Restoring Your Core Beyond Baby
Getting back your old body after having a baby can be hard, let’s be honest, it took 9 months to make that gorgeous baby, give yourself at least 9 fmonths to let your body heal and recover from giving birth!
In the final part of this series, we look at diastasis (that tummy gap) and how you can start to heal yourself from the inside out through breathing, movement and nutrition. It’s never too late to try and heal your core, I’ve had clients 7 years post natal that have seen a significant improvement!
The first milestone to recovery after having your baby is your 6 week check with your GP, they should check that healthwise all is grood, everything is healing and will likely give you the nod to start exercising…However, a word of warning, not all GP’s will do a diastasis tummy check, a prolapse check and even some will tell you that incontinence at this stage is fine and you’ll recover. My sincere advice at this point would be that if anything doesn’t feel right or normal, for instance you are having incontinence issues that are interfering with your daily activities, you have a dragging feeling or nagging low back pain, then seek the help of a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
That Tummy Gap…..Mummy Tummy….Diastasis Recti…..Separation of your abdominal muscles – all names given to the separation of the rectus abdominis muscle where they join at the midline of your tummy (centre of the 6 pack).
Many women are either unaware that they have a gap or if they do know, then how to fix it. Unfortunately the problem can be made worse by returning to inappropriate abdominal exercises too early and comes along with additional issues to boot. It’s likely that with a diastasis, you may also have stress incontinence problems (SI), low back pain and poor posture.
Checking for a diastasis can be done quickly by yourself!
- Lie on your back on the floor, bringing your heels towards your bottom and your knees up.
- Place one hand behind your neck to support your head.
- Place the first 3 fingers of your other hand just above your belly button.
- Lift your head and neck off of the floor into a mini crunch, you should feel your abdominals contracting - as you do so, feel firmly with your fingers for any gap or dip in your tummy.
It’s not just about the width of the gap, but the tension of the tissue along the midline and the depth of the gap.
Exercises to avoid…and what to do instead
Firstly you must understand that with any gap, there is a leak of energy and the greater potential for dysfunction ‘the lack ability to transfer load at the abdominal wall can also go hand-in-hand with a leaky pelvic floor and incontinence issues especially in the client who has given birth’ (Burrell Education). It’s also key to understand that a diastasis and weak core can have effects on the whole body and an approach to healing the body as a whole should be taken.
Things to avoid include all high intensity abdominal exercises such as
- Full sit ups & crunches
- Planks – front & side
- Russian & medball twists
- Straight leg lifts (lying on the floor)
Also, full body movements that a weak core cannot handle such as
- Press ups from the floor
- Pull ups (especially CrossFit style kipping ones!)
- Heavy squats / Deadlifts
- Heavy strict overhead work
Instead try exercises which integrate movement with your deep abdominal muscles, adding in the breath (see part 1 of this series) to activate your Transverse Abdominus and pelvic floor muscles.
- Glute bridges, rolling up vertebrae by vertebrae, keeping tension in your core – add in some arm raises for a bit more of a challenge
- Straight arm pull downs – using a resistance band over the top of a door, exhale as you pull the bad downwards towards your hips – to up the difficulty, stand with your weight in one leg…you could even try closing your eyes!
- Bird dog – this is where you are on all fours, raising your opposite arm & leg together, keeping your hips, back and shoulders stable – start with just your arms, then try just your legs, finally combining both together.
- Simple squats – exhale as you raise yourself back to standing
You could also try the exercises suggested in part 1 of this series, they are all core safe when pregnant, also with a diastasis.
Healing your diastasis will take time, please don’t rush in and think that doing a 500 crunch challenge or 30 day plank challenge will help – it’s likelvy that you could end up making your diastasis worse or injuring yourself in the process. If in doubt, please seek professional advice from a Women’s Health Physio or Holistic Core Restore ® Coach
For more information on this programme and how it could help you, check out my Holistic Core Restore® Diastasis Healing page