Top 5 pre and post natal blog posts

Hello,

This year is proving to be pretty awesome and as part of the fun I’ve been nominated for the What’s on 4 Little Ones Awards, in best Pre and Post Natal Activity Category. I’m so chuffed.

I love what I do, from seeing new mums through pregnancy to getting them back on the other side for some well earned re-hab. My post natal classes with babies are always full of smiles and baby coos.

I also love being able to share what I know and am continuing to learn with a wider audience through my blog posts. It’s great to see them read and shared across the world.

So in honour of this week’s voting I’m sharing my top 5 pre and post natal blog posts. Please share and if you like what you read please don’t forget to vote.

In fact do it now, before you read, in case you forget! http://www.whatson4littleones.co.uk/awards.asp

The voting closes this Friday.

Top 5 pre and post natal posts from alittlefitter.com

1. My timeline to post natal recovery. From early days to up to two years. How long does it really take your body to recover after pregnancy: The Princess, the bump, your body.

2. How to look after your tummy after pregnancy and why you need to avoid crunches or situps. Situps. The fastest way to a flat tummy.

3. On the ever popular subject of pelvic floor health, how about how your muscle can affect your sex life. Pelvic floor: The key to great orgasms for life.

4. Still on pelvic floor. How to actually do your exercises. To squeeze or not to squeeze.

5. And last but not least, my newest pre and post natal post all about nutrition post baby. The New Mummy Diet. What women really need to eat after pregnancy, labour and birth.

Enjoy and please share with your friends.

Look after yourselves ladies. You’re unique, special and really pretty awesome.

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 www.fit-school.co.uk 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

When can I start running again after having a baby?

It is a question I get asked a lot by my post natal clients. When can I start running again?

It’s a toughie. On one hand, I completely understand the need and want to get out running again. If you love being active, pregnancy can feel like a life sentence of inactivity and then some miserable person (like me) suggests you wait a little bit.

If you use running to boost your mood, then surely when your new mummy hormones are running riot, a run is a great idea. Right? Hmmnn… (puzzled emoticon).

I’ll be honest with you. The day after my 6 week check after having Isaac I put on my trainers and ran like a crazy person. It felt sooooo good. But subsequent training for a 10k left me pretty sore. I ignored my painful pelvis and had weird stuff going on in my hips until I stopped running completely when I got pregnant with Naomi. I wish I had listened to my body.

I’m going to give you the facts and leave you to make your own choice based on your body.

There are four things to consider about running and the post natal body.

1. Your pelvic floor

C-section or vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor will have been under pressure throughout your pregnancy due to the changes in your posture and the way your full uterus will have put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles and a pelvis that would have already been weakened by the hormone relaxin.

Excess weight, the size of your baby, the age at which you delivered your first baby, intervention like forceps/ventouse or for some, a sensitivity to pregnancy hormones can all put extra strain on your pelvic floor.

Running on an already weakened pelvic floor is a really bad move. It’s just likely to put extra strain on the area and could increase pelvic floor dysfunction like incontinence or prolapse.

Not convinced?

One of the reasons I became so fascinated with the post natal pelvic floor was my surprise at the number of fit women in their late 30s and early 40s who came to me, having starting running/getting active after their babies were born and realised they had a minor prolapse. It’s really common.

2. Your posture

Your posture inevitably changes during pregnancy. There’s all that baby weight pulling your spine forwards and tipping your pelvis. Running on a wonky skeleton will only exacerbate any issues and probably lead to the physiotherapist’s table. Your body is different post baby to pre baby, it won’t feel the same.

3. Relaxin

It’s estimated that relaxin, the hormone that makes your joints/muscles/blood vessels lax remains in your body for up to four months after you give birth or stop breast feeding. High impact exercise is not nice on joints which are already under strain and could lead to inflammation.

4. Your energy/tiredness

Running takes a lot of energy, both calorific and get up and go energy. If you are breast feeding, it’s important to re-stock any lost calories fast after you exercise. If you don’t you’ll feel shattered and probably reach for the chocolate box. If you aren’t getting much sleep and start running regularly, it could add to the exhaustion.

