Getting back into training post-baby is an important step towards feeling like yourself again and can have a significant impact on stress levels, mood and wellbeing. However, when you barely have time to eat, let alone think about exercise, this can feel like a daunting challenge.
A good place to start is with your core. After pregnancy and birth, core strength is weakened and in order to help protect against back pain, improve bladder control and help you back to pre-baby fitness, it’s important to work on rebuilding it. However, don’t rush things: it’s recommended that no core exercises are done for six weeks post birth, longer if you’ve had a c section, to allow the abdominals to knit back together. If you don’t wait for this to happen, you can develop a distended abdomen and a pot belly, not the look most of us are going for! So, check with the doctor or midwife first and once your abs have come back together, start with these exercises:
It is best to build up from the inside out. Working on developing inner core strength is vital for optimal core function, back health and having a flat tummy.
Start with some basic diaphragmatic breathing:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Put your hands on your tummy and focus on breathing into your hands. You are trying to stop the breath going into your chest and instead trying to fill up your tummy with air.
- As you breathe out think about pulling your tummy button down towards your spine and push you back into the floor.
- Hold for a second at the bottom and then release and take another deep breath.
- This will start to engage your inner core muscles and begin to develop good functional core strength before progressing to this exercise with leg lowers, or ‘dead bugs’.
- Lie on your back with both arms reaching towards the ceiling and your knees bent at right angles so that your shins are parallel to the floor. Take a deep breath, as before, into your tummy.
- As you breathe out start to lower one leg to the floor, keeping the arm on that side reaching towards the ceiling, whilst bringing the opposite arm back towards the floor behind your head, keeping it straight.
- The aim is to push down into your lower back and keep your back in contact with the floor at all times whilst extending your leg.
- Keep your knee bent on this extending leg to begin with, and once you are successfully engaging your core and keeping your back flat, start to straighten it.
- Bring your leg back up, take another deep breath and repeat.
This exercise is surprisingly hard so take your time and progress through it slowly.
As well as your inner core, you’ll need to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Here are two simple exercises which will help:
- The first is to imagine you’re stopping yourself peeing by pulling up your pelvic floor muscles and holding for a second. This is a great exercise and one you can do anywhere, in the car, watching TV or at work. Aim to do it 15 times, twice a day.
- The second strengthening exercise is Swiss ball tucks. Sit on a Swiss ball, feet flat on the floor. Tuck your bum underneath you so you are bringing your pubic bone up towards your tummy button. This tuck movement will engage the pelvic floor. Hold for a moment then release. You can progress this by lifting one foot off the ground once you have your tuck, trying to keep your hips balanced throughout. 15 of these twice a day would be a great start.
Doing simple short easy exercises like these can make a big difference to your strength and core function. Although they may not feel the toughest exercises, they are laying solid foundations so you can successfully more onto more intense training when you are ready, helping you to regain your pre-baby body in a safe and effective way.
- words: Sarah-Jane Holt
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