Breastfeeding Mamas and Exercise Myths

Breastfeeding Mamas and Exercise Myths

I am super grateful and honored to be working with FIT4MOM.  FIT4MOM is the nation’s leading prenatal and postnatal fitness program, providing fitness classes and a network of moms to support every stage of motherhood. From pregnancy, through postpartum and beyond, our fitness and wellness programs help make moms strong in body, mind, and spirit.
I was recently interviewed about breastfeeding and exercise.  Below is the blog reposted from FIT4MOM.
Breastfeeding Mamas and Exercise Myths

Breastfeeding can be an amazing, challenging, beautiful and messy (literally) time for a mama. When Mom is able and chooses to breastfeed, the benefits for baby are plentiful (that being said, we fully support the fed is best movement, and ALL. FORMS. OF. FEEDING.) You do you, Mama; we support you whether milk is coming from a bottle or your body. Check out our fed is best article here.

However, if you are able and are choosing to breastfeed your babe, we know many misconceptions about breastfeeding and exercise still exist that you may want a little more information on. We’ve got you, Mama…

Many new moms are anxious to start losing weight and get back into shape after having their baby; we’ve all been there when we’ve looked in the mirror, maybe shed a few tears, and missed our pre-baby bodies. First off, let’s stop right there for a minute…you are strong. You are beautiful. You are incredibly amazing and so powerful. After all, you just created LIFE and birthed a baby….a tiny little human who grew from the size of a pen tip, to a grapefruit, to a watermelon, and then came out a real life baby “doll.” Whether it was via C-section, VBAC, an all-natural birth, or if an epidural was your savior, we honor you and your power of MOTHERHOOD. Take a few minutes to write a mantra out to yourself. Note 5 things you love when you look in the mirror. Cherish those. Hold on to those. Still wishing you could shed a few pounds? We get it, but there is no rush, Mama. You’ll get there.

Fit4Mom_SS_juneclass-192_edited

That being said, breastfeeding may help you lose some of your “baby weight.” While seeing a number drop on the scale might seem like a nice perk to breastfeeding, it should not be the focus or sole reason a mama chooses to breastfeed, as that can lead to major frustration and detachment if it doesn’t come easily. Ever heard of tongue or lip tie? The breastfeeding piranha-latch struggle is REAL.

We get many FAQs about working out and breastfeeding them, so we sat down and interviewed one of our fitness experts, Sara Lynn Baker, MS, CSCS, who tackles the answers for you below:

Q1 – Can I lose weight while breastfeeding?

Yes; losing weight while breastfeeding is possible.  But, it’s important to avoid restricting calories too much during this time.

The rate at which Mom loses weight should also be monitored and expectations lowered. Studies show women who reduced overall caloric intake by 30% while breastfeeding experienced a decrease in milk production, as well as a decrease in infant weight gain.  Dr. Clapp states, “There has to be a reasonable balance between a lactating woman’s energy intake and energy expenditure.”

Her weight loss might also plateau while breastfeeding. But, it’s important to remind Mom this is not necessarily a green light to push harder with exercise and start any type of restricted eating to accelerate the weight loss.

Prolactin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, helps make breast milk. The levels of this hormone increase by about 10-20 times during pregnancy, and levels will stay elevated if Mom is breastfeeding to help with milk supply. Prolactin is often the culprit of the plateau as it affects the body’s ability to metabolize fat.  Mom might be burning major calories from breastfeeding but hold on to the last few ‘extra’ pounds due to Prolactin affecting her metabolism. As the Prolactin levels fall after months of breastfeeding, or once Mom weans, the last few pounds should be easier to lose.

Q2 – How many calories should I eat to keep my milk supply up but still lose weight if that is my goal?

As you know, Mom needs more calories when breastfeeding, and it could be more than many women require while pregnant. The ACOG recommends 450-500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding! Keep in mind, this is not 450-500 on top of the additional calories she added while pregnant; this is over base caloric needs. If Mom is exercising on top of breastfeeding, it will be important to keep up with the increased caloric demands. Now is not a time to obsess in either direction with counting calories, but a good rule of thumb: if Mom’s milk supply is good, her baby is gaining weight, and she is feeling satisfied, she’s likely taking in enough calories.

Q3 – Will exercise affect my milk production?

