Showing posts with label post pregnancy workout. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post pregnancy workout. Show all posts

Monday, April 18, 2016

That's How I Roll!

You have probably seen tons of people rolling on them at the gym.  You have probably seen tons of those rollers for sale at department stores.  Have you ever considered adding it to your workout routine?  I really think you should. 
And yes, it might hurt a little bit when you go over some knots, but you will love the changes you will notice on your body with consistent practice of foam rolling.  No matter if you choose to add it to the beginning, as part of the warm up, or at the end as part of the cooling down. The important thing is to keep doing it.  Mix it up, try before and after and see which you prefer.    

Before hitting the gym for your next workout session check out the 5 benefits of using a foam roller:

Rolling quads - you can do them both or separately

1. Reduces cellulite/firmer skin: When you consistently use the foam roller in conjunction with your exercise, you might start noticing that the skin on the areas you are rolling feels more youthful and with cottage cheese appearance.  That’s because when you apply pressure to your body parts thru rolling, you increase the blood circulation.  When your tissues get more blood they are happy.  This is a big one, and I know that your body changed in many ways after having kids, and even if cellulite wasn't a problem before, it is very likely you have them too.

Rolling glutes*

2. Helps reduce lactic acid: sore from yesterday’s workout? Can’t even sit on the toilet without letting out some major cuss words? That’s lactic acid that got trapped between your muscles. It is a good thing because that means you worked out right and fibers of the muscles got tiny tears in them.  Now they are rebuilding stronger.  But does it have to hurt so bad? Actually not.  You can use the roller after your workout and help your muscles flush some of that out by massaging your body with the roller.

Rolling side glutes

3. Increases mobility and flexibility: flexible muscles are strong muscles, so by using the roller, you increase your chances of doing better and harder workouts.  In addition, your mobility might be better because your muscles feel rejuvenated and not as achy. How many times have you gotten discouraged during a workout because you feel limited to what you can do. 

Even calf rolling is good!

4. Helps prevent new injury: this one goes along with the previous benefit.  Using the foam roller as maintenance of your good physical condition will help you prevent future injuries.   My chiropractor said once that muscles like pressure, so if you apply pressure on your muscles you will release the tension and therefore be less likely to injure that muscle.

Rolling lats - you can also roll your arms (not shown)

5.  Helps break up scar tissue: you may be able to break up some scar tissue you didn’t even know you had that was formed from a healed injury. Because your body is essentially being massaged, it will move and break away those adhesions. 

Rolling upper back*

Ready to try it as part of your next workout sesh?  You will find yourself looking forward to the massage.  It does hurt good once get used to it.  Just keep in mind these 4 tips to get the most out of it:

1.  Don’t roll directly on a sore spot: When you find a really sore spot try shifting the position to one side or the other slightly and hit that area from the side.  Rolling directly on it is no better and it might hurt you more than help you.

2.  Go slow: Really take your time.  Each movement should be very controlled.

3.  Spend only a few seconds on each area: Huh!? You just said go slow!? Yes, go slow but don’t spend hours in the same spot.  I usually just do 10 reps on each area and move on. 

4.  Don’t roll your lower back and abdomen: That’s where important vital organs are housed, including your spine.  You don’t want to mess with that!

Now you’re all excited about trying the foam roller and the question is: should I use the smooth or the bumpy one? Think of it this way, the smooth one is a light Swedish massage, the bumpy one is a deep tissue massage.  Many days I use the bumpy one, I personally like how it feels.  Only sometimes when I want to take it easy I use the smooth one, especially if I’m using it on my upper back.

If you'd like to have a foam roller at home check out the links below.  Those are the ones I use at home and love them.

* Notice that even though the roll goes on the lower back in the picture, I'm not going over the kidneys (close to the love handles).  Just be careful and not roll there because you don't want to injure any part of it.  You'll know when to stop if it feels funny.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vacuum For Moms

I vacuum when I bend over to pick up a toy on the floor, I vacuum when I drive, I even vacuum when I vacuum.  As silly as this may sound, I really do it.  And you should too. Vacuum exercise is a tried and tested method many body builders use to use back in the day (think Arnold Schwarzenegger when he use to be one) to get those really skinny waists despite the massive muscles they displayed elsewhere in their bodies.  It is not as popular nowadays but it is a very powerful tool for us moms to cinch our waists back down after carrying our babies in the womb for 9 months and overstretching our abdominal muscles to the point you think you are going to pop.

