Exercising Again After Having Children
So there you are – at the point of deciding you want to get back into exercise again after giving birth. It may have been only a couple of weeks or even years before you made this decision. Questions asked by mums:
When can I get back to doing yoga, running, planks, boot camps, jumping sports, ball sports, cross-fit, HIIT?
How do I get rid of my ‘mummy tummy’ or my ‘pooch’?
How can I get fit and toned again safely without hurting myself?
The answer is that each individual mum is ready at a different time for returning to sports and has different underlying core strength and general strength and fitness. There are certain symptoms that are a sign that the exercise you are doing is too much for your body; and the focus should be more on gaining proper alignment, core strength and the ability to carry out normal daily activities in a proper manner before moving onto the harder stuff.
If you experience any of the following symptoms when exercising then stop and seek the help of an experienced trainer or physio first.
The symptoms are:
· Leaking pee
· Doming of your stomach/abdomen anywhere at any time
· Feeling of a gap down your mid-line
· Feeling like you are weak or unstable around your abdomen, back or pelvis
· Feeling you are straining
· Shaking or feeling a tremble when holding an exercise
· Pain in your lower back or around your pelvis
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms these are signs that your core is not working correctly and are not signs that the more you do the more your core will work. There are particular exercises that can make things worse and should be AVOIDED:
· Ab crunches, oblique twists
· Ab work involving leg lifts
· Jumping or impact work sports or exercises including star jumps, jogging and sprinting on the spot, jogging heels to bottom
· Lifting heavy weights including cross training
· Plank exercises including burpees and push ups
THE DIASTASIS RECTI
This happens predominantly in the third trimester of pregnancy and when the rectus abdominis muscles (6 pack) split down the middle to accommodate the growing uterus, baby and increased intraabdominal pressure in pregnancy. The linea alba which is the connective tissue that joins the rectus abdominis muscle stretches as the muscles move apart and can weaken.
100% of women have some degree of separation/diastasis recti in the 3rd trimester of the pregnancy (Diane Lee, 2013) and 40% of women still have some degree of separation 6 months after birth (Mota et al 2014). The separation can happen below the belly button, at the belly button level, above the belly button or along the whole length of the muscles.
Often symptoms such as low back or pelvic pain, urinary or faecal incontinence and prolapses can be associated with this condition.
How do I know if I have a Diastasis Recti?
Some clear signs you may have this separation is when you sit up from lying you see your lower tummy dome and you feel that you still look a few months pregnant with a tummy that just will not seem to shift whatever exercises you do or diet you have embarked on. A physiotherapist will be able to assess you and determine if you have a diastasis recti and the extent of it. By touch they can assess the size of the gap and also the tension in the linea alba connective tissue joining the muscles.
So how can I get back to exercising again but safely?
It is not just the pelvic floor which is always made out to be the main focus but there are 4 sets of muscles that mums need to reconnect with which are the Tranversus Adominis, the pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifidus muscles as shown by the illustration. First of all you can not strengthen these muscles if your brain is unable to activate them so the first aim is to reconnect your brain with these muscles helping you to activate the muscles properly. Then its about challenging these muscles and brain with specific exercises involving the arms and legs. It is important to try and use these muscles also in regular activities like when getting out of a chair, lifting, bending and reaching for things.
Once these exercises are grasped then they can be progressed to harder exercises eventually leading to you having enough strength and control to get back to the sporting activities you love. The beauty about these exercises is that they will actually flatten your mummy tummy and tone up your body at the same time. About 15 mins a day is all that’s needed 5 times a week.
For those who are keen for weight loss whilst going through this exercise programme we advise walking as much as you are able to – walk to the shops, classes, etc rather than take a taxi or public transport. Try and aim for at least an hour of walking a day even if it is broken up into shorter walks.
If you are keen to have advice and training to exercise again properly after having a child physios who are also trainers specialising in working with mums can help. The physios at Health2Mama can provide training for mums in the comfort of their own home or condo gym at all locations in Singapore. Just drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or a WhatsApp to+65 8358 2144.