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How to return to exercise safely after having a baby and build a strong postnatal core for LIFE.

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Daily Kegels NOT needed!!

Connect with your core

Did you know there are two groups of muscles in your pelvic floor? And there is a set of super important, often forgotten about, muscles in your lower abdomen (Transverse Abdominis)? Well there are. This is often a step that is bypassed meaning women return to exercise causing themselves more damage than good.

When we think about getting back into exercise and strengthening our core after having a baby we quite often just jump right back in. I know this because I did it. We know its really important to get active again and we think we are doing a great job building our postnatal bodies back to strength by jumping straight back into hardcore workouts. When we return to exercise in this way we will indeed see all the benefits of feeling fitter and stronger, which will lead us into a false sense of accomplishment that we are strengthening our core back to its full functioning self. However, what we have failed to do is think about the super important foundation muscles in our pelvic floor and abdomen and like a house built with no foundations we start to see the cracks in our bodies. I know this because I have felt it. After several years of heavy exercise, aerial fitness and even running my own fitness classes I started to feel the cracks in my body (kind of literally actually). My pelvic floor was most certainly not very happy on a trampoline, the gap in my stomach muscles started getting bigger and I had an upper abdominal 6 (well 4ish) pack and a soft ‘mummy tummy’ on my lower abdomen. I couldn’t understand it when I was so strong.

What I hadn’t done was connect with ALL of my pelvic floor muscles and I had no idea that those super important muscles in my lower abdomen (Transverse Abdominis) were not showing up and doing their job. I didn’t realise this because I hadn’t taken the time to practice connecting with these muscles so I had no idea that those muscles weren’t doing their job. You see, there are two sets of muscles in your pelvic floor and it is really easy to be connecting with one of those sets of muscles without the other, or one more than the other and you have no idea until you take the time to notice. This was exactly what I was doing. I was connecting beautifully with the muscles around my anus, but with muscles around my Urethra (where you pass urine from) and vagina weren’t getting a look in. No wonder my pelvic floor wasn’t too happy on a trampoline. And when I was doing all my abdominal workouts my TA’s (Transverse Abdominis's) were having a nice little nap and letting the big muscles running down the front of my abdomen (Rectus Abdominis) do all the work. Of course that was going to put strain on the connective tissue in my abdomen causing my abdomen muscles to separate (Diastasis Recti). I didn’t know this because I hadn’t taken the time to connect and find them.

So learn from my mistake ladies (and gentlemen actually). It is so so worth spending time and patiently working out where all of these muscles are. Finding out how to connect with them and how that feels. Then when you know where they are, your brain has remembered them you can strengthen them with the rest of your body. And like a house built on solid foundations your body on its own foundations will be strong and robust and ready to support you for the rest of your life.

Top tip - The boring, repetitive practice of Pelvic Floor and TA connection is made so much more fun when you choreograph it to music. That is why I have done exactly that for my members.

Strengthen your core muscles

Once you have found and learnt how to connect with these foundations muscles it is now time to strengthen them to the same level as the rest of your body. What has happened over the years, throughout life, pregnancy and postnatally is that the foundation muscles haven’t been used and so they are weak. The other bigger muscles in the rest of your body have been working extra hard to make up for the fact that your foundations muscles are not working. When you come to strengthening the foundation muscles it is really important to recognise whether it is the foundation muscles or the bigger muscles in your body allowing you to make the movement. For example, when you do bicycle with your legs to work your abdomen just because you are able to do it doesn’t mean you should. What if the bigger muscles (Rectus Abdominis) down the front of your stomach are doing all of the work and your foundation abdominal muscles (Transverse Abdominis) are having a snooze? If you allow only your Rectus Abdominis to do the work then you will be creating a lot of tension to the connective tissue down the front of your abdomen, causing or worsening any Diastasis Recti (gap in your abdomen). So you can see that this would in-fact do more damage that good. It is really important to recognise this and to stop if your Traverse Abdominis are not working. Then move to an exercise that they can keep up with and slowly strengthen them.

