Strengthening Your Core

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In weightlifting, the key to being able to heft increasing amounts of iron is to have a sturdy, strong Core: your foundational strength you build on.
You don’t develop a core overnight. It is built up – workout by workout, day by day, month by month. As it grows in strength, it supports and assists the development of your other muscles. I didn’t just start lifting 200 pounds one day. I had to build up my core strength, increase my bone density, and build the muscle in an intentional way. My ability to lift is dependent upon the foundation I have laid. I am fortunate and blessed to have (the best!) trainer in the world to mentor me and keep me safe. Under his watchful and experienced eye, he has seen me go from puffing away under a few measly pounds of barbell weight, to lifting a full 200 pounds…more than once. Having a firm, sturdy core allows my body to not only perform in the gym, but also in all other aspects of life: carrying groceries, lifting my bike up on the rack, vacuuming, climbing stairs. All are easier because we have invested in its development.

My favorite way to illustrate this is with a tree: A towering Redwood would not stand with a weak core. It would topple under the weight of the branches, or snap with simple gust of wind. It stands though, because it developed its Core along the way.

What I would like to suggest is this: Is your Core strong?
In this case, I’m not talking about your physical strength. I am talking about your non-physical Core. I’ll call it your spiritual side, the ‘you’ who makes you, you. It’s what resides inside your head, that little voice that whispers only to you.
Is it strong? Have you taken the time to develop it? Do you have what it takes to weather the storms in life? Can you stand strong through the hurricanes of life? Can you remain standing, like the Redwood?

This subject is pertinent considering the news of the day:  A potential Greek economic collapse and the negative potential it has for the Eurozone. We are seeing the rise of barbaric beheadings and persecutions going on in the Middle East. Here in the States we feel the division in civil discourse and financial concerns growing. The entire world feels on edge, and in this case (unlike in past world shifts) we have social media to make it all broadcast in real time.

So I ask again, how is the condition of your Core? Have you invested in it, given it the conditioning and training that are necessary to weather the pounding waves that life throws at it?

First you must take an assessment:
What are your weaknesses, what worries you?
What are your strengths, where do you feel confident and in charge?

Next, take those weaknesses and develop a plan to strengthen them. I was terrified of some sort of economic disaster that would lead to hyperinflation and obscene food prices. To alleviate myself from that fear, or weakness, my husband and I developed a plan to stock up on and store food. I taught myself how to can food both water-bath method and pressure canning. I taught myself to preserve foods. I shopped sales and stocked up on dry and canned goods that I know we will eat. We invested in some long term food storage. Tackling that fear and developing a plan we followed, removed that from my ‘weakness’ category. Now, it’s a strength.

Build on your strengths. One of my friends sweetly calls me Miss Martha. I have always loved to entertain and socialize. I love being a Domestic Goddess. I love home-keeping, nurturing and gardening. Knowing this is a strength, I have used it to build my social network. I have ‘loved on’ friends and family, securing those bonds tight. In times of adversity, it’s those bonds we have forged that can help us weather through tough times.

Lastly, stay in shape, build on the core you have developed. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have thought that I could ever lift that much weight. But I did. And I am continuing build on it, so that I hope to one day lift 2 of the big plates, which is 235 pounds. I also continue to build on my spiritual core. I continue to look at the areas I harbor fears and doubt. I tackle them one by one, working to turn them into strengths, shoring up, and building on that internal core.

When the winds, or hurricanes of adversity blow through my life, with a strong foundational tree trunk, I should be able to weather them and be a shelter for others. And lets be honest, isn’t that a much preferable way to approach life? I want to be stable in my boat when the oceans turn dark and stormy. I want to be able to have what is necessary, emotionally and physically, to ride out the squall. And, as a person of faith, I want to be a source of comfort, stability and hope for others whose boats may be sinking, or taking on water.

I am reminded of the story in the Bible of the Disciples out on the Sea and getting caught in a storm. Jesus, exhausted, was resting in the bow of the boat, calmly sleeping through a ocean raging around them. His followers freaked out, waking him up and carrying on about how they were all going to die…AND DIDN’T HE CARE?
Jesus, being a dude I’d have love to have met face to face, calmly stands up and with a wave of his hand, the seas turn flat as glass. In the disciples recounting, he gets a bit crabby and frustrated at their lack of faith.

Just think if those disciples had strengthened their inner Core, would they have panicked the way they did? They certainly were buff guys in good shape, they were seasoned fishermen. But what about their inner core? Maybe they would have been calm, maybe not, because Jesus was a guy who liked to teach and they had a lesson they needed to learn. But I can learn from their unpreparedness. I can read about their weaknesses and I can learn from it. I can be strong spiritually as well as physically. A calm place, in the middle of a stormy sea, for others.

I hope this gives you the motivation to not just be focused on the ‘physically’ fit. I hope that it inspires you to take your inner core as seriously as you might your physical one. I am no prophet of old, but just read the headlines sometime. There is a storm on the horizon. It may not come ashore, but it may. I know that I sleep better at night now, knowing I’ve been strengthening my Core.


