Monday, 27 March 2017

Returning To Exercise After Baby

* Appreciate what your body has actually been through

* You can do it, but should you do it

* After having a baby you body is vulnerable

* You need time to heal

* There are many great options for you

Postpartum exercise is extremely beneficial to mother if done in the correct way. Not only are you supporting the body physically in recovery but it also helps support our mental and emotional wellbeing. 

There is a lack of information available for pregnant and post natal mothers about how to exercise safely during pregnancy and recovery after birth. Social Media can be very informative and supportive to new mums, but doesn't always represent the safe and a realist message for many of us who are wanting to return/ or start to exercise after the birth of baby. There are many examples of athletes or cross fit mums doing extreme workouts, challenging their bodies in ways they did before their pregnancy. But does that mean it is right? In the real world it can actually be the local class at the gym or church hall that can be detrimental to mums returning to exercise. Big franchises using marketing strategies like bring your child, get fit quick and loose weight fast lure new mums into a false sense of security.


First 6 months mothers main focus is to rehabilitate, strengthen and get their cores and pelvic floors functioning well through  gentle resistance work.  This involves regaining strength and having good function in the core, glutes and back. Workouts need to be designed for the postpartum body, especially up to the first year you need to listen and observe your body and be aware of the signs your pushing yourself too soon.

After having a baby you are vulnerable to incontinence, prolapses, back pain and diastasis (present or future) due the weakening in the pelvic floor, pelvis and core from pregnancy and child birth.  Many of these symptoms will not correct themselves and can possibly get worse if you are doing the wrong type of exercise after baby. Choosing the right path can be confusing with influences from social media, other mums or family members, diet clubs, TV adverts, the list goes on. This is your journey and it has to be right for your body and your recovery. This is why it is good to get assessed by a qualified post natal instructor or a women’s health physio after your 6-8 week check. Also following a diet full of REAL food full of good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and moving correctly can make a BIG difference on your pregnancy and post natal recovery.

After my first daughter I was one of those mums who relied on social media a source of information and inspiration to get me back to where I was before pregnancy. I wish someone had stopped me and told me to wake up and realise the harm I was doing my body. Yes I did end up with incontinence and I was very lucky not to have diastasis and a prolapsed. I ended up taking medication for my incontinence. The kegels you are taught in ante-natal classes or by the doctor had very little or no effect on reversing this. Neither did it show no benefit to how I moved daily in my life as a mother. This is why a good core and pelvic floor rehab program is SO beneficial to mums after having children. Lucky for me I qualified as a post natal instructor and specialises in pelvic and abdominal reconnection and functional core and pelvic floor strength. I no longer need medication and can now do everything I did before, safely and with good control.  This has opened doors for me to run and lift weights etc.

I wanted to show you a facebook status I put up many moons ago. It flagged up on my timeline a few weeks ago and I was shocked. I was 12 weeks post birth and it was my first week back to exercise. I had trained up to 38 weeks in my pregnancy.


Being a specialist trainer now, I do NOT advise this activity or mindset. It can be so detrimental to your body. Firstly the focus of trying to loose weight and trying to get back into old clothes should not the top of a new mums priority. To be honest I have never did fit back into many of my clothes even when I was back down to pre pregnancy weight. Your body shape changes after having children and embracing some changes is important and taking time to feel good will pay off.

I wanted to briefly go over a couple of the classes that we as instructors hear from some mums returning to after being signed of my the GP  as fit to exercise! I regretfully did some of these after my first born. 

Kettle bells
·        * Movements like Swings, halos, snatches add very high pressure throughout the core
·        * Having to use a non functional weak core to control a moving load with poor breathing strategy.

If you have diastasis or a pelvic floor dysfunction the chances are you are not managing the abdominal pressure forced through the core when using a Kettlebell. Abdominal pressure will press against the weakest areas which is usually the pelvic floor and linea alba.  Using the kettle bells as a moving load is likely to enhance these symptoms.  If you do not come out of the pregnancy with these symptoms using Kettlebells could lead to high risk of diastasis and incontinence. A weak core and lack of functional breath can also put unnecessary pressure and in back also.

