Monica’s SELF Magazine Blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about my core. At the last judging panel, I was told to work on it. Over the past week, in between mambo sessions with Jonathan, I’ve been trying to figure out how to present my core in the best possible light on the dance floor. Is there enough time to noticeably strengthen it? Should I do extra sit-ups? Dozens of daily plank poses? Walk around my house with a book balanced on my head? What dramatic measures can I take in less than a week to show off my core? And just what, exactly, is my core in the first place?

I’ve noticed that “core” has become a buzzword in fitness. Whether you’re into pilates, yoga or weight training, everything seems focused on working, building and strengthening your core. Covering your abs, hips and lower back, it’s your base for executing powerful moves and achieving balance and stability. No wonder it’s become the fitness word du jour. But I’ve always thought of my core in a different way. For me, it is an unshakable sense of who I am. It’s that inner voice that tells me I am doing OK. I am making the right choices. I am taking care of myself. I am being the best version of me.

Some days my core is as strong as a bull and I feel like I can’t be stopped. On other days, it is like a whispering mouse and I have to work a little harder to get in touch with it. But no matter what is going on in my life, that core is always there. I look at this inner core as an emotional version of the fitness core. It provides me with a strong base to make powerful decisions in life, and without it I certainly wouldn’t feel grounded or balanced enough to live my life to its fullest potential. A strong inner core gives you the courage to take risks (like dancing in front of millions of people) and propels you to greater heights (like executing a killer mambo in a short dress and heels). For this competition, these two cores are inextricably linked. I have to be in top physical condition to withstand six hours of practice a day (the three hours of preshow hair and makeup are far more painful!) and a strong body core is an integral part of the twists, turns, flips and shakes that professional dancers make look so easy (they aren’t). But more importantly, a rock-solid inner core is absolutely essential when you are taking yourself out of your comfort zone and subjecting yourself to the scrutiny of strangers. The stronger I make my inner core, the more confidence I will exude on the dance floor. I’ve been working on it all week, and right now my core is feeling more like a bull than a mouse. Tonight will be fun.

  • Monica Seles