I don’t want to be the miserly running police but I do want to ensure you get the best advice out there. Running is awesome. Exercise is awesome. But do give yourself time to recover before you get back to it.

Check out the New Mummy Diet for more help on getting back into shape after having a baby.

For information on classes check out Karen’s About page.

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.

 

It’s time we stopped ‘using’ Pilates and just did it?

In the world of Pilates we’ve got accustomed to ‘using’ Pilates exercises to help participants back to health following an injury, illness or pregnancy.  But by doing so, have we lost some of the flavour of what Pilates is really about? A workout.

Physiotherapists often refer patients to me to ‘improve core strength’ (that term in itself is fodder for another post).Pilates is fantastic for back health but contrary to popular belief it’s not physiotherapy. It is a workout first and foremost and many of my participants require extra homework dependent on their specific needs. We work through a range of both strengthening and mobility work from a variety of interesting angles! Tight muscles and immobility are greater enemies of back health than muscle weakness. This is something I too am constantly learning about. I’m not saying this to put anyone off. My participants range from early 20s to mid 80s and there are always adaptations or props which make it suitable to all.

Controlology

All my classes are programmed, so we work through a programme over a 6-8 week period with the aim of improving not only strength and mobility but understanding of Pilates and ability to do the moves. I’m doing this myself a lot at the moment since I’m just returning after having my second child, now 4 months!

In my opinion, fitness professionals (myself included) can get so caught up in what’s best for us that we’re in danger of losing sight of the things in life that make us happy. Like chocolate cake! Plus pain can make us afraid of doing certain exercises for fear of making it worse.

One hour of Pilates once a week will not break your back, it’s the remaining hours you spend slumped in a chair, tight with anxiety or sleeping at funny angles that do that for you. So stop being afraid of exercises that seem a little more challenging.

There is a place for Pilates exercises to help get you back to fitness if you begin a little broken and if you just love feeling the burn in your abdominals then abs away but remember your poor old back needs some love too. Let’s just not lose sight of Pilates, the workout. Perhaps it’s time we brought our bodies up to Joseph Pilates’ high standards rather than water Pilates down to suit our broken bodies.

With thanks to Joanne Cobbe of JPilates for inspiring some of the above concepts through ‘The Moves’ Workshop. If you liked this post, check out Jo’s take on the subject: http://jpilatesblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/when-did-pilates-become-the-easy-option/

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

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

Is your pelvic floor ready for high impact exercise?

So you’ve had the baby, the stitches have healed, you’ve done a few pelvic floor exercises and you’ve attempted ‘relations’ with daddy. All seems good so far … then one day you get onto a trampoline with your tot or perhaps even attempt jump jacks at the local circuit class and suddenly it hits you. Things just aren’t the same anymore!

IMG_4966

If you don’t know what I’m referring to then you’ve either had a C-section or you’re one of the lucky ones. Exceptionally fast or very slow pushing phases of labour, high reactivity to hormones during pregnancy, big or multiple babies, age at which first baby was delivered vaginally, intervention such as ventouse or forceps and occasionally even a baby coming out at an awkward angle can all damage you up there. And I say up there because that’s the point, it’s just so hard to know what’s going on up there because we can’t see it and until you try to do something energetic you might think all is well!

So is there anyway of screening pelvic floor health to know if you’re safe to start energetic exercise again? The simple answer is no, it’s all very individual and unless you have an ultra-scound scan it can be difficult to get any conclusive, measurable evidence. But all is not lost. There are some good places to start!

How is it all supposed to work?

Think of your trunk or your core like a box of Pringles. The sides of the box are, for the sake of simplicity, your deep abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. The top is your diaphragm and the bottom, is your pelvic floor. If you were to stamp on the packet (not that you would do this) and the bottom was not completely secure, it would pop off, expelling crushed Pringles all over the floor and making a nasty mess.

iStock_000016066712XSmall

The same is true of your pelvic floor. Think of it like a hammock, or a trampoline, it has more give than a Pringle pot’s bottom to allow for some pressure build up but still needs to be able to clamp shut and secure the pressure within. If there’s a little bit of damage, an over stretch or similar then when put under extreme or continuous pressure, like a set of ten jump jacks, it might not hold up to the intensity.