·         *Front load bearing  positions like planks, pummel jumps , press ups
·         * High impact and ballistic movement- jumping, bouncing, leaping, high knees
·         *Joint laxity

Front lying positions a lot of load through shoulder girdle; enhance back pain with poor core function.  Plus pushing all the abdominal muscle and organs already onto a weakened linea alba. Creating or even prolonging the healing of diastasis.

Many people say ‘It is ok I am doing low impact options’ but not all of these are deemed safe. Doing body weight exercises can force a 50kg load  through the body  all the force has to go through via your core unit.  Breathing correctly using the diaghram and pelvic floor integrated into each movement, strengthens and protects the pelvic floor, back and abdominals.

With low impact options we need to take range of motion into account while the body has relaxin still present. Ensuring we are not hyper extending any joints or overstretching ligaments while doing certain movements. Especially for those mums who are still breast feeding.

Maintaining good alignment and posture is essential through movement and this can be missed if doing Metafit type work exasperating back pain, pelvic and knee pain. Throughout pregnancy our bodies come out of alignment and we need to rectify this before challenging our bodies with unnatural movements. In these high intensity environments it is hard for instructor to assess and correct your technique subjecting you to a risk of injury.

You need to be able to control your core and pelvic floor ensuring it reacts through simultaneously with movement. All movement relies on the core and pelvic floor providing stability

If you’re coming to one of our post natal restorative classes with symptoms such as incontinence and diastasis and doing Kettlebells,  Metafit or even weight training. The exercise prescription we give to helps you heal this may be conflicting with these types of classes and not give you the results you want. Our aim is to avoid anything that can be detrimental to healing your core and pelvic floor. We aim to educate and provide you the tools and a platform for you to progress to the classes you enjoy safely.

All of us are here to provide you with the most up to date knowledge and give you the information enable YOU the best recovery for now and your future.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

The season for coughs and colds

For the last couple of weeks with the change in weather, training has slacked due to constant coughs, colds and tummy bugs throughout the house. With my youngest teething (again), sleep hasn't been great for any of us. As we know sleep is so important for our well being and health, its all goes hand in hand. So I decided to do a rota at home for my partner and myself to rotate early mornings etc. (Not sure its gone down too well) but a mothers health is also equally important when working and bringing up children.

With a niggling dry cough, sneezing and blowing my nose, there has been more added pressure down on my pelvic floor. I have noticed a heavy feeling in my pelvic region, which has reminded me to revisit my optimal core breath. With all the coughs and sneezes you greatly increase the Intra Abdominal Pressure within the core region.

I always focus on the core breath when I am exercising and lifting, but it is so easily to forget with the subconscious movements like coughing and sneezing. Unfortunately with pregnancies and babies there is definitely more due care and attention needed to our bodies, these things were probably never really mentioned to us, after having babies. Controlling the abdominal pressure is a life long habit after having children, it is hard to remind yourself but very simple to learn. The more it is practised the more natural the neurological patterns become.
Below is an image of the four walls of the core, that need to work in synergy with one another.

For example sneezing causes a very violent contraction of the diaphragm and many muscles that support the neck and back. This is the rapid rise in 'intra abdominal pressure' exerting on an outward and downward force putting a lot pressure on the abdominal wall and also weakens the pelvic floor muscle. This is why it is so important strengthening and re-training the pelvic floor to work in synergy with the rest of the core.

 Examples of actions that can increase the force of intra-abdominal pressure;

*Heavy lifting (lifting children)
*Jumping/ high impact
*Blowing hard nose/mouth
*Exercising including abdominal crunches

Unfortunately most of these above are part of everyday life. If there is already a weakness within the core and the pressure is poorly controlled, ongoing problems could occur. The abdominal pressure builds and is forced down towards the pelvic floor, which may be not strong/ functional enough to do its job and can lead to an array of pelvic floor dysfunctions such as;

*Stress Urinary/ Incontinence
*Pelvic Organ Prolapse
*Pelvic Pain
*Reduced Sexual Pleasure
*Hernias/ Prolapse           (if you do feel you have any of these symptoms it is advised to speak to a                                                health  professional)

But we can prevent or reduce the risk of these from happening, if we look after our bodies by building stronger cores, correcting our alignment/ postures. Core instability is increased if it is not working in synergy which means the diaphragm, lower back, pelvic floor and the abdominal wall are not working together.

