What is a (CENTER)ed run?

Spring into Summer Series Day 4: Pilates Principle: Centering

Specific to Pilates, running and other types of physical exercise, “centering” is often referred to as moving from your center or “using your core.” But what exactly is this so-called “core”?

I remember walking into my Critical Thinking course in Respiratory Physiology and seeing the muscles involved in a forced exhalation written on the chalk board. They were the exact muscles often referred to as the “core muscles,” or the muscles that comprise the “Power House” in Pilates. These are; the diaphragm, the internal and external obliques, the deep postural back muscles, the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis (6 pack muscles), as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor. This was refreshing to me, because I was able to see my scientific world (studies in human physiology) very clearly united with my Pilates studies… As Joe would say “you must out the air!!” Above all… Learn to breathe correctly and you will be firing these muscles… It is how we are wired on a neuro-muscular level. Very simple in its intricate complexity.

My personal understanding of the “core,” became more complete, however, after studying the body thoroughly and taking workshops and lessons with teachers around the country and world. I remember one workshop with the gifted teacher Cara Reeser. She said that the core begins from the opening of your mouth and travels down through the center of you… Another one of my teachers Amy Alpers, described it once as the image of “a little stick figure” that exists deep inside of you… Your bone marrow, in a sense, is your core. Brilliant!

Ultimately, I think that the key is to let this idea be relatively fluid depending on what and, more specifically, WHY you are accessing your CORE.

For us, as runners I find it interesting to allow your pelvis to be your center, your core. Very mindfully, try to not allow it to get ahead of you, or to leave it behind you. Keeping your pelvis well aligned and centered will not only allow you to run with fluidity, it will also allow the muscles surrounding it to become more accessible. Speaking in exercise physiology terms, this means you will be able to access the muscles that store the maximum amount of glycogen. Glycogen is the immediate energy source the body uses during bouts of exercise such as running.

To further enhance your performance, on your next run try to have the image of an internal stick figure that exists deep to your more superficial body. As you take your deep breaths in envision this “internal you,” expanding and filling with O2 and as you exhale, envision this “internal you” ridding itself of CO2 and other toxins. Notice what happens. Since the respiratory system tends to fail us more at the level of the tissues than it does at the level of the heart, this type of imagery may allow you, on a cellular level, to absorb more nourishing oxygen… It can’t hurt.

Never let the experiment be over…