Welcome to Core Basics.
You know me, I’m not going to sugar-coat it. This stuff is boring, humbling, and it can be mighty frustrating, too. But it is important. In fact, dare I say it—it might just be the most important thing you EVER learn about your body.
Reestablishing the mind-muscle connection postpartum is absolutely essential. This course is going to walk you through six levels of rehabilitation exercises that get progressively more challenging.
You are going to take your time, and work your way through each of the levels at your own pace. This might mean you need a few weeks on a level, or a few days. Every body is individual, and every healing timeline is individual. Slow and steady wins this race.
Before we begin…
If possible, I always recommend seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist to get a hands-on assessment. Even a single appointment or two can give you great insight into your body. Here is a link to find a pelvic floor physical therapist:
Invest in yourself. It is important. You deserve to feel good inside your body!
It is important to understand what is going on with your body. And while I always recommend seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist in-person, that isn’t always possible. A self-check is important to understand your body’s needs before you begin this (or any) workout program. Here are a couple of tests you can do at home to check yourself, but in no way does this take the place of seeing a physician or pelvic floor physical therapist.
Checking for Diastasis Recti
While your “six-pack” muscles get a lot of attention, your “core” actually has many facets and layers.
Diastasis recti is where the center line of your six pack muscles, called the linea alba, stretches, leaving a “gap” between your outer most six-pack muscles. The condition is usually painless in and of itself, but many with a lingering diastasis recti experience second-hand issues from a weakened and unsupportive core system. And, can we be honest? Diastasis recti often leaves women with an unwanted postpartum pooch, and that stinks. We all deserve to feel good in our skin.
Important note: every single pregnant woman experiences diastasis recti to some degree. It is the body’s natural way to make room for the growing baby. After the baby is born, there is typically quite a bit of spontaneous healing in the first six weeks. The issue becomes when the “gap” persists longer-term.
Okay, so if you do have it, don’t freak out. It is quite common, and you can improve it. And yes, you can improve it no matter how long ago you had your baby. This course is going to teach you strategies to strengthen and improve the condition.
The gap isn’t the end all, be all. You may never fully close your diastasis recti, but you can improve it, you can increase the tension in that stretched connective tissue AND you can learn to manage your core system in such a way, that even with a separation, you can still be strong and functional.
Checking for Pelvic Organ
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is where the pelvic organs drop from their normal position. It is most often caused by injury to the muscles or tissues that support the pelvic organs. This allows one or more of the pelvic organs to drop or push into or out of the vagina or rectum. And while it isn’t dangerous, it can be uncomfortable. The good news is that, in many cases, it is treatable without surgery.
If you find that you do have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse, please make an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist. I can’t stress enough how helpful a pelvic floor physical therapist is in helping reduce and eliminate the effects of POP.
Managing Intra-Abdominal Pressure:
Stop chest-breathing and start living your best life.
The key to healing and progressing the exercises is to understand how to distribute intra-abdominal pressure. To understand this, you need to understand how the diaphragm and pelvic floor work together.
Each time you inhale, your diaphragm (a big muscle right under your rib cage) descends down, pushing air into your lungs. This air is also intended to create intra-abdominal to support for your spine, particularly helpful when lifting weights. On the inhale, your pelvic floor also descends down. Think of it like a piston on a train. When you inhale, everything goes down. When you exhale, pelvic floor and diaphragm return back up. Inhale—down. Exhale—up.
When we learn how to distribute this intra-abdominal pressure, and engage our core, the magic happens. So even if you have a “gap,” you can learn use that breath/core to support you.
Many of our postpartum “side effects” are a result of poor pressure management. So if you learn nothing else from this course, please take the time to really focus and learn how to manage your breath.
And puuuulllleaaase stop holding your belly in all day. Like legit. Let it go!
Why sucking in sucks!
Okay…now that you know why we get in a backwards breathing pattern, let’s turn that around. We go over this in Core Basics Level 1, but I want to touch on it here, too, because it is literally the basis of everything. So watch, and give it a try.
Breath needs to
meet the task at hand.
I don’t want you walking around hyperventilating all day. When you practice your breathing, you are going to practice taking a big, full inhale and a big, full exhale. But in your day-to-day, just breathe.
You want your breath to match the level of the task at hand. So, if you are going to pick up your 25-pound baby, you are going to want to take a nice big inhale, then lift—big exhale. If you are going to pick up a jug of milk, you don’t need that big exhale. A little exhale and brace will do the trick just fine.
Exhale on Exertion
If you are progressing to Strong Like a Mother (SLAM) after this, you will want to have your breathing down, because when we lift weights, it is important to have the core and pelvic floor working for you. Remember this little alliteration: Exhale on Exertion. You always want to exhale audibly (haaaaa, or ssssss) as you do the hard part of an exercise. For example: a deadlift, you will inhale as you fold over, big exhale as you stand up. As an important note, I am referring to lifts under say 80 percent of your 1-rep max. If you are lifting at your max ability, you may need to change your breathing strategies. I highly recommend not doing 1-rep-max type lifting until your body is healed and you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of pelvic floor or core issues.
Be a weirdo
when you workout
When you hear me cue “audible exhale”…I mean it. I want you to HAAAAAA or SSSSSSS each time you exert. Letting this air out audibly ensures the full “range of motion” for your diaphragm and pelvic floor. So be a weirdo. It is worth it.
Before we get started, here are a few things to keep in mind:
I know it is time to advance?
I want you to ask yourself these questions each time you work through a level.
- Can you complete the exercises of the current level with confidence?
- Do you see any doming or coning from your belly? If so, can you
manage it by using your breath or changing your strategy? (We will work on this!)
- Do you feel any pain or pressure in your vagina or rectum?
- Does your tummy flatten with the exercise, not look like a “bread loaf”?
- Do you leak urine or feces with any of the exercises?
If you feel strong and confident in that movement, and you aren’t experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you may progress to the next level. If you still need more practice, that’s okay too. I want you to feel strong as heck before we get into higher intensity exercise in Strong Like a Mother.
The goal here is to progressively strengthen your core. So, while we want to challenge that deep abdominal system, we also want to ensure that we are working right under that “threshold” where we can maintain intra-abdominal pressure.
Hey C-Section Mamas—
C-sections are pretty darn common (1 in 3 births), but they are still very much a MAJOR abdominal surgery. Chances are you were told very little (if anything!) about how to care for your scar after the incision was healed. Your doctor probably checked the incision at the 6-week check-up to ensure it wasn’t infected, and then sent you on your merry way.
The fact of the matter is—c-section scarring can cause some real issues in regard to the functionality of our bodies. Scar mobilization can make a big difference in your healing and overall core (and body) function.
I am a 2x c-section mom, so I know firsthand how yucky it can feel to touch that scar. There is certainly a physical reason for this. The incision can feel numb or painful from the incision itself. More anecdotally, there is often an emotional reluctance to touching the scar, too, as most c-sections were born from a traumatic birth experience.
The good news is that it is never too late to start massaging your scar, and scar massage can help tremendously! And, there is also a real sense of empowerment and mental healing in reconnecting with part of your body.
How To Massage Your Abdominal Scar
Okay, so hopefully I’ve convinced you to take the leap and start working on some scar mobilization.
As a side note, this massage technique works for any abdominal scar, including hysterectomies.
Movement gained with scar massage can help improve muscle function, reduce pain, and make it easier to exercise and connect with those abdominal muscles.
Wait until your incision is fully healed before beginning. Don’t worry. We start off slow and gentle and build up.
It can be helpful to make a habit of it by adding it into your routine. Aiming to do it five minutes every day is a great goal, but you may need to build up to this.