If you Google vacuum exercises for body builders you will see some scary stuff. This exercise for body builders was made famous by a guy named Frank Zane and it looks like this:

Wheresamommy Vacuum Pose Body Builders

Cool, right? I'm telling you right now, there's no way I can get my stomach to look sucked in like this yet.  I've tried, but it is SO HARD to do.  However, I will tell you that you will benefit from practicing the beginners pose (and then adding the challenge as you get more confident) from the start. If you practice and are able to properly do it (like the picture above) let me know.  My version is adapted for everyday life and on the go practice.  You will notice your midsection whittle down within a few weeks.  The caveat here, you have to practice it.  You can't expect to have a tiny waist by doing this once.  Remember, you have to be consistent. 

The science here is that you will work two parts of your body that had to give out in order to support your growing bun in the oven.  One is the TVA (transverse abdomini muscle) and the membrane that connects all the muscles together (it has a very complicated name - thorocobular fascia - you just need to know what it does).  When you do the vacuum exercise properly you attack these two problems from the inside and end up with a skinny mini waist.

How to Get Your Flat Belly 

In all 3 moves below, breathe with your diaphragm.  Expand your belly and rib cage with an inhale, on the exhale, bring your belly button to your spine and contract your abdomen muscles. To start, hold the exhale (or belly button to spine) for 20 seconds.  Increase to as you go along.  After you get a hang of it, you don't have to hold your breath anymore.  You can keep muscles contracted but breathe through it. 


Hold exhale for 20 seconds to start

Intermediate (the known and loved Cat/Cow from your yoga class) 

Hold exhale for 20 seconds to start

Vacuum on the Go
You can do this last move anywhere you are.  Sitting in the car at pick up, folding laundry, making dinner, anywhere! You certainly don't have to be sitting on your feet for this last move to work.  I just needed to be sitting like this to fit in the picture.

Hold exhale for 20 seconds to start

Vacuuming for moms - Take your vacuum to go

As you already know because you read my first post (wink, wink), my mom used to tell me when I was a teenager to engage my ab muscles and "suck my belly in" all the time. I heard her. I do that frequently and it has become a habit of mine.  Now I don't think about it.
I'm always working on something. Be it kegels when I'm driving, or vacuuming when I'm vacuuming.  I'm always trying to improve myself.
I know your life is busy, I get it, I'm a mom too.  I know it is hard to try to remember to do kegels (those your OBGYN has told you to do every time you are at a red light), and now I'm telling you should be constantly pulling your belly button towards your spine?  Do you want a flat belly? Do you wish there was something simple you could do to solve the protruding belly? You know where I'm going, right? You have to do the work to see the results.  Sticking with it is the best way to see results. Just reading about it will not improve the appearance of your six-pack.  You can do it right now! I am doing it...
Set a reminder on your phone, try to make a habit of doing the vacuum exercise it in the car.  A few seconds to start with, increase it as you go along.  True story, I have an app for kegels that counts 10 seconds to squeeze and 10 seconds to relax and every time I get in the car I set it, as soon as the timer beeps, my son wants to know what the exercises I'm doing are for (he had asked me before what that noise was and I said I was just doing some exercises). I don't need a timer for the vacuum exercises and I do it right after kegels are done.  It doesn't matter if you are a new mom or has had your kids a while back. Anyone can benefit from doing it.
Do it consistently for a month and let me know if you feel the difference.  Take a picture before you start and another a month later.  Show the results on Instagram and tag @wheresamommy with the hashtag #vacuumexercise.  Are you ready for the challenge?

Disclaimer: I'm not saying you will lose weight by doing these exercises.  You will notice change in your abdominal muscles! I just want to be clear because to lose fat you will have change diet and exercise. This exercise is to compliment the program you are already doing.  Just saying!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Trainer Talk - Kevin Williams

I met Kevin Williams at my local Y and he is always so nice and shared some great exercises with me and my friend. He sat down with me after he was done with his clients one morning to give me his thoughts on fitness motivation and how he helps his clients get their bodies back post pregnancy.

Kevin has been a trainer for 12 years. He was also in the military for 13 years where he had the opportunity to be a welness coordinator in the Navy, a type of field trainer in the Army, and he always been very active doing sports.

What kind of exercises you like to use when you train your clients?
Most exercises I like to use are full body light weight to begin with, core strengthening moves.  The intensity level will increase.  I usually find out how strong or weak the person is first.  Since every person's body is different, it might take a week or two to find out what your weaknesses are. If for example a lady was in bed for the last trimester of her pregnancy, or they have job seating down. So it depends on what they are doing while they were pregnant and before determines what weaknesses I find post pregancy.

Also, any exercise that throws your body off balance, your body natural strengthening mechanism is to stabilize one side of your body once the other side becomes imbalanced.  So although it might seem you're not doing anything once I throw your body off balance, your whole body will tighten up to the point it is trying to fix the imbalance. Now you have left, right, front and back, and there are a lot of exercises on the TRX that you can use to throw your body off balance. I recommend this TRX move to throw your body off balance:

TRX Push-Up Hold with Knee to Elbow 

What kind of mix you find ideal for a person that is trying to get toned and lean, not bulky?
Isometric holds will strengthen your body first. I like to work inside out.  So if I can get your body to become strong while your metabolism goes up it is going to, eventually after a few months, the tightness of that muscle is going to force your body to burn more calories.  When you think toned and tight, its almost a misconception, because when you say toned and tight you are talking about a look in which the body fat percentage has to be very low.  Now we know the more muscle you have the more calories you burn, the more your body fat drops, but if somebody doesn't want to become bulky you can start with isometric holds just to build the strength. Once you can get your metabolism to go higher you can go higher reps you can add 5 lbs but manipulating the body to basically stay in a hold that is imbalanced to tone after the body fat percentage has dropped. So the tone is the look, and that look comes from diet.  80% is your diet, what you eat fuels your body for the energy your body will need in 2 hours. So if you workout intensily today you need to eat more, but if you will rest tomorrow your intake doesn't need to be as high.

What is the biggest mistake you see moms make when trying to go back to the gym to get their bodies back?
Two mistakes - time, you gotta give your body time to change, your body is only going to change so fast.  It does take time.  Another mistake is overworking your body, you gotta know your body.

What is the number one exercise you recommend to moms trying to regain their figure post pregnancy?

I will say, you need to train a big muscle first. That just makes sense. A bigger muscle like your legs are going to burn more calories. I see many people come in and say I want to lose my belly or get abs and they'll work on their abs.  That is a small muscle, right, and the idea is to boost your metabolism, burn calories, so I'll start with the legs.  Bigger muscle more calories, more energy output.  Your workout should change every 3 weeks.  But start with legs because you don't build a house from the top down, you build it from the foundation up.

Taking in consideration that many moms stomach muscles have streched out and are weak, what is the best way to address abdominals?

You want to tighten the core, your core involves your back, your diaphragm, the thoracic cavity, it involves your pelvic bottom.  It is not a big muscle but it helps you strengthen your pelvic bones that have streched out.  When you think about your core, your core works every day, when you twist, when you breathe, so you just want to work it a little more consistently to get your body back to where your core is thight.  It might take a month of consistent workout.  A good one to start is this one (actually a two that combined address core from all directions):

Forearm Plank with Sumo Squat

Go from plank to squat without a break in between
Get Your Body Back Post Pregnancy
Forearm Plank - Hold 20 seconds to start*
Get Your Body Back Post Pregnancy
Sumo Squat - Hold 20 seconds to start*
*Do 3 sets, add time as you feel your body getting stronger and to make it more challenging

How often should one workout in a week order to see results?
For the first month, maintaining consistency I tell people to go with a Winning Week.  A Winning Week is 4 out of 7.  That's a good start.  As your body begins to metabolize it burns more energy.  So the first month is key, consistency and a Winning Week (4 out of 7 at least)! You need 4 Winning Weeks in a row to get you in the mindset.  You will see results if you continue to for 2 more months. About the third month is when you get results.

How do you stay motivated?

When times get hard, remember why you started.  Go back to the beginning and remember, write it down, have a picture, anything that reminds you why you got started. Go in with the understanding that the idea is to break your body down, when it rebuilds you are going to rebuild your results.  And you are going to get tired and you are going to want to stop and you'll say I'll do it next day, next week.  Discipline, you gotta have it, even when you don't want to do it and your body will continue to change.

Anything else you'd like to add?

What I've learned in the many years of being active is if you stop becoming active, your metabolism drops, the mechanics of your muscular system weaken and your bones become stiff.  So a good idea for clients that I have, regardless of how long it will take you to get to your results, you must maintain an active body, your body is meant to move.

