But What If It Isn’t Normal?: The Case for Abdominal and Pelvic Floor Rehab

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photos courtesy of The Tummy Team

 

My social media feed is full of it. Moms lamenting peeing their pants and the belly that just hangs and won’t budge no matter how many crunches they do or how long they diet. With Mother’s Day coming up there are even cute little memes about “Call your mom, she wets herself because of you.”

Except a part of me doesn’t find it cute. I’m glad for awareness and openness for discussing this important aspect of women’s health. But I just can’t get behind making a serious medical issue into the punchline of a joke. Pelvic floor and core weakness are certainly common side affects for women who have been pregnant and/or given birth. But I would hesitate to call them normal and they certainly aren’t healthy.

 

When I got to hear Beth Learn from Fit2B Studio speak in person last year, she talked about how our bodies were made to birth babies, and also made to heal. But our lifestyles have changed, and most of our lives no longer contain the kinds of healthy movement to used to help women recover from pregnancy and child birth. While modern medicine has brought us many wonderful things in the area of OBGYN care, this has not been one of them. Talking about the ability to heal has nothing to do with shame at the symptoms, but rather to produce empowerment at the possibility for recovery.

 

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This is why I love The Tummy Team. Kelly Dean’s own story provides inspiration. She talks about how her training as a physical therapist didn’t prepare her for the side effects of multiple pregnancies and deliveries. Her broken body left her feeling discouraged. Other than surgery she could find any practical solutions. But she searched until she found someone who offered real hope.

 

While Kelly agrees that hands on help is best, there are a limited number of trained core and pelvic rehabilitation specialists in the United States, and indeed the world. To that end she created online rehab programs through her office, The Tummy Team.

 

I completed the Core Foundations with The Tummy Team three years ago, and then the Prenatal program two years ago when I was pregnant with my third child. I found both programs to be educational, and encouraging as I went through my healing process. I’ve also done a Skype session with Kelly and found it hugely helpful in making sure I was learning proper alignment and a chance to ask any questions. While today I wouldn’t call my core entirely healed (the result of a difficult third pregnancy and delivery), I gained so many important tools through the course that I find myself returning to when my abs need a little bit of extra attention and support.

 

In honor of Mother’s Day, the Tummy Team is offering 25% off all of their programs and services, May 8-22. (If you don’t want to start now, you can purchase a gift certificate at sale price, and start your rehab later).

 

This Mother’s Day, consider investing in yourself (or your mom) and consider healing through the wonderful ladies at The Tummy Team.

 

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Prenatal Core Week 6: Postpartum Recovery

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Postnatal Plan

I really appreciate Kelly bringing this up. After the baby is born don’t obsess about recovery in the beginning. The important thing, is to connect with your baby. Splinting afterwards is helpful, if you find it comfortable. If not, don’t worry about it and pick it up later.

I probably haven’t gotten as much out of this program as I would have liked, but I really like Kelly’s reminder to integrate the various stretches and abdominal engagements throughout things you are already doing after baby is born. When you nurse the baby, when you change the baby, when you pee. Since the last week or two of this program I’ve mostly been doing integrated motion. I have trouble counting and remembering to get everything in, but I try to use certain triggers throughout the day to help me. (Sitting for meals, brushing my teeth, standing in the kitchen, etc.)

Transitioning back to fitness. Fit2B Studio continues to be my primary plan. It will be hard to really slow down and take it from the beginning but those Foundational Five will probably be all that I can manage in the beginning anyway.

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Update

Since I originally wrote this post, I had my baby!

Simon Edward Vitaro was born on Tuesday September 15. (It’s hard to believe it’s already been more than a week). He came nine days early and after a 19 hour labor, which is the longest of my three. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more details in the future, but I just wanted to briefly highlight how The Tummy Team helped during my labor and delivery. By the end of my pregnancy I was splinting almost constantly which I continued during my labor, including pushing. I believe this helped a lot by taking pressure of the muscles and ligaments. I also made good use of belly breaths during contractions, at least until close to the end. I’ll admit that when the time to push came, I wasn’t thinking about proper pushing form and technique, it just kind of happened and very quickly. So hopefully I didn’t totally destroy my core as my little boy entered the world at top speed.

I’ve also been splinting postpartum and feel as though things are shrinking down much faster than my last two. Knowing that the splint is helping to hold my core together while I recover is giving me some peace of mind as I mostly focus on rest and taking care of my baby.

