Back to the Core
One of the greatest fitness challenge post baby has by far been rebuilding my abs. I’ve been comforted by the fact that it seems like a universal issue (even without having had a baby), but the process of building, carrying and giving birth to a little human takes its toll on muscles and elasticity in that part of your body.
I’ve been working very hard on getting back to my pre-baby shape, and while I haven’t reached my goal yet – I am getting there slowly, very slowly. I don’t think it’s a journey that ever ends but one that doesn’t need to get you down.
It’s important to start your journey with a realistic understanding of what your body has been through, where you started, and have the patience to persevere through the process.
It took nine months to get your body to where it was, and between feeding, possibly working and caring for your new little one, be kind to yourself about all the things you need to juggle. Another important consideration is how your body handles weight gain and weight loss. Genetics play a role in this, and while anything can be achieved with the right amount of dedication, you need to stop yourself from looking over at the next new mum’s progress or beating yourself up about your timeline. Your health, taking in enough calories to support the demands of your day (and breastfeeding if you’re doing that), and being happy is always most important.
In an ideal world, I would have loved to be back in shape by Christmas 2017 – just under 6 months after Noah was born. That didn’t happen and while I wanted to speed through the process, I have come to understand that taking the time to work at the pace that your body (not mind) dictates makes the road to being your old, fit you so much more enjoyable.
Here’s what I swear by for shedding the load and more specifically building up the engine that is our core.
1. Cardio, cardio, cardio
Like it or loathe it, you’ll never see any flab fly without getting that heart rate up. I’m the first to admit that I’m not good at all when it comes to cardio, but there is no getting away from it. I’d highly recommend a bootcamp or group HIIT class to push you through when you may be tempted to stop if training alone. I tried Barry’s Bootcamp and although struggled with the treadmill runs – it was the perfect challenge, and I appreciated the ‘team’ spirit and support within the class. I walked out feeling accomplished and so good, and doing a boost session like that gives you a good kick into action.
Sweating is the goal, and if like me you don’t get one on easily, try training in a jumper or hoodie.
Pilates is a great way to build and strengthen your core. Whether you do floor work or the reformer, it’s a great way to get into those muscles lying deep in the core that are most affected by child birth. I found the upper abdominals were ‘easier’ to work on, and the lower ones and pelvic area took much longer.
Combining cardio, strength and multiple body weight exercises, kickboxing is what I credit for my most effective weight drop while toning as a singular activity. There are many boxing only programs that offer more specialized programs, but having the kick factor really impacted positively on both my mental and physical strength.
4. ‘Chisel’ style ab workouts
I’ve been working with personal trainer, Steph Mullet, on getting rid of the last hanging on kilos, and like preparing for my wedding I’ve found having trained support to reach any specific fitness goal makes every session far more effective. Steph tailors our workout to focus on core and lower abdominal strength, but combining it with high intensity, light/body weight circuits. Our training sessions take place in my backyard or in the guest room – so it fits perfectly with having a little one to work around.
5. Conscious activation
I have worked through pregnancy and post with Amba of Ultimate Body Pilates and she armed me with easy to do exercises that fit into daily life. Whether stretching while brushing teeth, or counting kegals and you shop, stand in line or cook, try these moves every day.
¬ Brush your teeth
o calf raises on each leg
¬ Check your emails/wats app Deep squat for at least 10 minutes, try to get heels on ground or roll up towel to put under heels
¬ Play with your baby/child. * Quadruped kneeling, rocking back and forward keeping spine long. *cat and cow. *Lift left hand and right knee hold for 10 seconds, try to stay centered and then switch sides. *sphinx position, lift head up off the floor, draw shoulders down your back
¬ *Bridge – get your hips up and hold for at least 5 seconds, repeat 5 times * seated twist and sweep floor with your leg
¬ Breakfast time – use that chair to do a hip flexor stretch first (see diagram) in between mouthfuls inhale deeply counting to 5 or 10 or more and release your breath evenly on the same count repeat 10 times, feel your whole diagraphm
¬ Driving – when stopped at traffic lights, think long spine roll your shoulders back 5 times and retract your shoulder blades back
¬ Dinner time or waiting in meetings – kegels – contract the area that you use to stop urine flow and relax repeat 10 times
¬ Hang – when you see a door frame or bars
6. Holistic approach
Eat well and get your required calorie intake but eat clean and eat happy. The latter is an honesty game – where you need to decide what you treat yourself with and when you believe you should eat a naughty thing or two. Start gradually – reduce salt and sugar, manage the times you eat your carbs and increase your water intake. From there look up fun recipes that are healthy but contain all your favorite foods – cooked well and with reduced nasties. Juice brands like Kold Press are also great if you are looking for guilt-free juices, or snack alternatives. My favorite flavor is COCO HART – it’s filling, fresh and delicious.
I know from my own journey that I am still on that getting back into shape after having a baby is a very frustrating process. Standing in front of the mirror while pregnant you feel the glow and contentment of knowing that you have a little human growing inside. Months after giving birth, you want to be your old self and as soon as possible. Be patient and be kind to yourself, your body has shown you that it can do amazing things – give it the time it needs to recover. Before doing any workout, particularly one that will reactivate your abdominal muscles, chat to your obstetrician to make sure you’re all clear post birth to start work in those areas.