There's no question Kevin Williams is pretty inovative trainer.  He is the one who taught me to the Single Legged TRX Bosu Lunge (view here).  Its a killer move and have him to thank for that. Kevin works at the White Rock YMCA but he also has private clients.  If you live in the Dallas area and you'd like to get in touch with Kevin for a workout sesh, you can email him at

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Post Vacation Plan

We all do it.  We go on vacation and when you get back you fall off the wagon.  Why is it so hard to get back home and continue your work out routine? There are many reasons we feel entitled to miss the gym.  The house needs to be put back in order, the kids need school supplies, you feel tired (sometimes I do need a vacation post vacation), you have too many episodes of your favorite show to watch, you feel fat from eating all the special treats on vacation, so on and so forth... Those are all valid reasons for postponing your workout sesh. But you don't need to stop your progress just because you went on vacation, yes, you are probably less motivated to hit the gym because you don't have the pressure of wearing a bikini in public.  If wearing a bikini is the only reason you were working out to begin with, then you're fine.  But if you are like me, you do this to feel better about yourself and show your kids thru example that working out is not a sacrifice but something you enjoy doing.  Follow these steps to get over the hump.

1. Return to the gym as soon as possible - don't wait for the "perfect" day to get back.  Let me break it to you, there's never a "perfect" time to get back.  You just have to do it.  I went out of town twice this last month and I went back to the gym in between even though it was easy for me to use the excuse that I only have a few days in town.  I didn't go every day, but I made a point to at least be there.  

Vacation work out 
2. Start slow - go to the gym and do little if you don't feel motivated.  My first day back I usually just go thru the motions.  It takes time to get motivated again.  It had been so long that I was out of town from our family vacation that even though I worked out a little the first week we were away I felt like a novice at the gym again.  Did I want to be there? Not that day, but I made sure I at least went a little bit to try to get my groove back. 

Back in the gym - feels good to be back
3. Find a new routine if necessary - with both of my kids being at preschool now I will have 2 days a week that will be time I can do kidless things.  I'll have a block of 5 hours that I can do endless activities without my kids in tow.  That includes doctors appointments, grocery shopping, lunch with friends and many other things that I have been dreaming of.  I know those will be 5 short hours so I will probably not hit the gym during my "free" time for that reason.  Call me crazy but if I am lucky to have a YMCA next to my house that offers child care I want them to watch my kids while I work out. I will find another time during the day when I can drop the kids off and I can go work out.  My point being, in the summer we went to the Y every weekday without fail.  Now that everything is different I had to find another way to keep motivated and still go to the gym.  Find what works for you.  

4. Don't give up, keep finding what works for you - You know what it takes.  If you put in the work you will see the results.  Try different exercises, shake things up.  You never know, you might find a new favorite routine

Getting back in the groove post vacation is not an easy feat. You lose your motivation, you forget why you were going to the gym in the first place, you look at yourself differently.  Don't let all these thoughts sabotage the progress you have made.  Do this for yourself.  No matter how long you've been out of it it is never too late to go back.  

See you at the gym!

#wheresamommy #getmybodyback #getyourbodyback

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My must-do leg and butt routine

I LOVE these butt workouts.  I do this circuit at least once a week. Let me warn you though, you will feel the burn a couple of days later.  In the beginning I would fall off the swiss ball and lost my balance a lot.  You will get used to it.  The stronger you get the more you will be able to control your movements.  Add weights as you get more used to them but start little.  You need to master the movement first and then add challenge.  I hope you love these as much as I do.  Like Sofia Vergara says: No pain, no cake!

Single-Leg Split Squat

Stand with your right foot flat on the floor and place the top of your left foot on the ball.  The trick here is to find the sweet spot to rest your left foot so when you lower your body the left leg will go back smoothly and comfortably.  I found that the best position for me is placing the tip of shoes in the middle of the ball.  
Squat your right leg down lowering your body as far as possible.  Press with your right leg to lift your body back up.  Repeat 15 times, then switch sides to work the left leg.
Tip: if in the beginning you cannot find your balance, use a Smith machine or a ballet bar to hold on to something so you create muscle memory for the future.  It also helps to focus on one spot on a wall or floor to keep your balance.

Ball Wall Squat

With your feet hip width apart stand in front of a wall and place a swiss ball behind your back.  Squat down while arranging the ball to hit your mid back while you are in the lower part of the squat.  After arrangin the ball properly, squat down while pressing your booty back towards the wall.  This part is important to target those glutes I know you want to target.  Press back up and repeat 15 times.  You can start with no weights first.  Get the movement right and when you feel like you need the challenge add dumbell weights. 

