I came across a great post on Instagram by a fellow alignment nerd yesterday which I had to share in my client Facebook Group.

The photo showed a pregnant person in poor, lifted chest, “bump out in front of her” posture on the left, and then her again in perfect alignment on the right.

It’s fascinating to see how lifting your chest and standing with your pelvic weight forwards can apply pressure and more load than necessary to your lower back, so do go and check out the link below because sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words, huh? 

Click here to see the image: https://www.instagram.com/p/BkyEmsLHZg1/

Having a chat to a few of my pregnant clients over the past fortnight, it’s apparent that some of you are suffering with pelvic pain, sneeze wee and sciatica.

So, I thought I share my thoughts on what to do when you feel either of these symptoms setting in.

SNEEZE WEE

Although common, it’s not normal to wet yourself when you sneeze.

This essentially means when your bladder has urine in it, your pelvic floor is not strong enough to withstand the downward forces produced by said sneeze.

You may be happy to tolerate it for now, thinking you only have a few months left of your pregnancy, so what’s the point doing much about it now?

Well, it tells me there is a problem, because, well – read paragraph one again, ok?

The “problem” won’t go away by itself and I take a full body approach to pelvic floor rehab if you hadn’t noticed, so doing a tonne of “squeeze and release” exercises to your vag may not make a lick of difference.

See my Your Pelvic Matters or pregnancy Pilates or Beginners Pilates classes for more info, or come and see me for postnatal personal training, where I can put an individualised program of exercises together specifically for you.

PELVIC PAIN

Pelvic Girdle Pain or PGP as it’s sometimes termed can include pain at the front, back or sides of the pelvis.

So, discomfort at the pubic bone, groin area, outer thighs, hip bones and/or lower back/gluteal pain all falls under the umbrella of “PGP”.

If PGP becomes really bad, you may be offered Physio by your local hospital, with the worst case scenario being, they’ll offer you a support belt an crutches if your symptoms get worse, rather than get better.

I’ve worked with a tonne of pregnant women with PGP one-on-one and in a group setting, and I can always find movements for them to do.

Mindset is huge with this one here, so if someone says a support belt is your best option, you’re going to think it is.

It may provide you a teeny bit of relief, but there’s more at stake here, because using a set of crutches and/or wearing a support belt are sort of “plastering” things.

What you need is pelvic stability back in your life, and I can certainly help you attain that.

SCIATICA

I’ve had this and it’s pretty grim.

Although it was well over 10 years ago, I can still remember the torment of that shooting/tingling pain that starts in the butt, runs down the back of the leg, all the way underneath the foot to the big toe.

For me, sitting down aggravated it, so it’s important for you to work out what it is that’s causing more discomfort and do less of that for starters.

I generally advise against stretching out the gluteals if sciatica is present, because it can sometimes make symptoms worse.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE SNEEZE WEE, PELVIC PAIN AND/OR SCIATICA?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

In a nutshell, you need to:

  • Sit better (if you must sit, or vary the way you sit eg floor sitting)
  • Stand better (I teach you how to do this in every class setting on my timetable, so no excuses)
  • Walk and move more (but you need to learn how to stand better for you to be able to move and walk better, so you can sort of see how these things are indeed connected)
  • Strengthen your glutes (a huge role in relieving pelvic pain, sciatica and sneeze wee is building yourself a strong butt, which incidentally is linked to walking better – you see – I can find a tenuous link to everything!)
  • Release your hamstrings (particularly if sneeze wee is something you suffer with – it tells me your pelvic floor is possibly too tight)
  • Teach your core to switch on reflexively (which means you don’t “draw it in” all the time, or at all – you let it anticipate and adapt to the load you’re asking it to bear), and finally
  • Learn to breathe better (because you can’t get a reflexive core, if you’re not breathing into your ribs, and breathing better can also help pelvic floor/core synergy too)

And, there you have it!

