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Is fat loss a good goal for new moms?

Grab your copy of 8 Mistakes Women Make When Returning to Exercise Post Baby, by clicking here. There is so much information and confusion about post baby exercise that I want to simplify it for you, especially during this demanding season in your life. Now I want to talk a little bit about fat loss post baby.

When I think of a “good” fitness goal for a mom I think of one that enhances her life and well being whatever that goal might be. Not one that adds pressure, stress or urgency.

So when I think of the primary goal for a mom losing fat while she has a newborn and/or a toddler (or more kids) I cringe a little.

The four main pillars in fat loss are this:

Solid nutrition.

Consistent workouts.

Full nights sleep.

Managed stress levels.

Already you can see my point right?

New moms may want to lose fat but lack of sleep and high stress can inhibit weight loss and slow body change and during those early stages it feels a little out of our control.

So unfair as a mom right?

The early stages of mothering are so demanding on the body and a focus on fat loss requires lots of mental and physical energy. There are so many obstacles to these four pillars that will be difficult for busy, tired moms to meet and often leave them feeling guilty, frustrated and overwhelmed.

So is fat loss a terrible goal for all moms? Not necessarily. I actually think fat loss is a good goal for moms confident in their bodies, not moms who *want to be* confident in their bodies. Fat loss can be beneficial for health reasons for some but make that the goal – health, not shrinking to feel more worthy and loved.

So what is a mom to do when she wants to lose the baby weight but has all the four pillars working again her?

Focus on:

Rebuilding the core.

Regaining strength.

Returning to exercise you love.

How can we better help moms emotionally?

We support them. We encourage them. We don’t give them the “no excuses crap” or “just try harder.” We help them recognize that this is a season in their life and this season will pass.

To just do their best. To perhaps focus on health, energy, being stronger, and setting an example for their children and families. We take the pressure OFF fat and weight loss.

We help them thrive in their environment, not just feel like they are surviving.

 

Will crunches and sit ups help reduce belly fat postpartum?

Before we dive in, don’t forget that today is the last day to grab your copy of The Fit Life Postpartum, 12 week fitness program to help moms rebuild the core, regain strength, and return to exercise they love post baby. Detail here, sign-up here.

Just like the diet world jumping around with the idea that carbs are good or bad for you, the postpartum world has been in debate about whether or not sit ups and crunches are a contributor to pelvic floor dysfunction and may worsen conditions like diastasis.

Bottom line. Just like with dieting, there is no one perfect solution for every single person. Some body may be able to handle crunches and sit ups better and others may not.

The confusion lies when woman want to work on their core by using crunches and sit-ups in hopes to return their tummy to how it looked before baby or use it at a tool to flatten the belly.

Spot training will actually not flatten the tummy or reduce belly fat to any noticeable degree. This comes from a combination of a full body workout, dialed in nutrition, managing sleep and stress.

These are all several factors that are very difficult for many moms to spend time and energy on especially during the early postpartum stages.

One of the biggest concerns with crunches and sit ups is that the amount of intra abdominal pressure is too much on the abdominal wall worsening conditions like diastasis or contributing to pelvic floor dysfunction.

However some research suggests that maybe we can create more pressure from simply sitting out of a chair and that crunches may actually help draw in the distance in that gap with proper form and engagement of the deeper abdominal muscles. You can check out a great article here.

 

 

 

If we are looking at crunches and sit ups from a functional perspective they are not the most ideal for actives of daily living and are unlike us to assist in the actions that we need to do on a daily basis like picking kids off the ground and awkwardly taking kids out of the car seat.

Sure they can assist us in rolling up from a seated position but we don’t do much where we need to be super strong in spinal forward flexion to have a strong core. In fact we need to work in multiple position to work stability in movements that actually prevent this forward flexion, extension and rotation.

Not that every exercise needs to be functional. Sometimes we can do exercises just because we like them BUT not if they are contributing to pain or dysfunction we might want to rethink our approach.