Kettlebell Swinging Squat

Stand with your feet wider than hip width apart.  Using a 10lb kettlebell, squat down swinging the kettlebell between your legs with straight arms.  Push your hips back during this movement. Let the momentum of swinging the kettlebell carry your exercise.  You do not need to control the movement as if you were doing a shoulder exercise.  The kettlebell will swing back up.  You should stop at about shoulder height (I'm going to far on my video, correct that!!) and while in the upright position push your hips forward while squeezing the glutes.  Repeat 12-15 times. Change to a heavier kettlebell when you feel this has become too easy.

These moves are very effective when combined in a circuit.  Go from one exercise to the other with no breaks in between sets.  Only rest after each circuit of 3 exercises for them to be more effective.  Do a total of 3 circuits for a total of 3 sets of each exercise.

Equipment used

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is a Waist Trimmer worth it?

Have you ever seen those waist belts people put on to exercise that promise to make you lose fat and shed inches of your waist? Those belts come in many names like waist trimmer, waist band, workout belt and waist trainer.  I have been using one while I work out for years now.  But I don't use it with the purpose to lose fat. That will not happen by simply wearing a waist band, but I will tell you why I wear it.

The belts don't make the fat melt
At one point I did think that wearing a belt around my waist would help melt fat.  You can burn fat cells, but only doctors should do that with lasers and approved devices (or dieting).  My friends at The Skin Care Professionals have good information on innovative treatments like Reaction and CoolSculpting that can get rid of fat without dieting if you are interested.  Back to the belt, after wearing it for a while, I started researching what the benefits of the waist trainer were and I found out it is a myth that you can burn more fat just by wearing the band while working out. You might notice your waist smaller if you take the belt off after a good workout session, but all likelyhood you lost water thru sweat.  That is ok if you drank plenty of water as well.  You would not want to get dehydrated because of it.  If you are on a good path and you are eating a healthy diet and exercising, you can notice progress.  Just keep in mind it is slow and you just have to stick with it.  That is the hardest part, isn't it? 

Why I still wear it
You might think I'm crazy for wearing it if it does not do what it's promised.  But truth is I wear it because I want to train my muscles to stay in place when I am working out.  Now that I am 2 years removed from pregnancy I have moved on to more challenging exercises.  If you follow me on Instagram you probably have seen my little motivational video snippets.  In time I will also post here my favorite workout moves that have helped me get my body back after having kids.  So when I do crunches and other core exercises I like to have the waist trainer on to help me remind to keep my abs engaged and pull my belly button towards my spine.  That way, I will not force my muscles out and cause my belly to protude out again.  It is possible  to revert the progress you have made to close the diastasis recti by forcing your abs out during an exercise, so make sure to do them correctly. Basically I use a belly wrap to serve as an external girdle that will keep my internal girdle (my abs) in place.  A word of caution though, don't wear it all day all the time.  It is just to aid you during exercise.  Wearing it for extended periods of time might actually cause more harm than good by weakening the muscles because you are relying on an external form of support and not using your muscles to do it.

My favorite waist trimmer belt

Go for it, but keep a few things in mind
* You are not supposed to wear the waist band 24/7.  It should be worn only during workouts to help you be aware of keeping the proper form.  You want your muscles to do the work too, so they get toned and you look better.  
* Don't expect to burn extra fat as a result of wearing the belt.  Proper nutrition combined with exercise will cause you to lose weight.  Not a belt.
* If you wear a waist trimmer belt be sure to drink plenty of extra water.  You'll sweat a lot more due to the heat created by the belt.
* Ladies have been wrapping themselves for centuries to create an illusion of smaller waist.  You can look your best by wearing one a few hours a day and still have your freedom for the rest of the day.  Isn't that the best of both worlds? 

I hope you get some good results by wearing a waist trimmer belt combined with the proper post pregnancy workouts.  Feel free to share your results with before and after pictures and tag #wheresamommy.

Shop for them here

Monday, July 20, 2015

Work those abs without crunches

So now that you have tried the other exercises, I want to add a couple more that are still in the same category of easy but effective.  The more you work on those muscles the quicker the results will be. The good thing about these moves is that you do not need to go to the gym to do it.  All you need is a soft surface like a yoga mat or your living room area rug.

Modified table top

Starting position
Start on a table top position. With your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulder and a straight spine relax your belly muscles so your "pooch" hangs down.  Your spine should remain straight here, only your abdominal muscles relax.

Pull belly button towards spine
With your spine still straight, pull your belly button towards your spine so that you contract your abdominal muscles.  This exercise is an added challenge as gravity adds some resistance when you contract your muscles.  Return to initial position, repeat 10 times.

