Pilates

9 months pre-natal, 9 months post natal

Mum-and-baby-Pilates.jpg

It seems socially acceptable and expected for a woman to adapt her exercise during pregnancy to make it safe and appropriate (and rightly so!) but once the baby arrives there is often a rush to return to "normal" with rigorous physical activity. 

If it takes 9 months for the body to adapt and change to grow a baby, we should see the 9 months after as just as important for the body to regain strength, for hormones to calm and for things to return "as they were". 

The advise given to re-start exercise after birth is to wait 4-6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 12 weeks after a caesarean (once the doctor has given the all-clear). All too often I have had women turn up to my classes with babies as young as 10 days old - though I am in deep admiration of anyone who can get themselves up and out of the house with a baby that young, I really would advise that they wait the allocated 4 weeks as a minimum to give the body time to heal. 

Though it may seem frustrating if you have always had a regular exercise routine, it is important to follow a post natal course for the following reasons:

  • To adapt exercises for the diastasis recti (the gap between the abdominal muscles) 
  • To rebuild the pelvic floor strength
  • To work with any pelvic girdle pain or issues
  • To rebuild deep core strength
  • To ensure that we counteract the repetitive and heavy demands of looking after and feeding baby with postural exercises
  • Not over-stretching as joints and ligaments are more supple and pliable after birth

Diastsis Recti - sounds scary but is perfectly normal. It's the separation of the rectus abdominus muscles. They separate to make space for the baby. 

diastsis recti.jpg

It seems that for some women, the muscles return to normal fairly quickly, whilst for others it can take months or even, in some cases, surgery. The important thing to know is how big a gap you have as you can't work your abdominal muscles too much until it is safe to do so. Deep stability work and safe, gentle abdominal exercise will help muscles knit back together but this shouldn't be rushed. 

Rebuilding strength from the inside takes time but ensuring that you build from a strong and safe foundation without rushing is well worth the time and effort. I would strongly advise every woman to take the time to find a post-natal Pilates class to ensure that she is in safe hands. 

Pilates for Runners

I used to run, a lot. And when you're a runner, doing anything other than running can sometimes seem like time lost running. There's something so exhilarating about feeling your heart and legs pumping, checking your pace and blasting out your music. It's perfect cardio-vascular exercise and I'm not saying you shouldn't do it but I do want to talk about the benefits of adding in another form of exercise, something that compliments running - Pilates.

Running is primarily a forward/backward motion of arms and legs (unless, like me your form isn't perfect and you also have a bit of a twist in the torso). If you run a lot you probably have really strong quads and hip flexors (the the front of your body) hamstrings and calves (the back of your body). So it's important to work your body in other planes of movement - lateral flexion and rotation. 

Other muscles groups that should be strong and can help with running but that maybe could do with a bit of help from Pilates are the glutes (to help power you forward), the small balance muscles in your feet (to help ground you and keep you upright) and core and back (to keep you upright and again to provide power to lift your legs). 

The other thing about running is that it can make you TIGHT. Tight in the hamstrings, calves, quads and back. Pilates is a balance of strength and flexibility so we work on releasing and lengthening the muscles. 

You'll be a much better runner if you can find ease in the body and power in the muscles when you need it. It's also important to keep your back healthy and happy too so that you can keep on running for the rest of your life!

A few Pilates exercises that you should consider incorporating into your weekly regime:

  • Squats,
  • One-legged squats
  • Roll downs
  • Curls ups/abdominal work
  • Hip rolls
  • Curl ups/abdominal work with oblique twists
  • Spine curls with battement 
  • Diamond press
  • Prone leg beats
  • Heel Squeeze
  • Cobra
  • Side-lying exercises
  • Spine Twists
  • Side planks

You can add in a workout at home following along with my video below OR just come to class and we'll work through these exercises together!