Want to fall in love with your mummy tummy? Read this.

It’s a human phenomenon many women would rather didn’t exist.

The mummy tummy.

That jiggly little (or large) bit of fat or loose skin that clings around the middle regardless of well intentioned efforts to shift it.

Fitness trainers love it: ‘Join me and lose your mummy tummy.’

And last week poor Zara Phillips was publically compared to the genetically blessed (if you think slim is a blessing) Princess Kate for her pronounced post baby mum tum whilst having fun at Ascot.

Speculation as to why she might look this way when other royals don’t has followed. Could she have abdominal separation? Could she just be carrying extra baby weight?

Stop. Stop. Stop.

I’m speaking out in defence of the mum tum.

Before giving birth to Isaac (now 4) I was anxious about my post pregnancy tummy. Would I ever get my smooth tummy back with a neat tummy button?

Isaac came, grew and was squeezed out – nearly nine pounds of him in my 5’ 3” frame. Miraculously I only got stretch marks in the last month of my pregnancy but my mum tum was born. A little bit of loose tummy skin and fat that had a mind of its own when I moved anywhere quickly. 

Then came Naomi (now 16 months). By this time I was considered an ‘older’ mum. Pregnant at 36 and delivering at 37. My skin was older and therefore less elastic. My bump grew quickly, the stretch marks stretched some more and got stretch mark friends. The resulting mum tum was more loose skin that now resembled the more mature cast of Benidorm whenever I leant forwards.

But what of it? Why should I be ashamed of it? Admittedly I’m not overweight but I’m certainly not lean. My mum tum is a separate entitity with a life and a mind of it’s own. But I’m quite proud of it.

Why?

It’s my badge of honour.

Every roll, wrinkle, wiggle and jiggle is proof that I grew my beautiful babies. Proof that I was stretched just beyond my skin’s limit to grow two human beings. Proof that my soulmate (aka husband) and I were blessed beyond human understanding to conceive and have responsibility for two beautiful human beings on this earth. 

My kids have learned that blowing raspberries on mummy’s tummy makes a much fruitier noise than blowing raspberries on daddy’s firm tummy.

It doesn’t stop me from doing anything. Yes I had a small abdominal separation but that’s almost fixed now and yes I carry more fat than is healthy for me around my middle since I eat more sugar than is good for me and struggle with anxiety over my kids and my work. But it’s me and it’s real and I don’t ask for your opinion on it.

Neither, I’m sure, does Zara Phillips.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist, writer and speaker. 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: www.fit-school.co.uk

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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

Is your baby positioned for an easy exit?

Optimal baby positioning. Doesn’t sound sexy does it? But when it comes to giving birth, the position your baby starts in can make the difference between a speedy 3 hour home birth or a C-section.

LOABaby

LOA

The optimum position for a baby before delivery is Left Occiput Anterior (LOA) which means head is down, baby’s spine is outwards (towards mummy’s navel) and baby’s back and body are on the left side of mum. In this position baby can apply pressure to the cervix, which helps stimulate contractions and with its chin tucked in, has the easiest exit through mum’s pelvis and the birth canal.

What can go wrong?

Baby’s can get themselves into tight spots. Breech (bum down), tranverse (lying across mum’s abdomen) or back to back, where baby is lying spine to spine can all cause issues when it comes to delivery.

What can mum do?

During pregnancy consider the following:

Stay active … it’s thought that a sedentary, seated lifestyle is one of the leading contributory factors to the increased number of back to back presentations before labour.

Avoid sitting for long periods in comfy chairs or long car journeys, especially after week 35. Aim to have your hips higher than your knees, or sit on a high and firm chair.

Classes like Pilates and Yoga where instructors know tricks for getting your baby into position for birth are fantastic. Especially if you have a stubborn baby who doesn’t seem to want to move.

Lie on your left side in bed. This is not only the best position for your circulation but also to encourage baby’s body to the left. If you put a chunky pillow between your legs you can also get your tummy facing left and downwards to further encourage baby to move.

What if baby is not in LOA presentation?

Even if your baby has got themselves into a less than optimal position, there is still lots mum can do to fix it.

Don’t panic! I’ve known babies to move after a class or even immediately before a planned C-section, enabling mum to deliver naturally. Sometimes babies leave it until the last moment to get themselves ready for the exit.

Work with gravity … baby’s head and body are its heaviest components. Use gravity to encourage baby towards an LOA position. Consider swimming, getting on all fours or any forward posture where your hips are higher than your knees. I often get my participants to get on all fours and gently swing hips from side to side or in circles, this is nice on the back and also great for gentle pelvis mobility.

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

Pilates basics – three exercises to practise at home

When it comes to Pilates basics, for me the perfect trinity is always shoulder bridge, swimming and the one hundred.  These exercises help you to focus on your core and trunk stability as well as mobilising your spine and getting blood flow to the lower back.

If you can practise these between Pilates classes, you’ll find you can progress quicker each week.

1. Swimming

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkDIsTEP5lQ

2. Shoulder Bridge

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgA2M45dHS4&feature=relmfu

3. One Hundred

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCSDC5tAOEA&feature=relmfu

Here’s a link to another post I wrote which breaks down the One Hundred setup, just in case you’d rather have it written down. In this post I go into how to do the exercise without the fear of making any pelvic floor issues worse!

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/07/17/finding-your-core-without-pushing-through-your-floor/

Ten ways to find your pelvic floor – for your friends.

So I know you know that pelvic floor exercises are a big deal. And I know you know that Pilates is a fabulous way of making sure you get regular practise in.  I also know you know that pelvic floor exercises aren’t just something you do when you’re in the childbearing years because age and the menopause can have an unpleasant affect on your lady parts.

But, your friends might not know these things. So for the benefit of your friends who might not know how to find their pelvic floor muscles. Here’s my uncensored guide.

1. Have sex (or use your fingers if that sounds like too much effort) and squeeze.

2. Straddle the arm of a firm sofa. Rock backwards and forwards and you’ll feel your pelvic floor react.

3. Give birth. The waves you feel when you get a really good push are your pelvic floor muscles working.

4. Lean forwards off a chair and imagine you are picking up a tissue with your vagina.

5. Sneeze.

6. Hold one hand over your bits and then blow up a balloon. You’ll feel tension in your bits. That’s your pelvic floor. If you feel something pressing out, go and see a doctor.

7. Stand on a power plate or above the engine of a double decker bus. The vibrations will make your pelvic floor work.

8. Do a squat, hold it. Now squeeze your fist between your knees.

9. Stand up with your hands up over your head. Now lean backwards as if you’re reaching for something behind you. Your pelvic floor will work.

10. Eat a cabbage/lentil medley, then sit in a very quiet church service . . . parp!

AND always remember the three R’s for doing your exercises:

Find the RIGHT position: Your spine needs to be in a neutral position to get an effective contraction, so get on all fours and wiggle your pelvis forwards and backwards until it feels right.

RELAX: Always work from a fully relaxed state. You need to tense and relax muscles.

REPETITION: The more the merrier (see top tip number 1).