Table top with leg and arm raise

Starting position
Start on a table top position. With your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulder and a straight spine.  

Add leg and arm raise
During an exhale, raise one leg and the opposite arm simultaneously as shown in the picture above.  Keep your raised foot flexed and contract your abdominal muscles to strengthen your core.  Repeat 10 times each side.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Add more exercises to your repertoire

It is always nice to have a variety of exercises that target the same area so you can work the muscles differently.  Switching things up will make sure your muscles don't get used to the same old exercises and will react to them in a positive way by tightening the muscles and closing the DR gap.

This series is a little bit more challenging but these exercises are still gentle yet effective.

Toe tap

Starting Position
Start by laying on your side legs straight stacked on top of each other.  Raise your torso with support of arms and place your elbow on the floor directly under your shoulder so your upper body is raised slightly.  Keep your spine straight. You can place a hand on your abdomen to feel the movement.

Toe tap front
On an inhale, bring your top leg forward and tap the tip of your toes on the floor in front of you.  Keep your bottom foot flexed. 

Toe tap back
On an exhale, bring your leg back past the neutral position and touch the tip of your toes back behind you.  Repeat 10 times each way.  Engage the abdominal muscles and pull your belly button in towards your spine.  Then flip around to work the other side so you are even.
Leg raise
Raise top leg first

Start by laying on your side legs straight stacked on top of each other. Place your hand under your head for support.  While you inhale, separate your feet by lifting the top leg up.

Then bottom leg follows

On an exhale, bring your bottom leg to meet the top one.  You can place your hand on your belly for feedback or on the mat in front of your belly for support.  Bring both feet down at the same time.  Repeat 10 times on this side, always bringing the top leg up first, then the bottom one follows. Then turn around and do the same to even out both sides.

Upper body raise

Starting position
Start by laying on your side legs straight stacked on top of each other.  Place the bottom hand on your top shoulder while your top hand goes on the mat by your bottom shoulder.  I know it can be confusing, but hopefully the picture will provide some clarification.  You basically just want to get your bottom arm out of the way, so you place it across your chest.  Inhale.

Upper body raise

Then on an exhale, push through the hand placed on the mat to raise your upper body off the floor a few inches. Go as high as you are comfortable.  You'll feel the top side working here.  Repeat 10 times and then turn around to do the other side.

As you can see this series is mostly laying on your side and working those side muscles deeply.  Always be aware of your breath and contract your abdomen on an exhale and relax it on the inhale.  Think that you are squeezing the air out when you exhale and filling it with air on the inhale.  

An after thought... 

Breathing is very important and when you coordinate your muscles with your breathing you can maximize the muscle work.  In fact, I often just engage my ab muscles while driving, blogging, or sitting around watching my kids (that is when I'm not doing kegels!).  At first I liked to feel my belly expanding and contracting so I would have my hand on my stomach to learn what I was doing.  Now it comes automatically  to me.  My mom once told me when I was a teenager that I should always keep my abs engaged and I would have a flat belly.  I am a big believer of that have always tried to follow it.  It sounds like I'm always squeezing something, doesn't it? Well, I try.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Get your body back

After you have tested your abdominal muscles for diastasis recti, you can start working on exercises to close the gap.  These exercises will help you start closing the abdominal muscles that separated during pregnancy.  To start, repeat this circuit 3x a week.  You will not need a fancy gym to do it, and the only equipment I used was an elastic exercise band.  But if you don't have one you can get creative and use any elastic material around the house, for example the leg of a pantyhose or tights.

These are gentle exercises that you can do and work your way up to a stronger core.  Please get clearance from your doctor if you are within the 6 or 8 weeks postpartum.

Pelvic Tilts 
Starting position
Lie flat on your back shoulder blades squared, touching the mat. Knees are bent and heels close to your bottom (you should be able to almost touch your heels with the tip of your fingers with your arms by your side). Abdominal muscles are relaxed - inflate your belly on the inhale.

Pelvic tilt
With very tiny movements, lift your pelvis slightly, just about 1 inch off the floor.  This is not a bridge, you are just tilting your pelvis towards your chin as you exhale and contract your abdominal muscles.  Start with 20 reps, increase the number of reps as it starts getting easier

Lateral leg lift

Starting position
Start by standing on your knees hip width apart.

Leg lift
As you inhale lean towards the right until your hand touches the floor.  Then lift the left leg up as you exhale and concentrate on drawing the belly button towards your spine. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.  Lift you hand out for added balance challenge.