Another consideration is that moms are often limited on time and if return to strength, fat loss, and function is the goal it is more ideal to include multi joint exercise that target multiple parts of the body and different muscle groups all at once. Exercises paired together that achieve a metabolic effect to get us breathing a little harder and challenging us a little bit more.

 

This will be a much better approach to fat loss than just doing hundreds of crunches throughout the week.

 

Sit ups with high reputation, poor form, and lack of any pelvic floor awareness can potentially lead to more pelvic floor dysfunction and worsen diastasis. Sit ups with good form, proper focus on pelvic floor connection and good form may lead to improving conditions. We just don’t know from body to body and the help of a women’s health physical therapist or a personal trainer with a strong background in training postpartum clients will help you figure this out.

The first question I ask my mama clients is why do they want to do crunches. Is it to get stronger? Is it to lose belly fat? Do they like the way they feel?

I then educate them, like I have shared above.

I currently don’t program crunches into a routine unless I know the mama just love the way they make her feel. If this is the case we start start small and make sure they don’t feel any heaviness in the pelvic floor and bulging in the abdomen.

Remember doing tons of sit ups and crunches will NOT flatten the belly.

This extra layer of fat is determined by several factors that range from your nutrition to activity level to your hormones. You can do as many core exercises as you want but the abdominals will not be visible if there is a layer of fat on top. This is simply stated to give you a perspective not to encourage you to achieve a 6 pack.

Core strength and stability will come from several factors such as full body lifts, unilateral movements, breath, alignment and activating the deeper abdominal muscles. Bottom line is crunches and sit ups have very little to do with reducing belly fat.

All this and more is discussed in The Fit Life Postpartum where you will learn what core exercises are best post baby. Check it out here!

how to deal with body change during and after pregnancy

 

 

Choosing how we view our bodies is a process.

 

Before I discuss anything else I want to start this piece by giving expectant and postpartum women permission to feel what they feel about their bodies. It is normal to feel all the things about your body as it is going through a tremendous amount of change physically and hormonally. And I know, even well intended, comments can trigger a range of feelings.

At just 8 week pregnant I remember my jeans fitting tighter. I remember being a little taken back being that a baby bump wasn’t even visible yet and feeling a little self conscious when other mamas were half way through their pregnancy posting pictures about how they still fit in their jeans. But for me, my booty and thighs were the first place to gain the fat and the last place to let it go.

It was at this time I decided that my body was going to do what it needed to do to grow a baby and I would release any expected outcomes during this process. It was a great decision but still a process.

Because once that belly started to grow, the comments start to trickle in.

“You ARE HUGE.”

“How did you get so big overnight?!?!”

“Looks like you ate too much and stopped working out.”

“Hey fatty.”

These comments were accompanied by charming smiles and hugs of congratulations and asking about how I was doing but still…the need for people to comment on a pregnant women’s body like that is interesting, isn’t it?

I continued to focus on embracing the process and focusing on just doing my best which for me looked like this.

Training clients until 39 weeks pregnant.

Eating frozen waffles through my first trimester during my meat, coffee, and veggie aversion.

Working out 2x a week up until the last month of my pregnancy in which I switched to just walking and a few sets of air squats, clams, and rows here are there.

And working on the process of a changing body, a changing schedule, and a changing life.

Because you see, all of this is a process.

I don’t want to tell moms that they should…

“just not worry about their body changing” or  “don’t worry when you lose the weight post baby because it is a miraculous process.”

Our feelings are valid.

But I also don’t want moms to put undue stress or misery on themselves either.

When it comes down to it we have 2 options. We can mourn our changing bodies and stress that we won’t lose the weight we gained or we can learned to get more involved in the process and less attached to the outcomes.

It is 100% OK to want to be strong, healthy, and fit during and after pregnancy but this idea that our bodies should or will just bounce back after pregnancy makes me wonder if we are going about this right.

