Welcome to Start TODAY. Sign up for our Start TODAY newsletter to join the 31-day challenge and receive daily inspiration sent to your inbox.
Can you believe it's almost September? The summer flew by! While I love the laid-back vibes of summer, there's something so motivating about a fall routine. With the kids back to school and work schedules returning to normal, we have more predictability in our daily routine to make fitness a priority.
What if I told you that we can all recommit to fitness this month — and see results! — with just 7 minutes a day? That's what this month's challenge is designed to do. In addition to walking for a cardio workout, the goal is to perform 7 minutes of core work every single day this month to make moving a habit, strengthen your core and start seeing results that will motivate you to keep it up.
What is the core?
Many people hear "core" and think abdominal muscles. And while yes, the abdominals are a part of the core, they are not the only muscle group that makes up the area.
The core muscles also include the erector spinae (the muscles that run along the spine), the inner and outer thighs, and the muscles of the pelvic floor. The deepest core muscle, the transverse abdominis, runs from the ribs to the pubic bone and wraps around the trunk like a corset. This muscle should be engaged during every single core exercise.
Benefits of core workouts
The core is the foundation of the body and vital to every kind of movement.
When engaged properly, the core takes pressure off of the back and hips and supports the body in all of its movements — both day-to-day and athletic movements. The core is instrumental in moving our body functionally during everyday activities like bending over, reaching up, twisting, getting out of bed and putting things away. A strong core will also help you feel more stable during your cardio and strength workouts.
Core workouts build strength that improves balance and stability and improves muscle tone in the midsection. The benefits of core work include better posture, improved overall strength and less pain in the body.
Can you work your core every day?
You can do core exercises every day because the muscles are smaller, so they don’t need the down time to recover and repair like larger muscles do. After one month of consistently performing core workouts you can expect to see an improvement in your core strength and feel the other benefits that come with building this strength like more stability and a tighter midsection.
31-day core and walking routine
Choose your walking level
This month we’re adding levels for all of our walkers. Whether you’re just starting out or have been walking for awhile, there’s a walking plan for you to follow:
Stick with beginner if you’re just starting from sedentary, recovering from an injury or looking to ease into cardio. Commit to walking at a leisurely pace for 20 minutes a day — if this is too long, start with 5 or 10 minutes!
Intermediate walkers can start with 30 minutes a day. Half way through the month, see if you can increase to 40 minutes a day.
Advanced walkers can start with 40 minutes. Half way through the month, add intervals. The interval lengths are up to you. For example, you can alternate between walking for 5 minutes at a leisurely pace and then 1 minute at a faster pace. Or make the interval times even by speeding up or slowing down every minute! Alternating between a leisurely and fast pace is a great way to get your heart rate up, burn more calories and improve your endurance. Try it with this HIIT walking workout.
Explore your core challenge
To help strengthen and engage each specific area of the core, we will also have a weekly bonus challenge that focuses on a different muscle group. Here's the move that you will add to your core workout each week:
Week 1: Abs
- Move: Hollow hold
This challenge works the abdominal muscles of the core. Start with a 5-second hold, and then build up to 10 seconds, 20 seconds, and 30 seconds by the end of the week.
Lying flat on your back, start with your arms and legs reaching straight up toward the ceiling. Exhale as you pull your naval in toward your spine and slowly lower the arms behind you and the legs in front of you. Only go as low as you can without allowing your low back to arch!
Week 2: Back
- Move: Superman
This challenge requires you to engage the transverse abdominis, the deepest ab muscle, while working the muscles along the spine and in the back. Lifting into this position teaches the posterior muscles to work together, with the shoulders lifting the arms and the glutes, hamstrings and muscles of the back working to lift the legs. Start with 10 repetitions per day, and by the end of the week build up to 20 repetitions.
Lie on your stomach and reach the arms forward and legs back. Open the legs as wide as the hips and the arms as wide as the shoulders. Pull the belly button in, away from the ground, to engage the abs. Relax the shoulders as you reach the arms up off the ground and squeeze the quads as you lift the legs off the ground. Avoid putting too much pressure on the low back by ensuring that the abdominals stay contracted.
Week 3: Glutes
- Move: Wall squat
A functional movement, this exercise works the glutes while also engaging the lower abdominal muscles. You must tilt your pelvis to ensure that your low back glides along the wall during the squat. Start with 5 repetitions, and slowly build up to 20 repetitions by the end of the week.
Stand with your feet as wide as your shoulders and a couple of feet in front of the wall. Face away from the wall and lean back so that your butt touches the wall. Tilt your pelvis (pretend like someone is punching you in the stomach to engage your abs!) and press your low back into the wall. Rest your upper back on the wall, too. Bend the knees slowly as you slide down the wall. Stop when you reach 90 degrees (or sooner if you don’t want to bend that low). Press down through your heels to come up.
Week 4: Inner thighs
- Move: Side lying leg lifts
Weak inner thighs can throw off your pelvic floor muscles and even contribute to low-back pain. This exercise strengthens the inner thighs, engaging your transverse abdominis throughout the movement. Start by performing 5 repetitions per leg and increase up to 20 reps by the end of the week.
Lying down, turn onto your right side. Prop yourself up on your forearm and stack the legs, shifting them out on a slight diagonal from your hips. Step your left foot over in front of the right leg, planting the foot in front of the knee. This is your starting position. From here, lift your right leg up off of the ground as high as you can, then lower it down. Repeat on the left side.
7-minute core routine
You will perform this routine every single day for 31 days. You may be surprised how much strength you can build in just one month!
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor a few inches in front of your butt. Place your hands behind your head with the elbows open wide. Pull your naval in and gently press your low back into the ground. Curl up with your head, neck and chest and pretend that you’re holding an egg between your chin and your chest and you don’t want to crack it! From here, curl up as high as you can lifting the shoulder blades off of the ground. Exhale as you come up, and inhale as you lower down.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Keeping your heels on the ground, lift your hips up and squeeze your glutes. Pull your naval in toward your spine, and slowly lower down one vertebra at a time.
From the crunch position, bring your knees up into a table-top position. Curl up with your head, neck and chest. Then bring your left knee in as you extend your right leg straight out on a diagonal. Curl your right elbow toward your left knee. Switch legs, bringing your right knee in as you extend your left leg straight out on a diagonal; curl the left elbow toward the right knee. Continue alternating.
Double leg lift
Lie down on your back with your arms straight by your sides and your legs extended. Lift the legs up together, hugging the inner thighs in, and point the feet up toward the ceiling. This is the starting position. Slowly lower the legs down a few feet (or as far as you can without letting the low back pop off of the ground). Pull the naval in toward the spine to prevent your back from arching. Use the abs to pull your legs back to the starting position.
Start in a seated position. Engage your core muscles and gently lean back a couple of inches. Slowly lift your legs up in the air so that they are in a table-top position. Reach your arms straight out in front of you so that they are parallel with the ground. Keeping your core engaged, extend the legs straight up to a 45-degree angle into a “V” position. If this is too challenging, hold onto the backs of the legs for support. Hold this “V” position with the shoulders relaxed, abs pulled in and inner thighs squeezing together for 10 seconds. You can reach the arms up for an advanced version of this exercise.