Do you know what core strength looks like?
Does it look like a 6-pack of abs?
Does it look like balancing in a handstand without a wall for support?
Does it look like flipping tires or slamming sledgehammers?
Does it look like 60 sit-ups in 60 seconds?
Core strength can look like those things.
It can also look like none of those things.
More often than not, core strength is less about how your body looks and more about how you feel.
Because the truth is that looks can be deceiving.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have a strong core.
I’m currently about 8 months postpartum with my third child. My body doesn’t look too different than it did at about 8 weeks postpartum.
I’m a lot softer and squishier than before having this third, beautiful baby.
I can see the marks of motherhood written all over my body and even in my eyes. Maybe especially in my eyes.
I’m also a lot stronger than I was after my second pregnancy, particularly in my core.
However, if you looked at this photo of me, you might not immediately think, that woman has a strong core. You might see strength in my eyes or my stance, but my belly looks soft.
We’ve been conditioned to think that a strong core is one that is super-toned and leaning more toward slender, if you’re a woman.
Softness isn’t strength; it’s weakness.
This we learn is true both physically and energetically.
Strength is showing force and power and no weakness.
Softness is making allowances, gentleness, and vulnerability.
From a physical fitness perspective, strength is viewed as something you work hard for.
Softness is viewed as laziness. You’re not working hard enough. You might not have enough stamina or determination or even a willingness to push yourself to do what is necessary.
From a mental health perspective, strength is not allowing yourself to fall apart, whereas softness is messy and complicated.
The reality is that no one should be too far in one direction or another. At let not by these generalities and extreme terms.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle when we are healthy.
When we’re unhealthy, that’s when the excessive “strength” or “softness” shows up.
I look at photos of myself now and I see both strength, as well as softness. I’ve been postpartum for over 7 years now. My body has grown and shrunk and shape-shifted and transformed. And while I understand all of these concepts, I’m not immune to them.
I took several photos of myself in this pose. I chose this photo because I liked the way I looked in it the best. Of the other 4 I discarded, 2 had weird faces and 2 showed even more belly softness.
My ego won.
That said, when I was 20, I never would have shared a photo of myself in which my belly was completely exposed.
Hell, I probably wouldn’t have even walked around my own house in nothing but a sports bra and leggings.
I’ll call that progress.
Here’s what else is progress:
I feel stronger than ever.
I feel more in control of my body than I did in my twenties.
I feel more connected to my center — to my truth, than I’ve ever been in my life.
I’m over trying to prove my strength by looking the part.
As I continue to grow older and wiser, I hope that my core strength shows up in my actions and the choices I make in life. And the confidence I feel in my own skin.
I’ll be sharing a lot of thoughts on what it means to have a strong and healthy core in my upcoming online workshops, “How to Have a Strong Core Without Sit-Ups.”
I’ll talk basic core anatomy, share some misconceptions about core strength (and what you should know instead), and some simple things you can do everyday to create a healthier core.
Both will be recorded so if you can’t attend live, sign up anyway to receive the replay.