Usually I always integrate my core synergy breath into my workouts whether its weights, cardio or functional training. I have noticed a more heavy feeling on my pelvic floor when I do high knees or star jumps (which is unusual),  this is because my core has not been working in synergy. So I need to focus again working with the breath within movement to protect myself. This can be a warning sign your pelvic floor is under pressure but can be corrected. The pelvic floor needs strengthening just like any other part of the body and probably more so. It is a part of a woman's body that needs the life long commitment. Again changes occur when you also hit menopause, so start now.

"If it doesn't feel right, get it checked out"

When I have clients come to me with either pelvic floor dysfunctions or diastasis he first thing we look at is the breath, this is a buiding block for mothers optimum recovery and forever more. We also use this as a big emphasis in my 'Postnatal core restore' class, I coach  Intrinsic Core  Synergy and the purpose of the breath into all the movements. The breath protects the body when incorporated into functional movement patterns and core strengthening work. With the commitment and practise, you can change the neurological patterns and create a subconscious movement that can protect you from many consequential problems if dismissed.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Postpartum Planks

Planks are probably one of the best core exercises there is and also strengthen your glutes, back, shoulders and arms meaning it can firm you all over. The plank can come in so many different variations, equally all effective and focusing on different elements of the core.

Many new mums ask me when it is safe to return to doing full plank? It is advised not to do full planks after having a baby, but postpartum recovery will vary from mother to mother. Fours months maybe ok for one mum, whilst nine months could still be too soon for another. Aspects that need to be taken into consideration are:

  • Type of childbirth
  • Prenatal fitness level
  • Abdominal conditioning (diastasis Recti)
  • Incontinence and other pelvic floor weaknesses
  • Postpartum pain
  • Prolapse issues

There are lots of plank variations you can do for some of the points above, so not all is ruled out. Also there are plank progressions for mums who are ready to slowly gain the strength to gradually perform a full plank.

If you answer yes to any of the following, you should avoid planks at present and seek professional advice on an exercise programme right for you.

  • Have you had any back or hip pain?
  • Do you leak?
  • Do you have diastasis recti?
  • Do you see conning in your belly?
If you answer yes to all or most of these, then your plank journey to inner core strength may begin.
  • Has your Diastasis closed/ healed?
  • Has your postpartum posture improved?
  • Is your core system working as it should? Can you connect your deep core muscles?
  • Have you been following a post birth recovery program?
When you are physically ready to start  incorporating planks into your routine, see the image of plank progressions below. Each progression should be done for approx 2 weeks 3-4 times for 30 secs ( build time up to 1 min) and then move onto the next phase. (Please note you can initially do planks standing against the wall vertically for a gentle start)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Teething Troubles

A wee tip from my sister a mother of 4 ( a pro at this parenting stuff)...use Anbesol liquid for teething. Available at most pharmacies for approx £4.99.
Brilliant stuff and much less messy than chasing Bonjela around your knuckles.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Breast-feeding and Exercise

Each mother may vary in the responses with exercising in the breast-feeding period. Health and fitness levels prior and during pregnancy can effect how your body reacts in the post-partum period. Lower intensity exercise helps aid the postpartum healing process mentally and physically. It is fantastic  for improving bone density, weight management and mental health of mother.

Research shows that moderate exercise doesn't affect the milk supply, milk composition, or baby's growth. Lactic acid levels have been shown to increase somewhat when a mother exercises to maximum intensity but there are no known harmful effects to the baby. If baby does find the taste less appealing then leaving it 30 mins to 1 hour after exercise should be sufficient for acid levels to reduce back to normal. . Breast-feeding before exercise will satisfy baby whilst mother is away and empty the breasts make exercise more comfortable. Some babies may object to being breast fed after mum has been exercising due to sweating leaving the taste of salt on the skin. Ensure you drink plenty of water to keep hydration levels up before and after exercise.

