Courgette and Egg Bake

I’ve realised that we are well into courgette season and whilst this great, Laing staple, was posted on our Fit School newsletter, it didn’t make it into my blog. I’ve been making and eating this a lot during my early months of pregnancy when I needed tasty, easy to digest recipes. So here it is:

Every year, in August, courgette production in the Fit School family allotment (actually it’s my mum and dad’s but they’re part of the picture) goes bumper! So we have a wealth of courgette recipes to handle the glut. From courgette pasta (it makes a fab pregnancy friendly carbonara), to courgette muffins great for kids and our all time favourite, Courgette and Egg Bake, taken from the Primal Blueprint cookbook.

Ingredients:
1kg courgettes, grated
3 large free range eggs
200g ground sausage meat, bacon, sausages or beef mince
1 onion, chopped or grated
Parmesan or pecorino cheese to taste

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 180/GM4.
  • Cook the chopped onion in a pan with some olive oil for 5 minutes or until soft and tranlucent.
  • Add the grated courgette to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Drain the courgette and onion mix in a large colander.
  • Meanwhile brown the sausage/bacon in the pan (chopped).
  • Add the drained courgettes and onions to the pan and pour into a greased, oven proof dish (around 20cm square).
  • Beat the eggs and mix into the courgette and sausage mix.
  • Grate the cheese over the top and pop in the oven for around 35-40 minutes.
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Back Pain and Pilates

CHRONIC back pain is one of the most common reasons people come to Pilates. From over use injuries, to car accidents, muscle imbalance or just poor posture, Pilates can really help to alleviate pain and manage the condition long term. But just why is Pilates good for back pain and when pain strikes during or after a class what is your body telling you.

Let’s start with the whole ‘Pilates is good for backs’ thing. Well in my experience of teaching, yes it is, but perhaps not just for the most obvious reason Pilates is known for, core strength. And – forgive me for being outspoken here – but not all Pilates classes will work for you. If you’re attending a class expecting to come out with burning abs and nothing else, well then I’m afraid your instructor has done you something of a dis-service.

Core Strength

Have you ever been told that you have a bad back, therefore you have a weak core? I’m afraid it’s not that simple. For a start, for me, your core is the broad spectrum term I’d use to describe your entire torso and your butt. Shoulder girdle, pelvic girdle, spine, abdominals, pelvic floor, gluteals, hip flexors all have a major part to play in your core control. If you were weak in all these areas, you’d probably struggle to stand up! Also, I’ve seen many clients referred to me with back pain from a physio who have excellent core awareness. It is far more likely that you have an imbalance somewhere in your torso, which could have started anywhere (that car accident, wearing high heels, marathon running, a sprained ankle, pregnancy) and which is aggravating your back pain.

Movement

Before you run away, despondent, there are many good reasons why Pilates can help with a sore back. Yes, core activation and strength has a part to play but balance and movement are just as important. And this is where the type of class you attend is so important and why an ‘abs dominant’ class isn’t really going to do you any favours.

Whilst there is no evidence to support the assumption that good posture will alleviate back pain, there is plenty of evidence to support the notion that movement is key to long term health and pain management. If your joints and your spine can move freely, through all their designed ranges of motion,  it is unlikely that you will experience chronic pain. Not sure about this? When did you last twist your ankle, strain your neck or pull your back? Were you able to move that joint freely whilst in pain or during your recovery? Or did you find the pain was worse at a certain movement point? Injury along with poor posture, repetitive sports like running, chronic illnesses like asthma and pregnancy can all make your joints seize up – and if you don’t manage them with movement, this can become permanent.

In a Pilates class we move. In my Pilates classes we move your body through all its planes of movement and we move your joints through all their ranges of motion. Sometimes the ‘slow’ bits can feel a bit .. well slow! But they are all part of the process.

Balance

The other really important factor for back health is balance. If you have super tight hip flexors from years of triathlon training or years of wearing high heels (NOTE: if you are very comfortable in high heels this is probably you) you will probably have muscle weaknesses elsewhere which are pulling you out of ‘happy back’ posture. Again, your spine gets stuck and those dominant muscles will just keep screaming at you until you get a little action into those weak and weedy ones. This is why I am very particular about glutes and shoulder girdles in my classes. For me (and to most of the fitness industry), the ability to squat and do a push up with good form are fundamental to a strong, fit body, that moves well.

This means (unfortunately) that those exercises you really hate are the ones you need to make your best friends and those you love, well it’s great to love them but pay heed to what your body is telling you.

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Pain During Class

So we’re back to pain during class. Firstly, never exercise through pain. It’s one of those absolutes. Pain is your body telling you something. It’s quite possible that in the context of a Pilates class is telling you that a) you’re working too hard or you’ve done enough of that exercises; b) you’ve lost form (or never had it); c) you’re not quite in the right position; or d) your tight and strong muscles are screaming at you and doing all the work you’re trying to undo!

