Are you so driven that you can’t see the daffodils?

Driven. Ambitious. Go getter. Super fit. High energy.

These terms are usually viewed as positive attributes. Perhaps how we might like to be described. Certainly, if I’m honest, I love living life with a sense of direction towards goals. Yes I’m ambitious but it isn’t necessarily good for us.

At home, in our careers, in our workouts, sometimes even in our leisure time we can swing too far towards the ‘success’ or ‘aim’ of it that we forget to enjoy it and life swings a little out of balance.

  • ‘When the house is tidy/decorated/re-developed I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve achieved noteriety/published my book (make that my tenth book)/got a promotion, I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve burned 500 calories/lost a stone/run 5k in under 30 minutes, I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve got my golf handicap down/outings for every day of the kids’ school holidays/booked the optimal vacation resort, I’ll be happy.’

Isn’t it funny when you look at it like that?

But this is what we do to ourselves on a regular basis.

Our environments are saturated with messages that encourage us to be ‘driven’ and it can be hard to slow down or even recognise our need for more balance.

At the weekend I was privileged to be invited, as a guest, to the inaugural WIFE conference in Guildford (Women in Fitness Empowerment – hosted by Jacqueline Hooton). Of all the speakers, the one that spoke to me most clearly (and that if I’m honest – I wasn’t expecting to) was Nicola Hobbs. Nicola is a yogi and a GB weightlifter. ‘Now wow – that’s balance,’ I thought.

Nicola reminded me of the ancient Eastern wisdom of yin and yang. It’s not a concept recognised by modern medicine but has been used in healing and wellness for centuries.

Nicola had practical suggestions for creating more yin, if your life has got a bit yang. And woah I thought – I think I’m a bit yang.

When, in my conference chair, I considered all the thinks that truly make me feel happy and blessed, it’s all those little things that I absent mindedly just do because they make me feel balanced:

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  • Hanging out the washing (yes – don’t start me on laundry).
  • Walks out in the forest or round a lake, spotting wild fowl with my kids.
  • Just running – for little purpose – just to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Reading – being absorbed in the moment.
  • Down time with the kids, when nothing is planned. Just playing with bubbles, having a bath, or having family hugs/tickle time/rough play.
  • Baking – at a time when I can really get lost in the process.
  • Inversions, like the shoulder bridge or rollover in Pilates.
  • Swimming and enjoying a shower alone (perhaps the main reason I have a gym membership at the moment)!

And guess what. All these things are yin things. So rather than doing them absentmindedly, I plan to keep doing them. They aren’t big things that take time, money or planning. These are things I do on a weekly or daily basis.

This is what I really got from Nicola. You don’t have to change your life to get yin. You just need to change the way you think about it or the way you do the things you are already doing.

So for this week – I challenge you to take one area of your life, perhaps your workout and just enjoy it, for the love of doing it. Nothing else.

It’s Spring and it’s beautiful out there. So perhaps just take a walk and spot the buds and the daffodils. For yin’s sakes.

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

Chocolate Cake and why women are f*bomb brilliant #WIFE2015

Today I’m brimful of energy and enthusiasm. Which is strange considering I started the weekend on very little sleep (children with coughs related), drove over 100 miles in a day on my own (I’m a nervous motorway driver) and spent yesterday digesting a ton of information. I should be exhausted.

But yesterday I attended a fitness event like no other.

I was at the #WIFEconference 2015. The brainchild of Jacqueline Hooton who also reminded me of the main I’ve forged a career in fitness. I hated school P.E. too. Especially the misery of bitterly cold and humiliating cross country running through Epping Forest.

KarenJacquelineHooton

I’m in fitness because I want to inspire people, women mainly, to find enjoyment in activity. You don’t have to be brilliant at tennis to play it recreationally. There’s no need to run a sub-25 minute 5k to enjoy going out for a run. In short. I’m in fitness to encourage as many people as possible to just get a little bit fitter and hopefully not pee themselves in the process (post natal health is my passion).

This really for me was also the ethos of the day (not the peeing – the inclusivity). Every fitness professional is unique but our role as a corporate body is to make fitness available. As Jacqueline said, ‘If we think we [fitness professionals] are an exclusive tribe then we should be ashamed of ourselves.’

