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:
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
Another 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…
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.
With 2 types of classes on offer on the timetable:
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.
The technical name for abdominal separation is: diastasis recti.
Today, I’m going to be sharing with you 4 exercises that WON’T fix abdominal separation (all of which are demonstrated in this photo here).
First up is supine pelvic tilts:
This is where you’re on your back, and you flatten the lower back down against the floor and then return the pelvis back to neutral.
This exercise WON’T heal your mummy-tummy.
I once met a client who came to my postnatal Pilates classes who had all 3 of these things:
I’ve rehabilitated and lessened the symptoms all of these 3 issues in a lot of women (and men) over the past few years.
They’re all linked.
Let me explain a little further:
TOO MUCH PRESSURE
The human body has 3 cavities:
1) thoracic (chest and ribcage area)
If you have too much pressure building up in one of those cavities, there are 3 ways of that pressure is going places once it’s reached the pressure cooker stage:
I like to describe the “core” as a bit like a house.
A house has a foundation, walls at the sides and front/back, there are support beams in the middle and a roof on top.
Your “core” is made up of several different muscles in your abdominals and back.
Here’s a little bit more about each one:
DIAPHRAGM – These are your breathing muscles and they form the “lid” or roof of your core, if you like. Ever wondered why I keep banging on about the importance of optimal breathing in class?! Well, now you know why.
Not sure if your abdominal muscles have knitted back together properly after birth?
Didn’t get your tummy looked at at your 6-week check up?
Know you need to do exercises, but not sure where to start?
Fixing mummies’ tummies is kind of my speciality!
And, I’m here to help.
Well, when it comes to fixing abdominal separation, gone are the days when I can just say:
“Here’s a program of 4 exercises for you. Do them every day for the next month and get back to me.”
Sorry – was that what you were after?
No, no – wait…!
Focussing solely on your mid-section and training just your abdominal muscles in an effort to ‘fix’ any distension in your tummy muscles is what’s called ‘spot reducing’.
Put simply, ‘spot reducing’ is where you focus on just one muscle group, one body part, or just one area of your body and try and tone the hell out of it!
Oh, and if you’re doing sit ups and suspect you have abdominal separation – they aren’t the answer.
In fact, sit ups will make abdominal separation worse.
The human body is made up of hundreds of muscles and bones. And, let me tell you – if the muscles in your body can find an easy way of doing something – they will.
And, they’ll do it over and over and over again until a nice little muscle imbalance has found its way in there.
How do you think these everyday mummy movements affect your overall posture?
- always holding baby with your dominate arm,
- winding baby over the same shoulder all the time (did some one say colic?),
- sitting slumped over feeding baby…for hours and hours and hours (no one tells you that, do they?),
- propping baby up on one hip,
- pushing a buggy uphill with your arms out-stretched and shoulders lifted….(and your bum out for all to see!)
These things all create muscular imbalances, don’t they?
If even one of your muscles is tight, weak or stretched, does it make sense that other muscles will try and compensate?
Because, indeed they do.
Everyday’s a school day, eh?
Do you want some good news though?
Ok, well fortunately for you – there are many ways of fixing abdominal separation.
Education is key here particularly when it comes to discovering the ‘cause and effect’ of abdominal separation – and all of your other postural traits.
Here are some points I consider when treating you for abdominal separation:
- Is this your first/second/third/fourth baby?
- Do you suspect you had abdominal separation that went untreated if it’s not your first baby?
- What exercise did you do prior to getting pregnant?
- How’s your posture right now?
- Can you breathe correctly?
- Do you actually have any ‘core’ strength?
- What muscles are really tight for you?
- Which muscles dominate your entire system, without you realising it?
- What tasks are you doing with a newborn that might be attributing to your abdominal separation?
- Is your pelvic floor ok, or do you need help with that too?
Can you see what I mean?
Assessing, treating and rehabilitating a new mum for abdominal separation needs to move away just doing tummy exercises.
It needs a broader, full-body approach to get your system working and functioning in a more optimal way.
I’ve had success ‘fixing’ clients’ abdominal separations back to normal – from as quickly as 7 weeks which is pretty cool, right?
