Last week in part 1, I shared some top tips from my online fitness besties on how to get back into exercise after a break. Pregnancy, or should I say the post natal period, is often the longest break many regular exercising women will take off from their routine. Today I’m delighted to share some great advice from Dr Joanna Helcke who is an expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness, over to Jo!
We all know what it’s like getting back into exercise after a long break – I’m thinking summer holidays with all the kids off school, for example. That was me this month. It is so frustrating the way a mere few weeks off exercise can seemingly lead to such enormous losses in fitness levels and then it appears to take forever to get back up to speed.
The temptation is, of course, to start up where you left off. So if, pre-exercise break, you had been slogging away at your weekly HIIT class or bootcamp, then the lure of diving in again at the deep end is almost (ALMOST) irresistible!
And I’m not suggesting that you absolutely shouldn’t start up where you left off, despite the fact that a gently-does-it approach is doubtless safer and more sensible. Instead, what I’d like to offer you are a couple of extras to add to your back-to-business fitness toolkit. They’re not going to be popular; in fact I can guarantee you’ll groan. But to say they’re essential is an understatement…
I’m talking the very basics, the very foundations of your fitness: pelvic floor and deep abdominals. You see, I told you there’d be groans. Nevertheless, your pelvic floor muscles (PFMs) are – quite literally – the foundations of your fitness. View them in this not-too-glamorous manner: imagine your torso as a kind of living shopping bag carrying a very precious load in the form of your internal organs. The PFMs form the bottom of this shopping bag and if they are weak and give up on you – yes, you guessed – the shopping bag falls apart and out comes the precious cargo.
It’s called a prolapse and it isn’t much fun.
Nor is it uncommon for women – especially those of us who have had babies – to suffer from this problem. So my strong advice is to do your pelvic floor exercises every day, in addition to your regular fix of (far more fun) exercise – especially if the exercise you choose to do is high impact.
As for the deep abdominals, they are absolutely crucial when it comes to supporting and protecting your lower back. This very deep layer of abdominals wraps around the waist like a corset, helping to protect the back as you go about daily life and also when exercising. Many key exercises – such as squats and press ups – are great for building strength and fitness levels but can also be damaging if performed with weak deep abdominals, as these help stabilise you and enable you to maintain good form. In short, if you repeatedly exercise with weak deep abdominals, eventually (and it could be next week, next month, next year or in 5 years) something will give, and this tends to be the lower back.
Keep your deep abdominals strong through regular core stability work and Pilates, and you are proofing yourself against future back trouble.
Dr Joanna Helcke is an expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness, winner of the UK’s most prestigious fitness award – the 2014 FitPro Award for Excellence in Fitness – and a regular contributor to the national media. For weekly pregnancy and postnatal health and fitness advice sign up to Joanna’s newsletter at www.joannahelcke.com
Bloody hell, I won’t be slacking on the PMF exercises any more!
Do you take care of these fitness basics? How often do you exercise your core muscles?