How your core keeps you strong in pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a time of real excitement but also anxiety and change in your body. Things that aren’t usually a problem can suddenly become one. One way to ensure you keep your body strong and functional is to include regular exercise with a specially trained teacher advising you. Why? As the body changes your normal exercise routine will almost definitely need to be adapted. It is also a good idea to add in movements that will build movement patterns for motherhood. The ideal time to prepare for postural changes, lifting, feeding and moving about with a baby is in pregnancy. It may not feel like it, but you have more time and head space when pregnant than after baby comes!

Top areas to focus on:

  1. Your core. This includes your pelvic floor, lower back, lower abdominals, waist muscles. Now you don’t need to be doing hard-core ab workouts (stay away from those) but you do want to strengthen these muscles in a kinder way. They need to be strong enough to support the growing bump, your posture changes and to support your pelvis. They also need to be able to relax for labour.
  2. Shoulders are the number 1 complaint I see in classes. Whether it is from desk working or carrying another child, now is the time to tackle it. Get some release work or massage in to complement the strengthening work. Start to work out where normal should be for your shoulders so you can listen to your body. Move within it’s range to prevent further issues. The moves we use in pilates are all about working within your normal range but also strengthening and improving it.
  3. Supporting your pelvis. Yes working on your core will help with this, but there is more to it. Your gluts and inner thighs are also key. So make sure you have some exercises to target these areas.
  4. Getting up and down to the floor. This is something you will need to do a lot with a baby so it is time to get practicing. Bending over is going to hurt your back. So instead lunging, hinging and squatting are your friends.
  5. Breathing. It destresses you, it helps your pelvic floor heal, it strengthens you. There are so many benefits, getting someone to watch you breath and correct you, could be the best thing you do!

Here are some simple core strengthening and shoulder focused moves you can do on a stability ball, chair or stood.

 

Why fixing diastasis recti is not all about movement.

So often I hear the phrase movement heals. Whilst I agree with that there is also a point where movement is not the first point of call. There are so many programs out there now and so much advice on what to do if you have a pelvic floor concern or abdominal separation. The over flow of information is confusing and can just add to the noise in peoples head. How do you know who to listen to? How do you know which advice is correct? As someone who has spent a number of years doing advanced study in this area I’d like to share my top tips. I certainly know that a new mum I did not get it right first or second time around… but third time lucky.
If you can you always want to get somebody who can put their hands on you and give you a thorough assessment. That might not mean that they do an internal assessment but you do you want somebody who can physically I do your body, what you move, and placed their hands on you whilst you breathe and use their hands to correct you and to release you. Now that might not always be possible, and I’m not knocking The online program set out there. However I do think if you can get a one-to-one hands on assessment with the women’s have physio or a very experienced fixed price that you want to do that before moving on to any other form of program.
When looking at a program always look at how rounded it is. If it just focuses on the movement then I would say it’s not a full program. There is so much work to be done before you get to the movement, for example:
I want to woman to be able to breathe properly In a full 360° breath.
I want them to be able to connect the pelvic floor, lower abdominals and feel their back expand as they breathe.
In order to correct your posture work is going to need to be done.
This is going to involve some release moves, possibly some soft tissue work.
It needs to be a daily approach. What you do in a class needs to spill out into your daily life.
It’s also really important to focus on you. Self-care cannot be underestimated. Finding ways to make yourself out of that highly stressed fight/flight state into the calm zen like parasympathetic nervous system is absolutely 100% important. This could involve meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, along path, or otherwise of chilling out. However you do it it’s important. If you are living in stress and tension you’re not going to be able to heal your body.
It’s only when all of this has been accomplished movement can be layered on top. That’s why I love doing what I do. I get to work with people either 1-1 or in  class and bring them back to that chilled out relaxed state.
If you want to get involved and get some help that focuses not just on the issues in your body but also on healing all of you, then get in touch.
What is best for you? Hard to say as I work on a person by person basis, we are all different.
If you have a significant diatasis recti or significant pelvic floor issues you are likely to need some 1-1 sessions.
If you have some concerns with leaking, a small separation or feel like your whole system needs a tune up then our Holistic Core Restore EVERYWOMAN 6 week course is for you.
If you want ongoing classes then our pilates classes are the best bet.

Prepare to Plank

Let’s talk planks.

An amazing exercise for building core strength, for working the whole of your body and there is so much you can layer and add into a plank.

Also one of the exercises that therefore needs great technique or a lot can go wrong. All too often people are encouraged to dive head on into a full plank without knowing the hows, why’s and why nots. I love a challenge, but I don’t like the planking challenges. Personally I do not see the benefit to being able to hold a static plank. I have a body that rarely stays that still and so far more useful is a moving plank with levers and motion.

Many people are just not strong enough to launch into planks. These are not beginner exercises. Done incorrectly the intra-abdominal pressure will build up and it has to go somewhere, so if you have weak abdominals these may sag and bulge or the same with your pelvic floor. I remember attending a mums and babies fitness class with mums there 6 weeks after having baby – all being told to plank for 1 minute. If your core is not ready, do not do a full plank, if you have recently had a baby and you are rebuilding your strength, do not plank, if you have a weak pelvic floor, do not plank. Now that may sound harsh and rather black and white… so here is the softer version. There is a version of a plank that everyone can do, it is just finding your level and knowing which muscles to use plus ensuring you breath.

So what about if you really want to plank or if you are in a class with planks and you need a variation? Here are some plank progressions for you, including a standing version that I use with my pregnant and postnatal ladies.

 

I’d love to hear how you find these. For more videos and tips do follow me on Instagram and Youtube.

 

 

 

Why being flexible isn’t always the aim.

