How to Define Your Core…it’s not what you think!

FullSizeRender (10) Core has always been one of those buzz-words that gets everyone’s attention. After all, everyone has a core, but most of us wish ours were more defined. People are willing to try all kinds of things such as crunches and planks, sit up machines, compression, dieting, running, Cross Fit or P90X. Well what if I told you that you can have the most defined core you’ve ever had without doing any of these things? And the best part of all, it’s only $19.99….NO IT’S FREE!

You see, having strong core muscles is so much more than chiseled abs. Real core muscle strength is developed from working many different muscles, around the spine, hip and pelvic region, along with the abdominal muscles. But even these other muscle groups are not what I’m focusing on today. Instead, I want to share how you can define the core of your being.

You’ve probably heard of the term “core values,” but have you ever sat down and defined yours? Just like the core of the earth, or the core of an apple, our core should be the things that make up the central part of our being; the ideals that shape our everyday

Imagine: There once was a brand new city being built in a faraway land. It was up to the mayor of this city to approve which buildings could be constructed and where. One-by-one he approved the plans for all of the businesses that brought him pleasure. Soon the new buildings popped up; first a sports stadium, then a shopping mall, fancy restaurants and hotels were soon added. Before he knew it, someone from the city-planning committee informed the mayor that they had used up every square acre of city property. The mayor suddenly became gravely distressed, “But we haven’t even added the hospital, post office, fire department, grocery store, or any schools!”

The mayor of this city is a perfect example of what happens when we don’t define our core values. If he had first laid out the most important components of a city, he would have put those buildings at the center of town, then built outwards from there. In the same way, we must first define the things in life that are most important to us, or else it’s hard to find space to fit them in later.

To define your core values, simply follow these four steps:

  1. Answer the following questions:

-What are your greatest accomplishments in life?

-Do you have any regrets or moments you consider failures, and what did you learn from them?

-What were the happiest moments of your life?

-What are three goals you still wish to accomplish in life?


  1.  Simplify: Look back at your answers from Step 1 and ask yourself why you chose those specific answers over other moments in your life. For example, several of my greatest accomplishments were races that I ran PR’s but didn’t necessarily win. Because of this, I know that I value the proof of my own hard work paying off, not just comparing myself to others. Slowly start to shorten your answers into simple phrases or just a few words such as, “hard work.”
  2. Look for Patterns: Take a look at following list of common values and see if you can find words that match your answers from above. Circle all that apply. You may come across certain values that you didn’t originally mention. That’s okay, but try not to choose more than 10-20 values from this list.Defining Core Values Chart
  3. Prioritizing your values: This last step is often the hardest part because several of your core values may seem equally important. Write out a list of all the words you wrote down or circled and begin to narrow it down to 5-10 core values. The best way to order them is by comparing two at a time and thinking of a scenario in which you would have to choose between the two.

For example, I value both curiosity and hard work. As a runner/coach I think it is important to ask questions about why you are asked to do a certain workout. By being curious, you learn more. However, if I get so caught up in focusing on why I’m doing the workout instead of focusing on working my hardest, then I feel that my priorities are mixed up.

Of course, the importance of certain values will change based on the situation, but the more time you spend going through this exercise and refining your values, the more clearly you will know which ones make up your core.

So why is all of this important?

Knowing your core values can help you make decisions more confidently, as well as give you a sense of direction and purpose in life. I find this exercise to be helpful when you’re going through difficult times, or preparing to make some sort of decision or change. Dealing with a chronic injury for much of these past two years has been difficult for me. Some days I question if it is even worth pushing through, and how I can motivate others through this blog while I seem to be stuck in an endless cycle of my own struggles. But then I think back to what my values are; Faith, Family, Compassion, Gratitude, Focus, Hard-Work, Self-Control, Humility, Curiosity and Creativity, and I realize that there is so much more to life than writing a blog about running fast. I hope this exercise inspires you to define your core, and well, maybe your abs too 😉


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