Are you struggling to reboot a healthy lifestyle and fitness routine following the birth of a baby or other major life change? Are you looking for the best online nutrition and fitness programs for postpartum recovery? Are you looking for community connection while you get your pre-pregnancy vitality back?
Today on the Fitlandia Podcast, guest Helene Byrne, prenatal and postpartum exercise specialist, author, and founder of BeFit- Mom™, joins host Christa King of Fitlandia to discuss post-partum ab recovery.
How Did Helen Become a Prenatal and Postpartum Exercise Specialist?
After the birth of her son, Helene Byrne, was dismayed that pregnancy had seemingly erased her prior fitness state, especially her ab tone and stability, in spite of the fact that she had continued to exercise throughout her pregnancy. She also discovered that no one was promoting postpartum exercise correctly! There had to be something beyond crunches for a new mom’s body recovery?! So she pulled from her experiences with pilates, yoga, and standard fitness training to create a postpartum rehab system that worked for her. And she was confident it would help others.
The Body Mechanics
- Your center of gravity moves forward
- Your pelvis tips
- Shoulders hunch and round and head moves forward
* too much curvature in both lower and upper back
* some muscle groups get too tight, while their opposing muscle groups become weak
- The hormones relaxin and elastin are activated
* slight widening of pelvis opening
* changes to connective tissue (ie: ligaments), throughout the body
- Without the mass of a baby to support those stretched ab muscles, your belly feels like mush!
- You have a weak core
- Ligament laxity throughout your body up to 6 months postpartum
* potential misalignment in joints
* potential for bladder or uterus prolapse
What Exercises are Best During Pregnancy (Prenatal)?
Those that lengthen the muscles that tend to tighten up and those that strengthen the muscles which are prone to weakness.
What Exercises are Less Appropriate Postpartum?
Due to ligament laxity and weak abs, it can be uncomfortable and even unsafe to return immediately to high-impact exercises. Running, HIIT, crossfit, weight-training, may put early postpartum women at risk for injury. Once your core is re-established, you can begin to return to your normal fitness routines more safely.
Why Traditional Ab Exercises Don’t Work Well Postpartum
After the birth of your baby, you may desire a return to flat, strong, well-functioning abs. But a weak transverse abdominis muscle means that a “crunch”- type exercise will allow for the bulging of muscle without the countering effect of compression. Also, midline tissue down the center of our body is composed of connective tissue, which has become lax and can stretch out too wide (diastasis recti). It needs to be closed, or things don’t return to normal.
In fitness, what you practice, is what you get! So trying to do traditional ab exercises, without having rehabbed your transverse abdominis is not a recipe for success. It will never close that midline, will never flatten your abs, and may promote the bulge that causes people years later to inquire, “When’s the baby due?”
Two Interrelated Steps to Proper Postpartum Fitness Recovery
 Rebuild Transverse Abdominis (deepest abdominal muscle, which compresses belly)
Using Abdominal Compression Exercises
 Rehab Pelvic Floor
Using Kegel Exercises
It is critical to rebuild the TVA and Pelvic Floor together, because it is their job to function together in the body. In the beginning, during rebuild exercises like ab compressions or kegels, you may not sense successful contraction in either the abdominal muscles or pelvic floor muscles. Be patient; strength will slowly return.
How to Find Your Pelvic Floor
Sit near the corner edge of a hard chair, legs straddled. That will put your body weight right on your pelvic floor so that when you squeeze during kegel exercises, you sense engagement of the proper muscles.
How to Compress Your TVA
Sit on the edge of a chair and place your hands in the crease of your thighs at hip level. Now pull in your belly, away from your fingertips so that your hands have a little space. This is what you are going for with abdominal compression exercises.
Re-establish Good Alignment
After carrying and delivering a baby, many women end up with functional muscular imbalances, such as really tight hips, lower back, or chest. Such conditions may create unstable joints, making them more prone to injury. Part of re-establishing a strong core is to re-establish good alignment.
How Will I Know I’m Ready to Return to My Regular Fitness Routine?
Body Cues of Functional Stability:
- Ability to do a crunch while maintaining a flat abdominal wall (no bulge)
- Pelvis doesn’t rock back and forth at all during toe tap test (see below)
- You no longer struggle to create stabilization
How to Perform Toe Tap Test:
- Lay down on back in “dead bug” position, with legs pulled up and tucked
- Extend one leg out so that toe can gently tap the floor
- Bring leg back up to tuck position
- To strengthen, continue steps 1-3 as repeated exercise
What if I Didn’t Have a Regular Fitness Routine Prior to Pregnancy?
Often following the birth of a child, something triggers in a woman the desire to get healthy.
Guest Helene Byrne of BeFit- Mom™ reminds us that “everyone has a mommy body following birth, everyone!”. It’s a phase; it’s transitional. And everyone can create positive fitness from that square one, forward.
- Create a mindset that is healthy
- Don’t compare yourself to others or social media images
- DO her core rehab workout DAILY, after baby’s morning feeding
- Take a daily fitness walk with baby
- Create a fun schedule that includes Mommy and Me or Stroller Fitness classes with community!
Host Christa King of Fitlandia agrees with Helene’s recommendations, especially when it comes to community. She reminds listeners that Fitlandia is built on the Four Cornerstones of Fitness, of which Community Connection is one. We need community for both accountability and also validation and affirmation. So it is so important to choose a community group that is really positive. Fitlandia’s 30 Days to Thrive Program is a perfect opportunity.
Also, whether you’re a new mom wanting to get your healthy lifestyle back on track, or you’re just a busy individual needing to create some healthy habits, it all starts with your Mind. Christa King’s Mind Zoning® Academy may be just what you need to mentally prepare for any fitness rehab! And don’t forget to boost your strategic vitality!
Get Your Rest
Certainly, sleep is also crucial to postpartum fitness recovery. Anyone who has been an insomniac or worked a seventy hour week can relate to the desperation that comes from the sleep deprivation mothers of newborns experience. Ladies, sleep whenever you can!
Be Gentle With Yourself
Any change or transition comes with a big adjustment period. Your world has been flipped upside down, requiring you to respond by creating an adapted lifestyle and an adjusted identity around something new…whether it is a job, a move, a loss, or a BABY! Transition into motherhood in a mindful, gentle way. Being a new mom can trigger some psychological challenges, perhaps connected to your own relationship with your mother, or some body image issues going back to childhood. Be kind to yourself. Be really positive, really patient, and really dig into community connection. And give yourself permission to ask for help. Also, practice self-care with the mindset that as you put yourself together, you are setting an example for those you love and care for, including your new baby.