A common concern of many women might be how exercise can affect milk production.   A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, “high-intensity running during lactation did not impair the quantity or quality of breast milk.”  However, if she notices her supply decreasing as her exercise frequency, duration, and intensity increases, then she should back off the exercise a bit to see if her supply returns. As with everything, the amount of exercise mom can tolerate during breastfeeding is very individual and she should be encouraged to pay attention to her supply, how she’s feeling, and baby’s satiety.

When a breastfeeding mom is returning to exercise, the following tips may help:

  • To avoid volume depletion, Mom must drink plenty of water throughout the day. Of course, this is important even when she is not exercising, but even more so as she starts to workout again.  Quantity recommendations vary.
  • Extremely intense anaerobic exercise (e.g. HIIT workouts or other type of interval workouts) can alter the taste of breast milk.  The sour taste is due to the lactic acid build-up. She may find her baby does not like to nurse after a high-intensity workout. Consider nursing or pumping prior to the workout (which can also aid in Mom’s comfort while exercising), or change the time of workout based on baby’s feeding schedule.
  • Maternal odor or sweat may make baby not interested in nursing. Suggestions from #2 also apply in this situation.
  • Find a good, supportive bra. It is likely Mom’s breasts will still be a (much) larger size than normal. Therefore, it’s important to ensure Mom is supported and comfortable while working out. Take this as a time to invest in a few quality sport bras, even if it’s just for a few months – it’s worth it!
Thank you FIT4MOM for giving me the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge!
Running Before and After Baby

Running Before and After Baby

“Can I run while I am pregnant?”

“When should I stop running when pregnant?”

“What can I start running again after having the baby?”

These are questions I receive quite frequently from clients, friends, my group exercise class participants or even strangers after finding out what I do.

The answer to the first question is yes.  Running while pregnant is perfectly safe as long as their are no complications or you have not been instructed not to do so from your doctor. Though exercise duration recommendations for pregnancy is the same as the general public, 150 minutes a week, it is recommended that you do not exceed pre-pregnancy intensity levels.  So if you were not running at all before pregnancy, you can definitely still began an exercise program, but it would be best to probably start with walking.  If you do decide to run while pregnant, I would highly recommend good supportive sport bras as well as supportive shoes.   Some women also choose to use a running belt as they get further along.  You will want to really listen to your body as far as intensity goes and pay attention to any associated pain.  It is not recommend to get purposely breathless while exercising during pregnancy (hormone changes will often make you feel rather breathless) but there is no need to be running 200 meter all out sprints while pregnant.  Keep the intensity fairly moderate.  The hormone relaxin is also circulating while pregnant, making joints a bit more lax so again, pay attention to your body.   If you are having pain while running or afterwards, it is best to back off the pace or switch to fast or incline walking.

When should you stop running?  There is no medical recommendation on exactly when a pregnant woman should stop.  I believe you should stop when it becomes too uncomfortable, when it is no longer enjoyable or have been recommended to stop by a doctor or other medical professional.   Exercise is supposed to make you feel better, not worse.   I know women who ran for the majority of their pregnancy.    With Caleb, I ran to about 27 weeks as it still felt good in my body.    Of course, I was running quite a bit slower but I still enjoyed it.  With Madelynn, I stopped and 19 or 20 weeks because it just did not feel good.  My joints ached a bit and everything seemed to be jostling around no matter how much supportive gear I wore.  So this is a very personal answer,  if it still feels okay, you are not having any associated pain during or after, then you can continue to run until you feel too uncomfortable.

I stopped running well before this photo was taken.

Returning to running after having a baby is much more complicated and there are many more things to consider as there is a lot going on in your body post-partum.

A few things to think about:

  • Are you having any pain with any type of workouts?

If gentle and slow exercise hurts, it is not time to start running.

  • Are you having pelvic floor dysfunction which can include pain, incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse (when your pelvic organs drop from their normal position) ?

If you are peeing down your leg every time your attempt to run or have been diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse  you need to focus on healing your pelvic floor first.

  • How is your overall current lifestyle?

It is very likely that many moms, regardless of their kids age, are probably not getting enough sleep but are you getting ‘adequate’ rest?   Often, time may be better spent getting a quick nap then trying to add extra miles to your weekly routine.