Some people come to us thinking that Pilates is all about the stretch and that they need to be super flexible to be any good at it. Confession, ahem…. whilst we have super flexible people who teach for us and I envy their ability to do the splits I’m not a bendy ballerina.

Whilst I totally can work on my flexibility and improve it, I’m also aware that being super bendy is not always a good thing and you can overstretch for your particular body. Yup, I’m saying it doesn’t always pay to s–t–r–e–t–c–h.

 

Let’s think about that over-stretching:

  1. If you are hypermobile or have Ehler-Danos Syndrome then pushing your body past it’s normal range of movement into the hypermobile zone is possible for you but not a good idea. Over time moving out of the normal range can increase your risk of injury, sprains, dislocation, joint pain and can lead to the joints popping out. Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise for these conditions as a good teacher will watch your range of movement and help you work out exactly what you need to strengthen. By strengthening the areas around the hypermobile joint it can help you stay strong.
  2. The effect of hormones. When you are pregnant and postnatal you definitely do not want to be overstretching. At this point of life your ligaments are laxer and you may have a greater range of movement. But moving too far and stretching too much can lead to your muscles becoming overstretched. This leads to pain/injury for you which can then be an ongoing weakness in your body. Relaxin can take up to 4 months to leave the body after you stop breastfeeding. This can also mean your body is not as strong as you expect it to be. I remember after baby 2 really struggling with some of the harder pilates moves until I stopped breastfeeding (I fed baby until he was 16 month) and then a couple of months later my body was at it’s peak once again. So don’t rush things and risk a lasting weakness.
  3. If your body is causing a muscle to be tight for a reason. Sometimes the body is protecting itself. Much like we do not work muscles in isolation, it can be detrimental to stretch a muscle in isolation too. Instead we need a whole body approach and to think through why an area is tight. Is it due to a certain posture you adapt most of the time – in which case work on the posture. If it is due to pain elsewhere in your body and you are compensating, then the area of pain needs to be dealt with too.

Anyone can overstretch their bodies. Our collagen make up is genetic and we just aren’t all born with stretchy joints, ligaments and bodies. So whilst stretching is of course good for us, listen to your body.

The 3 top benefits of postnatal pilates.

It strengthens your core and fixes your body. This is HUGE NEWS. Mums are lifting, bending, rotating, reaching, rocking, pushing and feeding babies. A whole lot of work and strain on the body. The core is made up of the abdominal muscles, the back muscles and the pelvic floor. This cylinder provides the support for the rest of the body to move. After carrying a baby in your womb for 9 months there has been quite a strain on the core. Your abdominals have been stretched and may have stretched apart slightly (diastasis recti). Your pelvic floor muscles have been supporting a heavy load and then may have helped push a baby out. Your lower back muscles will need supporting and strengthening as your baby grows and gets heavier. This is where Pilates has been invaluable for me and it fixes me weekly. Yes there are plenty of other fitness classes you can do postnatally, but a specialised postnatal Pilates is the one you want to do FIRST. It provides you with the foundation that you need to rehabilitate your body after pregnancy and labour. If you do not strengthen your core and get your posture sorted then later along the line you could suffer set backs and problems such as leaking and abdominal separation that doesn’t heal up. If you have this issue come see me for a 1-2-1 session.

If you have pelvic floor issues then you need to be on my pelvic floor workshop.

There are a couple of ways we work on core strength in classes.

Firstly BREATHING. It is something we all do all of the time but breathing using the diaphragm will help the core work in synergy. The Diaphragm, abdominals, back muscles and pelvic floor are all involved in breathing. Try this out:

1. Place your hands around your ribcage. Inhale feeling the breath come into your ribcage. So your ribs move out to the side, your back expands, your chest expands.

2. As you exhale, breath out with pursed lips, feel the tummy come in, the lower back tense and try to get right to the end of your breath to feel an tension in your lower abdominals and a lift in your pelvic floor.

3. Practise this for 5-10 minutes and it really can help, plus it relaxes you 🙂

All the Pilates moves are layered on top of the breathing. It can take a while to get the breathing at the right time and in the right way but suddenly it will click.

It reconnects you with your body. As a mum your primary focus is on your gorgeous baby. There is less time for you to look after your own body and this can get pushed down the list of importance. However your postnatal period is an important time of recovery for you.

A postnatal class can teach you how your body feels when you do certain movements. I know I can be busy rushing around all day and then suddenly in a class I realise my shoulder is out of alignment or my hips ache. It makes you focus on your tummy and pelvic floor, an area many mums don’t want to connect with post-birth. Let’s  face it things are changed in or bodies but it is something to embrace and work to strengthen rather than to avoid. A class also means someone else also has a look at how your body is functioning, which can give you valuable insights and reassurance.

I myself go to classes so that someone who knows my body can give me feedback and push me further. We all need someone who knows us well to watch out for us.

It is you time. Our postnatal classes are run with a creche. I love babies, but having taught with one crawling around the studio, going under and over me… I know how distracting it is to doing the moves correctly. You tense up in order to ensure baby is safe which then means you do not get the full benefit from the class and exercises. You listen to their noises and not your body.

We’ve found over the years that having a creche away from the studio works best. Then the mums are not listening out to their babies, they aren’t all in the studio freezing each time a  baby makes a noise, working out if it is theirs, if so do they need to go to baby. It takes trust on the part of the mum, but James has been running our creche for 7 years now and has seen an awful lot of babies in that time. If he can’t cope and needs a mummy, he knows when to ask.

So if you are thinking about trying a postnatal class I would highly recommend you try Pilates. Yes I am completely biased, but I am also proof that it works. Having had 3 babies, I have rehabilitated each time with Pilates. It works.