As your body changes during and after pregnancy, it is important to adjust your exercise routine accordingly and develop one that will help assist your body and mind through this truly amazing and often challenging time.
As your weight goes up and your weight distribution changes, your body will be under a lot of strain, in particular through your back. The weight of your baby will also push down on your pelvic floor and your core muscles are becoming stretched and therefore weakened (You can read our advice here on looking after your pelvic floor).
Pregnancy is a phase where your whole system changes to nurturing and growing another body. That means, taking a more nurturing approach to your body and exercise will support you through this stage.
The benefit of pilates post pregnancy
Pilates aims to increase body awareness, strengthen your powerhouse, your core, and bring your muscles into balance, which also means strengthening your stabilising muscles. Click here to see specific advice on core exercises.
Being more body aware will help you be in tune with your pregnancy and child. Improving your connection with your body and listening to its signals will help you become more intuitive and know what’s right or wrong and when to back off with exercise or when you need it to come back out of your head.
Strengthening your powerhouse and being more body aware can help you in more than one way. You’ll find your back is more supported and you’ll be less likely to injure yourself with unusual movements or postural habits like carrying your baby on your hip, bending over a lot and so forth.
During labour, a healthy pelvic floor and the ability to relax or tighten it more voluntarily, will help you give birth. And strengthening your stabilising muscles is essential to help you return to exercise and remain safe during more one-sided movements.
Yoga will also help you improve body awareness, strengthen your mind body connection and allow you to find inner peace. (We’re not suggesting you start chanting or the like, just simple yoga stretches and relaxation to counteract the lack of sleep, stresses of a newborn and bodily changes.) You may find bringing blood flow back to more neglected parts of your body, keeping it supple and giving yourself a space to tune out – your yoga mat – will be like a mini holiday every day. We have even heard of mums who started meditating in the bath tub to help them just create that space, an inner sanctuary, away from all disturbances and demands.
Whatever your space is and wherever you can find it, do give it a shot. And if your little one is throwing yet another tantrum, you may feel you’ll be able to stay calmer.
A calm, centered mummy is a healthy happy mummy in our books. Both yoga and Pilates will give you that sense of an inner centre, put you squarely back into your body and help you return back to exercise. Try both and if only one of them works for you – great! You’ll have one more tool in your kit to being a good parent.
What about your core?
Your core is more than just the six pack muscle we quite often refer to when we say someone has a ripped core.
In fact, this is the most superficial and perhaps least important muscle to strengthen when you’re looking to get a more functional core, cinch your waist in and tone up or let your separated abs heal. (it’s also the muscle that separates – which is why doing sit-ups until the cows come home to help you lose your baby weight would be a terrible idea and make your rectus abdominus bulge and it could separate even more and is why you should avoid crunches and standard Pilates 100′s).
You should examine yourself to find out what degree of muscle separation you have experienced before undertaking any post partum-exercise (needs to be under 2cm) or receive clearance from your Doctor.
How to examine yourself
Step 1 – In a lying position with knees bent, place your right hand behind your head.
Step 2 – With your left hand position your index finger and middle finger together and place them horizontally in the centreline of your stomach between your abdominals.
Step 3 – From this position slowly raise your head slightly off the floor using your right hand (positioned behind your head) for support. Make sure not to simply lift your head with your hand as this is a comman error – you must perform one basic crunch to fully contract your abdominal muscles to get the best assessment of your separation.
Step 4 – Your abdominals will now be slightly contracting allowing you to see exactly how far your abdominals have separated.
Step 5 – If your index finger and middle finger (on your left hand) can still fit between your abdominals you will have Diastasis Recti of between 2 – 2.5cms. For every additional finger you can place inbetween your abdominals you should add 1cm extra to your total abdominal separation number. If you can only fit one finger between your abdominals you effectively have 1cm of separation and will be nearly healed.
If you discover you have more than a 1 – 2cm separation you should refrain from doing exercises such as crunches, sit-ups or pilates 100′s all of which can put too much pressure on the abdominal muscles which have become separated during pregnancy.
What about other exercises?
If you have an option to do either outdoors or add in some walking – great. It will help you put things in perspective, reconnect with a world outside your 4 walls (that can feel quite isolating to some mums) and you’ll also get the added cardiovascular benefit if you start turning your walks into brisk strolls – you can read more about increasing the intensity of your walks here.
Perhaps sign up your girlfriends to get you motivated. You’re less likely to not turn up when you’ve committed to meeting somebody else and you can put things into perspective better.
Stronger exercises such as running, weights, step classes and the like are okay IF you’re cleared by your doctor and were fairly active right up until giving birth.
We cannot stress to you enough how much you’ll benefit from regular, small bursts of activity – incidental exercise – rather than a sudden commitment to a trillion classes a week to lose baby weight fast. This is a time to be enjoyed, treasured and savoured. Take the same approach to your body.
Build your routine slowly, organically and naturally. Start with just ten minutes here and there and then increase to 15 or twenty – perhaps more frequently. Before you’ll know it, you’ll be well under way to a regular routine. And if you have setbacks – so what? You’ll be back out there doing downward dogs, hundreds and walks in no time. And see below for some great exercises you can do at home to get your looking and feeling great.
Exercise after baby is about finding something that works in with your life in a small way – letting you enjoy this amazing journey that is having a child. Not taking away from it or stressing you out more.
[pb_vidembed title=”Super Man Exercise” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF-FCOrAXMc” type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
[pb_vidembed title=”The Hip Hover Exercise” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU6gLzqhUB0″ type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
[pb_vidembed title=”Pelvic Floor & Leg Raises” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix5h6zAUTNs” type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
[pb_vidembed title=”Hundreds For Your Core” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3wnPqQtTFQ” type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
This article was written by Sol Walkling, the Lose Baby Weight Pilates Expert and Trainer – to see Sol’s credentials and read more about her click here
Get Our Exercise DVD
And for the ULTIMATE SAFE, EFFECTIVE & TRUSTED Post Pregnancy Workout – see our EXPERT Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD below – you can purchase and see more information on it here
The DVD can be followed by all mums (for example new mums or mums with older children) and can be followed by someone with a basic or a more advanced level of fitness.
Lisa Westlake is our incredible fitness instructor and postnatal exercise specialist throughout the DVD. With her extensive physiotherapy experience and qualifications (Lisa is one of the most awarded fitness professionals in Australia), Lisa is the perfect fitness instructor to bring The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD to life – you will love working out with her. (You can see our Q&A with Lisa with commonly asked questions on the DVD here)
The exercises in The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD are effective and safe and Lisa will guide you through each of the workouts. As well as assisting in the improvement of your overall fitness levels, the workouts in the DVD will also help in the burning of calories, the improvement of your core strength and the strengthening of your pelvic floor.
The six workouts are broken down into 10 and 15 minute sections that you can do when it suits you – or if you have the time and energy you can do the DVD as one 70 minute continuous workout. The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD also covers special considerations post-birth, such as caesarean sections, back strains, muscle separation, incontinence and pelvic floor issues.
[pb_vidembed title=”The Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD” caption=”” url=”http://vimeo.com/73423922″ type=”vem” w=”600″ h=”450″]
And don’t forget to check out our current promotions and discounts page to see what specials we have on this week on our Healthy Mummy product range