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

13 great ways exercise can help prevent disease and boost health.

Alzheimers. Type 2 Diabetes. Breast Cancer. Colorectal Cancer. Prostate Cancer. Heart Disease. Depression. What do these major health conditions all have in common? Exercise can prevent, lower the risk of, or in some cases even reverse the effects of the condition.

How?

We all know that this is what researchers say but how does exercise actually change us on a cellular level?

Aside from preventing disease I’ve long been an advocate of using exercise as medicine or at the very least to complement it.

Following on from the talk I gave a few weeks ago aimed at Breast Cancer survivors (evidence now points strongly towards using exercise to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back), I’ve collated some of the coolest science snippets about how exercise actually changes us, beyond our skin and bones.

Prepare yourself for some serious dinner party human biology titbits!

  1. When we exercise our mitochondrial production increases. Mitochondria are the body’s battery cells, they are what give us energy. So exercise literally gives us more energy. [KELLY et al, 2006].
  2. When we exercise we increase our body’s ability to synthesise protein. This means our body can convert protein much more readily.  [HANDS, 2009].
  3. When we exercise we increase our lean tissue (muscle mass) or sustain what we already have. Lean tissue naturally decreases with age so we can halt the ageing process [HANDS, 2009].
  4. When we exercise we increase our body’s ability to regulate glucose [Adams, 2013]. This is an important factor in managing diabetes, or reversing type 2 diabetes.
  5. Exercise helps activate muscle fibres which would otherwise be reduced due to lack of use and age related atrophy (sarcopenia). The best treatment for sarcopenia is exercise. With the right programme, you could see a difference in as little as two weeks.
  6. Pre-habiliation, so getting strong or being fit before surgery can help operation recovery. This could also be true for some injuries or illnesses.
  7. When we exercise our body’s natural anti-oxidant levels up-regulate. This helps us to fight off disease. It’s like boosting our natural defence mechanisms.
  8. Gentle exercise, like yoga or walking can help manage stress. This is measurable through heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is an excellent way of measuring the early signs of stress.
  9. Any exercise which increases our heart rate for 20 minutes increases blood flow to the heart and the strength of the heart wall.
  10. Learning a skill helps with myelination. Myelin is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system. Our ability to learn a skill stays with us (although it gets harder as we age). Kids are programmed to myelinate more so they can learn how to survive. They have specific windows of opportunity for doing this such as learning to eat, crawl or walk. Myelin never unwraps (although there are rare diseases like Guillard Barre Syndrome or conditions like Multiple Sclerosis which may cause this). We can enhance myelination by learning a challenging new skill and also by eating foods rich in Omega 3 and B vitamins (think brain food).
  11. Exercise which is fun produces dopamine, a happy hormone. Some intense exercise also produces endorphins which make you feel good. This can improve emotional health.
  12. When we exercise we use more oxygen. Oxygen is the natural way to alkalise the body.
  13. Any movement or simply standing is good for us. Non Exercise Activity Thormogenesis (NEAT) refers to the way our metabolism increases through any activity, not necessarily a specific type of exercise. So our metabolic rate increases just by standing rather than sitting. Brushing your teeth standing up is better for you than performing the same task seated.

And here’s one more thought to leave you with … our cells are constantly regenerating. It’s estimated that human cells are completely regenerated every 7-10 years. All of the above, plus what you eat, drink or expose your body too will affect cell regeneration. Does that motivate you to get moving? It does me.

So there you have it. Human biology to amaze your friends with and proof that what you choose to do with or to your body on a daily basis affects your health.

If you’d like to take disease prevention a stage further, Fit School offer DNA testing. DNA testing can give you a better idea of what foods or exercise are optimum for you (the individual) and how to tailor your programme in line with these results. Tests are currently available at the discounted rate of £190 (usually £270) and Chris is one of a handful of trainers in the UK who offer this type of testing.

 

Confessions of a fit family

CHRIS and I are often amused by the assumptions people make about us. ‘Fitties’ are often labelled as the fun police. We get invited to dinner only for our hosts to call a little scared as to what we eat. ‘Would fat be offensive?’ ‘Are they life long vegans?’

On the whole we stick to the 80/20 rule. 80% on track and 20% treat, although to be honest too much of the wrong foods can make both of us feel pretty rotten. We aren’t fitness and health saints but we do have some absolute no go rulings. So in order to put a few myths to bed, here are our confessions.