So listen to the pain. Then stop. You might need to find a different position. You might find that on that day your body isn’t responding well (tiredness, time of the month or a bloated tummy can all affect core control and movement). Talk to your instructor. Stretch. Go gently and focus more on movement than keeping up with your neighbour. Remember, there are very few Pilates participants who are good at everything, we all have favourite exercises and tricky ones. Work at the level that suits you and your body.

The Princess. The bump. Your body. How long does it really take to recover after pregnancy and birth?

THERE has been much furore surrounding Princess Kate and her post baby body since she emerged, glowing, from the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital last week. In fact perhaps more media attention has focused on Kate’s body than on beautiful baby Prince George.

So newsflash, the female body takes time to recover after 9 months of growing a person and squeezing it out of a very small hole, or even out of the sun roof. But just how long? Weeks, months or years?

The doctor can sign you off as soon as six weeks post birth when initial recovery has taken place but a study published last year by Salford University, suggested it could take up to a year for women to recover both physically and mentally. Some experts suggest this may even be two years, since it takes this long for your abdominal muscles to fully return to their pre-pregnancy state. And then there’s breastfeeding – pregnancy hormones remain in your system for up to four months after you stop nursing your child.

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So here’s a little guidance on how long it really takes for beautiful female bodies to recover after birth:

Early days

In the early days after giving birth your body is in full recovery mode. You may have lost a lot of blood and fluids and you’ll definitely be short on sleep and energy. You’ll most likely be sore and swollen so now is the time to enjoy some confinement and TLC.

0-6 weeks

There’s a lot going on during the first six weeks of post natal recovery. Whilst your uterus is contracting (cause of the painful, cramping sensations you’ll be getting) the rest of your internal organs, which got squidged out of the way during pregnancy are returning to their rightful place. Your pelvis will be recovering and returning to it’s pre-labour state and your urethra, vagina and anus, which again will have moved slightly during pregnancy will be returning to their original homes. Any intense activity during this stage could hinder the healing process. Walking and gentle stretching is fine but definitely nothing bouncy.

You’ll also be bleeding heavily and may also be anaemic, so plenty of iron-rich foods and dark green vegetable to aid iron absorption are critical during this time.

You’ll be quite inflamed and possibly held together by stitches for a few weeks. You’ll need to keep them as clean as possible with salt baths and lavender or calendula compresses and drink plenty of fluids for breast milk and to flush out any nasties and minimize your risk of infection.

Some women get haemorrhoids, mastitis, back ache or other complications and all women will suffer with some degree of sleep deprivation so rest, recuperation and realism are the order of the day for the early weeks.

Up to 4 months post breastfeeding

Your pregnancy hormones, most noticeably relaxin stay in your body until up to four months after you finish breast feeding. This means any associated symptoms, such as reduced stability in your pelvis and joints, also linger for this amount of time. So high impact activities are best enjoyed with caution until you feel ready to go – experts disagree on this point but you know your body best and if you are at all at risk of or unsure of your pelvic floor stability, focus on this side of your training through Pilates or resistance training before you hit the tennis court.

You may also find that the extra ‘insurance’ fat that your body gained in the early days of pregnancy also sticks around until baby is weaned, this is because your clever body is still holding on fat stores vital for hormone and milk production. Fat is not just stubborn lumpy stuff with no purpose, it’s an organ in its own right, storing and generating hormones and of course energy.

Up to a year post birth

The University of Salford study, conducted by Dr Julie Wray, interviewed women during their first year post birth and concluded that women need a year to recover both physically and emotionally after child-birth. Her study found that women felt unsupported by medical services and very much left to get on with it. This is where social networks made through local health clinics or organisations such as the NCT offering Bumps and Babies groups can be a vital part of the healing process. Relationships, personal self-worth, finances and health are all put through the mill in the first 12 months. It takes time to re-find your feet with a new member of your family.

Up to two years post birth

When you are pregnant, your growing baby forces your abdominal wall to stretch. The body responds by creating new muscle cells, or sarcomeres, literally lengthening your abdominals. According to health practitioner Paul Chek (author of How to Eat, Move and be Healthy) it can take up to two years for your abdominals to fully recover. Three big factors that can prevent this recovery, causing an abdominal distention are: Having two babies within two years (or falling pregnant within two years of the last pregnancy); gaining a large amount of weight during pregnancy; or a C-section (C-sections can cause internal scarring or adhesions which can add to abdominal distention).

Two years and beyond

Complications such as diastasis recti (split in the abdominal wall), adhesions, post stitches pain or pelvic floor dysfunction (such as prolapse) can cause problems well beyond two years.

So mummies, let’s lay off the ‘lose weight now,’ or, ‘get fit quick’ resolutions. You’ll know when you’re ready to get in shape or just get more energy, your local gym’s marketing team don’t. This post isn’t intended to be a license to eat cake and ice cream forever, that won’t do much for your body either but do wear your physical changes like a badge of honour, enjoy the early years with your baby and be like the clever tortoise, not the media hungry hare.

If you liked this post, check out The New Mummy Diet.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

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