  • How is your overall energy and stress levels?

If your body is still very, very much stressed the last thing we want to do is add a lot more stress with running and intense exercise.

  • Are you breastfeeding?

You can run while breastfeeding but a few things to consider include needing a very supportive bra (I just ended up wearing two) as breasts are almost always larger when breastfeeding. You need to to think about timing of the run with feeding and/or pumping.  When you are breastfeeding, you still have some relaxin in your body.  This hormone makes the joints more relaxed and loose feeling.  Be aware of any joint pain and see if running acerbates this.

Caleb and I about 6th months postpartum at one of my first post-baby races.  I fed him early before I left and then pumped right before I raced.

As I have mentioned before, I just wish I would of waited to return to running and intense exercise with Madelynn.  I think I would have skipped many months of severe back pain. Though I do not believe you have to wait 6 weeks post-partum to return to some form of light exercise, I do think you need to wait a bit to return to intense exercise which includes running.

Even if you are running fairly slow, running is high impact and can be stressful on our bodies.  The last thing we want to do to a body that is already highly stressed due to having a new baby, hormone changes and lack of sleep is put it under a lot more stress. Remember, birth should be treated as a major event to the body regardless if you had a vaginal or cesarean section.  You would never run a few weeks after having an ACL surgery and that it one location in your body vs. an event that impacted most of our body.  Why does society put so much pressure on new moms to ‘get their body back’ and to return to intense exercise shortly after a major body event?

As Jessie Mundell, one of the most educated coaches in pre-and post-natal exercise, says about returning to exercise post-partum, “the slowest path is the fastest path.”

Before you get back into running, I would highly recommend the following to hopefully be able to return pain free and for the long term.

  1. Clearance from your OBGYN.  It is standard to go see your OBGYN 6-8 weeks after birth.  At this time the Dr. will generally check you for any issues and clear you for exercise.   As mentioned, I think slow and intentional exercise before 6-8 weeks (walking, swimming, light weight training, body weight training) is okay and actually good for most women who have no complications.   But for more intense exercise I would DEFINITELY wait until you have had your first post-op check up.
  2. Be seen by a Pelvic Floor Physio Therapist.  A physio who    specializes in women’s health  can help determine pelvic floor function, any issues, evaluate you for diastisis recti and make other recommendations to help you heal and function properly.    Unfortunately,  a recommendation to see a PF Physio is not the standard of care in this country but as more and more women are starting to talk about be open with pelvic floor dysfunction, they are becoming more common.
  3. You have been doing at least a month (ideally two to three months) of lower intensity workouts   The first time you exercise post-partum should not be a run.    Before running, you should have started walking frequently, light weight lifting, body weight exercise and core work.
  4. You have no pain from exercise.  Pain is different than being a little bit uncomfortable or challenged from exercise.  Exercising after having a baby will be a bit challenging as you start to regain strength and stamina but again, exercise is supposed to make you feel better and enhance your wellbeing.  If your joints or body ache after walking, do not attempt to start running.

There are no hard rules on pre-and postpartum exercise.  Yes, there are some guidelines that should definitely followed but other recommendations are really personal to each woman.  Listen to your body, work with a coach or trainer who is knowledgeable in pre-and post-natal training and whom you trust.  Pregnancy is temporary but postpartum is forever.  By being smart, taking it slower than you might wish, you are much less likely to have complications later on and you can return stronger than ever!

XOXO
Sara

If you are looking to get back into running regardless of when you had a baby (or even if you never have had a baby), want to start running or even get faster  and set a new PR, I am excited to share with you Running Beyond BabyThis program contains 3, 12 week programs and is for everyone regardless of ability level.  The program includes weight, core and yoga workouts as well as education on hormones, nutrition and more!  There are no other programs out there that offer this much information and education at this price! AND if you are not ready yet for running (see above) you will have access to the program forever but it is only sale this week so make sure to grab it! Check it out here before Friday!  

What I Wish I Could Tell Every New Mama

What I Wish I Could Tell Every New Mama

A few of my good friends and a client of mine have all had a baby within the last month.  New babies always make me feel a bit nostalgic and I think of that special time with both my babies.  I am also currently studying and obtaining an additional  pre-and post-natal fitness certification so I have also been thinking about how I returned to exercise after having my kids and what I think I did right and what I wish I would have known or done different. Here are the few things, not all exercise related that I wish I could tell every new mom.

