At the end of a hard practice or tough competition,...
The core – “the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything.”1 A solid core is one of the more appealing features of an athletic body. A flat stomach and tight abs are bioproducts of all the hard work athletes put into their craft. A strong core is not merely cosmetic; it’s a vital part of an athlete’s performance.
The core encompasses your abs, sides/obliques, and back. It’s always present during any workout. From running to drills, squats, and lunges, the athlete must be mindful to keep her core tight. That means focusing on keeping the back and abs strong and involved during every part of the workout.
Check out this interview with my former Georgia Tech teammate and Olympic medalist, Chaunte Lowe. She shares her perspective on the core and how this principle of keeping her core tight has been foundational in her faith and family-life Beyond Athletics.
Developing the core is supplemental to the athlete’s general workout. Some development happens naturally throughout practice; however, adequately strengthening the core requires intentionality.
Athletes experience the benefits of a strong core during the peak of their athletic performance. It’s the point in workouts where the body aches from head to toe. The soreness is insane, and you feel physically incapable of lifting your legs another step. It’s the final quarter, last 50 meters, when competition is intense, and the athlete has little left to give. Some athletes don’t understand the value of a strong core; they write it off as cosmetic or something extra they have to do. They take it for granted.
A strong core is critical especially when times get hard. Without a strong core, an athlete does not have all it takes to finish the competition, strong. That strength has to be there already; the athlete’s core must be present and prepared to carry her through the toughest moments.
Keeping your core tight is equally vital in life Beyond Athletics. Whether you represent an organization, individual, or a family, you have a core and critical elements near the center and foundation of who you are.
Organizations have employees, teams, and values at their core. Individuals have innate talents and abilities, pivotal relationships, and core values and beliefs – the principals that we live by. The core is that center gravity holding together each aspect of our individual lives. It’s essential to identify these elements at our core, develop, and engage them.
Take a moment to consider how you are made? What abilities do you possess? What innate behaviors do you seem to gravitate to easily? What are the “quirks” that seem to show up wherever you go– regardless of the industry or business, whether you are executing on the job or doing a favor for a friend? Perhaps you are a natural solutions finder – you don’t just see what’s wrong, you see solutions to those problems. Maybe your eyes easily see opportunities, and you devise plans effortlessly. Do you always find yourself building or creating things? Perhaps you enjoy writing.
Identifying your core requires a level of trust in how you are created and the One who created you. You have a responsibility to nurture the gifts that come to you effortlessly. Use them in your everyday life. Whether you are engaged in the activity vocationally, as a hobby, or even if you find ways to incorporate that skill into your job, engage your core.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).
The individuals at your core need you also. I am not referring to the people connected to you via outer extremities such as your status or career but connected to you as a person? These could be true friends, family members, and if you’re married, it would include your spouse. If you have children, they would be included as well. These people keep you grounded. Your decisions impact them directly, and they’re in the position to impact your life significantly. These relationships thrive with your time and attention – not all of your time and attention but the necessary amount. We ought to consider our core people when making choices and sacrifices. Engaging your core in terms of these relationships means not leaving them behind in the pursuits of life. Even as you climb success-ladders, remember that it’s your core that sustains and strengthens you, especially when times are hard.
What about your values? Core principals are made up of those things that are most important to us. What we think in our hearts, what we desire, the elements at our core shape us. Then, the actions we take confirm or negate what we say we believe – “So too, faith by itself if it is not complemented by action, is dead… I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:17, 18).
What do you value most in your life? What do you believe in? Do your words and behavior prioritize the elements at your core?
It can be tempting to dismiss your core when you face the pressures and distractions of life. It’s possible to overlook your gifts especially when you compare your talents to others’. You could even discredit your abilities if you don’t see their economic potential. It’s easy to take for granted those closest to you because it seems as though they’re always there and they always will be. It’s our responsibility to nurture these elements at our core and give them the attention they need.
I do need to make an important distinction. The elements mentioned above, even though they’re at our core, don’t define us. They may help to shape our character, but they themselves are not our core. Values and priorities change, people in our lives come and go, and abilities can fade at any time. Athletes know that full well – illness or injury can instantly derail a career started from raw talent. So, what is the core of a person? What is the center-most point into which one can go no farther? The heart and soul. (See the Beyond Athletics portion of the devotional to this post to read more.)
Our core, at times, may seem irrelevant, impractical, or cosmetic. But we should never compromise it; strength in life comes from it. Make a habit of engaging your core; measure every decision against it. Prioritizing our core activities, people, and values holds everything else together. It prevents us from getting injured and putting unnecessary strain on the rest of our body. If we keep our core healthy and looking good, it will sustain us even in difficult times. Identify it; invest in and develop it; do not compromise or neglect it. Keep your core tight.
- What are the elements closest to your core?
- What can you do to engage each of these core elements into your daily life?
- What is your core as an individual?
- What could you do to engage your core to enhance your quality of life?
Leave your comments below and continue this journey with me. We’ll harness insight from the sports we know, love, and play and implement them in life beyond athletics. We’re all still going pro even if it’s not in our sport.
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