If you’ve been debating trying out The Tummy Team, now is the time.
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Fit2B New Moms: Week 2

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It is getting very hard to stay active at this point in my pregnancy. We just came through another high temperature week with very high eighties and low nineties, which is way too hot for this pregnancy lady. So walking or even going outside much has been out of the question. It has been hard to keep myself going with any kind of exercise. But I want to make sure I’m still ready for this upcoming (hopefully sooner rather than later) delivery.

Day 1

Totally Transverse
Maternity Mix I

I’ve done this workout before, but it has been a while and I wasn’t sure how my current condition would work with it. There were portions that I had to be very cautious and really listen to my body (especially the side leg series) but mostly I found it to be a great way to keep my body moving, even when it takes a lot of effort and it’s easier to stay still.

Day 2

Mula Bandha
Maternity Mix II
Pregnancy Stretching with Kelly

This was a great workout. While Maternity Mix II is a little more physically demanding, it is also a bit shorter which helps with that. As usual the Pregnancy Stretching with Kelly is a big hit and something I strive to work in daily where I can. I felt very confident today, as I was able to do almost everything in this workout. This makes me feel better since my mobility has been so limited lately. It’s possible my efforts to do something, no matter how minimal, everyday are paying off.

Day 3

Totally Transverse II
Maternity Mix III

This is definitely a more ambitious workout than the other two maternity mixes. While I’ve done it before, I’ll admit that this time I had to stop halfway through. Next time I do it I might have to try it without the dumb bells. As I’m getting so close to the end, (hopefully just a couple weeks now) I want to stay active but I also don’t want to workout to the point of exhaustion. Bethany Learn always says you should feel energized after a workout and ready for your day, not so tired that you need to go back to bed. I’m trying to find where that fine line is this pregnancy.

Day 4

Basic Transverse & Mula Bandha
Maternity Yoga 
Neck Routine

I enjoyed this gentle combination. I’m looking forward to the slightly more tummy safe refilm of Maternity Yoga but this one is still totally doable. The neck routine was also welcome respite for my sore neck and upper back. Plus, any opportunity to workout while sitting down is also great.

Guess what? Only four days this week. This whole project is turning out a bit different than I planned. Rather than getting progressively more difficult, each week I’m doing a little less, but striving to at least do something. So if I do in fact make it through week 3 and 4 of this routine, you’ll see lots of stretching, gentle maternity workouts and Foundational Five, rather than my usual fare of solid aerobics and strong Pilates.

But I know I’m not the only pregnant lady who feels like just moving at all by the end is difficult, let alone official exercise. Don’t be discouraged (I’m trying not to be). You will be able to do these things again. Just try to focus on taking care of yourself and baby for these last few weeks.

Fit2B New Moms: Week 1

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Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 5: Your Core Strong Birth Plan

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Photo Credit: Jthree via Compfight cc

This week is probably the most maternity specific so far with discussion of core strong birth plan and preparing your home.

Kelly discusses ways to adjust your birth plan to make sure you are using your core as optimally as possible, including splinting during labor and even the pushing phase. She also points out how important it is to develop nursing positions that are supportive for your body as well as comfortable for you. The average mom spends 11-14 hours a day nursing in the beginning. Even if you are bottle feeding it is still important to make sure you support your back, neck, and feet.

For more details check out this post on creating a nursing throne.

She also deals with other common positions that can be potentially straining or damaging to your core such as how you change diapers, and get in and out of bed.

While some of this information was review for me, it was probably one of the more informative weeks. All the videos, I felt, helped me to prepare for both labor & delivery as well as those early days caring for my newborn.

At this point I am feeling quite fatigued, so remembered to do proper stretches and core exercises has been difficult. But I’m still trying to incorporate as much as I can. I hope I can reap some positive results even if I’m not doing everything right for the next few weeks.

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Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 3: Neutral Pelvis and Core Strength

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I’m definitely finding it a bit harder to keep up with the program this time. If you have the choice, starting it in the late second trimester might be a better choice than the mid-third like I’m doing. A lot more transverse squeeze and releases this week and longer transverse holds. But also stronger focus on multitasking, meaning adding these into things you are already doing in your life. (waiting in line, driving in the car, standing or sitting, etc). which in theory makes it easier to fit them all in.

Neutral Pelvis is so hard to find when pregnant. I felt like I had finally figured it out, at least most of the time, but pregnancy has made it so difficult to tell. When I have my pelvis in what normally feels like neutral I feel like I’m sticking my belly out (even if I’m engaging my core and trying to keep my ribs closed.) It feels like there just isn’t enough room, which of course there isn’t because my body isn’t meant to be like this all the time.