What’s also encouraging is that I’ve created a 7 Steps to Fixing Abdominal Separation method myself and this is exactly what I’m talking about:
A whole-body, ‘everything working as one’, proper unit-type system…
….That gets results!
If you suspect you have abdominal separation, don’t be concerned. I can help.
Book a 1-2-1 individualised personal training session with me either in person, or via Skype, where we can sit down, get you assessed and get your body back on the road to recovery.
10 04 2016
Here you’ll view some simple exercises that are safe for you to perform on a swiss/birthing ball during pregnancy.
Work on your core, pelvic floor and posture in this workout.
Great if you’re short on time, or want some ideas on what to do with your birthing ball, rather than just sitting on it!
If you’re pregnant and want to learn more about how to align yourself, keep aches and pains at bay and decrease your symptoms of pelvic pain, click here to book your space on my next Pregnancy Pilates course in West Bridgford, Tuesdays at 6:15pm.
If you’re pregnant and want flexible attendance – never fear – my Bump to Babe pregnancy fitness classes allow you to start whenever you’re ready, and flexibility to switch classes if you need to.
Suitable for any stage in pregnancy, and a heck of a lot of fun – my pregnancy fitness classes offer you cardio, toning, Pilates, pelvic floor, stretching and relaxation, and if you miss a week here or there – it doesn’t matter.
Bump to Babe pregnancy fitness classes are held on Mondays at 6pm in Lady Bay.
If you’ve had your baby recently and want to know how to adapt movements and care for your newborn baby, check out my Mummies and Buggies (indoor) postnatal buggy classes.
20 02 2014
If you’re prone to storing weight around your midsection and despite every attempt at exercise, you still find that pesky section of fat under your belly button is going nowhere, I’m here to help.
Today, I’m revealing the truth about the fitness industry’s most popular abdominal exercise: the sit up, and why it’s so ineffective at toning that muffin top.
1. Targeting the wrong area
Ok, so, firstly, I’d like you to think about where you store fat around your midsection. Is it above or below the belly button or below? Generally speaking, it’s always below the navel that stubborn fat lingers, isn’t it? You know, that pesky section of fat that you can roll between your fingers that’s showing no signs of shifting?
2. Ineffective muscle contraction
Next, have a think about whereabouts in your abdominal area you ‘feel’ a sit up working? Is it the muscles above, or below the umbilicus? That’s right – it’s above, isn’t it that you feel the burn after doing a set of sit ups? So, when you do a sit up, it’s not actually targeting the right muscles, which we’ve established are located below, not above the belly button. Are you with me so far?
There’s no real “yes” or “no” answer to the question: “Can I give myself abdominal separation after birth?”, but in today’s article, I’m hoping to educate you a little bit more about what abdominal separation is, and how certain movements, and indeed general habits of several new mums can actually cause abdominal separation or make it worse.
If this is the first time you’ve heard about Diastasis Recti (the technical term for abdominal separation), click here to educate yourself more about the condition.
It’s important to point out that the abdominals don’t separate in every pregnancy, and please also note that there are many causes of abdominal distension (in both genders). Click here to read more about the top causes of abdominal separation. It’s rather enlightening.
As a new mum, I’m here to inform you that there’s one movement you’re doing which can either:
a) cause abdominal separation, or
b) make abdominal separation worse if it’s already present.
Were you aware that sit ups aren’t safe during the postnatal period? I wrote an article relating to this recently. Read it by clicking here. If you’re doing sit ups in an effort to tone your abdominals as a new mum, please stop immediately. They aren’t suitable for postnatal women, so cease them NOW. You have been warned.
I’d now like you to think about how you get out of bed. It’s the middle of the night, you shake yourself awake, you move out of bed as quickly as you can and tend to your baby’s needs.
Be honest with me here. How do you get yourself out of bed? More than likely, you shift yourself up into a seated position via a sit up-type action. Am I right?
If you do so, can I suggest you change this habit, because:
a) it’s not safe for your weakened post-birth abdominals, and
b) it’ll makes things worse if you have a diastasis of the abdominals already present.
How should you get out of bed correctly to avoid putting pressure on the abdominals?