So why just women?

The weekend coincided with International Women’s Day but mainly it was because women are massively under represented at the majority (if not all) major fitness events. And we’re good. In fact if the minds, careers and energy of the women presenting at yesterday’s event are anything to go by. We’re f*bomb brilliant.

As women, we have a unique ability to nurture and encourage, we don’t have to try to be men to be at the top of our field.

There was no man bashing (well perhaps a little between the lines man bashing) and no glass ceilings. I’ve been at events before designed to inspire but only really selling a franchise. Yesterday I absolutely felt I could and am going it alone. I felt and feel inspired.

No one was on a pedestal. Everyone has accepted my friend request. And everyone who I tag will share this post (please).

As for content and learning, I have inspirational notes, already re-written on giant pink post its enough to last me some time. And yes, Charlotte Ord, I will re-visit them at least annually and I’ll be re-evaluating my idea of success. Love that idea.

Christianne Wolff reminded me of the importance of passion, that’s what draws people to you. The magic.

RachelHolmesWIFE

From Rachel Holmes, the standout idea was chocolate cake (you had to be there)! I already have an idea brewing on that one. And speaking of ideas, Rachel’s top tip to get the ideas from my head onto cards, so I can actually sort them out, was genius. As a working mum I have periods where ideas are like popcorn in my head and it can be hard to know how to process them.

KarenKatieBulmerCooke

The brilliant Katie Bulmer-Cooke made me cry. Her story reassured the ‘guilty working mum’ in me that building my own business and breaking the ‘slave to the pay cheque’ mould could be the best gift I ever give my children in terms of their education.

In half an hour Yvonne Radley made me believe I’ll be on the radio before the month is out. I’ll let you know.

And then there’s balance. Thank you so much Nicola Hobbs for reminding me of the importance of balance. Today I took a muddy walk in Epping Forest with my family to help find some yin and made bread with my four-year-old – and, thanks to the fantastic Rachel Anne Hobbs I added extra flaxseed and walnuts!

Thanks Jacqueline and thanks to everyone involved. I can’t wait to come back next year for #WIFE2016.

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

The New Mummy Diet

HELP! I want to get my body back.

You have a new baby.

You are shattered.

You feel less than blooming.

Your pre-pregnancy wardrobe is neither practical (especially if you are breast feeding) nor flattering – that’s if it even goes over your hips. And you are just all a bit jiggly. Plus to top it all off you have neither time nor energy to shop/eat/cook/all of the above.

So how do you get your pre-pregnancy body back?

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NEWSFLASH: You won’t. That’s not to say you can’t have a body that you love but it will always be different. A scar here or (down) there; wrinkles on your tummy; or stretch marks on your boobs (which may also have gone down there). But it’s okay. You’re a mum.

Wear your baby badges with pride.

GETTING THIN AGAIN: Please please please know that this is the least important thing right now. Until your baby is letting you sleep for a good seven hour stretch and you have stopped lactating, it is not the time to consider cutting calories or dieting for the way you look. And I promise you, there’ll be a time in the very near future when you are so busy running around after your toddler that eating at all will become a challenge.

NewMummyDiet

THE NEW MUMMY DIET

So here’s the good news. My new mummy diet is what you really need to consider eating and drinking to cope with the now. To enable your body to cope with the demands of being a new mummy and perhaps feeding a new baby. And as luck would have it, a diet to cater for the above, is just the sort of diet your body needs to lose fat – so these are some good habits to get into.

What do you really need from your diet?

  • You need energy;
  • You need good quality sleep in the patches that you get it;
  • You need fuel to heal, repair and produce milk that satisfies your baby;
  • You need foods that help to stabilise your energy levels (and with that your emotional state); and
  • You need nutrients to keep your immune system high and pass that on to baby.

So what are my recommendations for THE NEW MUMMY DIET?

1. CUT OUT REFINED SUGAR AND REFINED CARBS

Yes this means chocolate, bread, sweets and cakes.

It sounds impossible, especially when you’re sleep deprived and you feel like you need a quick pick me up. But sugar highs will lead to massive sugar lows, which can affect your energy levels, milk supply, hormone balance and emotions. It’s also pretty bad for your health.

