If you know you’ve got pelvic floor issues, it can be a bit daunting to start training your tummy muscles again, or indeed to start exercising at all. Good abdominal tone goes hand in hand with pelvic floor muscle tone so it’s vital to find your core again after pregnancy or obstetric surgery.
Whilst actually getting to a Pilates class or booking one to one training is ideal, I understand that it can be difficult to chat about a baggy vagina in the middle of a class, so I’ve penned some simple steps to training your abdominals whilst avoiding pushing out on your lady parts.
I’m talking about general weakness here, issues like stress incontinence or just generally feeling not quite right down below. For a full on prolapse you absolutely need to see a specialist.
My general advice is always to avoid crunches, or anything where you are restricting space in your torso, until you’re really confident in your core. Crunches may cause you to push out rather than draw up. Similarly look out for tense shoulders or holding your breath, another sign that you’re bearing down. And if you attend a gym, avoid classes like ‘abs blast’ or ‘ab attack’ for a while – you need to work at your own pace.
Here’s a fundamental Pilates move broken down, it’s a great place to start.
1.DEFY GRAVITY – LIFT UP
The most important thing to remember is to always feel like you are lifting up, even if it means the occasional raised eyebrow.
Your abdominals and pelvic floor won’t work effectively if your lower back and pelvis have swung out of neutral. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and gently rock your pelvis back and forth feeling for that ‘in between’ position. Your lower back shouldn’t be pressing in to the floor but there also shouldn’t be a big gap. To start off with you may find it useful to have your bottom on a small cushion.
FIND YOUR CORE
From this position, find the big, sticky outy bits of your pelvis and firmly press your fingertips between your hips and your tummy button. Breathe out strongly feeling your deep tummy muscles tighten towards your spine. You want to feel everything is tightening up like a corset.
As you draw in, it’s useful also to feel that you slide your tummy muscles up and away from your pelvis. As you do this you’ll feel your pelvic floor muscles react so lift them too. Remember, draw up! This technique is also useful if you’ve got diastasis recti (split abs) since you effectively flatten your six-pack to your body, training it from the inside.
RAISE YOUR LEGS
Once you’re ready, lift your knees one at a time over your hips. Ensure your back stays in that neutral position and your tummy doesn’t pop out. Keep drawing in and lifting up. It really does help to practise this with a stacking cup or beaker on your tummy.
You really do need to pay attention to technique here. Always feel the connection between your hips and your ribs. A little goes a long way, doing this a couple of times a day will help to give you that awareness of your core and begin to get those muscles fired up again.
AND . . . BREATHE.