That’s quite an extensive list as you can see, but you’ll know that if you’ve ever asked me a question that goes along the lines of:

“What exercises are good for….?”

I rarely if ever answer it by listing my “go to” exercises.

This is because I look at the body as a whole unit.

And, just sending you away with 4 movements to do, in isolation, isn’t going to relieve your symptoms.

YOU have got to take some responsibility for your pain and actions going forwards too, you see?

If you’re concerned that any symptom you’re suffering with is not going away, it’s probably time to get in touch with me, don’t you think?

I run a host of classes where you can learn about how to stand, sit and move better.

Pregnancy fitness is Mondays at 6pm and pregnancy Pilates is Tuesday at 6:15pm.

Mummies and Buggies indoor postnatal buggy class is Wednesday at 11am.

My pelvic floor exercise class is 7:30pm on Wednesdays (but check the link for info on how to enrol).

Beginners Pilates is Tuesday at 8:30pm in West Bridgford.

And, if you want a fun, fat-burning, full-body workout that offers postnatal options, it’s my Little Black Dress Workout on a Monday at 8:30pm you’ll want to book on.

 

 

I was teaching a particular exercise in my Mummies and Buggies class there recently, and I mentioned the importance of observing and understanding what your stomach is supposed to look and feel like when you do an exercise or load it in a certain way.

Remember, my pregnancy exercise and Pilates, buggy fitness and general fitness and mainstream Pilates classes aren’t just a place where you come to work out – they’re also an education, and if you have a question – feel free to ask it before, during or after a class, ok?

I actually love that Doctors, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Osteopaths – in other words, people who more qualified than me – actually learn stuff in my sessions that they pass on to their own patients.

Pretty cool, right?

And, it’s quite possibly the most flattering thing ever when someone with more anatomy knowledge than me asks for advice on a particular body part, let me tell you!

Today, I’m sharing some important information on how you can determine yourself if an exercise is too hard for your abdominal muscles:

1 BREADLOAF

The telltale sign that an abdominal exercise is too hard/intense for you (regardless of whether you’re pregnant or postnatal, or neither of those) is when you perform the move, and your abdomen resembles a loaf of bread.

If you were to do a sit up, without really thinking about it, or you sit up out of the bath/bed unconsciously, you’re likely to sometimes see the middle of your belly, around the belly button push up and out.

If you ever get this sensation, it’s called “doming”, “pooching” or “breadloafing”, because it essentially means you’re not using your core muscles to do the exercise, your back isn’t particularly supported here and your six-pack muscles are taking the strain instead.

And, in true style – those muscles are telling you about it.  Isn’t the body wonderful?

2 SEVERE MUSCLE SORENESS

Image of Claire in the plank positionAnother reason you can tell an exercise is inappropriate for you is if you’ve been to a gym-based class, and a few hours after, or the very next day, you suffer with severe abdominal muscle soreness.

It could be because you did a lot of sit up/plank type exercises (which you might note I rarely do in my classes, why is that, do you think?).

Fair enough, you’ve worked muscles you haven’t worked for some time, and you’ll find some slight muscle soreness is generally experienced after a workout – this is perfectly fine.

However, if it’s severe aching/pulling, where you’re not able to perform movements in your day-to-day life without having to adapt your body, then you might want to rethink returning to that class until you’re abdominals are stronger and/or you’ve been checked for abdominal separation (diastasis recti).

3 BACK PAIN

Back pain is fairly synonymous with pregnancy and being postnatal (not that it need be, can I point out though).

When it comes to exercise, if your lumbar spine is in lockdown following a general fitness class, chances are, the intensity/style/number of reps of the exercise you performed was just too much.

If you experience back pain DURING an exercise, that is your back saying “red flag” right there – stop immediately!

Please don’t ever work through the pain – trust me – it ain’t worth it, ok?

You’ll be laid up for days, and you’ll most likely regret it.

Did you know I offer fitness and Pilates classes for everyone – not just pre/postnatal women?