  1. Wait.

A new baby is such an awesome, stressful, amazing, beautiful time and it goes by so fast and at times you wish it would slow down and at times you wish it would speed up to the time when the baby sleeps longer or when you think it might get easier.   Wait to try to figure it all out.  Wait to try to get into a routine.  Wait to try to get things back to normal.  And most of all, please wait to return to intense exercise.  This is so much easier to say now that I am not at that stage but I wish I would have waited.  I was often anxious to get back to my routine of exercise and normal life but once you have a baby there is no real returning to your life before.  You are forever changed in wonderful ways and some very challenging ways.  I had intense back pain 9 months postpartum and I just wish I would have waited longer.

2. Its okay to happy, mad, sad, exhausted

Nothing can prepare you for those first few months after child birth.  It does matter how many books you read or how many other moms you talk to.  Nothing will prepare you for the awesomeness of becoming a parent but it also one of the hardest jobs I have ever had or will have.   The exhaustion is unlike something I have ever known.  Postpartum is hard.  Not are you only extremely under slept, overwhelmed and stressed, often breastfeeding constantly, you are trying to take care of this human being and figure out what the hell you are doing.    All the emotions are totally normal. Not every day is going to be staring into your babies eyes in magical bliss.  Some days are going to be a complete shit show.  I remember my husband coming home when I was on maternity leave and I just started crying because Caleb wouldn’t nap that day and I thought I was doing something wrong and I was just so tired.  Honestly, some days now are a total shit show.  Some days I nail it, but many days I do not.  I still have all these emotions on the regular.  Embrace all those feelings as totally normal.

.

A really great and smooth morning on the way to school this week.

3 .Doubt is probably the second most common emotion you will have after love.

The love you feel is indescribable but so is the doubt.  I do not think my doubt will go away until my kids are at least 35. 😉 In my blog on Caleb’s 4th birthday I mentioned that I will probably always question myself with parenting and I think that is fairly true.  There is no manual for this. Though I like to be prepared and read a kajillion books on parenting and still do, there is no preparation for the everyday experiences and being in the trenches.  Keep going mama, you are doing an awesome job even when you do not think you are.

4. When you start to workout again, don’t focus on getting smaller, focus on getting stronger.  Most moms who come to me for post-natal training want to lose their baby weight.  And I was the exact same.  Losing the weight I put on and getting my ‘abs’ back were my main priority physically.  As mentioned my recovery with Caleb was  fairly easy so I thought I that is how it would be for my second.  I did not do the necessary core and pelvic floor healing that I should have done which came back to hurt me a lot 9 months later with Madelynn.  Fat loss and shrinking does not need to be the main goal.  Can it be a nice side effect and perk of returning to exercise?  Of course, but can we as a society and my fellow fitness professionals promote proper healing and recovery first?  Can we stop gawking at the celebrities who pretend to get their body back in 6 weeks? If they lost the weight, great but who knows how they are really feeling and functioning.    Regardless of how fast the weight is loss, no postpartum body is fully recovered and healed at 6 weeks. And how will they be feeling and functioning in 6 months?   Our bodies are forever different and forever changed.  Postpartum is forever. My main goal now as a pre-and post-natal fitness professional is to help mamas heal their body, stop being so hard on themselves and get their body functioning to a place they want to be. I hope they lose the weight if that is there goal but I more so hope their body feels good and they can get on the floor to play with their little ones, give piggy back rides, go running, lift weights without pain and feel good in their own body.

You are going a good job mama! What do you wish you would have known or could tell other mamas?   Would love to hear from you!

XOXO

Sara

If I Could Redo My Postpartum Experiences…

If I Could Redo My Postpartum Experiences…

My baby girl started walking in the past few weeks.   Most parents are excited about milestones and though I am excited for her to be able to explore her world differently, I am having hard time with this milestone.  I thought that ending nursing would be hard for me but she was losing interest at 11 months so she started to wean herself so I was not as sad I thought I would be.  Then I did have a little bit of trouble getting her off bottles (as I just loved to hold her and give her a bottle) but then again, it seemed to happen naturally so it was not as hard as I thought.  But the walking, that has been a bit harder.  She is walking almost 3 months later than my son so I think she seems younger to me than she really is.  She is also about to move out of the infant room at her school and into the toddler room.  I am terribly sad about this.