I really struggle finding ways to sit properly because I feel like I have to stick my belly out to be in proper pelvic alignment and unless my legs are pretty wide there isn’t room for my belly. (Let’s just say that sitting ladylike in a skirt has gotten very difficult.)

A few new stretches this week. The edge of bed hip flexor stretch (knee to chest, slowly lower other knee so it’s hanging down from bed) was especially helpful and definitely something new that I wasn’t already doing.

I’m still experiencing tons of upper back tightness. I have to be very careful not to shrug my shoulders up and I’m feeling lots of tightness under my shoulder blades. Sometimes single shoulder rolls or an arm across the chest stretch may help, but not always.

If you are Fit2B user, check out Align it Flat as a great way to help practice finding good alignment in various positions. You’ll also find that most of the suggested stretches for this week can be found in Kelly Dean’s Total Body Stretching and Kelly’s Pregnancy Stretching routines.

I wish more of the instructional videos this week addressed pregnancy specifically, especially the video on functional integration. Active sitting, standing and walking all change quite a bit.

This is the halfway point of the program and I’ll admit that it’s hard to feel stronger since my body is changing so fast. My abs are more stretched out and my belly keeps getting bigger. But I’m trying to remain as consistent as I can. When I’m tired, I try to do a few shoulder rolls and transverse squeeze or two, if nothing else. At least then, even in my fatigue, I’m reminding my body what it needs to do.

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Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 1: Awareness

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Week 1: Focus of the Week – Awareness

Kelly suggested that as you start the program you take note of how you feel right now.

How do I feel now? I have a lot of tailbone and SI joint pain. I’ve been striving already to use proper active sitting, but I definitely have a lot of mid-back (or what Kelly Dean calls bra-strap pain). One of the difficulties about pregnancy is that the body is changing week by week. So what hurts and what doesn’t changes constantly. A great way to sit correctly last week might not work anymore this week. My groin muscles especially on the right side, tend to stretch and pull easily if I’m not careful and intentional about my movements. (I avoid straight bending forward whenever possible, instead opting to squat or make someone else pick up whatever it is.)

Even with the splinting, I am very aware of the pull of gravity on my belly and while lower back pain has been kept to a minimum, I am starting to feel it more now.

Trying to fit in all the transverse holds and belly breaths hasn’t been easy, but I’m trying to find triggers throughout my day. Even if it means doing a few in a doctor’s office waiting room, at a red light or during church. (Actually church is my favorite because the chairs in our sanctuary provide ideal back support and I can sit in proper alignment more easily than anywhere else in my life). I am remembering more often to engage my transverse, and I’m definitely noticing some upper back fatigue as a result. I’m looking forward to seeing what Week 2 has in store.

Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 2: Connection

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The Tummy Team Prenatal Core Foundations Program

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Photo courtesy of Twinkle Photo

Prenatal Introduction

Last year I decided to do the Core Foundations program as a way to help strengthen my body in preparation for another pregnancy. I had debated trying the Prenatal Core Foundations Program but I’ve had a pretty rough pregnancy and couldn’t imagine having the time. But thanks to a surprise summer sale I decided to take the plunge.

Because I’ve done Core Foundations, I expect to find some of this information to be review, but I’m also looking forward to new pregnancy specific info.

I had between a 1.5 and 2 finger separation left after gaining a bit of weight since my core rehabilitation. I also have a small umbilical hernia that has become larger and more pronounced as my pregnancy has progressed. No doubt my diastasis recti has also gotten larger, but I stopped worrying about it.

One of the facts mentioned in the intro is that splinting is not necessary for all pregnant women. But I have found it to be very helpful for me. It helps encourage better alignment and support abdominal and groin muscles to help reduce pain and strain.

The intro to The Tummy Team prenatal program contains some great information. Much of it wasn’t new to me, but it was a good reminder nonetheless.

Core Strength and Pregnancy

Diastasis Recti

Anatomy of the Abdominals

The Transverse Abdominus

Emotional and Spiritual Considerations

Splinting in Pregnancy

Usually Kelly Dean recommends preparing to reduce your exercise schedule during abdominal rehab, especially if you are very active. I have already been reducing my activity by necessity, but I am going to maintain a certain level of exercise as a way of controlling my gestational diabetes. Fortunately my preferred exercise of choice is Fit2B Studio which is tummy safe and complements abdominal rehab well. (Kelly Dean even guest stars in many of my favorite work outs).

Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 1: Awareness

Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 2: Connection

Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 3: Neutral Pelvis and Core Strength

Tummy Team Prenatal Core Week 4: Pelvis the Floor of Your Core

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