Relaxin hormone may still be present throughout the duration of breast feeding, ligaments may not be as strong leading to instability of the joints. When exercising keep plyometric work low impact and avoid too much high impact exercise. For example exercises high impact exercises can be when both feet leave the ground at the same time such as skipping, running, jumping jacks, squat jumps and split squat jumps.

Prone lying exercises will be uncomfortable for a breast-feeding mother. Also vigorous/ repetitive arm work including lifting weights which may stimulate breast-milk or cause plugged ducts. Ensure a good supportive sports bra is worn to protect overstretching during exercise.

Our bodies and metabolism may change with pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Go slow and listen to your body and ease into a healthy program.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Pre and Post Pregnancy Hair

Throughout pregnancy most of us are blessed with thicker hair that has volume and shine. You may have noticed that your hair may grow quicker and  falls out less too. The increased blood circulation and faster metabolism bring more nutrients to your hair.  Sometimes the texture may also change from straight to curly or vice-versa. Pregnancy hormones are the reason for all of this, especially  the higher levels of oestrogen which extends the hair growth cycle. From about 3-6 months postpartum your hair growth begins to return to normal speed.

From delivery day onwards oestrogen levels begin to drop back to normal, the hairs grown through pregnancy stop and remain dormant for a few months . Slowly a mother then begins to lose that extra hair, which can take a few months. Many mothers associate it with tiredness or stress but it is totally normal. For me I didn’t really notice it till about the 4 month mark, when areas of regrowth started to come through. Hair loss can vary from mother to mother, for some people it is gradual while others may lose handfuls. I am 8 months postpartum and the picture shows my current hair situation….which is far better than my first pregnancy. As you can see ponytails are not really an option right now.

This time round I wanted to be more prepared for the condition my hair would be in following pregnancy. So I decided to start taking a supplement as soon as I gave birth. This certainly didn’t  stop the hair falling but definitely kept my hair in good condition maintaining some of the thickness. I only noticed my  hair loss around my temples at around 4 months when it began to grow back through.

With my first child I never knew about hair loss, it is something you are not really told about. I remember loosing  clumps in the shower and at about 2 months postpartum my hair felt thin and flat and I couldn’t do anything with it. This is why I decided to be more prepared by purchasing a supplement (which I am still using today. They are a variety on the market but I chose a hair, skin and nail from Costco ,Nature’s Bounty High Strength Hair, Skin and Nail Food Supplement @ £14.89 for 250. It states you can take up to three a day but I usually stick to 1 or 2. They contain Vitamin A & c, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Calcium.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Tips On Buying The Perfect Pair Of Pregnancy shoes

There are 3 things I believe you need to consider when deciding on a good shoe to wear during your pregnancy.

1. Easy to put on

Your feet slowly disappear and reaching over your growing belly to put on shoes will become almost impossible.
Choose a shoe that you can easily put on without the need to bend down. Slip on shoes without laces are particularly suited for pregnant women. I had a lovely pair of gladiator sandals with buckles at the sides. Even sitting down and trying to swing my leg round to fasten the buckle was impossible

2. Supportive

From getting tendinitis with  one pregnancy and bad knees with the other I strongly recommend footwear with good support. With added baby weight, the joints are going to be under more stress than usual, especially in the later stages of pregnancy
By choosing a shoe with ankle and arch supports you can reduce joint pains associated with walking if not eliminate them all together.

3. A little extra room.

Be prepared for a little/ or a lot of swelling especially in the summer. You are going to want a little bit of extra room to compensate for the swelling. Try not to make the purchase too early in the pregnancy. My second pregnancy gave me more swelling across the top of my foot and at the top of my sock line. When i took my trainers off at the end of the day, I would have a bulbous ankle.
 Sorry to say swelling WILL occur to some extent
Jumping up half a size (or even a FULL size) larger than what you currently wear will allow you to remain comfortable when the swelling suddenly strikes. Until the swelling comes you can always wear an extra pair of socks to fill in the extra room.
An added bonus to comfortable shoes is that they will allow you to remain standing for longer periods of time before your feet begin to fatigue.