How can I lose my baby belly would have to be one the most asked questions that we would receive as Personal Trainers. I get it. I’ve been there after giving birth and seeing the sagging skin, stretch mark covered, wrinkled mess of a belly we now own. Add to this broken sleep, skipped meals, emotional eating, stress relieving alcohol consumption and we are left with a dilemma of choosing our sanity or our skinny jeans.
In reality, we won’t go back. We are forever changed as mums. We must accept that parts of our bodies will be different and that it is ok. There are worse things in the world to be than chubby around the middle. Your body is strong, your body is capable and you just grew a human so give yourself a break. If you are 3, 5 or 10 years down the track and still holding onto weight, that’s ok too. We are working in jobs (or running businesses) while trying to juggle mum responsibilities and trying to have a social life. It’s a tough gig so making small, regular changes is the way to approach it.
Your baby belly is made up of a stretched uterus, muscles and skin, along with stored fat that was essential for the growth of our babies. Some women are lucky enough to snap back like an elastic band due to their fantastic genetics. Other women take longer to heal and need to put in extra effort. There are some things you can do to improve your belly so that you feel more comfortable within your own skin. Body positivity and acceptance will take time so try making small changes in your busy mum life.
How Can You Improve Your Post Baby Belly
- Get Moving: Walking is THE best way to get started. If you pick up the pace and get the heart rate up, you will help your body use stored fat as it’s energy source.
- Build Muscle: Strength training builds muscle which has a positive impact on your metabolism. Lean muscle requires more energy to function, therefore burning stored fat.
- Core vs Crunches: When choosing exercises to work the stomach area, it’s best to go with more bracing type exercises as opposed to crunches or sit ups. Crunches can make your abdominals bulge, making the stomach round in shape. Activating a muscle called the Transverse Abdominis is what will support your internal organs as well as work to flatten your stomach muscles. Read More: Understanding the Core and Pelvic Floor
- Cut The Sugar: Excess sugar in your diet is likely being stored around your midline so cutting back on your indulgences can help. Aim for fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat in your meals. And include good fats like avocado and nuts too.
- Alcohol: Ok, now I’m really going to break your heart. Our beloved wine (any alcohol really) impacts our hormones. I recently read this great article about the process of alcohol breakdown in the body and it’s impact on hormones. Basically, when we drink alcohol, the body works to remove the alcohol from our systems first, therefore putting carbohydrate utilisation on hold, resulting in it being stored. Read more here: How Alcohol Affects Your Hormones
- Reduce Bloating: Part of the reason you still have a belly could be bloating from food choices, lack of fibre or lack of water. Keeping hydrated helps to nourish your skin but also helps your digestion, reducing bloating.
- Acceptance: I chose the photo for this blog to show you what our babies think about our baby belly. They are beautiful, squishy and comfortable for them to lay. I asked Blake last night if he loves mummy’s tummy. He said “yes, can I see it?”. “Wow!” he said in the cutest little voice. His amazement comes from the fact he used to live in there and he thinks it’s pretty amazing, as should you. We could focus on how imperfect it is or feels, but maybe we need a new perspective.
Rather than focus on reducing fat or your baby belly, focus on rebuilding your strength from the inside out. Your body has been through an amazing transformation to create this new life so finding the right balance for you is key. If you would like to know more, please contact us with your questions.
In fitness, many people think of the core as having a six pack or flat abs. It’s the number one goal for many mums when returning to exercise following the birth of their baby. Unfortunately not all mums understand the core and pelvic floor as a whole. They focus on one part of the structure. This results in building strong parts of the core, leading to increased pressure on the weaker parts. In this blog, I aim to help with understanding the core and pelvic floor as a whole.
What is the Core and Pelvic Floor?
Imagine that the core is a canister. It has a top, a bottom and sides that wrap around. In our body our core has muscles at the top, bottom and those that wrap around the sides. A strong core supports all major movements we complete, supports our spine and supports our internal organs. It also has functions connected to breathing, posture and preventing incontinence. It’s not normal to wet yourself during physical activity, I promise!
What Muscles Make Up The Core?
1. Diaphragm: At the top, we have the diaphragm. This muscle sits along the lower part of your ribcage and when activated correctly expands or contracts to assist with breathing.
2. Pelvic Floor: At the bottom (no pun intended) lies the pelvic floor. It connects to the tailbone, pubic bones and pelvis to create a sling type structure that supports your pelvic organs.
3. Transverse Abdominis: Sitting along the lower abdomen at the front and is often the focus when beginning to rehab your core.
