What if you could turn every day activities, like buggy pushing, nappy changing and food preparation into a mini workout?
One of the biggest myths of post natal exercise is that you have to dedicate hours of each week to fitness classes and that if you aren’t a celebrity or someone who can hire in a trainer, you simply can’t do it.
The second biggest myth is that after your 6-8 week doctor’s check you are just good to get back to what the hell exercise you did before. Marathon anyone? Blog fodder for another time.
I strongly believe there is some conditioning work that all post natal women need to do until roughly about the time they die (or maybe just before) in order to stay pain free and active (in all of life’s departments) and many women don’t have a clue where to start with this. But I also believe that whilst a dedicated class is fantastic, there’s a lot of stuff you can do to get an awareness of your pelvis, hips, spine and trunk strength, that doesn’t require leaving your adorable ‘ickle baby for one moment and that might actually be more beneficial than some fitness classes.
The first step it getting your post natal rehab on is understanding alignment (apologies for slightly technical dull word there). By this I mean the way your joints stack over each other.
When you are pregnant, there’s a tendency for your pelvis to tip forwards, giving you a strong arch in your lower back. You may compensate for this by bringing your head forwards to meet it or flaring your ribs out in front, some people describe this as living with your ribs hanging forwards. Why do you need to know this? Because it can really stuff up your muscles and joints. Get it sorted now, or at least an awareness of what’s going on, and win when you’re in your 60s. Bear in mind I teach classes for the over 60s too and none of those little issues I see in women at 10 weeks post natal get better with age.
Try this little exercise to help understand my point:
Stand with your feet at hips width apart and relax. Now gently draw your ribs backwards so they sit over your pelvis (not in front).
Then deliberately send them forwards and bring them back again so there’s a strong connection between your bottom rib and the top of your pelvis (what feels like your hip bone).
Can you feel your tummy muscles working? There’s no crunch or deliberate abdominal tensing but they’re working alright.
You can feel the same thing as you slouch. Sink into one hip and then deliberately pick that hip up so it’s in line with the other one. Can you feel your abs working here too? Not only does this engage the abdominals and pelvic floor but it helps to give you an awareness of when you’re slouching into your joints rather than using your abdominal muscles.
Whilst you can do these little things at any time, I’m going to give you some pointers for how to train your abs and glutes doing stuff you do every day with baby.
Pushing your pram
This is an easy starter. When you push your pram make sure it stays in close to you, especially if you are going up hill. You will want to push the pram out in front and lean into it, sticking your bottom out. This just stretches your abs out and tips that pelvis even more. Instead, hold the pram in close and notice the way your bottom ribs align with the top of your pelvis. Feel for that connection at the same time as you feel your tailbone is pointing down. There’s no need to tuck it under (if you do you’ll just look a bit like you’re constipated or have piles – which you may do if you’ve just had a baby) just feel it points down.
Changing baby’s nappy/Putting baby down/Picking baby up
These are all fabulous opportunities to squat and engage your legs and pelvic floor. Very simply, before popping baby down take your feet slightly wider than shoulder’s width and sit your bottom down. Keep your spine long for as long as you can rather than tipping forwards from your back.
Comforting a restless baby
All babies love to go up and down (unless of course they have reflux and have just had milk). Rather than joggling baby on one hip, deliberately hold them in front of you, ensuring the weight is in your arms, this will help to prevent hips and ribs coming forwards. Squat down to a high chair (think dining chair) and stand again. Progress to just hovering on the chair or challenge yourself by having a lower chair. You can also add a great pelvic floor workout to a squat by engaging as you lift. There’s a guide to how to do this here:
Standing is another opportunity to have a mini workout. Standing on one leg will ensure you start to use those inner thighs, a key part of regaining strength and fitness. Another movement to focus on when you’re standing up is noticing if you are slouching into one hip, actively try to realign your hips, which basically means don’t slouch! You could also get the feeling of sending your tailbone to the floor, this will engage your abdominals without any conscious effort. Exactly how they need to work to support you for years to come.
For more information on what post natal Pilates you can do outside of your class click here.
If you liked this post read Karen’s most popular blog post about post natal health and fitness, The Princess, the bump, your body. How long does it really take to recover after pregnancy and birth?
If you’re struggling to get out of the house, Karen has a complete set of 10 minute Pilates workouts to do at home via Online Pilates. There are even ideas for what you can do with your children.