You can also place a hand on your abdomen to feel the movement of your belly muscles.  Sometimes that helps you engage the proper muscles.

Elastic band squeeze

Starting position
Start by standing on your knees at hip width apart. Hold the elastic band (or the leg of stretchy tights)  with arms straight shoulder width apart at about shoulder height.

Stretch your arms out to your side holding them straight as you exhale drawing your belly button in towards your spine.  As you inhale, return arms to the initial position in front of you. Repeat this 10 times. 

Side dip and raise

Starting position
You can get on this position from standing on your knees and leaning towards one side and using your arm to support you (kinda like the lateral leg raise above).  Your hips should be raised at a neutral position (that is, your torso forms a straight line with your legs) with your support leg bent and the top leg straight.  Think of a side plank but one leg folded to support you.

 Lower your hips towards the mat (floor) as you inhale. The side of your leg will touch the floor, but not your hip. 

Then raise your hips as you exhale concentrating on squeezing your side that is facing the floor.  Think of an exaggerated movement here.  Really lift those hips up. Repeat 10 times. The top hand can be placed on the belly for feedback or it can be extended straight up as if reaching for the sky.

These are simple moves for you to start correcting the muscles weakness.  You can do these exercises as kids play in the same room or watching TV.  They are easy to do and don't require much as you use mostly your body for resistance (except the one with the band).

Some general rules to keep in mind.  Breathing is important to help you with the movement.  You will squeeze the muscle on an exhale (you are aiding the air out with your muscles) and you relax on an inhale (your belly expands as it if you were feeling it with air).

As you make progress on strengthening your abs, you will notice these start getting easier.  Then it is time to add more moves and increase the level of difficulty. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I want my body back

Two pregnancies later I can say I am starting to feel happy with my body again.

Having kids is one of the most beautiful events in life, but one of the hardest and the most taxing on a female body.  You find yourself loving these tiny human beings more than you could ever imagine and your life becomes a chaos of baby bottles and spit ups, swimming lessons and carpools.  In the middle of all you find yourself looking back at pool party pictures from a pre-baby era that once represented the life you lived.  Those same pictures have now been replaced with images of cute dirty faces of your baby learning to eat at dinner time.  You think to yourself: Oh my! I used to have a flat belly! What happened!? I’ll tell you what happened.  Pregnancy takes a toll on your body and you look down and you see stretch marks, lose skin and worse of all, the mommy pooch. Furthermore your pelvic floor is weak, you are fatigued all the time because of the sleepless nights and if you are anything like me, you feel the pressure to be back to your pre pregnancy weight/body not feeling good about yourself. You end up being a mom. That’s it.  All is not lost though.  It takes time, it takes self love and some extra care.  With some good tips and exercises things start going back in place and you feel a little closer to your old self again.
There are a couple of things I wanted to share with you that I learned about my body.  I think you’ll find them useful as well as on your journey to getting back in shape.  Let’s start with two big issues most post baby bodies that should not be ignored - pelvic floor muscles weakness and abdominal muscles separation.

After having kids, I used to pee when I sneezed or coughed – embarrassing to say the least!  Pelvic floor weakening happens to all of us.  Yes, they say Kegel exercises are necessary and you should do it every time you are at a stop light. I agree, but to regain your floor muscles strength you need just a little more than that.    
What you don’t hear much is that weak floor muscles can lead to constant UTIs and later in life serious dysfunctions.  Pelvic floor muscles provide support for various organs in men and women.  Uterine prolapse, urinary incontinence, constipation, all happen due to weakened floor muscles.  Doing Kegels correctly will help you strengthen those muscles and avoid future complications. Not to mention the added bonus of better s-e-x.

How to properly do Kegels 

You’ve been doing Kegels wrong all along. Here is how you regain strength in your pelvic floor muscles.  While sitting or lying down on your back, contract your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds as if you were stopping the urine stream – Your abdominal muscles should not move during this exercise.  If you find that you are moving too much of other muscles you can try to find the pelvic floor muscles while actually urinating by trying to stop the stream.  Then relax for 5 seconds - push out slightly as if starting to have a bowel movement.  Repeat 5 times. Once you have mastered 5-5-5, then you can up the seconds and repetitions to 8-8-8, then 10-10-10.  It is important to relax for as long as you squeeze for these exercises to more effective.  Do this at least 2 times per day. You can still do the short ones squeeze 1 second, relax 1 second at the light in addition to the long ones. To make it easier search for Kegel apps.  Yes, they exist.  And they make your life much easier with reminders and timers and sound cues to squeeze and relax.  I usually do mine on the way to or from somewhere, in the car, while answering the “why” questions.  I’m happy to report that I no longer have to cross my legs when I feel a sneeze coming.