Post birth once I started to heal and was in less pain I actually really enjoyed my body early postpartum in its softness and all.  It was nice not feeling the pressure like I had to achieve a certain amount of leanness. I liked being a little less cautious about my food intake and liked working out without all the intensity. I liked the feeling of just moving differently during my return to more strenuous exercise.

Early postpartum we need to let the body rest and heal properly.

And then once it does our lives are not as they were before. We have less sleep, less time, less energy, and more responsibilities that interfere with the perfect formula to fat loss. The perfect formula being along the lines of high sleep, low stress, plenty time and energy to workout and the mental energy to make decent food choices.

It feels a little unfair right?! That this is a time moms so desperately want to get “back to their bodies” yet have everything working against them.

But what does getting a body back even mean anyways? Mama, your body never went anywhere.

It is time to change the way we talk about women’s bodies during and after pregnancy. I want to reiterate that all worries are valid whether you are self conscious about your stretch marks, extra cellulite noticed, or weight not lost but they also do not define who you are. Remember that.

Here are some perspective shifts to consider. 

It is OK to want to be fit, healthy, and feel hot as a mom.

Choose a positive perspective over a negative one. Address the negative thought as it comes, notice it, feel it, let it pass. Don’t fight it but don’t hold on to it.

Remember it is a process. We won’t love ourselves and our bodies every minute of every day even if we have the most toned arms and flattest stomach. Remind your self of all the things your body is capable of, the things it CAN do for you, and that you are not alone in your feelings.

You can’t teach what you don’t know. If you want to teach positive body love to your children you have to be able to do it yourself. Our kids hear what we say whether it is that our hair is ugly or our body is gross. We can tell them not to talk to themselves that way but they won’t truly believe it if we cannot walk the walk.

Take your time and embrace the process. In the early stages of postpartum the return to fitness (lets say the first year) it is especially hard. For some it can take longer.

Do your best. Move when you can. Eat to feel good mentally and physically. Spend some time nurturing your soul – time to yourself, time with friends, time doing actives you enjoy. Snuggle the baby day in, day out.

Our bodies will change not just now but continually as we age. It is a great time to start the journey of doing the hard work of loving ourselves because what is the other option?

12 minute at-home dumbbell workout

Short, quick at home workouts have been a life saver since I became a mama.

Having a baby and managing work, relationships, and everyday tasks, all while doing so on less sleep, has forced me to accept shorter, less frequent workouts.

Although I will say they have done their job as I am feeling much stronger at 10 months postpartum. No longer do I have the freedom to workout whenever I please and that is something I definitely took for granted before.

I have found that even when I am at the gym I tend to use minimal equipment such as bands, kettlebells and dumbbells because I get the most for my time with workouts like the one I am sharing today.

My warm-up usually consists of 10 air squats, 10 walking lunges, some mobility work for the hips, and a couple core exercises like deadbug, plank, or side plank. It takes about 5-7 minutes which is not ideal but better than nothing when I only have 20-30 minutes.

This 12 minute workout requires a timer and a set of dumbbells that you are able to press overhead.

Set the clock for 12 minutes and complete AMRAP (as many rounds and possible and pretty) in 12 minute.

12 Dumbell Thruster

24 Reverse lunges total (alternating sides)

Track how many rounds you get and try to beat that during your next workout.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

 

 

5 non-fitness ways I reduce stress

While I love to share health, fitness, and eating tips on a regular basis I also believe that health is more than what you eat and how you workout. Health is the way we take care of ourselves outside of nutrition and exercise and how we manage our stress.

Today I am sharing 5 non-fitness ways I reduce stress.

Time outside, in the morning, with my dog.

I spend time outside.

There is something about being outside and getting some fresh air or sunshine that enhances my mood. Depending on the time of year this could look like going outside to play, taking a walk, sitting outside at a restaurant, or hanging out in the backyard.

I connect with others.

Being that I tend to be more introverted I typically find myself re energized by alone time. I like shorter bursts of interactions with others and can get easily drained by being around too many people or being social for too long.