Try this procedure here. Starting from lying on your back:
- Bend your legs
- Keep your knees together
- Engage your core/pelvic floor muscles
- Roll onto your side using your arms and core and keeping your knees narrow
- Place your hands under your shoulders and walk yourself up via your side
- Swing your legs over the side of your bed
- Engage your core/pelvic floor
- Push up to a standing position
Practise this procedure whenever you get out of bed and when you get back into bed to go to sleep, following it in reverse ie don’t lie back from a seated position either, because it’s like doing a sit up in reverse, isn’t it?
If your baby is not a good sleeper, think of how many times your baby wakes up in the night, and then cast your mind over the number of incidences where you sit up out of bed to go and tend to them? It’s likely to be several, isn’t it?
Being a new mum requires you to perform actions relating to caring for your baby at speed. At Mummies and Buggies and Your Pelvic Matters, I demonstrate the dangers of doing movements out of habit, and the consequences of performing them long-term on your pelvic floor, back, weakened abdominals and posture. If you’d like to book yourself a space and learn more about what’s safe and what’s not, see www.clairemockridge.com for more info.
See you again soon.
When it comes to your Doctor’s Check up after birth, and subsequent follow up visits, at some local Clinics here in Nottingham, these appointments can be rather cursory affairs with your Doctor asking you: “So, how are your feeling?”, and that’s about it.
I’m not here to judge your GP and/or the service they provide obviously, but, with a little bit of education before you go in, I’m here to help you get the most out of your Doctor’s appointments, to ensure you come out feeling as though you’ve had your questions answered, and you leave with a boost of confidence.
There’s nothing worse than taking yourself off to the Doctor and realising afterwards you didn’t really get the right information, or enough of it.Today, I’ve put together a bit of a checklist for you, to help you:
- Before you go, write a list of your concerns and symptoms starting with the most important – if you’re going for your 6 or 10-week check (with most doing a ‘mother and baby’ check at 8 or 12 weeks to save time), don’t assume that the appointment will always be about you.
- If you have a problem you’d like to discuss, chart when the problem started, how it developed and how it affects your daily life now as a new mum eg can you laugh without wetting yourself, are you concerned about the appearance of your c-section scar etc?
- Ask your Doctor to check your abdominals for any separation, and do a test for pelvic floor function – don’t assume they all GPs will do this, ok, so ask for it specifically.
- Be honest and don’t hold back any details – practise what you want to say in front of a mirror. I appreciate if it’s something of a sensitive matter, it’s not going to be easy to talk about, but you simply have to, if you want something like natural bladder or bowel function back again, ok?
- Be clear about what you want eg if you’d like a change of medication, ask for it outright – no mess, no fuss, just clear, concise language.
- Be assertive, but polite – you don’t want your GP to push the panic button under their desk to summon Security, but at the same time, you want answers, information and clarification, and you need to walk in with confidence.
- Ask your GP to clarify anything you’re not clear about – how many times do you walk away from an appointment or discuss the details with your partner/friend afterwards, and then realise you’re not really anymore clued up than before you walked in? It’s so frustrating, isn’t it?
- If you’re worried, take a friend or relative along for support – most Practices have a chaperone policy, so take advantage of it.
- If you’re not happy with the outcome, ask for an appointment with another GP – you’re quite within your rights to do this if you see it necessary. At the surgery I’m registered with, I can request an appointment with any Doctor and can book online, so don’t even need to speak to a Receptionist. Simples.
- Book a double appointment if you feel your problems can’t be covered in 10 minutes – I rarely see a Doctor myself, to be honest (might be something to do with that healthy lifestyle/occupation, eh?). But, I make myself go at least once a year to get myself checked over and request a double appointment and get everything out of the way in one go. The patients booked in after you will be thankful that you didn’t run over if you request a longer time to discuss things too.
And there you have it. My Top Tips for getting the most out appointments booked with your Doctor, or any medical professional for that matter. Why not print this list out and keep it in your handbag? That way, you’ll have access to it and something to read when you’re sitting in the waiting room too!
Obviously, being a new mum requires you to be superhuman sometimes, but when it comes to your recovery as an individual, it can be tough. It may be months and months before you feel normal again. But if you don’t do something NOW to help your recovery, it may be even longer before you’re your old self again.