If going cold turkey feels like too much, start by cutting back. Your tummy fat will start to reduce in days if you cut out refined carbs.

2. CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE

If you’re breastfeeding this probably goes without saying but did you know that caffeine has a seven hour half life? So if you need to sleep when baby sleeps keep your coffee to the morning.

Evidence suggests that drinking more than three cups of coffee in a day massively reduces your sensitivity to caffeine, so you won’t feel the benefit anyway.

Stick to one caffeinated drink only.

3. SLEEP/REST

This is a toughie when you have a new baby. You just need to do what you can. If day naps are a challenge, try to at least rest.

When you miss out on quality sleep, your hormones are affected and can make you crave sweet foods.

So rest whenever you can and call in the troupes to help you get sleep if you have some available.

4. EAT PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL/SNACK

When we pick at foods, good quality protein sources can be the first thing we lose from our diets.

Protein is essential, especially when you are healing and perhaps feeding a new life.

The easiest way to ensure that we get enough is to include it with every meal or snack. This will also help keep your energy levels stable. So an egg at breakfast, some nuts with a piece of fruit, some humous on toast and a piece of fish or meat with your lunch will all help you to feel fuller and more energise.

5. EAT A PINT OF GREEN VEG

To ensure you get your vegetables in, visualise how many it would take to fill a pint glass. Try and eat this amount throughout the day.

You could invest in a high quality blender to get your greens in that way. Greens are important for your health, will help keep your vitamin levels high and are great for your digestion.]

Oh and drink loads (of water that is).

These are just guidelines for what to put into your mouth. Yes I’d recommend post natal specific exercise too but if all you can do is eat well, that’s a great start and is absolutely something daddy or friends/family can help you with.

Be flexible and realistic though. Don’t be hard on yourself for eating a biscuit (or two) but know if you are hungry, tired and grumpy and hour later, that’s why.

If you’d like more information like this on post natal health, read my most popular blog all about post natal recovery: The Princess, the bump, your body

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.

Read the latest Fit School newsletter here: Fit School News

TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

How to ‘get better’ at Pilates

Whether your a beginner or a life long fan of Pilates, the aim of the game is to achieve a level of fitness, strength, mobility and flexibility that allows you to perform ‘the moves’ and feel good.

But as with all forms of exercise, it’s easy to plateau – to find your progression (and perhaps your interest) wanes.

So how do you progress with Pilates?

RollOver

Pilates progression, like all forms of exercise is based on two basic training principles:

The Specificity of Training Principle and The Overload Principle.

The Specificity of Training Principle states that the body will adapt to whatever specific demand you place on it. Be it your Pilates One Hundred, a 40kg deadlift or long distance running. 

If you’re a beginner to Pilates it may take a while for your body to adapt to the new exercises (I always reckon 3-4 weeks is a real turning point) but this is great since you won’t hit a plateau (training plateau where you stop progressing) as quickly as Pilates regulars. 

Once you can do the exercises however, you’ll maintain your fitness levels or ‘ability to do Pilates’ levels but won’t progress. 

This is where the Overload Principle comes in to play.

The Overload Principle states that to continually adapt, the body must be placed under a stress that exceeds the body’s current capabilities. 

This is a little easier to do when you are using weights or running than it is in Pilates. Remember in Pilates we never want to stress the body to the point we are holding our breath, bracing or using the ‘wrong’ muscles. It’s not a sweat it out gym workout. It’s much more considered. 

But you can still work the edge of your own comfort zone rather than staying comfortable and daydreaming! 

This is where an instructor who’s on your case and continually adapting the programme is much more beneficial to your body than a drop in class where the programme rarely changes or progresses. 

So this is why there are progressions to each exercise and why I always stress that it’s about your comfort zone, not that of the person next to you. 

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

Did you get your 20 minutes today?

I don’t like to say I told you so but … scientists said last night that a brisk daily walk of at least 20 minutes could add years to your life?

You don’t have to run a marathon to stay healthy – you just need to do something!

How much have you moved today?

Does the thought of pounding away in the gym or running through your town at school run time put you off from doing anything? Both of those thoughts have entered my head today!