On the flip side, I can easily get too caught up in my thoughts and worries and feel lonely when I don’t reach out and connect with someone for too long. This could be a phone call or reconnecting with  a friend or family member in person. Even a friendly interaction with a stranger at the store makes me feel more positive about humanity.

I write.

Whether it is a few things I am grateful for, a note to a friend, journaling an experience or my fitness blogs and emails, I write weekly. I find that expression through words can be a powerful outlet.

It allows me to reflect, vent, educate, and share with others as well.

I stare at my dog.

Just kidding. But kinda. 😉

My dog Lulu is my fur child and she is the best of company. She is loyal, enthusiastic, forgiving, and the most selfless creature. Research has actually suggested that time with pets is a form a stress relief. I wish I could take her everywhere with me and I know she wished she could go everywhere with me too.

My morning cup of coffee.

Ok it is not the coffee itself that helps me reduce stress. In fact I am sensitive to caffeine and if i drink too much it makes me more anxious.

It is the routine around coffee that I love so much. Mornings are the time time I feel the most energized, positive, and productive (as long as I can wake up on my own terms even if it is 5 am).

Having a baby has changed this greatly and it has been a bit of a struggle to recreate this time.  I wish I could take the way I feel in the morning with me throughout the day, everyday.

Tell me: What is your favorite way to reduce stress?

Unconventional health and fitness tips to help you stress less

Take everything you think you know about diet and exercise and ignore it for just a moment. Can you do that?

Forget about calories. Forget about diets. Forget about trends. Forget about good and bad foods. Forget about healthy fats and lean proteins. Forget about the best method of exercise to get results that you read about yesterday. Or how many minutes you need to work. Or what exercises are supposedly the best for a flat stomach. Erase it all for just a moment.

What if you could just take a moment here to start with a clean slate, a fresh start? No matter what choices you have been making with food, no matter if you have or have not been getting your workouts in, you can always start fresh, right here, right now. Not tomorrow or when you are less busy, but now.

Old habits are rooted deep within us. And in order to break those habits we have to relearn ways of eating, exercising, and most importantly thinking about these components all together.

Regained weight, failed attempts at goals, binging on your last meal, missed workouts, messing up yet again, are all self perceived failures that are actually your own unique collection of lessons and information that you can pull and learn from.

The key is you have to change something, anything. Yet as humans we are kind of funny. We tend to fall into old habits and do the same thing over and over and expect the outcome to be different.

In the eating and exercise world it looks like this.

Trying a super strict diet. Falling off plan. Not caring. Eating whatever, whenever. Get fed up with body and choices. Try a strict diet again.

Thinking you have to do more and more with exercise and workout everyday only to fall off the wagon, take a break for weeks or months and then start again trying to do more and more exercise.

Researching more and more information about diet plans and exercise but never actually doing them.

Losing and gaining the same 10 plus pounds over and over again.

Feeling gross about our food choices, then just eating more pizza.

Feeling gross about our bodies and how they feel but never doing anything about it.

Talking about all the weight you need to lose but never following through.

These are all invaluable lessons (in disguise because we learn what doesn’t work) but we will never learn if we never have the courage to step outside what we are currently doing, and do something different.

But where do we start? How do we do something different when the same crappy eating and exercise tactics are pushed in our face day in and day out?

Today I want to share with you my favorite pieces of unconventional advice that I hope will broaden your perspective around eating and exercise and help you break the cycle you are currently in, if you are feeling stuck, feeling unmotivated or feel like you have tried everything.

Expose yourself to the food you fear.

Or the food that you think you shouldn’t eat. Think about it. What happens when I tell you not to think about a purple giraffe?

You think about a purple giraffe. What happens when you tell yourself to not eat chocolate? You probably think about eating chocolate.

This isn’t just some odd coincidence, there is actually a term for it in psychology called The Ironic Rebound which essentially says that the more you push away a though, the more likely you are to think about.