We know she is our last baby.  We always only wanted 2 children and though I honestly would not mind being pregnant again, (which is funny as I would NEVER have said that 15 months ago) we do not want 3 children and we know we are done.  We have been blessed with 2 very beautiful and healthy children and our family is complete.  What I get sad about the most is never being able to experience the first few magical minutes after your baby is born and placed on your chest.  This was one of the most incredible and surreal moments of my life and I honestly get sad thinking about never having that moment again.  I feel that walking is one of the last ‘baby’ stages and now I have a toddler. 🙁

img_4366

Because of all these changes, I have been thinking a lot about this past year and my final postpartum experience. I am also currently training a client whose son is a few months younger than Madelynn and have another client who is newly pregnant.  Not to mention I  have a few friends who are pregnant, I have been teaching quite a few workshops on pre-and post-natal fitness, I have had a new mom return to one of my group fitness classes and have been working out along side some other new moms.   So needless to say postpartum has been a topic in my personal and professional life lately.

I have learned so much about pre-and post-natal exercise over the last 3 years.  Though I was very interested in pre-and post-natal fitness and had trained pregnant clients prior to my own pregnancies, I had never actually gone through the experience, so though I might have had the knowledge before, I did not feel that I could completely understand until I had been through pregnancy and postpartum period myself.

Though I had fairly easy pregnancies and uncomplicated births, if I could go back and change some of my postpartum experience there are a few things I would have done differently.

My first pregnancy with Caleb:

  • I would have not put nearly as much pressure on myself to lose the baby weight.  I set goals and took measurements and weighed myself every couple weeks.  I thought I was doing this to make me more credible as a pre- and post-natal fitness specialist to show my potential clients that I could lose the weight so I could show them how to lose weight.   Though I do think it is important to take care of yourself and eventually lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, I should have not put a time limit on it.  There were plenty of times that I should have been sleeping vs. working out in my basement.   The fact that I thought my measurements would make me more credible literally makes me cringe. I lost the weight in 4 months with Caleb.  Though I did not diet as I was breastfeeding and did not want to compromise my supply, I definitely worked hard to get the weight off.  But again, there should of not been a time limit.  If it took me 4 months, great.  6 months, that’s okay too.  It took 10 months to grow a baby, I wish I would have given myself at least that time to lose the baby weight.
  • I wish I would have thought of ‘postpartum’ as a full year after having a baby or at least until I was done breastfeeding.   When you become pregnant, you go through a major hormone change.  When you actually birth the baby, you go through another major change.  The final hormone shift is when breastfeeding stops.    However, I think society  often only thinks of ‘postpartum’ as the few months after having a baby and then everything should return to normal, but there are still so many changes still to come in your body and brain.   Regardless if you are breastfeeding or not, major changes are happening in your life constantly that do not suddenly stop after a few months after having a baby.   I wish I would have recognized this and accepted these constant changes more openly.

2013-174

Spending some precious moments with Caleb while on maternity leave.

My second pregnancy with Madelynn:

  • You would think this time around I would do things differently but honestly since my recovery was so easy with Caleb, I figured it would be this time around.   However, I never considered that I was pregnant again only 18 months later and the effects this would have on my body.   I am so embarrassed to admit this but I ran a 5k at 5 weeks postpartum with Madelynn!! I literally cannot even believe I did that and how stupid it was.  OMG my pelvic floor.  But once again, I was trying to prove something to myself and others. I cannot even IMAGINE telling one of my clients to do this so why the hell was I doing it?  I remember how uncomfortable I was doing it but I pushed through.  I wanted to be a bad ass.  I wanted to say “Hey, look at me, I just had a baby and I am running already.”    Though I do believe most women (with no medical complications) can begin some form of exercise before the usual prescribed 6 weeks, I wish I would have never completed this 5k.
  • I wish I would have waited longer to start any high impact activities.  Though I started working out slowly and gradually, I do not think I waited long enough before starting high impact activities such as plyometrics and running (see above.)    Nothing was hurting but I think it all came back to haunt me as starting about 9 months postpartum, I had some of the most severe back pain I have ever had and it lasted for months.  Now, I cannot say 100% that this was contributed to me starting high impact too early but I definitely think there was a correlation.
  • I learned that postpartum recovery is SO much more than weight loss and wish I would have spent more time on regaining my core and functional strength.   All I really cared about with my first recovery was losing the weight and did not give much thought to my pelvic floor and functional strength.  Though I did try to focus on regaining core strength more with my second pregnancy, I did not focus on core and low back strength nearly as much as I should have because again, I was focused on losing the extra pounds I gained.   Once I started experiencing the back pain, I realized that I had to back off the high impact activities that I thought would give me the weight loss and really focus on regaining functional strength.  It took me 11 months to lose the baby weight with Madelynn, almost 3 times the amount of time it took me with Caleb.  At first this was frustrating but I did in fact learn to accept and embrace it as part of the process.

