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The Core Challenge

Towards the end of last year and into this year I was working quite hard at improving my climbing – technique, skills and knowledge.  I picked people’s brains and worked on areas I thought would help.  I started to improve, and what I mean by improve is not necessarily moving up grades, but feeling like my body was doing what I wanted it to do and looking good on the wall – in control and organised.  However, somewhere around the start of February I hit a plateau and, having spoken to a few people around the wall, identified that core strength was an issue.  Up to February I hadn’t needed to make any improvements in the core area, because I was naturally quite strong.  Once I hit the plateau it was a different story.  It was then that I decided to do something about it – something really manageable, but also a challenge.  The #junecorechallenge was born.

The idea…

To do core exercises every day to improve our climbing

Being Manageable…

This is important – if I set myself something that is psychologically too demanding, I find myself thinking I just can’t fit it in.  By giving myself a really manageable, but still challenging, chunk of exercises, I have given myself a better chance of success ( I think!).

Do it anywhere!

I went away to work in Carlisle making puppets half way through the month.  No need for equipment I just did my exercises in the studio – it’s amazing where you can get your sit-ups in.  We’re so convinced of this, we’re having a fun photo competition – ‘Where do you do yours?’

The small print…

Before I go into the detail I should say that I’m not a trained or qualified exercise expert.  What I write is what I’ve experienced and learned from trial and error.  I’ve sought advice and demonstrations from other people – people who are much stronger than me – this post is the result of what I’ve come across so far and how I feel putting this into practice.

The CHALLENGE!

Target:  To improve core strength by doing exercises every day for a month.

Constraints: I have approximately 10 minutes a day that I feel I can realistically dedicate to this target.  I have no money to spend on equipment and no storage for equipment, so everything has to be free and easily available.

1)        Choose 1 core exercise

Choosing just one exercise to start off meant that I could easily remember what I needed to do, so it quickly became a habit.  Due to my time limitations, it also meant that it would work well within the time I had and not overwhelm me so much that I felt I couldn’t fit it in.

Check out my last blog post to see some ideas of core exercises you can start with (remember to come back though…!).

2)        Choose a low number of each exercise to start off

For me what was key was having a manageable number, so I worked it out like this – How many can I do when I’m going full pelt?  Halve it.  So, starting with 100 sit-ups, for example, I halved that number down to 50 and then did half of these (25) in the morning and half (25) in the evening.  For me, this whole thing was about generating a habit for me to go on in future months and do something more challenging.

3)        Get Started & Keep it up

So, getting started is the easy bit.  Keeping it up is much harder.  One of the things which has helped me with this core challenge has been the support of other people – a bit like giving up smoking – somehow it’s easier if you have the camaraderie with others and if you fall off the wagon, then other people can help you get back on.  I used Twitter and Facebook to help me stay motivated.  You can use friends at your climbing wall, the comments box below, our Facebook page or our Twitter account to help get motivated if that helps!

4)        After 2 weeks add in an additional exercise

After 2 weeks you should be in the swing of things and able to introduce another core exercise that focusses on another area, so that different muscles are being worked.

5)        Be realistic and don’t beat yourself up – Climbing is supposed to be fun!

What I soon realised is that doing something every single day is hard for me.  We’re into July (8 days now) and I have done core exercises on 5 days so far.  In June I made it to 18 days – not 30, but considerably better than 0 the month before!!  Essentially your commitment level should be commensurate with our expectations – You’re not going to get abs of steel from a short core session like this every day, but it’s probably going to give you something positive – physically, psychologically or confidence-wise.  If you want abs of steel, check out @LindaRWales on Twitter and she will share her hardcore daily routine I’m sure!!

6)        Let us Know!!

We love to hear from you – send us your pictures, your ideas and your thoughts – either in the comments box below or by email: www.womenclimb.co.uk  We’ve got a competition if you’re interested…. click here

Women have enough stuff to beat themselves up about without adding Core Challenge to the mix!  Enjoy it.

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