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The 3 most common post pregnancy complaints you can do something about!

  1. A weak core and pelvic control

Getting back to fitness post pregnancy whether it has been 3 months, 1 year, 3 years or even 10 comes with its unique challenges and that is because we all have different needs following childbirth. It takes time to rebuild your core strength systematically to handle greater loads, to figure out a way to incorporate exercise into your busy mum schedule, to learn to take time out and mind yourself.

Pilates is perfect for a lot of the problems new mums talk to me about, because it forces you to focus your attention on yourself and become more mindful while you are exercising. Why is this important you ask? Can I not just pop on the latest motivating playlist on iTunes, swing a 10kg kettlebell around my sitting room, do a few jumping jacks, ab crunches and push ups and watch my figure return miraculously? My guess is, if you have tried it, you felt utterly exhausted, even more tired the next day, probably needed a change of workout pants and can’t get off the sofa today because you’ve overloaded your back! Not that I’d encourage you to try! Even if all went well and you just ended up with severe DOMS (delayed onset of muscular soreness) for a day or two or maybe a whole week, I doubt that your pelvic floor and core got the attention it deserved. My point being that there is a time and place for everything.

I love a good kettlebell workout myself but I have learned to understand when the time is right to start a more vigorous training regime. Right now though, due to the lack of abdominal strength and control you are just at greater risk of getting injured or you could exacerbate an old injury that resurfaces post pregnancy, because your body actually goes through a lot of change and it can take 9-12 months to manage your diastasis recti and work on spinal stability and pelvic floor control. Muscular imbalances are very common and your body will respond to them one way or another. Being mindful of course has many other benefits, particularly to new mothers, as we rarely get a moment to breathe, relax and catch up. Be kind to yourself and start small, short sessions here or there all add up and you’ll be delighted with the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel a few weeks in, add on more challenging exercise to challenge your stability, core and back strength. This leads me to my second observation.

2. Back discomfort, shoulder, neck and mobility issues

You might have guessed that this issue stands in close relationship to the one above. All of the postures we invariably find ourselves in when caring for a baby, particularly if you are breastfeeding can take its toll and while awareness certainly goes a long way, adding gentle movements to release tension can act as an insurance policy in the months to come. The sooner you start, the greater your chances of keeping injuries at bay and staying in tune with what your body needs.

Stretching and releasing movements are such an integral part of any Pilates practice, just as there are wonderful similar poses found in Yoga. A progressive Pilates programme will help release any unnecessary tension, get you moving with care and attention to your breath which allows you to stay grounded in the present moment and focus on gently releasing tension. However, release work is just one side of the coin. A weak core and pelvic floor is not going to make your life any easier and neither does the strength you require magically appear again. If you leave it off and wish to return to sport or exercise several years later, you will still have to start at the beginning. A progressive form of movement and exercise that uniquely addresses these challenges makes a lot of sense, don’t you agree? Pilates is going to be beneficial in any case, it is just that you are different from all other ladies attending a group class and your pregnancy was unique and so will be your recovery. In my opinion, small consistent efforts and sessions that challenge you over time are the way to go. You could attend a Pilates class in your community or equipment based Pilates studio and follow a well thought out specific online coaching programme with recorded or virtual on demand content from the comfort of your own home.

3. Lack of motivation

Motivation is certainly a fascinating topic and it really is not surprising to me at all. To have a clear picture of how motivation fits in here, I did some research. If you asked anyone who has incorporated some form of exercise into their daily lives you’ll find that the common denominators are routine and confidence and they are of course closely related. The more important question to ask is, how do you expect to build confidence if you literally dread the thought of attending an exercise class or believe that you ought to be joining a gym to achieve your fitness goals? Exercise can be many things, staying active is absolutely essential, so if the gym just isn't for you right now, maybe we can come up with alternatives or strategies that will still allow you to move forward. This does require some digging, a notepad maybe and asking some really hard hitting questions of course. The important message here is that we all attribute different experiences and feelings with situations and the objections I’ve heard most often over the course of my fitness career were closely related to all sorts of negative connotations and personal experiences. Sometimes that little voice in our head makes us hesitant to try something new, unknown or even the fear of being judged or believing that you won’t fit in. Take a leap of faith and try something new, find a group or gym or studio that proves to you that they are willing to listen and understand your unique needs, where you’ll feel welcomed once you decide to take that first step towards building confidence in your abilities.

If you believe you can achieve something, you probably will. I often ask Pilates students what they believe they can do because it tells me so much about the parameters I have got to work with as a Pilates coach and where those boundaries are that I need to navigate.

Consistency is key, so it doesn't really matter if you don’t have much time. 10 minutes here or there can really add up over the course of a week and if you have more time to spare, a 30 minute session can be really beneficial. If you can avail of on-demand content that offers a really flexible solution to your specific situation then that could be a great place to start with getting your confidence back. If you get distracted or called away by a crying baby, you can just pause the session and rejoin at a later stage. You don’t have to miss out on that session. If it means you’ll feel more motivated to attend your weekly mother and baby class, then that’s a win in my book. If you are curious about how much Pilates you should do on a weekly basis to really get the results you are after, then check out my previous post in which my findings are backed by not just research but also Joseph H. Pilates himself.

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