So, if you’ve had your baby a while ago…

…or you’re looking to continue your exercise journey with me…

…safe in the knowledge that you’ll be exercising in a simple and effective way for your back, pelvic floor and abdominals…

…check out my Beginners Pilates and Little Black Dress Workout classes in West Bridgford.

I take a full-body approach to improving pelvic floor function and when assessing someone, I always start with the foot, and work my way upwards from there.

I haven’t prescribed a Kegel in my classes (those “squeeze and release” and “draw up and hold” exercises) for around 4 years now for a few reasons:

  1. often my first time pregnant clients don’t know what the heck they’re supposed to be doing, and
  2. traditional pelvic floor exercises don’t work for every man/woman with pelvic floor weakness (and I have the research to back that statement up)

Here are my top 3 non-traditional pelvic floor exercises you can do at home to help improve pelvic floor health:

EXERCISE ONE

So, if you’ve been wearing heeled footwear, you may just find that the calf muscle has shortened, passively over time due to always having a raise underneath the heel of your foot.

NB – most sports trainers and some ballet flats have a hidden heel or a super high heel within the factory made insole, by the way so check them out if you don’t believe me.

If your calves are tight, you will lack range of movement/mobility in your ankle which has a knock-on effect to your gait, and how your pelvis and pelvic floor functions as you go about your day.

So my message is clear: get out of heeled shoes, walk around in bare feet at home to increase foot mobility, and stretch out your calf muscles.

EXERCISE TWO

Your hamstrings at the backs of your legs are often chronically tight through excessive sitting and the very sedentary nature of our lives nowadays.

If these muscles are tight, they’ll pull the back of your pelvis down towards your heels, and attribute to a tight pelvic floor.

A tight pelvic floor generally also attributes to a weak/dysfunctional pelvic floor, and the number one best way to gain strength and length into your pelvic floor is to release your hamstrings.

So, as the bare minimum, try stretching out your hamstrings as often as you can.

If you read a recent newsletter from me about “poking your bum out” when bending forwards/down to pick something up, I need you to do this consistently, every time, so that it becomes normal practise.

Why?

So my message here is clear: The more that you tip forwards at the hips, the more you open up your pelvic floor at the back, and indeed lengthen the backs of your legs.

(and, can I point out, the more you move in this manner in your day-to-day life, bending down to pick something up off the floor, the more you decrease the load on your lumbar spine. So, if you’re getting lower back pain a lot when bending forwards, re-read that paragraph above, ok?)

EXERCISE THREE

When standing upright at the change table, kitchen counter, bathroom sink etc, you’ll want to stand with your feet hip distance apart, toes pointed forwards and bodyweight backed up over your ankles.

Most people, when they have a contraption in front of them like a desk, table or counter will start to lean/pitch their pelvic weight towards that object.

The more you do this, the more load you’re putting on the spine, and it can really throw off what’s happening the pelvis too.

If you’re prone to tucking your tailbone under in standing, this “tuck” will be increased the more you wear your pelvis out in front of you.

So my message here is clear: Stand and walk around with your pelvic weight backed up over your ankle bones, and the only way you’re going to be able to do that is by:

a) getting out of heeled shoes, and

b) lengthening your hamstrings

Can you see the connection now?

I cover a tonne of tips in my postnatal and pregnancy exercise classes on pelvic floor health.

It’s really interesting to note that once you start to learn how to hold yourself, you start observing others around you randomly on the street etc and it starts to make your eyes bleed a little.

If you have pelvic floor issues yourself, or are concerned that during your pregnancy, you’re not doing enough exercise to increase your chances of giving birth naturally, you have a few options:

Book on my Mummies and Buggies classes where you not only get a great workout that’s safe for your pelvic floor, but you also get to bring baby with you.

And, if you’re pregnant, come along Bump to Babe pregnancy fitness, or my pregnancy Pilates classes.

Feel as though you need specialist attention for your pelvic floor?

