Can you do the knee cap dance?

Knees can be tricky things and are something that people often comment on in class.

“My knee pulls when I do that” 

Now pain is always a sign to stop and reassess.The body is telling you there is a problem and you need modify your movement.

There are a few things you could do:

  1. You can make the same movement smaller working within a range that causes less pain (note it may not be entirely painfree).
  2. Change over to a different exercise that works the same muscles but doesn’t hurt your knee.
  3. Stretch the muscles around you knee and then try again.
  4. Work out what the actual problem is with your knee and work on releasing the tight areas, strengthening the weak areas.

So all these options have their place and in the context of a class it is often options 1-3 that need to be done. However at a later time I definitely advise that you start to assess where the problem is coming from. Start with your range of movement. Can you fully bend and straighten your knee without forcing it? If not it’s about working out which muscle is the problem (see my next blog post to help with this).

The muscles:

The muscles of the knee include the quadriceps/quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. Some other muscles that assist with the movements of the knee include the tensor fasciae latae, popliteus and the articularis genus muscles. The quads extend the leg at the knee and flex the thigh. The hamstrings help to extend the knee and slow down the quads preventing the locking out of the knee or that fast smashing action. All these muscles need to be working properly and at their correct length/tension for the knee to function optimally.

A key exercise to help with kneecap function:

Sit with your legs outstretched, toes to ceiling but relaxed feet, feet in parallel with knee caps towards the ceiling. Feel around your kneecap, if it is relaxed you should be able to wiggle it gently with your fingers. Stroke up the inside and outside of your leg from kneecaps upwards. These are the muscles we want to use, so you are priming them. Now can you do a knee cap dance? Using your quads in the front of your thigh pull your kneecaps up and fully relax afterwards. Place your hands under your knees for a few, on the top of your thigh and around your knee cap. What do you feel? You want the muscles in the front of the thigh to be doing the most work, so your knees do not push down into the floor when the kneecap is tensed. Start doing this exercise seated and progress to standing.

Look out for my next blog on knees which will look at specific muscles to target and how to do so.

Losing the Baby Weight Week 4.

The past 4 weeks has on the one hand flown past and on the other hand it feels like its been forever that this little boy has been around. Life has calmed down with visitors being less frequent, more of a natural routine appearing and sleep deprivation properly setting in as the adrenaline wears off!

I’ve just gone back to post natal Pilates, very cautiously. It’s great to be back in my studio exercising with other mums but I’m pacing myself and only doing short bursts of gentle core work.  My tummy muscles separated a little in this second pregnancy, a condition known as diastasis recti, and I have a 1cm gap at present. This is nothing to worry about but I’m keen to close this gap completely before attempting any exercises that involve curling up.

For more on diastasis recti see here and here.

Here is my post natal mummy tummy. I’m keen to dispel the perfect tummy, air brushed celeb look and would love pics of your post baby tummies, at at any stage after baby for a blog post. Names optional! Please send them through to me – priya@pilateswithpriya.co.uk

 

Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Tummy Week 4
Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Tummy Week 4

I’m also trying to fit in a daily walk, the fresh air and cardiovascular exercise is great for me and baby. Plus having a toddler have to get out and about. It’s all about pacing yourself and planning I think. What are your thoughts?

Losing the Baby Weight: Week 2

This week has been mainly spent in hospital as baby Judah lost a little too much weight. Now most babies tend to lose some weight post-birth and they are allowed to lose up to 10% of their birthweight with no concerns. Little Judah ended up losing 15% of his birthweight so we were admitted for tests and monitoring.

Now hospital is not a fun place to be and with all the tests, feeding and being in a hospital room it became 5 days of mainly sitting and lying down with occasional sleeping 😉 So all the gentle walks I had been planning didn’t happen.

On of the questions the medical team had was over my milk supply and quality, so I focused a lot on feeding, expressing milk and eating well. You need an extra 3-500kcals per day when breastfeeding. The best thing is to ensure your meals are all balanced and then to eat according to appetite. I find I’m often hungriest last thing at night and at the night feeds.

All that feeding and expressing seems to be doing the trick as I’ve definitely lost weight this week and I’m back in my “slightly large, extra comfy” jeans – you know the type I mean. I’ve done a couple of very basic pilates exercises on occasions including single knee folds, pelvic tilts and standing heel floats. Don’t rush to get back into exercise at this point, just settle into getting to know your baby but do think about your posture when feeding and carrying baby. Stand/Sit tall, imagine you are lifted by the crown of your head towards the ceiling, slide your shoulder blades down in your back, have your weight balanced evenly over both feet and try to keep your lower back in a neutral position.

Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 14 post-birth
Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 14 post-birth

Top Tips:

  • Make sure you eat extra to enable your body to provide enough milk and good quality milk needed for baby.
  • Keep a snack box handy filled with healthy items you can munch on as you feed. For example healthy flapjack, nuts, raw veggies and hummous, oatcakes and peanut butter, dried fruit and cereal bars all feature in mine.
  • Keep going with your pelvic floor exercises, try to do these each time you feed baby.
  • If you can build in a couple of short, gentle walks.
  • Remember your posture.
  • Look out now for post-natal exercise classes and pilates classes.

Losing the Baby Weight, Week 1.

It’s day 7 post birth and slowly my body feels like it is returning to normal. My mummy tummy is shrinking gradually and the after birth pains are definitely diminishing. For me these after birth pains have been the worst thing. I didn’t have them with baby number 1, but everytime I feed it feels like another contractions. This is due to my uterus contracting and everything shrinking back to normal so it’s a good thing, but I’m not enjoying it!

Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 2 Post-Birth
Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 2 Post-Birth

Having a toddler means little time to rest so I’m quite active around the house. I’ve already learnt that I can’t lift my toddler, it’s too much for my back and lifting her led to some twinges (yikes) so I’m steering clear of heavy lifting for a while.

So what exercises have I been doing?

Pelvic floor exercises or kegels. I’ve been trying to do these everytime I feed the baby. If you aren’t sure where these are they are the muscles that now don’t work very well  😉 Imagine you are doing a wee and try to stop the flow of urine, it’s those muscles. Try doing some fast contractions where you squeeze the muscles all the way up and then release – imagine a lift going up inside you. Then also do some slow contractions where you slowly take the lift up, hold at the top for 5 seconds and slowly release. You really want to strengthen these muscle as otherwise there will be problems when you cough, laugh, sneeze, jump…. you get the picture!

TVA or core activation. Think about drawing in the muscles below your belly button. There is a belt-like muscle that comes all the way around your body like a corset. Try not to scoop in all your tummy but just tighten up the lower tummy muscles. It may help to place your fingers just inside your hip bones, then cough. Did you feel something tighten? That’s the muscle.

Rest time is also essential though personally this is the bit I find hardest to fit in as I seem to have babies that require a lot of feeding! Try to rest when the baby is napping and remember you don’t have to be superwoman at this point in life. If you have a slightly “messy round the edges house” no-one will mind 😉 Plus if you do too much you can affect your milk supply, so be kind to yourself.