Alternatively, giving yourself permission to think a certain thought, or think about a certain food, reduces your chances of acting on it.

This is part of the many reasons of why diets are so ineffective from a psychological standpoint. When we forbid or remove certain foods from our diets, chances are we crave and want them more.

So the solution I propose is to allow yourself to be exposed to the off limit foods you have set for yourself. Things like bacon, butter, chocolate, bread, etc. There is a caveat though and that is portion control.

Allow yourself to have a small piece of something, lets say a peanut butter cup or a piece of bacon, and practice. Practice like you would other skills in life and practice again even if you end up overeating one day.

I use to forbid chocolate (my favorite indulgence) and now I eat 1-2 pieces a day and never overdo it. And when the holidays come around with all the pretty candies I could care less. I actually turned down chocolate the other day when it years past I wouldn’t have been able to say no because I had felt so deprived from it.

Do something and do something you like (or tolerate).

For exercise there are certain methods that will deliver better results than others and if you ask me, weight lifting is your golden ticket above everything else. Any person who crosses my path with exercise questions will get the run down of the benefits of resistance training.

I am a firm believer, however, that if you can’t dig deep into your soul to find a way to enjoy it, you won’t stick with it. If you hate all movement find something you can tolerate a few times a week. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Getting off you bum and being active whether dancing, walking, swimming, yoga, even gardening is moving and moving is better than sitting.

If you enjoy it and you feel happy and healthy with your body, keep doing it. If not explore other options.

Don’t count (minutes, macros, calories).

What if you went through a day and didn’t count anything? The time you worked out. The calories you ate. The macronutrients you consumed. Sure it works for some people, but again, the point of this whole post, if what you are doing is not working, try something different.

I had a new client ask me if a half hour session was even worth it. I told her that 30 minutes of pushing yourself is better than 120 minutes of not. Counting the time on the clock does not always indicate a better workout.

Speaking of counting. Counting calories is necessarily accurate is not always that accurate.

Precision Nutrition shares some great insight on an article I will link here about why. Calories on food labels are averages not exacts and can often be higher or lower. We don’t always absorb all calories the same. The calorie load can be change by how you cook your food. We all absorb calories differently. And honestly, we are not all so great with portion size. Whenever I measure out a cup of pasta it makes me sad and I usually add a little bit more and call it a freebie in my head.

Identify your biggest struggle.

Again, erase all the rules about food and start by identifying your biggest challenge. What gets in the way of doing what you know you need to do?

Do you skip meals during the day and overeat at night? Focus on starting your day with breakfast and having go to snacks during the day.

Is it hard for you to get up in the morning for your workout because of your Netflix marathon the night before? Limit yourself to one episode.

Do you make poor choices at home because you stock your cupboards with foods that don’t make you feel great? Make a grocery list of healthy choices.

Focus on that one set back alone before changing everything all at once. Once you have conquered that challenge you can then move on to your next obstacle.

You don’t need to try to do everything perfectly, just a couple things really well.

This is not your normal advice but I hope it has give you a greater perspective than the diets, rules, and cookie cutter advice you get everyday.

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easy snacks for busy moms on the go

My first 3 months of motherhood taught me one thing about food. You never know when you will have a chance to eat or for how long.

I vividly remember one morning a few weeks in when I put the babe down for her nap and practically sprinted to the kitchen and started grabbing things out of the fridge and cupboard to put together a meal. I was starving and had no idea how long she would say asleep.

I inhaled my meal that I put together in minutes and she stayed asleep for another two hours. Ha! But it could have been one of her 15 minute cat naps, you just don’t know.

I have become even fonder of snacking than I was before but if I don’t play the snack game right I will end up snacking for hours on end, a few crackers here, a few raisins there, and never really feel the least bit satisfied.

With that I put together a few of my favorites snacks that are so easy and convenient that you don’t even have to think about anything, you just grab and go.

Yogurt.

