I’ve always been pretty active and have loved working out, but I will be the first to admit that getting back in shape (and staying in shape!) after having kids is an ongoing challenge! One of my biggest struggles with my post-baby body has been getting my abs back. Prior to having kids, I always had flat abs and just figured that if if I just got back into my regular workout routine and ate healthfully, my body would bounce back. After several months of trying that technique, I did feel stronger and slim down, but my abdominals were still definitely my newest problem area. There were times where, if I didn’t consciously suck in, I would walk past the mirror and realize that my belly still had the look of a baby bump!
Diagnosing Diastasis Recti
I still distinctly remember the first time I did a sit up after delivering my baby and noticing that I had a weird ridge pop up down the center of my abs whenever I would go up in a crunch. Turns out, I had a condition called diastasis recti, or separation of the abdominal muscles. It’s a fairly common side effect of pregnancy since the muscles are so stretched to accommodate for baby and it’s oftentimes the culprit behind the infamous “mommy pooch”. I know first-hand how difficult it was to get rid of this mommy pooch and despite my greatest efforts in the gym and the kitchen, I just couldn’t seem to get it to go away.
Strengthening the Core
It surprised me that diastasis recti was not something commonly talked about (and my OB didn’t mention anything about it during any of my appointments either!). I remember also asking my coach at the gym about what exercises he recommended to strengthen my core given that I had diastasis recti and he had never heard of the condition so wasn’t sure of what to suggest. Thank goodness for the internet and I couldn’t have been happier when I saw this Abs, Core and Pelvic Floor 30-Day program created by personal trainer Natalie Hodson alongside Dr. Monique Middlekauff, a specialist in pelvic floor dysfunction. These two amazing women have long been members of the fitness industry and actually loved reading the section on how they got to know each other in the introductory pages of the program. Together Natalie and Monique have created a program that targets specifically the issues many women face after childbirth. It’s super easy to read and has a great mix of background information, relatable stories featuring their struggles post childbirth, as well as pictures demonstrating recommended exercises for their training program.
While I did suffer from moderate diastasis recti (my abdominal separation amount was about 2 fingers’ worth — 1.5″), it was a relief to hear that over time, it is a condition that can be repaired. My “mommy pooch” was essentially the result of my stretched out connective tissues never getting strong enough to bring my abdominal muscles together. The Abs, Core and Pelvic Floor program has been particularly eye-opening for me as far as I’ve realized that so many exercises I was doing are actually NOT recommended for diastasis recti including planks, sit-ups, crunches, v-ups, scissor kicks, or abdominal bicycles (oops! I had been doing all of these!). Too much pressure is placed on the connective tissue which can end up damaging the tissue even more.
I’ve been adding in the Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor Training Program to my normal workout routine and I love that I can do these exercises at home just by spending 5-15 minutes each day focusing on my core and pelvic area! The program is 30 days and there are suggested moves broken down week by week. While many of the moves seemed simple from the description, the secret is really focusing in on the core and pelvic floor muscles by tightening and lifting from the inside. It was a lot harder than I expected!
Below are a couple of my favorite moves:
While front planks should be avoided, side planks are recommended! It’s actually a great pelvic floor strengthening exercise and works by activating the abdominal muscles. Laying down on your side, stack one arm underneath your shoulder and slowly lift and lower your hip. You can intensify the move by holding the hips elevated for 10 seconds — the first time I was doing this one, my core was shaking after just a few seconds!
Laying on the back, place the feet comfortably on the floor with your hands flat on the ground at your side. Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and activate the muscles of the glutes to lift the hips off the ground until you reach a straight line from the shoulders to the knees. Hold briefly and slowly lower o the starting position. I really felt this move in my lower abs after just a few minutes!
And if you’re more of a video workout person, Natalie even has a set of workout videos that are broken down into each week! It made it easy to follow along and realize where I should be focusing my attention during the exercise to make sure that I was engaging the right muscles in my body.
I’ve found just spending 5-15 minutes each day working through the Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor program to be super helpful. It’s quick and even when I only have a few minutes before bed each night, I’ll just lay on the floor and work through a few moves to help strengthen my abs, core and pelvic floor muscles. Even after the first couple of weeks, I noticed that I would start engaging my core muscles even when was standing at my desk at work! I’m only just starting to get my abs back (and honestly you have to see me at just the right angle with just the right shadows to see any abs, but I’ll take it!) and am excited to see the progress that I’ll make in the continuing weeks!
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I’m so happy that Natalie and Monique have created a program that brings awareness to diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction, two common issues many women experience, especially those who have given birth. I just wish I had known about some of the secrets to healing my own issues sooner!
Have you ever experienced any issues with getting your core back after baby?
What are some of your favorite abs, core, or pelvic floor exercises?
This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Natalie Hodson, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #abscorepelvicfloor http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV