Face to face with my lack of ab strength

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The only good thing about being out of shape is that it doesn’t take very much to get a good workout.

Ever since I’ve been having my lower back and hip problems, I’ve known that I needed to work on my abs.  I’ve been a physical therapy patient far too many times not to know that.  I knew my abs had to be weak—there’s no way you have back and hip problems and not have weak abs—but I never really noticed it as I went about my daily life.

But something happened that allowed me to see exactly how weak my abs are, and boy, was I surprised.

It was such a simple thing; I tried to float on my back in the pool.

I remember doing this countless times during various swim lessons when I was a child.  It’s not always easy; you have to keep holding your breath so your lungs stay full of air.  But once you learn that, the rest is a piece of cake.

That is, until you’re an adult whose ongoing injuries and physical inactivity have left her with almost no core strength.  It was incredibly hard for me to stay afloat.  My upper body was fine, but trying to keep my hips at the surface of the water quickly wore out the muscles in my abdomen and lower back.

You’d think it would be kind of depressing to realize that your abs are pathetically weak, but for me it was actually an amazing moment of clarity.

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When I first developed hip problems a year and a half ago, I had to stop doing exercises on land.   Everything I did, even my physical therapy exercises, just made me worse and worse as time went on.  Every time I lay down on the floor to try to do some simple movements, I ended up regretting it.  That’s when I followed the advice of my chiropractor and joined a pool.

For the past year, I’ve worked out exclusively in water, and it has seriously made all the difference.  Before the pool, I felt like I was getting worse and worse every week.  Working out in the pool stopped the months-long downward spiral I’d been caught in, and, eventually, I began to get stronger.

But recently I’d begun to feel as though I’d hit a plateau.  I’d made such exponential progress in the beginning, but I was struggling to figure out what I was missing.  They’d told me there was nothing wrong with my spine or joints, that I just needed to build up strength, but it seemed like I’d hit a wall that I had no idea how to get past.

That’s why I am so excited about this discovery.   I had no idea my abs were so weak.   I used to float on my back so easily when I was a kid.  It all makes sense now.  Of course I’m in pain all the time if I am this weak.

This was such a moment of clarity for me.  Sure, it’s a little bit frustrating to realize how supremely out of shape I am, but this is far outweighed by how relieved I am to have some kind of a concrete answer.

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Of course, actually figuring out how to work on my abs is going to be a little bit more difficult.  Ab exercises have always been hard for me—if I do too many, I always seem to end up with lower back pain.

But if there’s anything I know about myself, it’s that once I am forced to see something so clearly, there is no way I’m going to be able to ignore it.  Realizing that right now I can’t even float on my back in a pool has made so much more of an impression on me than a physical therapist lecturing me about the importance of ab strength.

I’m going to have to figure this out.  Luckily, for now, I think all I will have to do is… drumroll, please… practice floating on my back.

That’s the one good thing about being extremely out of shape… it doesn’t take much exercise to start seeing improvement.  Since I have no core strength, all I have to do is float on my back for 20 seconds in a pool, and I’ve done a core workout!

So that’s it for now.  If I discover any other amazing core exercises that I don’t give me lower back pain, I’ll be sure to let you know!

**The person in the photo is not me!  It’s just a really great underwater shot that I found on Flickr.  Posted with a Creative Commons license by Ed.ward


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