Overall, I am very blessed that I had fairly easy pregnancies, non-complicated labors and fairly good postpartum experiences.  However, I just wish I would have been kinder to myself and my body.  Though I will not get to redo these experiences, I hope I can encourage other new mamas the right way to approach their recoveries and focus on what is really the most important, bonding with that new bundle of joy, sleeping whenever possible, being in awe of this new life you created and showing kindness towards our bodies for accomplishing one of the most amazing things in the world.

bakers-40

XOXO

Sara

5 Things I Learned While Biking 198 Miles Across Eastern Colorado

5 Things I Learned While Biking 198 Miles Across Eastern Colorado

Last weekend I accompolished one of my goals this year of finishing a multi-day bike ride and one of my bucket list to-dos with a century ride in one day.  It was hard, awesome, challenging and amazing.  Here are a few things I learned while on the bike for over 12 hours over 3 days.

start

At the start line!

  1. The Human Body is Freakin RESILIENT

As I mentioned in a post last month, I trained for this ride in a minimal amount of time.  In a perfect world, I would have trained A LOT more but with 2 littles and a full time job plus side jobs, it was hard to find the time.  I did what I could.  However, though I am in good overall shape, you do have to train for specificity.  If you want to complete a long bike ride, you need to ride a bike for a long time.  I rode as many times and as long as I could that my current life and schedule allowed.   As I mentioned in my email last week to my subscribers (if you are not on it, add yourself here) I was freakin scared to do this.  Did I think I could do it?  Maybe.  I really did not know what to expect.  The longest I have ever ridden was 64 miles and that was 5 years ago, pre-babies.  I had some major apprehension.  However, the human body is AMAZING.  I was one of the YOUNGEST people out there!  The oldest was 89 years old!  Are you kidding?  I saw people of all ages, sizes and abilities completing this ride.  Whenever my legs were burning, my back was aching, I would see someone else pulling their 6 year old in a bike trailer or someone at least twice my age continuing to pedal.  It was inspiring.  I had to believe that I could do it.  I think our minds give out before our bodies, so I had to convince myself that I could do this and I did.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

After the first day, which was the shortest distance of 25 miles, I texted my husband (who is a Physician Assistant) to tell him we had made it safely to the next town.  He wrote back. “Awesome. We are on lockdown.”  Um, what? Excuse me?  I called him, which alone gave me some reassurance he was not in immediate danger but I find out that his medical office building and the adjacent hospital was on lockdown due to possibly an active shooter.  What? I am 4 hours away and was trying my best not to freak out.   Though I knew he was safe at the moment, my mind started racing as I started searching online for news of what was going on.  Though my number one concern was for my husband’s safety, I did also need to figure out my kiddo pick-up situation since he was planning on picking them up and had no idea how long he was going to be there.   I asked my husband if I should figure out something for the kids which when I think about it was ridiculous even asking this since he was currently being held in his office for his own safety so the answer was yes. I am not great at asking for help.  I still sometimes have the attitude of “I can do it all!”  Which we all know is ridiculous and impossible but I often pride myself on how much I can do (which we also know that if we try to do too much, you are not doing anything well).   So I started calling my dad and neighbors for help but I was hesitant.  My dad lived 30 min away, my neighbor had plans. WTF?  My husband was locked down with the SWAT team and I am worried about ruining my neighbors plans? No one thought twice they figured it out.  They helped, just as I would have done for my neighbors or family.   It truly takes a village.

