By Jennifer Ewen
When you’re focused on so many things involved with being in EMS, it’s easy to forget that not only does your mind need to be conditioned in order to know how to help patients, your body needs to be in top shape too. Most importantly, you need a strong core. Moving patients onto stretchers, carrying oxygen tanks and other equipment, getting up and down from the floor - it’s important to ensure you won’t injure yourself or cause any muscle strain. Even besides EMS work, having a strong core supports you when you’re just sitting in front of a computer or the TV - it helps take stress off your back. Doing some core work a few times a week will greatly improve how you move throughout your life.
Having a strong core means having strong abs and a strong lower back - but you don’t have to show off a six pack to have a strong core. Working out your core can be as simple as holding in your abdomen by pulling your belly button towards your spine, holding that for five breaths, then relax. Then do it again nine more times. To benefit yourself all the time, keep your abdomen pulled in as often as possible, especially when walking.
In any activity you do, always have good posture. This helps your core and prevents injury. Keep your back straight and shoulders back. When lifting, use your legs by crouching down and stick your butt out to keep your back straight. Use the power of the large muscles in your legs to power yourself up. Never bend over and lift something.
There are lots of exercises you can easily do with some floor space - you don’t need extra weights or any special equipment. A basic push-up works your core and your arms, same with a plank, either down on your elbows or up on your hands. Always keep your hands or elbows in line with your shoulders to achieve correct posture, and keep your feet close together. Doing crunches or sit-ups aims directly at building your abdominal muscles.
Do leg raises by laying with your back on the floor and lift both legs up to ninety degrees (or however high you can go), then slowly lower them both down to the floor again. Repeat, slowly, as many times as you can. This works your whole abdomen. Be sure your lower back is flat on the floor during leg raises, since arching it up can cause muscle strain.
Side bends help work your oblique muscles, another integral part of your core. You can do side bends standing up, or lay on your back on the floor, position your legs into a “diamond” shape so your knees are out on either side and feet are pushed together, put your hands behind your head, and lift up so your neck and shoulders are off the ground. Then move to the left, then middle, then right, nearly touching your elbow to your knee. This works your abdominals and your obliques.
Many yoga moves also target your core - simply look up best yoga moves for your core, and try them out, always being careful to not over stretch yourself. If you’re new to exercising, always start with beginner moves and go slowly, making sure that you aren’t feeling any pain. Don’t overdo any exercises - work within your own limits. Your body will tell you when it’s had enough - make sure you pay attention!