times a week. I ate no pasta, bread or boxed cereal. I did eat oatmeal, usually steel cut. About once every 2-3 weeks I went to Fellini’s and had pizza and to The Flying Biscuit and got a biscuit and egg sandwich. Both restaurants use fresh, unbleached ingredients. So I wasn’t a saint but I was diligent. If I wanted candy, I ate some dark chocolate and raw nuts. I followed this way of eating from April through December.

Notice how white my nephew's eyes are. Mine were just like this!

Notice how white my nephew’s eyes are. Mine were just like this!

One day during the summer — in July I believe — I looked in the mirror and my eyes caught my attention. I did a double take. My eyes were soooo white!! I had never paid the whites of my eyes much attention but the whites of my eyes were so white I guess I couldn’t help but notice. It was amazing!

That’s when I remembered what I’d read about the connection between the eyes and the liver. Cleanse the liver and you will clear up your eyes and even improve your vision. An unhealthy liver is directly reflected in the clarity of the whiteness of your eyes. You do NOT have to have a diagnosable illness to have cloudy eyes. However, if your eyes are yellow, run, do not walk, to your physician. You may have jaundice which can be a symptom of a liver ailment or disease.

I can now see how the foods I eat impact my eyes and how my eyes tell the story of my liver health. When I eat sweets — cookies, pastries — or lots of breads (processed foods, in other words), no matter how organic the ingredients, my eyes get less clear. But if I eat clean for five or more consecutive days, they get really white again. I think it’s a beautiful thing that I now have this knowledge and understand the direct connection between my liver and my eyes. Although I pay attention to what’s going on internally, my eyes tell the story of my liver much faster and clearer.

So remember the eye-liver connection: An optimally functioning healthy liver = very white eyes!