My two favorites are Siggi’s yogurt and Fage 2%. Both are higher in protein to help keep you full and satisfied. Top with granola (Purely Elizabeth is my fav), chopped apples or berries, shaved chocolate or whatever sounds good to you.

 

Protein Bars.

The whole food foodies and clean eaters are angrily reading this right now about to say that protein bars are not healthy and are glorified candy bars. Maybe some of them but the idea with protein bars is that they are super convenient. If you are looking to add more protein to your diet and you like the way they taste then these are a great option for you.

 

Protein snack packs and such.

I have not eaten a snack pack since 5th grade but recently I am loving this quick and easy done for you option. These are from Costco and could practically be a meal but have apples, sunflower butter, cheese, and hard boiled eggs. Other varieties have grapes and apples, pretzels and cheese, veggies, and hummus and pita chips.

 

Meat and Cheese plate.

This one you actually have to open some containers, unless you put them in baggies in advance. Here I have a piece of salami, a couple slices of garlic chicken breast from the deli, and some cheese. Crackers are a good addition too to round out this filling snack.

Banana and nut butter.

A good old banana and peanut butter or in this case almond butter in an on-the-go packet. Some carbs to give you an energy boost and some fat to sustain it.


Lastly one that you actually have to prepare but will be so happy you did.

Egg veggies muffins.

  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ cup of egg whites
  • ⅓ cup of broccoli
  • 4 mini sweet bell peppers
  • ¼ cup of onion
  • 2 tbsp of feta cheese
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp of smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the veggies in a food processor (or chop finely if you don’t have one).

In another bowl whisk the egg and egg whites together.

Line your muffin tin with muffin liners, spray with a non stick spray and fill cups about ¾ full.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Freeze extra if you can’t use them all at once.

How I returned to exercise 0-5 months post baby

Daily walks from 10-40 minutes were my go-to during pregnancy and after.

Returning to exercise postpartum is more than just about getting clearance from your doctor and returning to your normal routine. It is more than just about dropping the baby weight, more than just kegals, and more than the general advice to just strengthen your core.

If I had been pregnant even just 3 years ago I would have felt the need to push my body more during and after pregnancy but I have learned so much in the past couple years and want to share some important guidelines and how I returned to exercise 0-5 months postpartum.

I do understand that many pregnant women want to “get their pre baby body back” and lose the “baby weight” and I understand those goals and desires but also want to share that there is a lot more to consider that your body will thank you for in the long run.

Regaining function of the body is one of the most overlooked aspects when moms return to exercise and that starts with strengthening pelvic floor and your core muscles. Core muscles referring not only to the abominals but the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and glutes. All these muscles help support the spine and pelvis and help stabilize the body.

If you are not so concerned with returning to fitness within the first few months after baby is born that is totally fine too but I do recommend including some alignment and breathing exercises in your daily routine to help regain stability and function of the pelvic floor and core. 

Even if you are past 6 months postpartum and have not returned to fitness simply start from the beginning. Don’t skip steps, evaluate your body and how it responds to increased activity, and have some patience and compassion for yourself.

The first week postpartum I started with 2 exercises.

Alignment and Breathing.

Alignment.

You can think of alignment as posture and this will be extremely important especially with all the hours you spend baby carrying, picking up and putting down, and baby gear loading and unloading.

Feet hip distance apart (think hip bones not the width your hips).

Stack the ribs over the hips so your are not flaring the ribcage out or tucking them down either.

Think of a string on your bum that you gently pull to “un tuck” your bum. Imagine your pelvis is a cup of tea. If you are holding it in front of you, you don’t want the tea to spill out the backside. You want to tilt the pelvis (cup of tea) forward just slightly to untuck the bum.

I know it is hard as a mom when you have so many things to think about during the day but try to check in with your alignment/posture occasionally to ensure you are keeping form (picking up baby, holding baby, picking something up off the ground). Even if you check in 1 time per day that is 150 times over the course of 5 months which is definitely better than 0.

Breathing and pelvic floor connection.

