Sunday, 31 July 2016

The essential exercises to do after childbirth - pelvic floor (kegels) and core work

Well folks, I'm feeling a bit bummed out as I've been told I still have diastasis recti (separation of your stomach muscles - pretty common after childbirth) so running is not really advised until my core is stronger and better aligned. But I guess I need good foundations to come back running stronger after having a baby, so I'm going to focus on core work over the next 8 weeks, along with some leg and arm strengthening and some swimming (this is, of course, if I can find the time. My two boys run a tight ship so we'll see...). So hopefully, come October, I'll be in a better position to not do any lasting damage to my body and I can start training again properly.

I'm trying to turn this negative into a positive. It will give me more time to really focus on getting my stomach back into shape - something I've always said I wanted to do, but never have. Also I've always wanted to get into yoga more, so this is a great opportunity to do so. Plus, I loved swimming when I was pregnant, so I hope I'll still get enjoyment from a different form of exercise.

That said, it is very hard. Running is a very easy way to give yourself half an hour's grace from the realities of childcaring. Plus it does form part of my identity. If I can't run, I get sad. But! It's not for long! People have injuries for longer than 8 weeks, so I must think myself lucky.

It's actually quite hard to find good advice on the correct pelvic floor (kegels) and core exercises you should be doing after childbirth. I saw a women's health physiotherapist after my first son, and these were the pelvic floor exercises she gave me. I swear by these. Correct postnatal core exercises to follow in the next post.

1)  Start lying down with your knees bent. Imagine your pelvic floor is like a hammock running from front of the pubic bone to the base of your lower spine. Pull up your hammock, but keep your breathing normal and your tummy relaxed.
2) Hold for 10 seconds (if you can. You may need to build up to this right after childbirth). Try not to hold the contraction at full effort, more 60%. Relax. Repeat 10x. This exercise helps strengthen the fibres that work at a low intensity for longer i.e they help hold all your internal organs in all the time.
4) Next do 10x short, quick contractions. Hold for 1 second at a higher intensity, then relax. This exercise helps strengthen the fibres that work to prevent you wetting yourself when you sneeze, for example.
5) Repeat the exercises 3x. Aim to do these daily. It helps to remember to do them at the same time each day, or when you do something specific like make a cup of tea or breastfeed.
6) When you can easily do these exercises lying down, try them in a forward lean kneeling position, and then standing up. Gravity will make the exercises harder to do.

Why are these pelvic floor exercises so important? Well apart from the obvious that they prevent you wetting (or worse) yourself, they hold in your internal organs, including the womb, safely where they should be. Worse case scenario is a prolapse. Yeah, you're ok thanks.

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