A massive Cambridge University study (of 334,000 people) found that even a small amount of extra activity could add days to your life expectancy and that the least active had the most to gain.

But the key finding was that inactivity kills more people than obesity.  The lesson being that even if you aren’t massively overweight, the way you look or fit your clothes isn’t a marker for health.

Studies have consistently found that visceral fat (the stuff that sits around your organs) is one of the key markers for diseases like heart disease or cancer and increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes. And if you think about it, a sluggish system doesn’t make you feel great.

Would you rather drink from a stagnant pond or a briskly running mountain stream? So how would you rather your blood vessels be?

This study does not say (as I’ve heard some radio reports suggest today) that if you do more than this you should stop. On the contrary the study along with government guidelines encourage more activity than this. But don’t be put off because you’re a novice exerciser.

So what if your bum looks jiggly in a pair of workout leggings? At least you’re getting off it and doing something.

This week started with the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign and has been closely followed by today’s research findings. So put on your trainers and sports bra and go get some fresh air to your cheeks!

https://www.youtube.com/user/thisgirlcanuk

It’s my first time

Congratulations on taking the Pilates plunge.

I know it can be daunting starting out with new faces, new places and perhaps a new system of exercise for you but I promise I’ll go gently.

I love Pilates and I love teaching but I do believe it’s a two way process. I need to work for you and you for me.

Pilates isn’t something you’ll necessarily click with overnight and it might not be for you in the long run. That’s fine (I’ll try not to take it personally) but do give it at least a few weeks. I usually reckon on four weeks to notice some real mobility changes and eight to start really ‘getting it’ – quicker if you are able to practice at home.

What do I need to bring?

Not much. Comfy clothes and perhaps a bottle of water. You won’t need trainers for the class. Bare feet is best but socks is fine too. Leggings and a close fitting top are ideal clothing options but above all be comfortable.

I have mats and equipment although you may want to consider buying your own mat if you’d like to continue to practice at home.

Pay As You Go Pilates

“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” – Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86.

Pilates isn’t a ‘drop in’ option

Well my classes aren’t anyway. I used to teach in gyms but always got frustrated that I couldn’t help my regulars progress as much as they could have done because of the restraints of newcomers popping in and out each week.

This isn’t a criticism on beginners wanting to get started (or on my lovely committed gym goer participants). Regular readers will know I love beginners and I’m all for just moving a bit more. That is indeed my fitness mantra. But Pilates is a system of exercise best served with regular practice and experience and it’s no surprise to me that the participants who re-book, reap the rewards of Pilates, rarely (if ever) get injured and who are my class superstars, are those who are there week after week and NEVER ask, ‘do you do pay as you go?’ [The answer, by the way, is no].

RollOver

And here’s why:

Consider gardening. You could dip your toe in, plant a few bulbs and hope for the best. Spring comes and a few bloom but you never really figure out why they’re a bit average and what happened to the 80% that have just bolted and failed to flower. Or perhaps you plant some herbs. Another good starting point. You get a bit of fresh rosemary but your mint goes to seed, the thyme dries out and caterpillars destroy what was left of your basil.

This is pay as you go gardening. There’s a little reward but when it goes pear shaped you wonder why you bothered.

If however you learn from your own mistakes and experience, ask advice and questions from those with more experience, immerse yourself in books or magazines and just get out there a bit more often to spot the garden critters and changing environment, your efforts will bear much fruit.

And so of course it is with Pilates, as with any structured exercise programme but particularly with Pilates (and I know of course I’m biased here), commitment and practice lead to progression, results, understanding, awareness and that all important flow. Suddenly an hour slips by in a couple of breaths; an advanced exercise you’d previously considered impossible feels achievable and really great; and your body feels – well just amazing!

It’s like your body can breathe and you sleep so deeply.

If you’ve experienced our Fit School ways, you know we’re about progression. Our classes are programmed to progress and build. There are tweaks and different ways of doing exercises. There may even be a change of instructor or pace but it’s all leading to the same end. A little progress from the week before.

I do of course understand that work commitments or childcare can make ‘drop in’ or ‘pay as you go’ the only realistic option and of course it’s better than none at all. But if your back is troubling you, you plan on running a marathon or you’re trying to get to grips with your post natal rehab, regular, committed practice is key to bearing that magic Pilates fruit.