  1. We eat chocolate. In fact we generally keep a supply of good quality dark chocolate (and occasionally milk sea salt because it’s just too yummy) in the cupboard. We rarely have a dessert so a few squares (more if it’s Chris) are a little evening treat once the kids are in bed. If you keep good stuff in you are less likely to buy cheap stuff.
  2. Although on that note we also love a Snickers bar – after a round of golf usually (oh those were the days).
  3. A family favourite meal is pie. Chicken pie. We make it from scratch, usually from roast chicken leftovers.
  4. We don’t officially exercise every day, rest days are important too. But we will make excuses to be active. A brisk walk up to the shops if it’s rush hour, half an hour out with Isaac on his scooter or Chris’ frequent squash games with clients.
  5. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to exercise but know it will do us good so throw ourselves out of the door or drive to the gym. On these days it’s most important to go and exercise because usually your brain needs it more than your body.
  6. The above was mainly about me (Karen), Chris has some weird motivational chip which means he can exercise really hard, on his own. I am more likely to walk the last few yards before I get to my house after a run. Chris would keep going and then do another lap.
  7. We aren’t ‘runners’ – Chris is more of a power athlete and having had knee surgery in his 20s an endurance run would not do him any favours. The most I’ve run is a half marathon and had the most horrendous digestive issues for half a day after that I’ve decided 10K is my absolute limit.
  8. We do exercise for fun. A family swim, a trip to the gym or obstacles in the forest or front room is great Friday night entertainment.
  9. We do workout in the garden, so look out for us when you’re departing Epping on the tube.
  10. We like a drink but only ever when it’s a celebration or a happy/relaxed occasion, never if we’re stressed or angry. Again this is more about me since Chris could never drink again and not miss it.  I would.  In fact I wish I didn’t get drunk on alcohol because I’d love to sample the entire cocktail menu but 1 mojito or champagne cocktail is generally my limit!
  11. We have fit friends. When we have dinner with them we eat A LOT! Chris and the man friend usually talk shop/science/anatomy endlessly. Me and the girl friend usually drink G&Ts and discuss fashion, life etc …
  12. We eat a lot of food. When we don’t, we get HANGRY.
  13. We rarely discuss fit or food tips with family. Never offer unsolicited advice.

And those rulings:

We just don’t do cheap/processed food. Spaghetti hoops or delivery pizzas are just asking for indigestion and a bad night’s sleep.

All meat is organic or free range and where possible sourced from the butcher. I’d rather cook a cheap cut from a good quality animal than bother with a supermarket steak.

All cake is home-made. It tastes better and we know what goes into it.

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 Foundations

Pilates Foundations is a new course designed for those new to Pilates, returning after injury or illness or pregnancy. The classes follow a similar programme to the Monday Pilates classes and you can still expect to progress, learn and move your body – this class focuses more on technique and adaptations where necessary. 

Book Online

 

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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

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

Taking the fun out of fitness

Personal training. Spinning. Bootcamps. HITT training. Weights or no weights. Running vs. jogging. Pilates vs. yoga. Zumba. Walking the dog. Nordic walking … the list is endless. As someone who is immersed the fitness industry on a daily basis, both as a service provider and a writer, I’m forever bemused by the internal wranglings of fitness professionals over what is best, what is optimum and what is just a waste of time. In their opinion.

The thing is, if you are exercising to train in the Commonwealth Games or to rehabilitate a broken back, then the type of training that you do is REALLY important. But if you start a personal training programme and your trainer insists you do X,Y and Z for optimum effect and you hate X,Y and Z, then no matter how clever your trainer is or how keen you are, you won’t stick to it. Would it not be better for you to do a bit of X and Y but then a whole lot more of the stuff you love?

Here’s what I think (for what it’s worth). Enjoyment, community, stress release and fun are THE most important factors when it comes to exercise for most people. Yes, if you have a specific goal in mind like marathon training or weight loss, then you might have to factor in a little more of the optimal training stuff but please not to the detriment of what makes exercise enjoyable for you. When I recently interviewed the man who pioneered fitness clubs in the UK. Ken Heathcote (who was also the founder of fitness industry qualifications) he said social HAD to come first, functional after.

So if someone tries to tell you otherwise … I’d suggest you tell them to optimise their opinions to someone who cares.

Now here are a few people who knew how to laugh at themselves: Acorn Antiques does health and fitness.

acornantiques
Ken Heathcote, Father of Fitness, on creating fitness moments of magic.
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

Ante Natal Pilates

Saturday, 26th October, 10.15am.

It’s our last full course before Christmas and your best opportunity to relax and prepare your body to be in the best shape ever for pregnancy, birth and beyond.

AnteNatalFlyer£67 for the six week course.

For more information on the class check out these links:

Exercise During Pregnancy

About Fit School’s Ante Natal Pilates

Top 10 things you can do for an easier birth

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