4. Multifidus: These muscles run along either side of your spine in your back and provide the support for your back.
5. Gluteals: These muscles sit along the back of the pelvis, supporting your hips and lower back.
These are the most important muscles of the core. Others include your rectus abdominis, obliques and hip flexors which are all impacted by pregnancy but let’s not overwhelm you today.
What Happens To These Muscles in Pregnancy
Due to the size and placement of your bub, breathing is often impacted. Do you remember the feeling of being kicked in the ribs? Well your baby was having a great time beating up your diaphragm. Once your baby is delivered, the diaphragm often struggles to expand or contract correctly to allow proper breathing. This can lead to shallow breathing which recruits muscles of the chest and neck to help lift the ribcage during a breath.
As our belly grows and abdominal muscles stretch, much of the strain is taken on by our lower back and hips. We get tightness occurring in the multifidus and glutes as they try to support the hips and spine. Retraining the core to activate, helps to take the pressure off these overworked muscles.
The weight of our babies also puts pressure on the pelvic floor. If we fail to keep up our ‘Kegal exercises’ and weakness occurs, we may experience urinary incontinence. During a vaginal delivery, you may have had a tear or needed an episiotomy. An episiotomy involves the muscles of the pelvic floor being cut. Both need a little more care and attention with recovery. If you had a c-section, don’t think you got out of it easily. The weight of your baby during pregnancy has put immense pressure on your pelvic floor. This pressure puts you at risk of incontinence.
Fun Fact: Men have a pelvic floor too. When instructed to activate, their cue is “nuts to guts”.
How Can You Rebuild Your Body From the Inside Out
- Restore Your Breathing: Releasing the diaphragm and retraining your diaphragm to expand will take pressure of those secondary breathing muscles of the neck and chest.
- Improve Your Posture: Posture is important in preventing pain in your back and hips as you undertake the responsibilities of motherhood.
- Learn to Activate Your Core: Knowing which muscles to activate and how they work will help to reduce that ‘Mummy tummy’ and create a stronger body.
- Learning to Coordinate It All: Do you know how to co-ordinate your breathing and pelvic floor activation all while performing a squat? It sounds tricky but once you have the understanding of each part, we can teach you how to bring it all together.
In our Mums & Bubs Fitness Classes, it’s more than just a workout. You will learn to identify areas impacted by your pregnancy, how to breathe again, activate your core and pelvic floor in all movements and prevent injury. If you would like to join a class, we offer a free trial session to all mums or mums to be. Book Online today to secure your place. If you need help with your core and pelvic floor, contact us today with your questions.
Picture: Left – Full Term vs Right – 5 Days Post Partum
When I was pregnant, I didn’t think about what my body would look like after giving birth. I thought I might be a bit overweight and need to get that off. But 5 days after giving birth this is what I was faced with, a body that still looked 6 months pregnant! It wasn’t going to be as easy as losing a few kilos. I soon realised what was happening inside my body needed time to rest, recover and repair.
What I also didn’t expect was how I would feel after giving birth. I remember the feeling of weakness, despite carrying around a child who grew to 4.5kgs. Throughout our pregnancies we become protected. We are told to sit, rest and don’t lift anything. We also have fears around exercise in pregnancy. What if I do too much, what if I harm my baby, we are constantly made to feel scared to take any action. In a previous blog I shared how I overcame my fear of exercise in pregnancy.
I started to assess my body, being aware of all that I was seeing and feeling. When I laid on my back, I felt hollow. I didn’t know where my organs disappeared. I found that my abdominal muscles had a separation. It was quite a gap but despite having my 6 week GP check up and regular nurse check ups, no one assessed it or gave me ways to help it recover.
I also noticed I couldn’t walk properly. I had tight muscles in my hips from carrying that load and my hips weren’t moving correctly. From sitting and breastfeeding, as well as twisting to lay my baby down, I started to notice pain in my neck, shoulders and hips. It took some massage treatment, Osteo and self care like foam rolling and stretches to ease these aches and imbalances.
Throughout this journey of recovery I did my own research. I undertook further training as a Post Natal Fitness Specialist. From the work I have done with myself, I have reduced the separation in my abdominals, been able to walk again without the waddle and have even returned to running. Last year I completed my first ever half marathon when Blake was almost 3 years old.
With time (and breastfeeding), my belly deflated. It was all squishy and still is after almost 4 years. When your body stretches to that size, it’s no wonder it doesn’t quite snap back. Blake loves pointing out my squishy belly. He thinks it’s fun to play with and feels nice. It is a change in my body I accept.