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.fit-school.co.uk

Pilates isn’t an abs workout

PILATES IS NOT JUST ABOUT TRAINING YOUR ABS. YES THEY ARE PART OF THE PROCESS AND AN INTEGRAL PART OF MANY EXERCISES BUT THERE IS A LOT MORE TO PILATES THAN YOUR TUMMY.

There are some exercises which look or feel similar to abdominal crunches and there is a place for abdominal strength and control when it comes to a healthy body but no amount of Pilates style ab work will send your six pack pinging out of your torso if you have flab on it. Myself included.

Conversely, abs don’t have to be strong to be seen. I’ve seen six packs on lean mean who can perform fewer exercises than the average post natal mum returning to the mat. And let’s not forget the best sprinters in the world who have abs you could dry your clothes on but who I very much doubt do the numbers of crunches I’ve seen performed in the average gym abs blast class.

Aside from whether or not you choose to attend or deliver a class comprised entirely of abdominal work, let’s consider the issues associated with some abdominal work. Yes, those pesky pelvic floor muscles. Any pelvic floor weakness or prolapse, or an abdominal separation (diastasis recti) will not appreciate (understatement) crunches. If want to know more about this have a read of my post on how NOT to get a flat tummy by doing sit ups. That’s not to say you can never do them again – but a post natal specific programme is essential before rolling headlong into a ‘one size fits all’ Pilates session.

Pilates is about balance. Your body is designed to move across many planes. Forwards and backwards, side to side and twisting. Think about a gymnast on a beam or on a pommel horse. Consider how they move their bodies. Come to my classes and you’ll know that we work through a variety of exercises as if your body was being spun around. Why? Because we are ‘multi-planar’ beings and things go wrong/start hurting/get expensive when we STOP MOVING, not necessarily when we get weak (I’ll talk about this more in my next post about core strength).

 

Now of course if training your abs lights your fire and makes you feel good, by all means do it but equally don’t misunderstand Pilates as an abs workout and then leave feeling a bit disappointed. Enjoy the way your back works and your glutes work. Enjoy the way your body moves. Go with the Pilates flow.

See you on the mat!

Next time … Pilates isn’t about core strength.

 

Pilates isn’t about sculpting body beautiful

I’VE been teaching Pilates for at least 10 years now and I confess, I look back at my early days and cringe a little at how I taught or what I focused on. Of course at the time, my theory and practical knowledge was up to date but modern science combined with Joseph Pilates’ original exercises, my own experiences and education (most recently from the brilliant JPilates) have created a very different ‘Karen’s Pilates’ from what I taught 10 years ago. I was also much more likely then to be swayed by the more vocal participants in my classes!

As in all professions, experience and training influences and shapes you. I believe that where I’m at now would hopefully let Joe P rest easy under his daisies. It’s true to me and to the participants I work with.

Of course as my experience evolves I get a bit ‘fussy’ about what other forms of ‘Pilates’ are out there. I don’t believe in one size fits all but I am in this profession to improve lives and health. Wellbeing.

So I’m penning a series of articles about what Pilates isn’t. That doesn’t mean if you enjoy your chosen class it’s wrong – it just might not be Pilates. And there is a brilliant magic and flow in the process of Pilates, which you, your body and your wellbeing might just be missing out on.

PILATES IS NOT ABOUT SCULPTING BODY BEAUTIFUL. PILATES ISN’T AESTHETIC LIKE A FIGURE MODEL’S GYM PROGRAMME. PILATES COMES FROM THE INSIDE OUT. PILATES WON’T MAKE YOU THIN AND IT WON’T WHITTLE YOUR WAISTLINE.

  1. THE FAT THING.

Fat is fat. No amount of roll ups, teasers or gym crunches will drop belly fat. Fat loss starts in the kitchen, continues in the gym (with weights or interval training), is massively complemented by Pilates and graduates with a happy symbiosis of all of the above.

