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You knew it would happen!

Post Natal Exercise. Written for the NCT in August 2011.

 

Okay so the title may be a bit confrontational considering I’m a bloke but seriously, you knew it would. If I had a pound for every time my partner said she wanted a baby . . . well you get where I’m going with that one! So being a typical man trying desperately not to grow up I tell her. “All that hard work staying fit and healthy. You’re crazy. You know your body is going to feel like you were hit by a freight train by the time the kid pops out”.

 

I don’t have to tell you that having a baby is a traumatic experience. It’s something akin to ‘Man Flu’ I’m told. For the muscles of your abdomen, pelvis and lower back however the whole ordeal was quite overwhelming, just like they told you it would be. Your posture will have changed and your tummy doesn’t look the way it once did, and now you’ve taken to lifting your beautiful new eight pound child into your arms every few minutes, which is adding to the fatigue you feel all over. So what can you do now? Everybody told you it would happen but how do you make a change and regain control over your muscles?

 

Over the next few issues I’ll be discussing important choices you can make to get back on track with your health and well being. This issue tackles the foundation of all exercise and one of the hardest elements you’ll be faced with.

Making Time.

 

Now this is the toughest place for me to start, so I figure let’s just get in at the deep end and deal with it head on. Making time for yourself is by far the most important piece of advice anyone will give you when you have a new child in your life. Easier said than done I know, but doing so allows you to regain the energy you need for the coming months. There’s no point being a martyr and not taking every little bit of help you can. You need time to rest. At this early stage it is important that when you find time for yourself it doesn’t involve hitting the gym to regain your physique like the rich and famous seem to do. I say this because exercise is a great stressor to the body and lets face it, giving birth is enough stress for anyone to handle so getting rested is far more important.

The body responds to stress in the only way it can, known in the trade as a sympathetic response. This response comes from the nervous system and is designed to stop us healing and get us out of danger. Too much of this sympathetic response and the body tries to shut down. This is basically why you slept for so long after birth. So if you try to exercise to soon your body quickly overloads on the sympathetic response and you become to tired to function. All-in-all please don’t take rest to lightly. Your health will come back more quickly when you are ready.

Once you’ve dedicated some time to your own recovery and you’ve been signed off for getting some strength back in your abdominals then ‘Time Management’ for exercise gets ever more important, so we have to start getting creative. Here are three great exercises to get you started that won’t challenge you for time.

Pelvic Floor Exercises.

 

Don’t tell me you don’t have time for these exercises. They are the simplest ones you can do and you need no equipment, no additional floor space and no time set aside to commit to them. The basic exercise is simple. Just think about stopping yourself from peeing. You don’t even need to be peeing to do this exercise! The exercise is just the muscle contraction you do when performing this function. So you can be sat down cuddling your child and perform it. You can be standing over your child pulling faces and perform it. You can even do it driving your car round the block to get the kid to sleep! The key is in remembering to do it, so give yourself reminders like setting your phone to bleep every 20 minutes or putting Post It notes on things around the house, you get the idea.

The Tummy Tuck.

 

Simply put the Tummy Tuck is learning to pull your belly button in to flatten your stomach. This exercise is best done with the aid of gravity and goes like this.

 

Kneel on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and your hips at right angles to your body. From this position do what you really don’t want to do and let your belly hang down to the floor. This applies a stretch to your muscles that allows the brain to engage with them more efficiently. Then, without arching your back, squeeze your pelvic floor like in the previous exercise and draw your belly button up towards your spine. Hold for 15-20 seconds and relax. Repeat 6 to 8 times or until fatigue, whichever comes first.

 

Now for all you time deficient mums out there, here is a modification to help. Every time you bend over to engage with your child do one repetition of this exercise. Put your hands on your thighs or on the baby’s cot for upper body support and go through the exercise (no need to kneel down, just do it standing). This way your get to do the Tummy Tuck without wasting precious relaxation time. This exercise is ideally performed when you pick up your child from their cot so remember it then. Just pull in the pelvic floor and belly button and hold while you bend over and pick up your baby.

Seated Leg Lifts.

 

The last essential exercise is Seated Leg Lifting. Again, simple and time effective to do, the seated leg lift helps to engage the ‘core’ muscles at the same time as performing a leg movement. This is great for training posture and stability in walking. Here’s how it goes.

Sit on the edge of a chair with the best upright posture you can muster. Keep your feet close together with about the size of a grapefruit gap between them. Now, activate your pelvic floor as in the first two exercises and pull in your belly button. Hold this posture as well as you can while you raise one foot off the floor by about 2 inches. Lower the foot to the floor and then repeat with the other foot. Do 10 repetitions on each side if you can (or as many as you can do until you can do all ten).

To make this more fun, and engage your child, perform the exercise with your baby on your lap. Kids seem to love the ride! Remember to hold on tight to them though and keep some of your focus on your posture. Adding the weight of the baby will make the exercise harder to do so stop when you can’t hold posture any longer and think of another way to entertain yourself... I mean your baby.

So you knew it would happen, didn’t you?

 

Muscle weakness is an inevitable part of child birth, and lets be honest, the new person in your life was worth it all in the end. Now it’s time for you to take care not just of your new baby but of yourself too. If you don’t you’ll be five years down the line and all those aches and pains you developed over child birth will have become larger and larger issues, which are much more difficult to address. So take care of yourself, you owe that much to your family. I don’t want to see you in my clinic five years from now telling you. . . You knew this would happen!

 

 

 

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