Fellow mothers, this is not your traditional core training program! What women need to appreciate is how important (yet overlooked) it is to restore our often compromised cores after the nine months we carry our growing babies and the many hours we spend birthing them. Have you ever wondered why only rest is prescribed as our recovery after the injury our tissues endure during delivery, whether by c-section, or vaginal birth? For some women, recovery can be straight forward and hitch-free, especially after their first child. For many others, it’s a little more complicated than that. That's where this program will help. Need more motivation? Here’s what’s in it for you: You will experience:
Often, women end up doing more harm than good when trying to restore strength and fitness after having babies. We go about it the wrong way, often too aggressively, or we attempt to return to our former exercise routine straight off the bat. Yowch! These moves are safe and can be performed in the days and weeks after you birth your baby. Just remember to always, always listen to your body. Your body doesn’t lie.
Step 1: Core Breath
The core breath is the foundation of this series. Sit in "tripod" on a ball or firm chair with your spine in neutral (natural curve in lower back), and your perineum in contact with the chair or ball surface for feedback. Close your eyes and relax. Place one hand on your ribs and one hand on your belly. Breathe into your ribs to feel your bra strap expand. This is a diaphragmatic breath. Do not chest breathe (where the chest will rise) and do not belly breathe (where belly will expand). On the inhale, allow your pelvic floor to release completely, relax and melt over the chair or ball. On the exhale breathe, through pursed lips, every last sip of air out of your lungs as you gently contract your pelvic floor. This is done using same mechanism we use to stop pee and gas. Imagine picking up blueberries with your pelvic floor - being careful not to squish them - and guide them up and inward toward your belly button. Inhale release, relax, melt. Repeat. Do two sets of ten breaths per day.
Step 2: Bridge
Lay supine with feet parallel, pelvis-width apart and placed close to your bum. Keep your spine neutral. Inhale, prepare, and relax pelvic floor. Exhale through pursed lips every last sip of air while gently contracting pelvic floor toward your belly button and press your hips toward the ceiling while your spine remains neutral. Perform two sets of ten core breath cycles. *Add a resistance band as progression 1 to activate abductors, and a squishy ball or block between the knees as progression 2 to activate adductors.
Step 3: Clam
Lie on one side, with your knees half way to fetal and your spine in neutral. Inhale to release, relax and melt pelvic floor. Exhale to pick up "blueberries" with your pelvic floor without squishing them and draw them up and in toward your belly button while imagining the "elevator doors" of your rectus abdominus ("6-pack") closing. Inhale to lower your knee, relax pelvic floor. Perform two sets of ten clams per side, with core breath. Add a resistance band around knees as a progression, and repeat.
Step 4: Modified Side Plank
Place your elbow directly under your shoulder, grounding through your lower forearm, shin of lower leg and inside of foot of upper leg. Use your top hand to guide hips up into side plank. Place the fingertips of your top hand on your hip for balance. Hold for 5-10 core breath cycles. Repeat on the other side. In cases of a known diastasis, perform four weeks of above exercises, and then progress to modified side plank.
Step 5: Squat
Stand with feet parallel and pelvis-width apart, spine in neutral, knees soft. Inhale to lower into your squat (pictured). A correct squat is initiated by sticking your tailbone out behind you, while your knees remain directly above your ankles. Aim to have thighs parallel to the earth at the bottom of the squat. Allow your arms to travel out as a counter-balance, activating the upper body and back. Exhale to contract your pelvic floor as you return to standing, drawing blueberries up and in toward your belly button while imagining a guide wire between your two hip bones tightening. Perform two sets of ten core breath cycles. Exercises should be performed regularly for optimal results (3-5 times per week). With a little focus, willpower, and this blog post, you will be well on your way to recovery. Practice patience, positivity and forgiveness with our miracle-making post-baby bodies. They may have changed dramatically. With the correct knowledge, you can and will get stronger. And one thing is for sure: you will have great sex again, just keep the faith :) xo Vanessa