I just figured out why everybody hates working their core muscles, and how you can rethink that emotion to get through it. Shit, folks, for an antisocial prick, I have an EQ that’s off the charts.
We don’t hate the NOTION of core work, mind you; in the back of their minds, I think most people queue up an ab workout while secretly thinking: I know science says you can’t spot reduce, but I sure would feel better if the muscles there were a little more dense.
You ever think that your negative feeling around loose core muscles might be something more than a cosmetic gripe?
Sure, we’re all creatures of vanity, except maybe your crazy uncle, but due to my hypochondria I get this emotion to a greater degree than most people, and therefore the sensation is amplified to the point where I can actually put my finger on that weird discomfort.
It doesn’t hurt that any vanity in this area would be totally pointless in my case, since A. I don’t have an actual waist due to my fucked-up bone structure, so fuck it, and B. I’m not overweight. But I usually feel insecure about my core anyway, simply because it is a vulnerable part of the body, when it comes to stabbing, or falling over on top of fire hydrants. The emotional problem with core work is twofold:
- We feel bad about having a weak core because we have a lot of important organs in that area, and NO BONES. This is the main revelation here. It feels emotionally bad to have a weak core because somewhere in the back of your mind you can imagine someone sticking a knife in right where the ribcage and the pelvis part ways. I spend way too much time feeling bad about this. For most people, I think it’s just an insecurity that floats around in the middle of the brain soup. Me, though, I walk down the street on a regular basis thinking, “If I fell on that pole stomach first, I would be dead before they could even scoop me off the street. Yeeaahhhghg! Stupid pregnancy, without it we could have bones there.” It’s a terrible feeling. Most people are not quite this neurotic, but if you examine your feelings the next time you do core, you will probably discover that there’s a lot more in there besides pain and cosmetic insecurity. Pay attention to that feeling. Sit with it, examine it, and thereby defuse it.
- Doing exercises to strengthen the core, and thereby fatiguing those muscles, creates a temporary sensation of the core ACTUALLY BECOMING WEAKER. You know how you get bitchy halfway through? Sure, it burns, but there is also a good dose of fear in there. Once again, listen to it. Poke it. Take away its mysterious power.
So the best thing you can do to improve your emotional reaction to core work is to remind yourself that you are in your home, and you’re perfectly safe, and that, most important, this is just an emotion and you can conquer it. This can be accomplished in several ways, but my favorites are:
- Clean your apartment up before you start working out. There is nothing like clutter to make you feel insecure. And anyway, you actually COULD puncture your guts on all the shit you have lying about.
- Do yoga before you do anything. As I elaborate in my fantastic book DISASTER FITNESS: MAKE YOUR DEMONS DO THE WORK, yoga might not burn a lot of calories, but A. It is an easy way to ease yourself into exercise and a superior warmup, mentally and physically, and B. It calms the central nervous system.
- Finally, and perhaps most important, keep reminding yourself that you know why you feel this way, and it’s no big deal. It’s just your central nervous system being irritated by a potential threat. So stroke its feathers. There there, brain. I know it feels like we’re vulnerable and about to be stabbed in the liver, but we’re actually making ourselves slightly less vulnerable to knives and shit. Slightly. Granted, it would be a lot better to have some bony carapace covering all these vital organs, but we’re doing the best we can together. Right now you feel irritated by physical weakness, but tomorrow when the muscle fibers have rebuilt, you will actually feel more secure.
Or I guess you could just keep thinking Shhhhhhhhhh, shhhhhhhh, not long now. Whatever it takes to keep your brain from freaking out is exactly what you need to do to make the experience more pleasant.
In keeping the the Disaster Fitness method, your main psychological goal in every workout is to get yourself to feel as pleased as possible with any given workout, to keep you coming back tomorrow. Knowing what you’re working against is half the battle; the moment I figured this out, I was personally much cheerier about that nagging weak feeling in my center which is, paradoxically, the result of trying to make it stronger.