For me, I stopped all of the hardcore workouts I was doing for a period of time to concentrate on strengthening the foundations of my body. I slowly, with time and patience, found muscles in my pelvic floor I had previously not used before and muscles in my lower abdomen that simply were not working. I build the strength of these muscles up slowly over time. I tried to bring back my usual workouts several times, but I was able to recognised what was too much for my foundations. Yes I found it boring, tedious and repetitive. I made this easier by choreographing the exercises to music. There is something about music that makes the process so much more interesting and exciting. Yes it was frustrating and yes I so badly wanted to be hanging around on my aerial hoop again. But I am so glad I waiting and was patient with my body. I was worried that when I went back to aerial hooping and hardstanding I would be much weaker because I hadn’t practiced in so long. But I found it was the complete opposite. I feel so much stronger and more stable in everything I do and so thank full I spent the time working it all out.

If hand holding, step by step videos and music are things that would help you with this process please go and check out my membership here All of the exercises and classes are suitable for baby-wearing and pregnancy, but you can join in without a pregnancy or baby.

Learn to use your strong core correctly in day to day life

Now that you have spent the time to build up your foundation muscles and build a strong core it seems ludicrous to not use it! We now have a functional strong body but we don’t move in good quality strong movements. A lot of this is habit, we stand, move, pick up our children etc in the laziest way possible using the least muscles we can. Its a big part of the reason we ended up with foundation muscles that are sleeping on the job in the first place. If we don’t get out of these habits and use these new found muscles regularly through the day, everyday for the rest of our lives we will just end up right where we started. These bad habits we have created is our bodies way of reserving energy for us to go and hunt for food, climb a tree and build a den. But we don’t need to do this. We don’t need to reserve all of this energy. What we do need to do is move around using the muscles we have created to support or bones, spine, ligaments and joints so we have a strong supported fully functional body.

It is really about bringing our attention to our bad movement habits, consciously thinking about them and changing them until our new strong way of moving becomes habit without having to think of it. A good place to start is the way we stand. We stand in a way that doesn’t allow a lot of our muscles to switch on. So if we change the way we stand to let our muscles work to hold up up we are effectively doing a workout when we are just stood. This can then progress onto looking at the way we sit and then to the way we move. When we bend down to pick something up are we bending at our back, hanging from our spine and the ligaments and using momentum to stand back up? Or, are we keeping our spine straight, bending at the knees, hinging from the waist and engaging all of those pelvic floor, abdominal, leg and butt muscles to support us while we do it? The latter sounds much healthier for our body and less painful right? Its just learning how to do this and then bringing it to the forefront of our mind to make it habit.

We also then need to choose to live a more active lifestyle. So we now know how to move in good quality strong movements, we then need to learn to do it more. In a life where it is easier to be inactive than active we need to make the choice to be active. Choose to take the stairs, walk to the shop, join in with the children at the park and jump over rocks and climb over tree stumps with your children on your daily walk. Its all part of the workout and a heathy lifestyle choice which leads to keeping your strong body and core forever.

I have spent the time to learn how I should be moving and using my body in a strong, good quality fully functional way. So, if life gets a better of me and I spend some time not managing to keep up my workouts (which is often, that comes with being a parent right?) It really doesn’t matter all than much. Because I work my muscles all day every day in the way that I hold and move my body and I choose to be active so life is a workout for me. This also includes connecting and contracting my pelvic floor when I move so this means I never have to sit and do boring repetitive Kegels (pelvic floor contractions). Whoop! Those things are very much a means to an end and I defiantly did not want to be stuck doing them forever!

All of this I teach to women who work with me in my membership. If you need a little inspiration and reminders then my social media and email subscription is a very good place to be for videos and subtle pokes to remember your habits and healthy lifestyle choices. Links below

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