I know my body hasn’t ‘bounced back’ from pregnancy, it has evolved. I have worked with the changes that occurred with my body, strengthening what I can, accepting what has now changed and knowing I can create a better, stronger version from the inside out. My body is capable of creating human life. It’s also fit enough to run a half marathon, keep up with my energetic almost 4 year old and allows me the energy to work in my passion of massage and fitness.
I don’t want other women to feel lost and confused about what to do when recovering from childbirth. While working as a Trainer for mums over the last 3 years, I have been faced with stories of other mums who are suffering incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and muscle tears. They are often told what not to do, so I work to share what they can do. I’m working hard now on ways to provide this advice and guidance to more women during and after pregnancy. My first step is our new Mums & Bubs Fitness Classes. It’ll be more than a workout, it’ll be education and support for mums.
Our classes will run on Tuesday & Thursday mornings at 9:30am at Bradbury Oval. We are offering your first session free. To take advantage, book online at our website and choose the day that suits you best.
For more information about our Mums and Bubs Fitness Classes
I look forward to the opportunity to help more mums like you to safely return to exercise and repair your body from the inside out.
After having your beautiful baby, you are keen to get back up and shed the kilos. You may want your flat abs back and to fit into your skinny jeans. Or you just want to be back to the old you. Well as I start it’s best to remember the old you has changed. You must look to accept the new you that has brought life into this world. Your body has just created something amazing and yes you are left with some things you would rather not have. Following my pregnancy I was left with a few things I have had to learn to embrace. But there are things we can focus our limited energy on. And that’s building strength, from the inside and out. I forgot how much strength we lose. You would think you get stronger carrying around all that weight but you keep getting told not to lift, to get your feet up and rest!
Getting Back to Pre-Baby Weight
Your number one goal is likely weight loss. I have to admit my weight fell off easily with breastfeeding. I lost 15kgs in a few short months as my monster child fed his way through all my calories. So my advice is to breastfeed if you can. I still needed to follow a balanced, nutritious diet and gentle exercise but it worked fast. If you can’t breastfeed then start off slow and remember the rule that it took you 9 months to gain it so it should take at least 9 months to lose it. I hear many mothers joke that their child is 18 and they are still trying to lose it but we probably shouldn’t leave it that long! Your body is still recovering so make sure you are providing your body with nutritious foods, eating regularly and getting active each day. Once your baby becomes mobile, you will be glad you have slowly built your activity levels.
What type of exercise should you choose?
This is all depending on how you delivered your baby and any medical procedures that were required. I delivered via c-section so I had to recover from major abdominal surgery. I started by walking and walking really is the best way to start. You can take your bub out and you both get some fresh air. Some babies will drift off to sleep being pushed in the pram and you get the opportunity to clear your head or have a break from daytime tv!
You should avoid running initially, especially if you have weakness in your pelvic floor. Your abdominal muscles will also be weak from the pregnancy so you will need to start some gentle core exercises. Avoid doing crunches and situps as they will not work your entire core and you may also have a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle that is yet to close. Plank exercises can also be detrimental if you are not activating your muscles correctly. Your muscles will be very weak so you need gentle retraining to begin.
Breathing is one that is forgotten. You have just had a baby pushing up against your diaphragm for months and you have learnt to breath with limited movement of this muscle. You should focus on retraining your breathing to ensure you are using your diaphragm. I come across many women post natally in both my massage practice and fitness clients that cannot breathe properly. It affects their ability to train effectively and they also develop pain in the muscles of their upper chest and neck where secondary breathing muscles are working overtime to lift their ribcage.
We all remember the juice ad with the guys in orange bike shorts that was quickly banned for being sexist to men. Well that little jingle plays in my head whenever I talk about pelvic floor muscle exercises. Kegal exercises should be completed following childbirth and you just have to squeeze. If you experience any issues with your pelvic floor make sure you consult a Women’s Health Physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic floor. If you haven’t seen the Just Squeeze ad click here
Stand up tall and be supported
When feeding your baby you may find yourself hunched over and half asleep at 3am feed time. Try to create a supportive environment for yourself by placing a pillow behind you and underneath bub so you are not slouching. This will help to prevent pain in your upper back and neck. Standing up tall begins the process of retraining those weak core muscles and will make you appear to have lost more weight.
There is so much to think of when you have a new baby. Your life has just been turned upside down when you realise this little person is so dependent on you. So my advice is to keep it simple. Add one new thing a day or week, whatever you can handle. And try to relax and enjoy your little baby, they love you no matter what size your bum is so you should love yourself too!
If you require assistance in setting up an exercise programme, starting safe core exercises or have developed muscular pain then Contact Us to see how we can help.
Here I am the night before Blake entered the world.