Post-natal exercise: are you doing it wrong?

By Paola di Lanzo

It’s safe to say, as a mother of three and full-time pilates and barre instructor, that I know a thing or two when it comes to post-natal exercise.

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And besides my own experiences, I’ve literally trained hundreds of post-natal women, and it still surprises me when I see personal trainers instructing their post-natal clients with unsafe exercises.

My main issue? Core training and the cringe worthy sit-up.

Due to the media, we are constanly seeing miraculous comeback bodies in the form of celebrities who, just weeks after giving birth, look as though they never even gave birth to begin with.

This is the last thing mothers need to be bombarded with.

Yes, you may have gained some weight while nourishing yourself and your newborn, but you have just created life!

So what if you gained a few kilos in the process? 

So what if you don’t have a six pack?

The truth is, there are some things in life that need to be put on hold, and aethestics shouldn’t be a priority when you have a newborn baby to love and care for.

What I want to stress is to not stress. After all, if you want to shed that baby weight, stressing about it will only make matters worse.

Losing weight after giving birth isn’t an easy task. It takes, baby steps, so to speak, leading my to my first piece of advice:

breath and relax.

The months preceding childbirth need not be viewed as a ‘get fit for summer’ campaign. 

Instead, it needs to be looked at as a rehabilitative journey.

In a recent Daily Mail write-up that I was featured in, the issue of sit-ups and post-natal exercise was discussed.

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Becky Stevens, a client of mine, jumped straight back to her workout routine after giving birth. And while she waited until the doctor’s approval to do so, Becky returned to the gym in full-force, adding even more sit-ups to the equation in hopes that she would get her toned tummy back in no time.

The result was the opposite. After giving birth, Becky’s abdominal muscles had failed to reconnect properly, and the 70 plus sit-ups she was doing during each of her workout routines was in fact making her stomach bulge out. The result wasn’t a six pack. It was a hernia.

According to Becky, “With every sit-up I was doing, I was forcing my organs outwards until a section of my intestine popped out, forming an acorn-sized hernia underneath my belly button.’

She adds: ‘By going back to exercise after my babies were born, I thought I was doing the right thing. Sit-ups are still seen as the obvious move to do. You think of celebs going “crunch, crunch, crunch” and then being seen with flat-as-a-pancake stomachs.”

The Daily Mail article brings up the fact that sit-ups can cause more than just hernias, also triggering bladder control problems and slipped disks.

What’s more, there is mounting evidence that sit-ups need to be avoided no matter who you are. Even the U.S and Canadian armies have removed sit-ups from their fitness regiments after a study found that repeated sit-ups account for roughly 56% of soldiers’ back injuries.

So, what do post-natal women need to do if they want to slowly regain their strength and flat stomachs?

Gentle pilates based exercises will train you to hold your muscles from within.

I’ve highlighted a range of other safe exercises below, and what’s great is that the intensity can always be increased as the months go by and you feel yourself becoming stronger.

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Just promise me, never do a sit-up again.

Read more on Becky Steven’s and my thoughts on post-natal exercise at the Daily Mail
here.

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