Did you know I have a pelvic floor exercise class on my timetable?

Check out Your Pelvic Matters here where you’ll learn the exact exercises you should be doing on a regular basis to help rehab your pelvic floor.

Email me back if you have any questions.

Have a great week.

Are you pregnant?

Unsure what exercises are safe for your abdominals during pregnancy?

Here, I’ve selected 3 of my favourite Pilates-based exercises for you to perform to strengthen your core and pelvic floor and release tension in the shoulders, neck and back.

Enjoy!

If you’re looking for a pregnancy fitness or antenatal Pilates class in Nottingham, and want to meet other mums-to-be, then you’ve come to the right place!

With 2 types of classes on offer on the timetable:

Bump to Babe Pregnancy Fitness and Pregnancy Pilates – these are every busy pregnant woman’s answer to staying fit, active and healthy throughout their pregnancy.

Come along and exercise at any stage of your pregnancy, right up to full term – and give your unborn baby the BEST start in life.

Image of the pelvic showing where the muscles connect to the bonesThere are a number of muscles that feed in and out of the pelvis.

Let me make a little list for you:

  • Hip flexors,
  • Quadriceps (front of your thighs),
  • Glutes (your bum),
  • Outer thighs,
  • Inner thighs,
  • Hamstrings (backs of your thighs).

Each and every one of these muscles needs a good bit of attention particularly if:

a) you’re pregnant and preparing for childbirth,

b) you’re postnatal and getting frequent pelvic/back pain,

c) you’re suffering with pelvic floor weakness, and/or

d) you’ve sat down a good part of your life.

When you exercise with me, at the end of your workout, or sometimes interspersed between exercises in my Bump to Babe, pregnancy Pilates or Mummies and Buggies classes, I add some release work in for you.

It’s not all about strength, strength, strength all the time.

And, this is sort of why traditional pelvic floor exercises don’t work.

I’m talking about those “squeeze and release” type exercises where you imagine you’re stopping the flow of urine, and repeat 15 times or whatever.

You need to be able to release your pelvic floor, before start adding load or strength work to it.

That general rule applies to most of the muscles in the human body if I’m honest if there’s dysfunction present.

If you released all of these areas of your body on a regular basis, I’d hazard a guess that you’d:

  1. get less back pain,
  2. suffer with fewer aches in your hips and pelvis,
  3. increase your pelvic floor strength and function,
  4. increase your chances of delivering your baby naturally,
  5. decrease the chances of you tearing during childbirth,
  6. decrease the severity of menstrual cramps,
  7. increase your chances of fertility,
  8. suffer less with leg cramps, restless legs and other circulatory conditions,
  9. improve your gait pattern, and
  10. therefore improve your pelvic floor function

There’s this misconception that pregnant and postnatal women can’t stretch.

Or, perhaps that they can stretch, but for only short periods of time.

Google’s a great tool granted –  but if you have a question relating to exercise that isn’t located on my blog, can I get you to ask me directly instead?

Because internet searching can also call up a tonne of misinformation and really old hat advice!

I update my skills on a regular basis, and there are exercises I would not have done 12+ years ago when I first qualified…

…only to now include them because we now realise in the pre/postnatal fitness industry, that’s it’s a little foolish to blacklist certain movements altogether when you’re likely to need to be able to do them after birth, caring for your newborn.

With a few tweaks in the way you use your body throughout the day, you’ll be rewarded with less back, pelvic and knee pain and fewer symptoms of pelvic floor weakness.

Hip tightness and back tension often refers into the pelvic floor, so if you have a pelvic floor issue – for full-body function, you need to sort out your pelvic mechanics, and get more mobility in your spine.

If you have pelvic floor dysfunction, take onboard all of these tips because the key to pelvic floor rehab and labour prep is actually getting your whole body working better for you.

If you’re pregnant or postnatal reading this right now and concerned you’re not doing enough exercise that is specifically designed to strengthen and release the right muscles to prepare you for childbirth, then, you’ll want to book on my pregnancy fitness classes in Lady Bay which are an education in itself.