Ride Lake Superior Day 6: Munising to Copper Harbor

Today started out glorious, sunshine in abundance. So welcome after all the cold and gloom we had in Canada. We packed up the bike, filled the coffee mugs, next destination – Copper Harbor.

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Along the way to Copper Harbor, you have the opportunity to ride up and through Marquette. We chose to bypass the college town and just continue along our way. There is a Harley dealer just on the outskirts of Marquette, where we did stop and check out. Nice thing about the dealers, they always have coffee and clean potties!

Then we continued along Hwy 41 until we hit the city of Houghton, Michigan, a cute little town on a waterway. It was a perfect distance to get off and stretch our legs. They had a cool surplus store on the main street and we grabbed an unremarkable lunch at the Downtowner Lounge in Houghton. But, the view was pretty, and they had a huge outdoor bar/patio. From there, we continued north to Copper Bay. This is some GORGEOUS scenery as you travel lakeside and inland.

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You have a choice of which Harbor to stay in along this leg. (I neglected to mention in Day 5 [click on the highlighted link] you can choose to stay in either Munising and Marquette. Unless you have a passion for college towns, I recommend staying where we were. It was just too beautiful to pass by.) On this particular leg of the trip you can choose between Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor. Copper Harbor is the northern most point of Keweenaw Peninsula, with Eagle Bay lying to the west. We chose Copper Harbor and stayed at The Bella Vista Motel, on the water.

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This was a LOVELY little place to stay. If I did this ride again, I’d choose to stay here 2 nights. It was such a wonderfully friendly, intimate accommodations and town, where plenty to do was in walking distance. On the main drag, they had a cool little Brewery and tasting room, where we happened to meet the Harbor Master and local Mayor!

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When in town, even if you’re merely traveling through, its worth a stop at the Habor Haus Restaurant and B&B. The food is AMAZING and it is only open in the summertime. Here is a sampling our our delicious eats:

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Fois gras? Fresh Seafood? Amazing Cesare Salad and deliciously prepared fresh veggies? Oh yeah baby! Whatever you do, if the soufflé is on the menu, you MUST try it! It ROCKED. And bikers, no worries. While this is white tablecloth, I think you’d feel perfectly comfortable in jeans. I did pack some leggings (I’m a girl after all), but hubby was clad in jeans and riding boots. Food this good isn’t to be passed by easily. And I would honestly make a trip back, just to have some of this good grub in a breathtakingly beautiful setting.

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To wrap up a perfectly perfect day, Hubby built me a bonfire. He knows I love them, and the motel grounds had a lovely bonfire pit with all the makings, and a wooden swing close by.

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That wraps up Day 6.
Up next: Day 7 – Copper Bay, MI to Bayfield, WI.


Goal Setting – Goals Achieved

As mentioned in a previous post, I had set a short term goal of lifting 200 pounds by Thanksgiving ’14.

Well, guess what?? I DID IT! I hit 200 pounds, and not only did I lift it once, but 3 times! And a week ahead of schedule!

I hope that this does not come across as bragging, because that is not how I intend it.

Yes, I am proud of my accomplishment!  I have come so far, pushing through and working around physical and mental setbacks. But I share this with the hope that my success inspires you to set goals that are achievable. I did not start off setting this goal. I started off with the goal of fitting into my clothes better, and not feeling 90 at 50. I achieved the first goal within 6 months, and the second has been ongoing and liberating. I realized needed something else to work towards, so I set new goals.
First: To get a big plate on the bar for Dead Lifts.
Then: To Bench Press 100 pounds at least once.

Once achieved, I reset my goal again:
To get a big plate on the bar for Back Squats.
To Dead Lift 200 pounds

Well, today I reached my latest goal, and I set a new one:
(2) BIG PLATES on the bar for Dead Lift!

The point of my post, and my advice is this: Set small achievable goals. Once you reach your small goal, you can set another. This way you work up to, and within a decent amount of time, achieve your goals. You need to feel the success of achievement. Setting too high of a goal can be discouraging if you happen to have setbacks, either physical or mental. Keep them short/small and attainable, resetting once achieved.

If I had set an initial goal of lifting 200 pounds, not only was it an unimaginable goal to me back then, but it has taken 18 months to get to this point. I absolutely would have given up LONG AGO if I had tried to even set a goal that ambitious. I think this lesson can be applied not only in fitness, but in life. Hindsight is 20/20, and I wish I had this knowledge and motivation years ago. I’ve learned in this process however, don’t look back, just keep moving forward. Sometimes you may have to rework your goal if life throws you a wrinkle, but readjust and keep plugging away. This is a mental game, more than a physical one. Surround yourself with support, and minimize your exposure to Debbie Downers. Cause heck, if this pudgy old lady can do this, you surely can too!