‘I’m an Olympic Surfer and This Is My Go-To Core Workout’

Photo: Getty Images / Cameron Spencer
While watching a surfing competition, you might be fooled into thinking that it's a chill—maybe even relaxing—thing to do. The pros make surfing look easy, but it requires serious strength, especially core strength, to stay balanced and upright on the board while moving across the waves.

Even if the closest you're going to get to surfing is rewatching Blue Crush for the 500th time, having a strong core is still important. Your core muscles—which includes not only your abs but also muscles like the obliques that wrap around your sides and back—are involved in many day-to-day activities. Core strength helps improve your balance and posture, and prevents injuries in the gym and in daily life.

So when Well+Good caught up with Olympic surfer Caroline Marks at a (virtual) event to celebrate Alba Botanica's Ocean Surf body and hair care collection that launches in August, getting the deets on her favorite core workout was a must. Because if anyone knows about maintaining a super strong core, it's a surfer—especially one who is actively training to compete in this year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Turns out, Marks's go-to core workout is one that truly hurts-so-good. "I do tons of Pilates, which takes a lot of core [strength]," Marks says. "With surfing, you're constantly always turning with your core so making sure that's really strong is very important." She says that doing Pilates on a Reformer "has a lot to do with breathing techniques...and pretty much is a straight-up core workout." (Seriously. Try laughing the day after a Pilates class. Big ouch.)

It's no wonder that Pilates is her core exercise of choice. The 95-year-old modality has become an incredibly popular, low-impact way to strengthen and lengthen the body—with some added stress-reducing benefits thrown into the mix. Most moves engage the core muscles, because Pilates focuses on stability for better mobility. (And as mentioned earlier, your core is crucial for most day-to-day movement.) And the Pilates breathing that Marks mentions? It further engages your ab muscles—making every moment of the workout great for building core strength.

Plus, you don't need a Reformer or other fancy machines in order to reap the benefits of Pilates. There are lots of mat exercises that you can do at home. Whether you're hoping to surf someday yourself, or are just aiming for a super-solid core to power you through life, check out these totally tubular (sorry) at-home Pilates workouts. (And don't miss this week-long Pilates workout plan for a more detailed regimen.)

Keep reading for 4 Pilates workouts for core strength, perfect for surfers and non-surfers alike:

1. If you're a total Pilates newbie: 20 minute Pilates for beginners

Never tried Pilates before? Instructor Chloe de Winter has got you covered with this great introductory mat workout. You'll feel the burn as you learn the ins and outs of Pilates, including some great core-strengthening moves.

2. If you're short on time: 15 minute full-body mat Pilates workout

This Pilates workout is perfect to squeeze in on your lunch break. You'll primarily target your glutes and core with this sequence, but the whole body gets some love in just a short amount of time.

3. If you're looking for a full-body burn: 25 minute full-body Pilates workout

Take your commitment to Pilates to the next level with this great, full-body workout. You'll need resistance bands, two sliders, and a mat. (Optional: Towel to soak up your sweat.)

4. If you want to target your core: 10 minute standing core workout

Pilates for core strength isn't just crunches and planks. Here, Pilates instructor Brian Spencer provides a quick, 10-minute standing core workout that is surprisingly challenging.

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