COVID-19 forced a lot of people into unbalanced eating and fitness habits. Stay-at-home orders and closed gyms resulted in many people losing their fitness resources and putting on excess weight.
Burning the weight from your stomach and toning your core is not out of reach – but it will require a renewed way of thinking, discipline and changes to your fitness and diet practices.
The core of your body starts at the torso area and ends at the pelvic floor.
“We need to look at the mindset first and grasp what it means to strengthen the core,” said Deviny Mo, general manager of UCLA Health Sports Performance, Powered by Exos. “When you talk about toning the core, or any other part of your body, it is really about changing your mindset and then gradually changing your body composition.”
Mo says people who want to strengthen their core should focus on adjusting their lifestyle over the long run, as opposed to doing a six-week plan or an eight-week plan.
“Going on a diet to quickly lose weight is not ideal because the chances are once you achieve your goal, you’ll end up gaining the weight back,” said Mo. “Generally, if we adjust and make fitness and nutrition a permanent part of our lifestyle, then you’re going to see sustained results in the long term.”
A strong core is supported by proper nutrition
Many people head to the gym set on hardcore cardio sessions and thousands of sit-ups, only to find they are having a hard time attaining the results they want due to unsustainable eating habits.
Developing a strong core begins with a healthy diet. A high-fat diet and exercise do not mix well. Eating foods high in fat, sodium, or sugar can hinder desired results despite a consistent gym regimen.
Healthy eating, paired with consistent exercise, will often give you the results you are looking for.
“There’s no secret sauce to it. Eat your fruits and vegetables, color your plate, and don’t be afraid to eat the carbs that grow from the ground such as rice and whole grains,” Mo said.
Potatoes are another good source of carbohydrates. Mo encourages people to embrace carbs while training because carbs provide the energy you need to successfully complete your workouts. In addition, it is important to drink plenty of water and consume a healthy portion of lean protein.
What workouts are best for strengthening the core?
There are hundreds of core workouts and if you are just starting out, trying to incorporate all of them will overwhelm you. The biggest mistake a lot of people make is starting with expert-level ab workouts without progressively going through the proper core strengthening techniques to perform those exercises.
The best way to approach a new workout regimen is to ease into it. Start with two or three core exercises that you can become accustomed to over several weeks. Once you have mastered those, you can add another two or three to your repertoire.
Mo suggested trying the following core strengthening exercises as a way to segue into your fitness journey. It is best if you do these with a certified fitness expert to ensure proper form and to protect yourself from injuries.
8-minute core strengthening circuit
(Do each exercise for 30 seconds, and repeat for four rounds)
Plank Rotations - 30 seconds
Begin on your stomach and use your arms to push yourself up into a push-up position. Rotate your body by lifting your left hand out and then toward the ceiling while using your right hand to balance and sustain you. Bring your left arm back and then rotate to the opposite side, raising your right hand.
Dead Bugs - 30 seconds
Lying on your back, raise your arms toward the ceiling and bring your knees and hip up at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your left arm toward your head and extend your right leg, stopping both just before they hit the ground. Bring them back to the starting position and then do the same with the right arm and left leg.
Mountain Climbers - 30 seconds
Like plank rotations, you want to get into a push-up position. Slightly arch your back and bring your legs underneath your hips. With your hands still on the ground, begin to alternate each leg as if you are running in place.
Alternating Leg Lower - 30 seconds
Lay on your back and lift both legs straight into the air. Keep both arms on the floor, at your side. Slowly lower your left leg and then bring it back to the starting position. Then do the same with the right leg. Repeat with both legs.
Developing a plan and finding an expert to help
Getting your body into a rhythm for fitness and a regimented diet takes time. It also takes the guidance of fitness and nutrition experts. Even the top athletes in the world have trainers to help them achieve the best results.
Whether you’re walking into a gym for the first time or you’re a seven-days-a-week fitness enthusiast, you will achieve your best results with a certified fitness professional coaching you.
“Having a fitness plan is key, so you can make diet and exercise into a pattern you do every day,” Mo said. “If you fail to put a plan together, it will be hard for you to develop a healthy pattern.”
If you would like to learn more about starting your fitness journey or are looking for a certified fitness coach to help, visit UCLA Health Sports Performance, Powered by Exos.