My once flat belly is now protruding out even after I lost almost all the weight – I remember looking at a picture of a pool party I went to before my husband and I decided to start having kids.  My stomach was so flat then.  The muscles were not stretched out.  I did not have a mommy belly. I remember thinking.  I don’t want people to know I have kids just by looking at my belly.  Once you have kids of your own, you start to learn to identify the other women who had babies.  Even if they are slim you can still see the muscles look different.  I want people to know I am a mother because they see me with my kids or because I proudly told them of the silly things my kids say or do.  And when they learn I am a mother I want to hear “Oh wow! You look amazing!”
After my son was born my husband gave me as a gift work out sessions with a trainer. I looked fit but I still wasn't happy about stomach. I knew I was going to get pregnant again but I thought after all the workout and abs I was doing my abs were going to look amazing.  They didn’t look bad, but not as good as I thought they should be.  Since I became pregnant again when my son was 10 months I didn’t investigate further to see what else I could do.  Within a year of having my second I was down to almost my pre pregnancy weight.  I had a few more lbs to go but I again, I wasn’t happy about how my stomach looked.  Then one day my husband saw an article on the web that changed my life.  And my belly. 
Did you know that in France women receive post natal care that involves strengthening their abdominal muscles? I was in shock. How had I never heard about that? I had a doula for my first child, I had an awesome doctor who delivered both of my kids. Why neither of them (or anybody else for that matter) told me about diastasis recti and that I’m not supposed to do crunches at the gym after you have a child? I believe that if my case was really bad my doctor would have told me, but since it wasn’t a medical issue, just the vain appearance one, I just didn’t hear about it. Even though small, these stretched out muscles do change the appearance of one’s belly. My question is why is it not more prevalent in our society to know that? We are left with a totally different body and what you might think is helping you might actually be hurting your progress. Damn you crunches! I do remember seeing this French mom at my son’s swim lesson and thinking her stomach looked really flat after two kids, and I remember being baffled that she was showing it in a string bikini. I was very pregnant at the time and wore a tent for swim suit, so I might have been a little bit jealous. I am not a prude and I do like to wear small bikinis myself, but only after feeling comfortable again with my body and at the right kind of vacation that involves no kids. Now I know she was exercising her abdominal muscles correctly and she had all the right to be proud of it.
Mom’s bodies need special attention and care. Even if you had strong abdominal muscles before, you will likely have some degree of DR. The only way to close the gap in mild cases is by exercising the right muscles. But first you have to learn how severe your case is. If it is really bad I suggest you seek medical assistance first because apparently some cases require surgery to be repaired.
Pelvic floor and abdominal muscles should not be ignored. Just like your triceps, biceps and quads and any muscle you work at the gym these need attention as well. If you exercise muscles they get toned. The same is true with pelvic and deep abdominal muscles. While we are crossing our legs to sneeze without peeing ourselves our French counterparts are laughing at us with perfectly tight bellies and completely dry. So let’s get to work and tighten these muscles once and for all. 

How to find if you have diastasis recti:

Starting position
Lie on your back with knees bent and heels close to your bottom.  

Place the tip of your fingers on your belly about 3 fingers distance (about 2 inches) above your belly button.  Place your hand on your belly with fingers pointed straight down towards your spine, only tips touching belly (if you look at your hand you'll see the palm side of your fingers facing you).  That way you can count in terms of fingers, how wide your gap is. The DR gap runs up and down your abdominal muscles, but it will be the widest just above the belly button.   (see detail below)

Proper position of the hand
Head and shoulder raise

While holding your hand in that spot lift your head and shoulders off the floor slightly, as if you were starting to do a crunch, but don't go all the way (all you want is to create some tension on the muscle wall so it tenses up and you can find the muscle).  When you raise your upper body you will be able to feel a ridge in between your fingers as you move your hand side to side. That gap you feel between your fingers is DR.

After you find out how severe (or not) your case is, you can start targeting those muscles with the proper exercises to close the gap and improve the appearance of you belly. Anything greater than 3 fingers gap is considered a wide gap, 2 fingers would be considered a moderate.  

Remember, with love and care you CAN and you WILL get your body back, or get it even better than before.  I want to help you in this journey.  It takes time, it takes effort but it is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself.  So let’s get to work!