  1. PILATES IS INSIDE OUT

If we focus first on the outside, we are likely to neglect the inside. By inside I mean back and joint health, muscle imbalances, pelvic floor health, hips, shoulders, breathing, stress and TENSION. In fact years of experience have shown me that the Pilates participant who comes from the physiotherapist, where pain has motivated them is generally much better at Pilates (if there is such a thing) and progresses quicker than the gym bunny who wants to get thin.

  1. PILATES ISN’T ABOUT BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

You know what I mean. All those stock photos of models looking serene and just occasionally doing a bit of Pilates in a well lit studio without a squidge of fat or under-eye baggage in sight. Now I’m not anti-pretty (I should say I consider all my participants beautiful) but I am anti putting anyone off exercise. In my classes we have fat rolls, we have ‘retro’ workout gear and the occasional hairy leg (sometimes a little parp too) but we are all doing it. Striving to look after our bodies, not just to show them off.

Of course, I’m not ignorant to the fact that how we look is a driving factor behind exercise but let’s not lose sight of wellbeing and let’s not lose sight of Pilates.

Focusing on toned tummies to the detriment of our backs will not serve us long term. And when your motivation is looks over health you are far less likely to stick to exercise.

If you DO want to change the way you look, then yes do Pilates but do HIIT training, eat clean, cut out alcohol and processed sugars, sleep more, unwind, train with weights and have fun.

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/04/sit-ups-the-fastest-way-to-a-flat-tummy-after-having-a-baby-i-lied/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/10/22/want-a-flat-tummy-my-top-5-dos-and-donts/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/07/10-golden-rules-for-a-flat-holiday-ready-tummy/

Next up … Pilates is’t an ab workout.

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.fit-school.co.uk

Pelvic Floor. To squeeze or not to squeeze. Pre/post natal essentials

Do I need to train my pelvic floor when I’m pregnant?

YES.

During pregnancy there is a lot of downwards pressure from your growing baby and uterus. Add to this a pregnant posture where your pelvis tips and adds more downwards pressure and lots of pregnancy hormones which can do funny things to your lady parts. Training your pelvic floor is a pregnancy essential.

Will pelvic floor muscles help with delivery?

YES.

Your pelvic floor muscles will help to push baby out, the healthier they are, the better equipped you’ll be to get baby out under your own steam. A well trained pelvic floor BEFORE delivery will also pay dividends when it comes to birth recovery.

What about C-sections – do I still need to bother?

YES.

You might not get to the pushing out part but you’ll still have had the same pregnancy hormones and downwards pressure throughout your pregnancy.

Have I left it too late?

NO.

It is never too late. Don’t forget that you don’t just have to squeeze to train your pelvic floor muscles. The more active you are, the more they’ll be working anyway. But it’s always good to put in some dedicated pregnancy practice.

So I just have to squeeze once a day?

NO.

Squeeze as often as you can. And don’t forget to squat, walk, lift, relax and pulse too. All those other ways to ensure your bits are in the best shape for pregnancy, labour and recovery that we learn in class.

So what do I actually have to do to train them?

Squeeze, lift, squat, pulse, slowly lift, slowly relax – there are so many ways. Your pelvic floor works constantly but also at an intense level when you sneeze (or orgasm). Think of it like sprinting and endurance. The best place to start is on a hard chair. Lift up and you’ll get feedback from something hard underneath you.

Why is it so important?

According to a 2000 study published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at least one in three women is affected by pelvic floor disorders (PFD) and these are just reported cases. The University of Adelaide study found urinary incontinence affects 17% to 45% of adult women – with age being a big factor. Surgery is an absolute last resort. Pelvic floor exercises are THE BEST WAY to keep your pelvic floor healthy and functional.

I pee a little when I laugh or cough – isn’t that just normal?

NO.

A little problem when you are young could be a much bigger problem when you hit the menopause/get older and lose a lot of muscle tone.

What increases my risk of pelvic floor problems?

  • Big babies;
  • Hysterectomy;
  • Being overweight;
  • Being inactive;
  • Forceps or other birth intervention;
  • A chronic cough;
  • Menopause; and
  • Age at which you deliver your first baby.

What about once I’ve had the baby – how long will it be until I can feel them again?

Everyone is different but even if you can’t feel them straight away you need to start doing your exercises to help healing and recovery.

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.fit-school.co.uk