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The CORE: What and Why?
Ergonomic Workstation Guidelines
How to Breathe For Optimal Wellness

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How to Breathe For Optimal Wellness
The CORE: What and Why?
Ergonomic Workstation Guidelines


Core Conditioning and Holistic Fitness
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The CORE: What and Why?

What is the CORE and why is it so important to strengthen?

“The core” has become a common phrase but many people have only a hazy notion of what it really means, (including some fitness professionals). I would like to tell you precisely what muscles constitute the core, why they are important to activate and strengthen- both separately and together- and what you stand to gain by making core strengthening a core part of your fitness regime.

While there is no one muscle called ‘the core” muscle, there is a group of muscles that when strong and integrated provide a tremendous amount of power, support, injury prevention, healthy joint mechanics and improved internal health and digestion. You may be interested to know that your ‘six pack’ muscle (the rectus abdominus) isn’t one of them!

We’ll start at the bottom- with the pelvic floor muscles.  These were made famous by Dr. Arnold Kegel. The muscles of the pelvic floor are somewhat complex so it’s useful to simplify.  You can think of them as the bottom of a full grocery bag - in this case the ‘bag’ is your pelvis and the ‘groceries’ are your pelvic organs and intestines.  You want the bottom of the bag to be strong so the ‘groceries’ don't fall out!  It is important to keep your PF muscles strong for many reasons, such as preventing incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. With regard to movement, engaging the PF muscles in conjunction with the transverse abdominis greatly helps to stabilize your pelvic bones in a neutral position which in turn contributes to healthy movement at the hip joints.

Your deepest abdominal muscle is called the transverse abdominis (TVA). Itwraps around the lower part of your torso like an internal corset.  When you contract it you reduce the circumference of your waist, effectively hugging and supporting your lumbar spine. The upper spine has a ribcage to support and protect it.  Your lower spine has your TVA. Many people injure their lumbar spines or strain their lower back muscles because their transverse abdominis muscle isn’t strong enough to support and diffuse the force and load placed on them.  An active and strong TVA allows you to move your spine in many directions and rotations with confidence and power.  While active, it massages your intestines and organs leading to improved organ function and digestion.

The PF muscles and the TVA are directly effected by breathing.  If you breathe well, these muscles will get a certain amount of work naturally.  If you don’t breathe well, or tend to hold your breath, they won’t function very well at all. That’s why the diaphragm is another muscle that makes up the core, and can be thought of as the “roof” of the core just as the pelvic floor muscles are the “floor”. Your diaphragm effects your autonomic nervous system. When you have good breathing habits your diaphragm contracts and releases fully and naturally and keeps your autonomic nervous system balanced.  Some positive results of this are: your ribs and chest move in their full ranges of motion and remain flexible, your thoracic spine remains flexible, your neck and shoulders don't get overworked (from breathing at least). The opposite is also true: breathe poorly (with only your mouth for instance) or hold your breath and your ribs and chest become inflexible, your thoracic spine becomes stiff, and your shoulder and neck become stiff.

To recap so far: Used together and combined with healthy breathing, your PF muscles and TVA  serve to anchor your pelvis for healthy hip movement, support and protect your spine, and promote healthy functioning of your organs, digestive tract and autonomic nervous system.

There are a few more muscles to talk about  in order to understand your core fully, but this is a good start! 

Ergonomic Workstation Guidelines

Ergonomic Workstation Guidelines 

Place items used most often during the day within 18” of the center of your desk. 
Reduce clutter in workstation. 

Adjusting Computer Monitor 
  • Top of monitor is eye level. 
  • Screen is 18 – 24” from your eyes (about an arm’s length). 
  •  Don’t stare at screen
  • Allow eyes to be aware of objects and movement in peripheral vision 
  •  Periodically look away and focus on both objects far away (mountains) and near (picture on wall) 
  •  Keyboard Fingers angle downwarElbows in line with your body
  • Elbows at 90 – 110 degrees (adjust chair if < or >) 
Adjusting Chair 
  • Sit upright on sitz bones while maintaining your natural lumbar curve. 
  • Use back of chair to support your spine upright or use a lumbar roll or the ‘Back Vitalizer’. Back Vitalizer may alternately be used with minimal air under your sitz bones to create an unstable platform to activate and tone pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. 
  • Do not slouch! 
  •  Knees should form a 90 – 100 degree angle 
  •  Use a foot rest if your feet don’t reach floor or your angle is greater than 100 degrees. You can buy one (Kare Products) or use a 3-ring binder or half foam roller 
  •  Raise your desk if your knees touch the top of your desk or your knee angle is too small 
  • Natural light is best if possible
  • Prevent direct light from hitting your screen
  • Angle lights so there is no glare on screen
  • Use 60 watts or less w/your desk lamp
  • Adjust contrast/brightness to allow for maximum visibility 
 Special Equipment 
  •  Use headset if phone use is a big part of what you do 
  •  Consider computer eyeglasses if you are wear bifocals or find yourself squinting at your monitor 
  •  If your wrists hurt rest them on a gel pad or purchase an ergonomic key pad that allows wrists to face each other 
  •  If you sit on a ball – bounce periodically 

How to Breathe For Optimal Wellness

I'm happy to post my first blog! Since the Diamond Fitness blog is coming to life I will start with the topic of breath since no life begins without it!

It all starts with the DIAPHRAGM, the muscle of breathing. The diaphragm is a large, dome shaped muscle that lives up inside your rib cage. When you inhale, it contracts downward to make room for you lungs to fill and when you exhale, it releases back up and helps to push the air out of your lungs. It's pretty simple, but for so many people that simple action has been inhibited by stress and poor breathing practices which in turn produces more stress and often tight, tense, dysfunctional neck and shoulder muscles and problems with digestion. 

No core conditioning regime can work without a foundation of breathing naturally. Both Pilates and Gyrotonic breath-work start from the assumption that your normal diaphragmatic breathing is not inhibited. So let's make sure your foundation of breathing is sound so you can go on to learn the effective breathing techniques for exercise and fitness that Gyrotonic and Pilates have to teach.  

Here is a simple exercise to allow your respiratory and nervous systems an opportunity to relax back to their natural stress-free state: This can be done laying down, sitting or standing. Place your hands gently on your abdomen. Inhale and allow your abdominal muscles to fully relax.  You will likely feel your belly rise. Exhale and allow your belly to fall. Continue breathing in this way until you feel relaxed and enveloped with at sense of well-being. Whenever you feel short of breath, overwhelmed or even just tired, take a few minutes to breathe in this way and I promise you will feel better! 

Have some topics you would like me to blog about? Please feel free to offer your suggestions!
Signing off for today!