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At Mama on the Move you will never read anything about how doing our programmes will make you “bounce back” to your pre baby body, how following our programmes will get you “beach body ready” or any of that rubbish. Because, quite honestly that is NOT what we are about. Yes, you will lose weight following our postnatal programmes and nutrition guidelines BUT you will also feel stronger, healthier and fitter during your pregnancy and in the postnatal period and THAT is more important than focusing on the weight loss. In our opinion. So if a “body shred” (what does that even mean!?) or a “bikini body programme” (we fully support the – have a body, wear a bikini approach) is your thing, then you won’t find it here….. Mainly because most of those types of training are NOT suitable for someone who has just had a baby and can do more harm than good..

However before you dismiss us, I’d like to talk you through our postnatal programme and what it IS about:

  • Holistic, SAFE Postnatal Pilates AND Fitness programmes that will help you recover from the birth of your baby and start to strengthen your core and pelvic floor, work on your alignment and posture and are also diastasis recti (tummy separation safe)
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking the above programmes will be easy because they are postnatally safe and low impact….. they will absolutely challenge you whatever your fitness level and you can make them harder or easier by changing the repetitions and sets… they are also all suitable to be done in the comfort of your own home or garden as they don’t require equipment.
  • Healthy snacks and recipes and meal planners suitable for breastfeeding mothers

I’m aware that as co-founder of Mama on the Move my review of the programmes is slightly biased(!) however, I just wanted to share with you my personal postnatal fitness and weight loss journey after having my 3rd child in late September last year.

I started the Strength and Fitness programmes around 6 weeks postnatally, prior to that I had been walking a lot (my daughters are at school so school runs were compulsory!) and following the Pilates programme such as activating my TVA and pelvic floor – pelvic tilts, leg slides, and focusing on my breathing – which I found really helpful in re-connecting with my core.

As a personal trainer and fitness professional, I don’t mind telling you I felt incredibly weak when I first started the strength programmes and although they looked “easy” on paper, they really challenged me and I felt the effects the next few days! But in a good way! Like I had woken up my muscles! I found the programmes great to fit around when my baby was sleeping as they are pretty short – 20-30 minutes maximum. I would often do the school run in the morning and then come back and do a workout so it was done for the day before the endless feeding and changing would take-over!

I didn’t really feel my strength returning until around 3 months postnatally, by 4 months I was feeling much more like my old self. The photo is taken at 4 ½ months postnatally and whilst I never weigh myself, I am back into my pre pregnancy clothes comfortably although not as toned as I was… but that’s ok! It’s still early days! I did NOT follow any restrictive silly diet, I did eat healthily and followed the nutritional guidelines on the programme.

I’m now back doing more high intensity training as I am feeling strong, I have good core and pelvic floor function and I know how to exercise safely. I still do the Mama on the Move programmes, they are still challenging – I just increase the reps!

Clients often ask how long it takes to get back to their pre pregnancy weight and fitness and the answer is it’s just so different for everyone. It really depends on how active you were in pregnancy, how much weight you put on, what you pregnancy and birth were like and how well you have recovered from it. For some, they may lose weight and be fit and active again relatively quickly, for others it may take much longer. It’s important not to put any pressure on yourself, to focus on healing from the birth, address any issues such as disastais recti and pelvic floor problems by seeing a women’s health physio and just enjoy your gorgeous new bundle. When the time is ready and you want to start to safely working on restoring you core and building up your fitness again then check out Mama on the Move’s online postnatal programme (they are low impact and DR and pelvic floor safe!)

Laura x

The term “core” is really a fitness buzzword and its actual meaning can be debated to no end. If you have read Tamsin’s blog you know about the ‘Power Four’ as the main inner muscles of the core that Mama on the Move focus on: The transverse abdominis, (TVA) the pelvic floor (PF), multifidus and the diaphragm.

For pregnant and postnatal women the process of carrying and delivering a baby can place a significant strain on your core muscles, meaning that we often suffer from conditions such as pelvic floor dysfunction, hernias, diastasis recti and low back pain. Quite often it is not just the case that these muscles have been weakened but our brain may also have forgotten how to connect with and communicate with them. If you are pregnant – click here to read our blog on connecting with your core in pregnancy…

  • How to engage TVA:

I personally use the cue of “gently drawing your tummy button towards your spine” with my clients, and I believe if you really understand that this is NOT sucking your tummy in as hard as you can then it is an effective cue for lots of people, myself included!

So, we know it isn’t sucking your tummy in hard – WHY? Well think of a tube of tooth paste, if you squeeze it hard in the middle - all you’re doing is displacing the paste. Yes, the centre where you squeeze is thinner, but the paste is still in the tube, it’s just moved. Sucking in your stomach and pulling air up into your diaphragm or pushing air down into your pelvic floor isn’t going to do anything for you.

