So this morning I did something that I haven't done in months - go to the gym before work!
Because the gym is between my home and my work, I had to lug all my work stuff with me, which was kind of a pain, but it was worth it. The alarm went off at 5:45, and I was out the door by 6 am and on a cardio machine by 6:15ish. I did 15 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes of core, and then swam 1/2 mile. I ran 7.5 miles between Tuesday and Wednesday so I wanted to take a running break. My elbow felt great in the pool, btw! I'd like to swim 1-2 times a week and get back to where I was when I was training for the triathlon. However, my swimsuit is letting me down. Last summer/fall I purchased a Nike swimsuit for my lap swimming. The thing is already falling apart! I rinse it after every swim, wash it regularly but not too much, and I don't dry it in the dryer. The Speedo I had before? I GOT THE THING IN MIDDLE SCHOOL - and it lasted me until 2009. That's over 10 years people! I've learned my lesson - I'm going back to Speedo.
Back to core for a minute. Your core (abs, obliques, hips, back) keeps your frame stable, improves your balance, and improves your posture. If you're running hunched over, you're probably not running well. In Bikram and other yoga classes, they talk about core all the time! I figure that after centuries of successful yoga practice, they must know what they're talking about, so I'll take their word for it when they say to "engage your core."
Here's my opinion on working your core: I think crunches and sit ups are ridiculous. Because your core is a STABILIZER, you have to do STABILIZING exercises. A crunch exercise as a stabilizer? I don't see the connection. That said, I do tons of planks and side planks. You have to work really hard to stay in a plank position, to keep your abs in, your back flat, your hips lifted, etc. So I do those! I also do an exercise I've nicknamed "Stirring the Pot." Get into plank position with your forearms on an exercise ball (55 cm). Clasp your hands into a fist like you are stirring a huge cauldron (since you do that a lot - right?) and move the ball in small circles for eight counts and then reverse it. Do 2 more sets. You'll feel the burn!