My Bump to Babe pregnancy fitness classes on Mondays in Lady Bay provide cardio, toning, Pilates, stretching and tonnes of education about what happens to your body during pregnancy.

And, if you’ve recently had your baby, my indoor postnatal buggy classes known as Mummies and Buggies are held 11am Wednesdays in Lady Bay and provide you with cardio and toning that leaves very few muscles unturned!

Had you baby recently?

Are you short on time?

Want to increase your fitness level and burn off those excess calories?

Grab a chair and join me in this full-body, fat-burning workout!

Suitable for new mums who’ve had their Doctor’s check.

Are you ready?

Looking for something more, here are the best forms of exercise for new mums:

Join a mum and baby fitness class – Get fit, have fun, make new mummy friends and bring baby with you!

Get up and move – Sitting still for hours on end feeding etc will do your back no favours, so every 30 minutes, move about to stop your body seizing up.

If you don’t do something NOW to get back into shape after birth, it may be even longer before you’re your old self again. 

Even when you’re at your worst, I’m certain with a bit of willpower and a change in mindset, you can find 10 minutes in your day to exercise with these tips.

Want to learn more about postnatal exercise?

Check out my Postnatal Pilates Worksheets, Your Pelvic Matters Exercise Class if your pelvic floor isn’t as strong as it was pre-pregnancy, and/or my indoor buggy workout Mummies and Buggies fitness classes.

A question I’m often asked is:

“I’m getting this pain…here…at the back of my ribcage. Any ideas what’s causing it, Claire?”

Well, yes.

Yes, I do.

If you’re a regular attendee of my pregnancy fitness, antenatal Pilates or Mummies and Buggies classes, when you’re exercising, you’ll hear me say phrases like this a lot:

Image depicting rib thrust

  • Relax your ribs
  • Drop the ribs down
  • Stop holding the chest up
  • When your arms are lifted, the ribs shouldn’t be
  • Stop thrusting the ribs out in front of the pelvis

If you take a look at the photo here, you’ll see a nice picture of me in standing with my rib cage pitched out in front of me.

The human skeleton should be aligned so that the front of the ribs actually sits flush with the front of the pelvis.

Don’t believe me?

Check out the skeleton at your GP’s the next time you’re there and draw a line with your eyes down from the base of the ribs, to the floor, and you’ll see that it sits down in line with the pelvis.

From side view, your skeleton should be aligned:

  • Ear on shoulder
  • Shoulder on rib
  • Rib on pelvis
  • Pelvis on ankle

When you jut your ribcage out in front of you constantly, assuming it looks better aesthetically, you’re effectively closing the space at the back of your rib cage which:

  • Makes it harder to get oxygen into your lungs and breathe optimally,
  • Shears / puts a kink in your spinal chord, and
  • Can be a contributing factor to the cause and rehabilitation of abdominal separation

A parent, teacher or significant person in your life may have said these phrases to you at some point in your lifetime:

  • “Sit up straight!”
  • “Stop slouching!”
  • “Stand up taller!”

And, your brain has interpreted this as:

  • Rib thrusting

There’s only so much the spinal column will tolerate, particularly if you’re stationary in one position for a long time, with the ribs thrusted out in front of you…

…before it sends a signal to your brain to say:

  • “Please stop that – it hurts!”

So, if you’re experiencing pain right at the back of your rib cage and you want some tips on how to get rid of it, here goes:

  • Relax your ribs
  • Drop the ribs down
  • Stop holding the chest up
  • When your arms are lifted, the ribs shouldn’t be
  • Stop thrusting the ribs out in front of the pelvis

Now, can you tell that I just totally copied those bullet points from the start of this article, and pasted them here…?!

Because I did.

A lot of pain is caused by mis-alignment of the skeleton.