How do I know if mine is damaged?

Again, you don’t know until you try. When it comes to high impact exercise we need to consider how your fast twitch pelvic floor muscles are working. Here are a few key pointers:

  • Do you leak a little when you sneeze?
  • Do you leak a little when you sneeze in a squatting position?
  • Can you bounce on a trampoline with confidence?
  • Can you do a squat jump, jump jack or series of jump jacks without leaking?

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Now I’m all for exercise. It makes you feel great, helps manage weight and fat stores, can be sociable etc etc but too much high impact exercise when your pelvic floor isn’t competent could lead to further, avoidable problems, such as pelvic organ prolapse. I should also mention at this point that it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, I spoke with a top level physiotherapist/Pilates expert who experience a vaginal prolapse following the birth of her second child due to running too soon. It doesn’t mean you’re unfit, it just means you’ve been injured. You wouldn’t try running with a torn hamstring.

What to do now?

In my next post I’ll be going into more detail on specific exercises you can do to build strength and competence in your core and pelvic floor. But in the mean time, get familiar with what’s ‘up there’. Do do your pelvic floor exercises and whenever you’re exercising remember to engage your core, from your floor. So literally pull up from your tail and your tummy to make sure everything is tucked in! Remember to do slow wave like exercises first, followed by the quick squeeze all the way up and all the way back down AND do exercise to fatigue. A quick squeeze isn’t going to cut the mustard if you’re injured.

Ante Natal Pilates: What’s all the fuss about?

So you’re pregnant. Yay!  Congratulations. How are you feeling?

Nauseous? Overwhelmed? Excited? Relieved?

It’s a time of your life when there are so many expectations on you and of how it will feel to be pregnant but when it actually happens, and your body is invaded by a beautiful, yet essentially parasitic baby who is draining all your resources, it can leave you feeling, well, confused.

This is where someone like me steps in. A fitness professional with a passion for all things women’s health, which basically means I care about you being as comfortable and happy as possible during your pregnancy. I also care about ensuring your experience of labour and birth is the best it can be for you and perhaps most importantly, I care about you, as a woman, recovering after birth and getting back to being you!

Yes, ostensibly I’m a Pilates teacher, but given my experience of now 100’s of different pregnancies (I hasten to add just one of my own but 100’s of women I’ve seen through classes and one to one training), my second and third jobs of health writer and mummy, and my growing networks of fellow health professionals I can call on for advice, I like to think of myself as a one stop shop.

So, back to Pilates, if you’ve never done it before you might be puzzled as to why it’s so damned good for those in the pudding club.

Here are just a few reasons based on my experience and the experiences of my beautiful bumps and ladies!

MAKING YOU MORE COMFORTABLE DURING PREGNANCY

  • Pilates is a gentle, mat based class (although can be adapted to use swiss balls etc), and as such is very controlled form of exercise. Perfect for mums-to-be who want to do something positive for their bodies, without risk of injury.
  • When you’re in a class, you’re not exercising alone, so if anything does happen, there are experts on hand to support you.
  • Pilates specifically focuses on muscles in the trunk and pelvic floor, which can all help mum’s body to support a growing baby.
  • During classes we focus on exercises to relieve common aches and pains, like back ache or pelvic pain. Many women, after trying a class, find the relief so great that they sign up for two a week!

LABOUR AND BIRTH

  • Pilates focuses on breathing and relaxation, some of the techniques we use can be used during labour to help you relax, thereby enabling you to cope with pain better (or just take in gas and air without feeling sick)!
  • We incorporate exercises that encourage optimal baby positioning for birth and you can do these at home too. We’ve had quite a few stubborn breach babies go head down after class!
  • We also do gentle pelvis mobility exercises which are essential for easing baby’s head out of that very small space!
  • A strong and healthy pelvic floor is better equipped to both stretch and push during birth. In my classes we don’t just squeeze, we all understand how to train and engage our pelvic floor muscles. Did you know they go virtually all the way up to your cervix!

