Core Rehab isn’t all pick-ups, pikes and planks. In fact, it’s mostly not.
I had a very strong core pre-pregnancy. I didn’t do any core work the first trimester and then did very appropriate, mindful core work for the duration of my pregnancy.
I waited the requisite six weeks post (+ a couple days) before returning (cautiously) to exercise. I began with very gentle bodyweight exercise and yoga without any negative symptoms. I was feeling fine, and went to my first spin class after eight weeks. I had a couple of symptoms standing during the class, but otherwise felt good and strong.
Then I returned to a regular workout – mostly strength (barbell and TRX) with two cardio exercises in between exercises. All was good with the strength, but I had some real pelvic floor symptoms jumping rope, which, admittedly, was stupid that soon post-partum. I backed off, but kept doing strength workouts three times a week.
Today, I finally went to see my physiotherapist, Cathy, who is a pelvic floor specialist. She and I worked on my pelvic floor before and during my entire pregnancy. If you are having a baby, or have had a baby, and have not seen a pelvic floor physiotherapist, you must. I am a huge advocate. You must. You must do it.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common, but NOT normal part of being a mother. Pelvic Floor fitness is more individual than just attending a post-natal boot camp or fitness class. I wish B.C. medical insurance covered at least one prenatal visit and one post-natal visit. Every woman who has had a baby should be assessed. Anyway…Cathy assessed me today. I have a less than one-finger-width separation between my abdominals, which is great! (No one will have zero separation. If you have less than one finger’s width, there is probably very little cause for concern.)
Cathy used the ultrasound to watch me do kegels and engage my abdominals muscles, which is my favourite! On the ultrasound, you could also see my bladder, and my uterus, which is still bigger than normal at 11 weeks post-partum. It is unknown exactly how long it should take to shrink back down to its regular walnut-size. I meant to take a video today and completely forgot. It’s so cool!
My kegels are very strong – she said I don’t even have to do them. (Many women don’t, but that’s a story for another day.)
My transversus abdominus activation is a bit weak, and unless I really slow down and connect, there is still some invagination (indenting) between my abdominal muscles. = pelvic floor dysfunction.
Me and my friend, Krista Dennett, at canfitpro 2017
Until I can engage a little more automatically without any pressure or symptoms, I am going to back off from any heavy loads or overhead exercise.
That means I am back to gentle core activation, walking, yoga, and maybe some squats for the next 4-5 weeks.
To be honest I am:
a) a little disappointed that, after all my hard work and then what feels like an eternity but has only been 11 weeks, my body didn’t magically bounce back to 100%. Even if it is pretty much almost 90%. (I know. I hear it.)
b) relieved that I have permission to give myself a break and ease back into exercise for the next month. Having a newborn baby is very tiring, so I am happy to allow myself a longer transition.
If you want to learn how to do these four exercises properly, you can book a session with me, or you can see a real expert in the pelvic floor/post partum fitness field, like Kim Vopni (the vagina coach), or my friend Krista Dennett (pictured with me above), who has an online Core Confidence course.