Here’s a recap on how your skeleton should be aligned:

  • Ear on shoulder
  • Shoulder on rib
  • Rib on pelvis
  • Pelvis on ankle

Ah ha!  ANOTHER copy and paste job, did you see?

So, the next time you’re experiencing pain, how about you go back to these basic alignment cues, and see what it is you’re doing that’s throwing your skeleton off.

Are you poking your chin/head out in front of you to stare intently at your phone right now, and then wondering why you have neck pain?

Are you sitting for long periods and experiencing unexplained “back of the rib cage” pain?

Do you hold your baby in standing a lot with your pelvic weight thrusted out over your toes, putting undue stress on your lower back?

Yeah, so these few examples I’ve listed actually throw the loads to your skeleton way off, so it’s best to learn HOW to sit and stand better, and practise good alignment, little and often…

…and I guarantee, you’ll experience less pain as a result.

If you’re pregnant or postnatal reading this right now and you can’t get to the bottom of why you’re experiencing pain in certain areas of your body, then book on my next pregnancy Pilates class.

Concerned you’re not doing enough exercise that is specifically designed to strengthen and release the right muscles to prepare you for childbirth, then, you’ll want to book on my pregnancy fitness classes in Lady Bay which are an education in itself.

And, if want to learn how to hold, carry and care for baby without experiencing so much discomfort, my indoor postnatal buggy classes known as Mummies and Buggies are held 11am Wednesdays in Lady Bay and provide you with cardio and toning that leaves very few muscles unturned!

Ever feel really tight and tense in certain areas of your body after a long day at work?

This video tells you the importance of stretching during pregnancy.

Some muscles tighten, others weaken in comparison.

By stretching the right muscles here, as often as you can, you’ll feel loser around the shoulders, hips and lower back, which all pregnant women feel tension in.

These exercises are suitable at any stage of pregnancy, so give them a try and let me know how you get on!

If you’re looking for a pregnancy exercise or antenatal Pilates class in Nottingham, and want to meet other mums-to-be, then you’ve come to the right place!

Bump to Babe Fitness and Pilates classes are every busy pregnant woman’s answer to staying fit, active and healthy throughout their pregnancy.

Come along and exercise at any stage of your pregnancy and give your unborn baby the BEST start in life.

Today, I thought I’d share answers to the 5 top frequently asked questions I’m often asked about the pelvic floor, so here goes:

1. SHOULD I PERFORM “SQUEEZE AND RELEASE” EXERCISES TO MY PELVIC FLOOR?

Pregnant woman sat down to excerciseYes and no.

It depends if you’re pregnant, postnatal and/or have issues in your pelvic floor muscles right now.

I’m not a big advocate for “squeezing and releasing” and/or “drawing up and holding” pelvic floor type movements, hence the reason I don’t teach them in my classes.

That’s not to say there’s not a place for them for some people, and certainly if you have zero signal or control over your bladder/bowel, then it’s at this point you’d be well advised to perform them (under the guidance of a Women’s Health Physiotherapist or similar).

In a lot of instances of where clients come to see me with sneeze wee, or that feeling of urgency to use the toilet at time throughout the day, it’s often a case of the pelvic floor being too tight.

So, what the pelvic floor needs is a good stretch out, the hamstrings need length, and the butt needs be strengthened.

Read More

Have you had your baby recently?

This video walks you through 3 must-do exercises all new mums should be doing on a regular basis.

Caring for a newborn baby takes its toll on the upper and lower body, and, energy levels pending, exercise can really help reduce those aches and pains.

Covering upper and lower body exercise ideas, all you need is a resistance band, and off you go.

Give your shoulders, upper back, thighs, backside and core a workout now!

 

Want to learn more about postnatal exercise?

Check out Postnatal Pilates Worksheets which you can download and get started on straight away.

If your pelvic floor isn’t as strong as it was pre-pregnancy Your Pelvic Matters Exercise Class is your first port of call.

And/or the infamous indoor buggy workout Mummies and Buggies fitness classes where babies come too!


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