Kegels are often recommend to keep the pelvic floor strong but a more effective way goes beyond just clenching the pelvic region repeatedly. It is teaching the pelvic floor to engage and release with the breath not in isolation.

Your pelvic floor should relax on your inhale and your ribcage should gently expand. On your exhale you should feel your ribcage relax and feel your pelvic floor lift. This is a gentle movement that should not be used at full force.

I didn’t put any pressure to myself but just practiced breathing in my aligned position throughout the day whenever I thought of it when I was nursing or picking things up off the ground.

2 weeks – 1 month postpartum.

In the beginning I cannot emphasize rest to recover enough. During this time I started to add in exercises like heel slides, clams, bridges, air squats, light upper body resistance band work incorporating the pelvic floor work, alignment and breathing. These exercise were done in 1-2 sets a day on days I could fit them in.

2 to 3 months postpartum.

At this time I started low intensity resistance/strength workouts and walking a few times a week on days I had more sleep. More being 5-6 hours of combined sleep. 

I kept the sessions under 20 minutes and again paid attention to alignment, breathing, pelvic floor engagement, and how my body felt during and after exercise. I rested a lot during my workouts and took 2-3 days off in between strength workouts. On days I had terrible sleep I did not workout.

A note on getting clearance from your doctor. This is not necessarily the time to return full force to exercise. Do check-ins with how your body feels during exercise, after, the day after, etc as the weeks go by before you bump up the frequency or intensity.

4-5 months postpartum.

During this time I started to add different lifts back into my strength workouts like assisted pull-ups, deadlifts and front squat with lighter weight. I still keep up my walking and really and that was my only form of cardio.

Note on returning to cardio. Be cautious with higher impact activities like running especially if you have any issue like leaking, pain, etc.

No matter what anyone says, even a doctor, these don’t have to be the new normal. Seek help and remember that the seemingly slow path will me more effective in the long run than trying to do too much too soon.

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Diastasis Recti: What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know


I remember talking with a fellow trainer friend late in our pregnancies about the lack of information about not only exercise during pregnancy, but the even single mention of Diastasis Recti (DA) or health of the pelvic floor from health practitioners.

Both of us delivered healthy babes but couldn’t believe we make it almost 40 weeks without even a handout?

I was told to exercise most days of the week, not to lift more than 10 pounds, and at every appointment was asked how many days a week I was exercising and for how long. That’s it.

Post baby I was told I could resume normal activity and do lots of abdominal work. Seems innocent enough but read on to learn why this advice just doesn’t cut it.

What is Diastasis Recti and why should I care?

Diastasis Recti (DR) is likely to occur in almost all women during pregnancy.

The connective tissue (linea alba) that runs down the midline of your tummy (think between the 6 pack muscles, the rectus abdominis) from the sternum to the pubic bone holding your abs together becomes stretched as baby grows. This can cause separation between the abdominals leading to instability in the midsection.

While this is natural and very common it can be made worse with poor posture, poor exercise selection and poor movement during pregnancy and after.

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Photo Cred: DLVR Maternity

What exercises can make it worse?

As your belly grows and once baby is born it is best to initially avoid exercises such as front planks, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, leg raises.

Avoid using heavy weight that forces you to hold your breath.

These exercises put unnecessary stress on the abdomen and can put the belly in a bulging position, contributing even more to DA and pelvic floor dysfunction.

Focus on the pelvic floor connection and the breath.

Kegels are often recommend to keep the pelvic floor strong but a more effective way goes beyond just clenching the pelvic region repeatedly. It is a controlled engagement that matches a specific breath pattern.  Your pelvic floor should relax on your inhale and lift on your exhale. This is a gentle movement that should not be used at full force.

When applied to an exercise such as a squat lets say, typically you inhale on the way down, engage your pelvic floor and exhale on the way up.

This breath and movement pattern is important for keeping a strong pelvic floor during and after pregnancy. It will very from person to person and the absolute best thing you can do is to see a women’s health physical therapist during and after pregnancy, especially if you are experiencing any pain or symptoms. 