POST NATAL RECOVERY

  • Whilst Pilates won’t strip belly fat, healthy abdominal muscles do make your waist appear smaller. I’ve lost count of the number of women who have received compliments after doing Pilates because they appear slimmer, even when they’ve not lost any weight!
  • Getting your abdominals and pelvic floor strong again post delivery will ensure you can go back to all your favourite activities without fear of incontinence or prolapse and without risking distended abdominals.

So what would you do in my ante natal Pilates classes? Here’s my take on things: Pilates for Pregnancy

For more general information on exercising safely during pregnancy, check out https://alittlefitter.com/pregnancy-health-fitness/
For more information on classes visit https://alittlefitter.com/classes-and-training/

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/

Post natal Pilates. What’s all the fuss about?

Post natal Pilates – a six week course where we re-build your post baby body from the inside. We aim to get your body ready for mainstream exercise or a stronger Pilates class.

Book Online

 

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You know you probably should be doing it but it seems like everything else about having a new baby seems more important than an exercise class.

After all, you’ve just been through a massive physical and emotional upheaval and you’re just about managing to shower and get out of the house. An exercise class, where you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, might just tip you over the edge.

Admittedly not everyone likes exercise, and exercising in a group environment, when you already feel a little self conscious about your body, might feel a little intimidating.

I’m a firm believer in the power of exercise to make you feel better, to prevent injury and to improve your health. So, I thought perhaps some post natal Pilates FAQs might allay some fears and make it all just a little more approachable.

What should I wear?

Anything you feel comfortable in.  Although snugly fitting clothes do make it easier for me and you to see what’s going on.

What will I need to bring?

Nothing. My classes are mat work based and all mats are provided. Perhaps a few favourite toys since you’re coming to a bring a baby class.

What will we be doing?

Mainly sitting/lying/kneeling on a mat. It’s all very slow and controlled. Put simply, Pilates will strengthen all the muscles in your torso. So tummy, back, shoulders, bottom. We’ll also be getting your joints moving and helping your body to feel better.

Why is it so important when I’ve had a baby?

No matter how the baby came out, your posture, abdominal wall, back and pelvic floor will have been affected by pregnancy and birth. Pilates is one of the best ways of getting your body back to it’s pre pregnancy state and of preventing injuries and health problems in the future.

Do I need to be flexible?

No. Most people start Pilates very stiff and inflexible. It takes time to develop flexibility and the worst thing you can do is get frustrated by the lack of it.

Do I need to be co-ordinated?

No. There are no grapevines, box steps or square dances in Pilates. And most of the time other participants are too focused on what they’re doing to spot if you’ve gone wrong.

Will I get sweaty?

You won’t be dripping but you can expect to glow a little.

Is it all just breathe breathe?

No. Pilates is mindful exercise, which requires you to concentrate on the quality of your movements but there’s a lot more to it than breathing and stretching. Expect to be challenged.

What about this pelvic floor stuff – isn’t it embarrassing to do it in front of other people?

Pelvic floor exercises are incorporated into the class, no one will know. If we do spend time specifically focusing on pelvic floor I ensure we aren’t all looking at each other.

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If you do want to give it a try I currently teach one post natal specific class and my Foundations class which is great for post natal mummies who’d rather exercise without baby or have perhaps left some time between birth and getting back to exercise:

Post Natal Pilates ‘bring a baby’ –  Epping Registry Office, Epping. In partnership with Brambles Children’s Centre. Tuesdays at 12pm.  Babies don’t participate – this is a class for mummies where babies are welcome (up to crawling). There is a 10 minute ‘baby break’ to ensure babies are happy and not overwhelmed by the sociable nature of this class.

Do get in touch via email at karenlisalaing@gmail.com. I don’t bite!

Or book online

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