Book Review- “Master Your Core. A Science-Based Guide to Achieve Peak Performance and Resilience to Injury” by Dr. Bohdanna Zazulak

This is without a doubt the most comprehensive book I’ve ever read about the human body’s core. Dr. Zazulak begins by emphasizing how important our core is for the prevention of injuries and this is the premise of the book. Master Your Core is more than just a book with a bunch of core exercises; it’s obvious Dr. Zazulak understands people also need to know why the core is important and how you can improve your core in ways other than physical activity.

The book is logically divided into two parts, with the first part called Core Fundamentals and includes discussions on defining core stability, how to develop awareness and control of our core, neuromuscular imbalances and how they effect the core, a detailed discussion of posture, and a lengthy discussion on sex-based differences. Prior to this book I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything about differences between men and women’s cores but this book goes over everything from how hormones, anatomy, neurological differences, and psychological factors effect men and women’s cores differently.

There is also a section on meditation, mindful breathing exercises, and practicing gratitude, an interesting section on the heart-core connection, discussions on the importance of water, sleep, and self-care, and different breathing techniques designed to tone the core floor. One thing I learned is the connection between your jaw and core floor. When you clench your jaw because you’re stressed, you also clench your pelvic floor. Perhaps not surprisingly, women tend to “internalize emotions more often, which manifests as muscle tension in an unrelaxed core floor.” This can compromise blood flow and deprive the muscles of the oxygen and nutrients they need to function optimally.

Part 2 is called the Core BASE Guide and includes tangible ways to improve your core. Within this part are four sections: breathing, awareness, stability, and empowerment. As you might imagine the section on breathing is a deep dive covering all things breath-related and the importance of deep belly or diaphragmatic breathing.

In all, there are seven tables each with seven core exercises including descriptions for each exercise and a table with diagrams for each group of exercises (for 49 total core exercises). Dr. Zazulak notes that no one should feel obligated to do every single exercise; she acknowledges it would be too much for some people and everyone has different abilities and needs. Meditation is once again discussed in the Awareness section, as are mantras and body awareness. There are some examples of core-empowering activities such as yoga, martial arts as well as some unexpected ones like laughter and nature and readers are told to choose ones that speak to them personally.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is how the book is filled with apropos quotes throughout. A quote I especially liked is the following that is at the beginning of the last section before the conclusion:

“Doctors won’t make you healthy. Nutritionists won’t make you
slim. Teachers won’t make you smart. Gurus won’t make you calm.
Mentors won’t make you rich. Trainers won’t make you fit. Ultimately
you have to take responsibility.”—Naval Ravikant

In other words, if you don’t put in the work, it won’t happen. Chapter 13 describes how you can personalize the book and the exercises to fit your body and needs. There’s even a way to calculate your core score, which may especially appeal to competitive people. I like it because it gives you a goal to work your way towards and it gives you a tangible way to measure your progress.

I really enjoyed this book and how in-depth Dr. Zazulak dives into all things core-related. It’s so much more than just a book listing off core exercises. The book shows beautifully how the mind, heart, and musculoskeletal systems all work together with our core. Also unique is the section on women’s core health and how women’s and men’s cores are different and shouldn’t be lumped together.

If you would like to purchase Master Your Core, you may do so at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Master-Your-Core-Science-Based-Performance/dp/163161116X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Master+Your+Core&qid=1622477266&sr=8-1

The author’s website: https://doczaz.com/

More information about Dr. Zazulak from the publisher website: https://www.tckpublishing.com/our-authors/author-bohdanna-zazulak/

******* I’ll be doing a giveaway of Dr. Zazulak’s book on Instagram tomorrow, August 14. Check out my post there if you’d like to enter. If you’re not on Instagram, reply below why you’d like a copy of this book and I’ll mix in your entry with the others on IG when I randomly pick a winner.

https://www.instagram.com/runningtotraveltheworld/

As always, happy running!

Donna

All the Ways I Recover from Running

It seems like the topic of recovery after a running or workout session has come up a lot lately in many different places from blogs to social media. As a 40-something runner, recovery has become more important to me over the years. When I was in my 20’s I don’t think I ever stretched and I know for sure I never used a foam roller or did any yoga.

Over the years, I also seemed to be plagued by running injuries, too. When I was an undergraduate in college I had shin splints that almost stopped me running completely, they were so painful. After picking running back up after a few years off, I had little aches and pains and minor running problems over the years but fortunately nothing serious.

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My daughter and me after going for a hilly run in the Canary Islands recently

One of the worst for me was struggling with a tight IT (iliotibial) band; this was around the time I started seeing a massage therapist regularly, which is one of the ways I recover from running (regular massage therapy). Massage therapy helps me to get rid of the knots and tight muscles that would otherwise continue to get worse and no doubt cause more serious issues. I get a deep tissue massage once a month and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I continue to run mostly pain-free.

I don’t remember exactly when I started going to the yoga class at my gym but I do know I was in my early 30’s. I had talked to some other runners who recommended yoga to me, so I naively went, not really knowing what to expect honestly. Over the years I’ve been a member of 3 or 4 gyms and have had probably around 10 different yoga instructors at these gyms. Yoga has undoubtedly kept my hamstrings and hips from just bunching into tight balls and refusing to do what I want them to do. I truly believe everyone would benefit from doing yoga once a week, whether you’re a runner or not. Believe me when I say not all yoga instructors are created the same, so if you go to a class and don’t care for it, try a different instructor and see if that changes your mind or try watching a show or DVD and doing it at home.

The foam roller and I have a love-hate relationship. I love how it loosens my tight IT bands, calves, quads, and hamstrings but I hate how painful it can be, especially on my IT bands. Nonetheless, I use my foam roller religiously after every run and have done so for years after my aforementioned problems with my IT band began in my 30’s. I also stretch my hamstrings and legs after a run, and have found it works best to stretch first then use the foam roller.

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My trusty foam roller after a recent run fueled by Honey Stinger and nuun

Another way I recover from a run is by refueling my body with carbs and protein. After reading Roar by Stacy Sims (you can see my book review here) I began to make sure I consume plenty of protein along with carbs after a run. In the book, Dr. Sims recommends women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of  exercising to help maintain muscle especially when hormone levels are high.

The final and most important thing I do to recover from the stresses of running is making sure I get plenty of sleep. I think getting enough restful sleep is hugely important for everyone, whether you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or if you never exercise; we all need to get enough sleep every night. Our muscles repair when we’re not working them so we need to make sure they have plenty of time for that. I think probably everyone understands the importance of getting enough sleep but a lot of people underestimate just how much sleep they need and don’t make sleep a high priority in their busy lives.

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My puppy sleeping

What about you guys? I’m sure I probably left something out. How do you recover from running or exercise?

Happy running!

Donna