I have said before that one of the best things about doing this Fitness column for Small City is trying classes that I would normally have by-passed; either because they have a reputation as killers (SPIN!) or because I don’t really know enough about them to consider giving them go. Core Stability is one of those classes that fall into category two. Now, I’m exercise-savvy enough to guess what a core stability class is all about (the blonde is from a bottle) but I wasn’t entirely sure exactly what is involved. I hadn’t heard as many people discussing it as I had classes such as Body Pump and Metafit.
What I do know, after 3 months in, is that in almost every class I attend the instructor at some point is telling the sweaty, red faced bodies in front of her to “use your core!”. By that reasoning, this should be a “help-all” style class.
I head over to the 7.15am early morning Tuesday class at Rodney. Wandering through the South Inch, I chat on the phone to my uber-fit friend Kelly. She’s done a triathlon. We’re all trying to catch up.
Me: “Have you been to core stability?”
Kel: “No, but I think you’d be quite good at it. It sounds like it could be close to yoga.”
(Kelly has known me for almost 30 years – clearly, she still remembers me from yoga at 20. This is one reason why your friends should span decades.)
Imagine my surprise then, when, as I’m checking into the class asking what it is exactly, the lovely receptionist describes it as “like pilates on the swiss ball.” I text Kelly and ask her if she’d like to go for cake instead. She merely sends her “evil movie guy” laugh back to me.
The class is normally taken by Colin, and instead of the usual everyone-facing-the-instructor-layout, we’re all in a circle with our swiss balls and mats.
Colin explains the class is designed to help work the deep core muscles that are often hard to reach but that help with so many other exercises and general fitness. He explains that we should go at our own pace and work to levels we’re comfortable with. Throughout the class he explains and demonstrates the next move so you do have a minute or so in between each move.
Now, the ball is new to me. Everyone I’ve ever known has had a swiss ball at some point – some ended up as toys for children, some were placed strategically in the corner of a room, wedged into just the right position to hold a pile of ironing in place. Apparently we were going to spend 45 minutes actually using these giant balls.
The premise is simple, the movements are slower and more like dynamic stretches - I can see exactly why this has been likened to Pilates and yoga. There isn’t any music playing because you shouldn’t be distracted from your own pace by trying to keep up with a track. Between the circle of bodies and the quiet room, the mood is almost serene. Broken only by the sound of under breath, barely-audible cursing as grown men and women question why they can’t sit on a ball and lift their leg at the same time.
The moves are frustratingly far more difficult than they look.
They involve either holding the ball in your hands and lifting, lunging or twisting/sitting or lying on the ball and doing exercise you will already know such as plank and press ups or ones such as the nip and curl. We also hold the ball between our legs to work abs or obliques
How much harder can a move be sitting on a ball you ask? MUCH MUCH harder is the answer! You have to get past the embarrassment of staggering and swaying and falling. Just ‘Man Up’ and deal with it and you’ll be golden.
The principle is simple and effective. Often referred to as the “silent killer” because during the class I didn’t break sweat and I didn’t feel overly uncomfortable. I did wobble like a giant, mum-shaped jelly at an under-five’s birthday party but so did everyone else! There were moves that made me realise I had muscles underneath my belly button after all (you know that area on a man and woman that just never, ever tones up? Right there!) and I could feel my shoulder blades pinch, but it was all manageable.
I was speaking to Colin after the class and chatting about the idea behind this class. A strong core, he explained will go a long way to aiding in your overall fitness and health. Other classes will be easier to manage and you will get to muscles that just don’t normally work out. “You’ll feel this on Thursday” he smiled. Cue my, “mmmm – I didn’t really feel it that much” thought.
Well, hello Thursday lunchtime! The muscles in the middle of my back are there – I can feel them. The muscles at the bottom of my tummy (just under the “tyre” section!) are there. When I cough or sneeze or laugh, my stomach tightens! I have been bemoaning the fact that there are areas of my body that just seem resilient / immune to weights, reps and sweat induced workouts. The ones that cause a roll to appear over the bra at the back and over the jeans at the waistband. Guess what? These can all be targeted by Core Stability. Engaging your core uses the muscles all the way round.
And all without causing a line of traffic to stop on the bridge as drivers mistake your face for a stop light. ! I am LOVING this class.