3. It is Okay to Go Slow

I do not anything slow.  🙂  I talk fast, I move fast, I think fast.  I feel like I am always rushing around.   I compete in races which you are not supposed to go slow. However, this was not a race, it was a ride.   And when you are going uphill in 80 plus degree weather at mile 77 on day two, you are not gong to go fast.  You are going to go 10 miles an hour which actually feels like 2 miles an hour and that is exactly what I needed to do.  I needed to go slow.  I needed to slow down.  I needed my body, my mind, my thoughts to slow down.  This is so challenging for me, to not want to just to get to the finish line as fast as possible, but to enjoy it however, painful or challenging it was for me.

4.  Just Keep Pedaling

There were SO many times on Saturday and then again on Sunday that I wanted to stop pedaling.  I was in pain, my legs hurt, my back hurt, my neck hurt.    I know I wanted to finish but there were many times I wanted to quit but I didn’t.  After every rest stop, I got back on the bike (as painful as it was) and I kept pedaling.  During the century ride on Saturday there was a section of the ride that was a bit of an incline, with a headwind and it was hot.  I had already ridden 72 miles, I did not want to do anymore.  However, I just put my head down in the wind and kept pedaling. The past year has been one of the most difficult years for my family for numerous reasons and there were many times that I felt like I wanted to stop and quit.   Stop dealing with tough situations, stop having difficult conversations but I didn’t because my family is the most important thing in the world to me.  I keep going, I keep pedaling no matter how painful it is.

pigs

We saw tons of animals during our ride.

5. I Found My Gratitude

I know I have  A LOT to be grateful for but coming off a very hard and emotional week prior to this ride I was having a hard time finding my gratitude.  I am so thankful for my healthy children, my amazing husband and family and great friends but even though I am grateful does not mean gratitude is always easy to find.  Yet, sitting on a bike for hours and hours with just my thoughts, cycling through my beautiful state, I found my gratitude.  I was and am thankful for my amazing family, beautiful children, supportive husband. I was thankful for the experience of the ride, thankful to the people who opened up their homes to us to give us a place to stay, grateful to the incredible volunteers and organizers, the adorable 4H kids who showed us their pigs and horses and goats at the rest stops, thankful to my sister and brother-in-law for encouraging me, thankful for the bond I have with my sister and to be able to share an experience like this and VERY thankful to my body who just barely a year ago gave birth and now was able to ride a bike for this distance,   I came home with an adjusted attitude and I am grateful for that.

When I walked in the house on Sunday evening with my medals around my neck (I wore them proudly)  my 3-year old son asked me, “Did you win the race, Mom?”  “Yes, baby, yes, I did.  I won my own race.”

finish

Guest Post: Strengthening and Restoring Your Core Pre-and Post-Pregnancy

Guest Post: Strengthening and Restoring Your Core Pre-and Post-Pregnancy

Of all the questions I get asked about exercise and pregnancy, “the core” is one of the most common topics.  Many women want to know if they can or should do core exercises while pregnant.  What exercises should they be doing?  What exercises should they be avoiding?  How do they get their core back after having the baby?   I chatted with my good friend, Lori Duncan, who is also a Physical Therapist specializing in biomechanical assessment and Pilates-based rehabilitation with transition to real-world movement and athletic exercises.    I asked her some of the questions I most often am asked.

Why is it essential for women to work their core during pregnancy?

Having an active core during pregnancy allows the muscles around the pelvis and spine to appropriately respond and stabilize the area as it moves, expands and tilts during the 10 months of growth.  Although the muscles are being slowly stretched (specifically the abdominals), it is important to keep them as strong as possible in that stretched position.

What are your top few core exercises for pregnant women?

My favorite cue/exercise for pregnant women is: “Hug your baby.” It is a cue that engages the inner two abdominal layers or what most people know as “the core”. It’s easy and can be practiced at work, in the car or lifting child number 1…or 2…3…you get the point.

What core exercises would you advise women to stay away from during pregnancy? 

I wouldn’t say there are any exercises that are truly contraindicated, but some exercises just feel better than others. Crunches and planks can start to feel uncomfortable later in pregnancy, but that depends on the ability to engage the inner abdominal layers. When considering core exercises, be sure they feel safe and that you feel absolutely NO BACK PAIN.