You also want to add in the correct breathing and connect with the pelvic floor at the same time as “gently drawing your tummy in towards your spine” on the EXHALE and release these muscles on the inhale. When the muscles of your Pelvic Floor turn on, your TVA can engage properly. This is drastically different from simply “sucking in your stomach”. Making a ssssssssss sound as you exhale can sometimes help find the deep core muscles you are working.

  • So, how to engage your Pelvic Floor?

This is going to sound a little strange, BUT - imagine using your vagina like a straw. Imagine sucking up a smoothie or trying to pick up a grape. It’s a gentle upward lifting action. Note, it’s gentle, not forceful.

Don’t forget your posture:

Good posture and alignment is crucial. Make sure your spine is neutral, your chest should not thrust – so lower ribs stay back, stacked directly over hips. Your shoulders are relaxed and not up by your ears and your tailbone or bottom doesn’t tuck underneath you. When you engage your TVA, you should not see movement anywhere else in your body.

REMEMBER:

  • Simply drawing/sucking your stomach in doesn’t do anything. So don’t waste time trying to active your TVA independently
  • Your Transverse Abdominis AND Pelvic Floor muscles activate together
  • Think about your posture, shoulders relaxed, chest not thrust forward, bottom “untucked”
  • Proper engagement of your TVA and Pelvic Floor feels like a gentle upward *and* inward pulling
  • Don’t forget the BREATHING. Inhale to prepare, EXHALE as you gently pull upward on pelvic floor and inward with tummy to spine. INHALE to release the muscles.
  • DON’T FORGET to relax these muscles too -you CAN overuse them– don’t go around trying to hold in your tummy and pelvic floor all day – this will not make them stronger, they need to relax.

When to “engage” the Core:

  • Before you lift anything… your baby, the car seat, the buggy…. Prepare and protect your back by properly engaging your core. I know this sounds like a lot to remember but if you re-train yourself to do this then it will become second nature…
  • Before you perform exercises such as squats, lunges, press ups etc. Remember also to EXHALE on the EXERTION – which in squats, lunges, press ups is as you push back up
  • When you are doing your pelvic floor exercises, don’t forget these muscles work best when worked together so activate your TVA as well.

Our pregnancy and postnatal programmes include Pilates workouts that will help you reconnect with and strengthen your core and pelvic floor. Click here for more details.

Laura x

 

One thing clients are often surprised about is that they can and should be working their core muscles during pregnancy. As Tamsin talked about in her blog, most people are not really sure what their core muscles are or how to properly engage them. Many think they are your abdominals (the “six pack muscle”) and whilst women may be aware in pregnancy that exercises such as crunches and sit ups are not suitable (Correct!), they are unaware that there are some essential core exercises you should be doing.

Magic Disappearing Bump Trick

An effective and safe core exercise to do in pregnancy is called “hugging the baby in” and the great thing about this simple exercise is you can do it standing, sitting (on the ball is good but on a chair fine) or on all fours. You just fit this in around your day and practice it whenever you have some spare time. It’s also a great “party trick” as you can amaze your other half/friends as you hug your baby in and make your bump disappear a little! This exercise is also safe for all 3 trimesters and can be done postnatally (even after a c section).

PLEASE NOTE – THIS DOES NOT HURT YOUR BABY IN ANYWAY!!

Hugging the baby in (engaging your pregnancy core) promotes good posture during pregnancy by strengthening the deep core muscles, the TVA and pelvic floor, which helps support the weight of your growing baby.

By learning to ‘HUG THE BABY,’ you are strengthening your TVA and pelvic floor which in turn:

  1. Decreases susceptibility to Diastasis Recti
  2. Prevents and alleviates lower back pain
  3. Promotes good posture
  4. Help with pushing the baby out during delivery
  5. Postnatally it helps your tummy return back to its pre pregnancy state quicker

How to Hug the Baby and Release the Baby

  1. Stand up tall, lengthening the spine to the ceiling, like you have a string on the top of your head.
  2. Inhale deeply, allowing the air to fill down the sides and back of the ribs, (Lateral Thoracic Breathing).
  3. EXHALE as you gently lift up on the pelvic floor and you hug your baby (pulling baby or tummy in towards the spine activating the TVA). Keep the pelvis neutral (don’t tuck your bottom under).
  4. Feel equal weight on your feet pressing down into the floor and keep the shoulders relaxed and down away from the ears.
  5. INHALE as you relax the TVA and pelvic floor, releasing the Hug the Baby posture.

The ability to completely relax the TVA and pelvic floor allows for flexible, strong muscles rather than tight, inflexible muscles, and it is very important to remember to relax completely on the inhale.

In the video I am hugging the baby in on all fours. Mare sure your hands are directly under your shoulders (and shoulder width apart) and that your knees are directly under your hips and hip width apart. You spine should be in “neutral” position, which a flat back and un-tucked bottom.

During my third pregnancy I followed Mama in the Move’s Fitness and Pilates programmes, which include lots of safe deep core exercises and I can honestly say it was my easiest pregnancy and I had no back pain at all. I was also able to activate my deep core muscles much earlier postnatally because I had been working them throughout my pregnancy.

Laura x