Core Training: Seeking True Balance In Life

This is a guest blog post from one of our coaches, Coach Joe McGlynn.  In this post, Joe goes over the importance of actual balance and how it is directly involved with your core training.  Enjoy!

Instead of boring you with the fine details right away, here are some general questions to ask yourself about how your body feels before your read this article:

  • Do I feel like my body is NOT activated through the warm-ups I do?
  • Do I feel off-balance during exercise and general activity?
  • Do I feel a lack of strength when I’m training or even when I’m doing simple jobs around the house?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, there is a high chance that you are lacking core stability and strength. Better yet, you may not understand what your core musculature is and how to activate it for your benefit. If you are unfamiliar with topic, let’s dig a little deeper into how you could better yourself for the long-term.

Core training is one of the most important components to any strength training program. What most see as an accessory to squat and deadlift variations, coaches and trainers see as a major factor in performing those highly active exercises. Our core musculature is essentially the glue that keeps our upper and lower halves working in unison to not only perform the highest demands of exercise, but to also live our daily lives as healthy individuals.

Whether your long-term goal is to become a better athlete or to develop a better fitness background, core training should be a staple in your training program. Every movement that you perform is dependent on the ability to maintain stability through that movement. This would not be possible if you did not have core musculature to do so. Unfortunately, many individuals have a large deficiency in core strength and maintaining a “balanced” lifestyle is more difficult than it seems.

Our core serves as a stabilizer and distributor of force through any given movement. Whether we are casually walking or bracing ourselves for a push up, our core is actively engaged. Upon any given stress that requires your body to move, your core muscles are active to ensure that your spine is protected. This activation alone allows us to maintain proper posture during different movement patterns, including ones that we perform in our daily lives.

For adults, core stability and strength can be very underdeveloped. Due to certain jobs and lower levels of exercise participation, many adults have natural core activation patterns taken away from them, especially with jobs that require sitting for multiple hours.  Adding aging into the mix, core activation becomes more difficult if your activity level is on the low end. Core training for an adult is important for creating a foundation in which core stability and strengths can be maximized.

Here at Unity, progressions within core exercises are a staple to every training program. Whether you are just beginning your fitness journey or are a seasoned veteran, core exercises will ultimately be a guiding force in everything you do. By incorporating core training into your training program, you can ultimately learn how to activate you core musculature as you develop a baseline of fitness. Then and only then can higher levels of fitness be achieved through a more stable body that is prepped to become more dynamic in nature.

As we look at the big picture, just relate to your own life. Look at the demands your job brings you and most importantly look at the activities you love to do or wish you could do. You might not think of something such as core training as life changing, but if you work hard enough at it, anything can become life changing if you want it to. So, if you seeking to find that true “balance” in life, ask yourself the questions above. They may just keep you upright doing the things that you love.

 

-J. McGlynn

Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
¼ tsp black pepper
⅛ tsp salt
1 – 1¼ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 pieces), cut into bite-sized chunks
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
⅔ cup roasted cashews (or roasted peanuts)
1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium zucchini, chopped into halves

Sauce
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
½ cup water
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper chili flakes

Cornstarch slurry
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2-3 Tablespoons water

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large zip-top bag, toss in chicken, cornstarch, salt and black pepper. Shake until well-coated.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken about 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Transfer chicken into slow cooker. **Skip this step if in a pinch and add chicken directly to the slow cooker.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, water, honey, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger and red pepper chili flakes and pour over chicken.

Cover and cook on LOW for 2.5 – 4 hours or HIGH for 1.5 – 3 hours. depending on how hot your crock pot runs.

About 30 minutes before serving, whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir into the slow cooker. Add the dried red chili peppers, red bell peppers, zucchini and cashews.

Cover and cook on HIGH for another 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened up. (Add more water to thin out sauce to your preferred consistency).

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onions and serve over rice, quinoa or zoodles, if desired.

Pesto Chicken Breasts

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 (16 oz total) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 4 teaspoons Basil Pesto
  • 1 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 6 tbsp (1.5 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Slice chicken breast horizontally to create 4 thinner cutlets. Season lightly with salt and fresh pepper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment if desired for easy clean-up.
  3. Place the chicken on prepared baking sheet. Spread about 1 teaspoon of pesto over each piece of chicken.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Remove from oven; top with tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Curried Avocado Chicken Salad

We are fully embracing the K.I.S.S. theory with this recipe.  Sometimes all we need is a little tweak on an old routine to light up our nutrition routine.  This recipe does just that…

Ingredients:

Chicken Prep:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 1 c Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Chicken Salad:

  • 1/2 medium avocado, pitted and fleshed
  • 1-2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp pink salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut away excess fat from chicken. Place chicken breasts in bottom of slow cooker with spices.
  2. Gently pour in broth, cover with lid and cook on high for about 2-3 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.
  3. Transfer chicken breasts to bowl or cutting board and allow to cool before shredding with forks.
  4. If desired, divide shredded chicken.
  5. Separate out 2 c of shredded chicken and add the avocado, curry powder, and salt.
  6. Enjoy chicken salads on bed of greens, in lettuce wraps, stuffed potatoes, and more!

Chocolate Avocado Truffles

Here is a little V-Day inspo for you…
Ingredients
  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate, melted
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Melt dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mash avocado. When chocolate is smooth, pour into mashed avocado and stir together. Add in vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. When combined and clump-free, place in refrigerator for about a half hour. When cooled and hardened, scoop into 10-12 balls and roll until smooth.
  4. Roll each ball in cocoa powder and serve. Place any remaining truffles in air tight container.

Serves: 10-12 truffles