Now let’s talk postpartum as so many women are anxious to get their core back.  

After clearance from a women’s doctor to begin exercising again, how would you suggest a women starts working her core after pregnancy? 

Train your abdominals in a neutral position. This can be on your back (supine) or hands and knees (quadruped). Master the ability to pull your belly in without moving ANY bones. It’s trickier than you think, but once you master that, everything else is cake!  And, it prevents unnecessary low back pain.

Again, what exercises would you highly recommend? 

It is important to start with smaller, stabilizing exercises to re-engage your body from the inside out. Once that is established after 3-4 weeks, then you can safely add in bigger, strength-training type movements.

Exercises:

  • I love Pilates Bridging because it lengthens the back extensors that became tight during pregnancy WHILE training the intrinsic core. It’s an awesome exercise. Here is a link to a short video blog about finding the deep core again and Pilates Bridging: https://www.duncansportspt.com/2015/04/activate-the-core/.
  • Side planks are a must! On your elbow and knees is a great way to start!
  • Scapular training is key for posture and back pain. Some examples are rows and lat pulls with a resistance band. Yes, a resistance band. These bands give your body feedback about stability, which we need postpartum.  Dumbbells don’t give our body the same feedback.
  • Glutes! Glutes! Glutes! This does NOT mean squats. Clams, fire hydrants, Pilates side series are excellent ways to safely start training the glute muscles off the ground. Training muscles off the ground is an important starting place for healthy muscle activation.

What would you have them avoid post-pregnancy? 

Crunches (unless you can do them with your deep core activated), heavy lifting and excessive high intensity classes. There is just no space for it. It took your body 10 months to have a baby, give it at least 10 months to regain some shape, stability and strength to return to back to “your normal.” The biggest mistake postpartum women make is pushing their body into an arena it’s not ready to participate. Carefully load the body over the ONE FULL YEAR postpartum to avoid injury, stress or pain to the body.

Can you explain a little bit about diastis recti, how to check for it and how it can be helped? 

Diastis Recti is a medical term that means: separation of your abdominals. The most superficial abdominal layer, called the Rectus Abdominis, has a connective tissue line between the two sides. This connective tissue is called the linea alba. The linea alba will widen by the 3rd trimester (this is normal) and remain fairly wide until 8 weeks postpartum (again, normal). If after 6 months you still think you may have a gap, you should consider seeing a physical therapist for some mindful, healing exercises for the condition. The majority of women (60%) will recover from the gap at 6 months.

abs

How to check for a Diastis Recti

Lay on your back. Put your 2 fingers along the center of your abdominals. Perform a sit-up as high as you can go. If you feel a gap of 2 finger widths or more, you may have a diastis recti. Try this at several points along the length of the linea alba. If you think the test is positive, go see a physical therapist.

Many women think a diastis recti is directly linked to low back pain. Guess what? It’s not! Women without diastis recti have low back pain and women with a diastis recti don’t. Low back pain is almost consistently linked with a week intrinsic core.

NEW RESEARCH

Shortening the gap of the linea alba is important for force transfer. One of the best exercises to correct diastis recti is to create a positive force along the connective tissue line. That means,  perform a sit up WITH an intrinsic core activation. That means that when you perform the sit-up, the belly scoops in or becomes concave, instead of bulging out. Research is demonstrating that this exercise may actually be the best way to load the linea alba. A common sit-up, will actually distort and cause a poor load to the linea alba.

Here is a link to a sit-up blog I wrote a few years ago:

https://www.duncansportspt.com/2014/06/sit-ups-good-or-bad/

Personal Note: I was a 37 year-old pregnant woman who practiced Pilates, participated in cycling, swimming, walking, yoga and strength training during my pregnancy.

Take home message: Move, “hug” your baby and enjoy the cool changes that are happening. It’s pretty incredible what our bodies can do to have these bundles of joy!

Chase

Lori and her 3 1/2 year old son, Chase.

Visit https://www.duncansportspt.com/ for more information on Lori and to read her blog!

 

References:

Lee D, Hodges P. Behavior of linea alba during a curl-up task in diastis rectus abdominis: an observation study. JOSPT. 2016;46(7):580-589.