Diastasis and pelvic floor dysfunction are often associated with incontinence, back or pelvic pain, hernias and prolapse.

Aesthetically it can look or feel like a poochy tummy.

But how do I strengthen my core?

There are far more effective and safe ways to strengthen the core than sit-ups and crunches. Pregnant women do not need direct abdominal work as it is not the only way to create stability throughout the midsection.

The latest research shows that is not AS much about choosing the perfect exercises but the approach you take, focusing on connecting your breath to your pelvic floor to the particular movement.

During pregnancy you can choose dead bugs (as long as you can lay on your back) and modified side planks.

Focus on the glutes as they are as much a part of the core as the abs, with exercises like hip thrusts off the bench, side lying clams, side steps with the mini band.

Use unilateral upper and lower body exercises like standing one arms cable rows, single arm shoulder presses, single arm incline bench presses. Use exercises like trx rows, inclined rows on the smiths machine with the body is proper alignment and breath patterns.

Avoid any back bending exercises or exercises like pull ups that can overstretch the midsection.

What else should I avoid during pregnancy?

Be cautious of when you might do sit up like movement in your everyday routine. Getting out of bed, sitting up of the ground, etc.

Always be conscious of rolling on to your side first and then using your upper body to press yourself up.

This creates unnecessary pressure on the tummy and the pelvic floor.

I have attached several additional resources below.

How to check for DA from Jessie Mundell.

Healing DA postpartum. 

 The Diaphragm and Our Internal Pressure System

Improve your squat with these quick tips


If you are not squatting in the gym you are definitely doing some form of it throughout the day whether picking something up or getting out of a chair, making it uber important for everyday functionality.

Before you decide to add any type of load to your squats I recommend checking out these quick tips to fix common issues that people have when squatting. I use these when I simply want to go back to basics to check form.

The squat is a fantastic lower body exercise and works almost all the muscles in your lower body with the primary focus being the quadriceps and also your gluteal muscles and hamstrings. There is also a lot of core work (abdominals and low back) to help keep you stabilized.

There are many variations from a front squat to a back squat and you can use different pieces of equipment from barbells to kettle bells and dumbbells to change the emphasis of the muscles being worked.

First remember the basic squatting guidelines. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, toes may turn out slightly. Think about how you would sit down in a chair. You wouldn’t just sit straight down. You would shift your hips back as your torso leans forward slightly (not in a bad posture way). Think of pressing your knees out. Once you hit your bottom depth, return back to the top.

The typical breathing pattern for a squat is inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. 

Check out these tips.

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Elevate your heels if your toes lift when you squat. If your heels come off the ground in a squat you should not be adding any additional weight until you have corrected this problem. Make sure you’re hips are shifting back and your torso leans forward slightly rather than squatting straight down.

Heels lifting is usually a lack of ankle mobility. If you find that your heels are coming off the ground when you squat put a 5 lbs plate underneath each heel. This will help you perform the movement correctly and allow for greater depth as you sit down into it.

Put a band around your knees if they cave inward when you squat. If you find your knees are caving inward this is often a sign of weak gluteal muscles. Always think of pushing your knees out, especially when you are at the bottom of your squat and returning back to the top.

A great way to monitor this is by putting a mini band above your knees and maintaining tension in the band during the entire squatting pattern. If you lose the tension your glutes are not doing their job.

Use a box or bench to gauge depth if you find your range of motion is limited. Often people are unable to perform the full depth of a squat because of tightness in the hip flexors, hamstrings, low back, and or ankles. It can also be caused by weak glutes. 

A good way to gauge your depth is to use a box or bench in the gym to squat down toward. Start seated to make sure the bench is in the proper place with all your squatting cues. Stand up and then sit back down to the bench, pause, and return to the top.

You can incorporate hip and hamstring stretches in your routine as well as more specific glute exercises like deadlifts and bridges.

I hope these tips have helped. Give them a try and let me know how they go.