I love to learn and continue to development my skills and knowledge in health and fitness. One area that I have gained a greater understanding is pre and post-natal exercise prescription. Being a husband to a wife of two c-sections, the qualification seemed a perfect fit and a great addition to help many women on their road to birth and recovery.
The course went through a logical sequence, going from explaining what happens to a woman from conception to post-partum. I won't go into detail on everything, but here are the key things I learned and took away from the syllabus.
- Hormonal and physiological changes that occur and how these change over each trimester. The hormone relaxin plays a big part in what happens to women during pregnancy. One of its roles is to prepare and allow the body to adapt to a growing baby and then to assist in the delivery of said baby. It allows the uterus, pelvic and pubis area to expand and change. Although this is targeted at the joints and ligaments that need this change it can affect other parts of the body and this is where range of motion, stretching and exercise adaptation will be needed to ensure that damage isn't done. Along with these can come side effects such as sickness, nausea and change in appetite. These will all affect how a women is feeling and may lead to amendments in training schedules.
- The importance of pelvic floor muscles, exercise, and posture at all stages.
- The benefits and risks of exercise during pregnancy. This was covered fairly well and a large number of benefits were explained; although a few risks were mentioned including hypoxia (reduced blood flow to the foetus) and supine hypotensive syndrome (lack of blood flow to the mother’s heart), at the end of the element, it did place a big caveat on the information saying that there is no evidence that links these to exercise during pregnancy but as with many things they are risks and common sense would say we don't want to increase their chances during pregnancy.
-Nutrition over the trimesters. This section of the course covers which foods to avoid during pregnancy and is still valid from recent readings. It states to not eat raw fish, raw meat or pate along with other things.
- Exercise prescription. Here the course content covered the different elements that are needed to be considered during the initial stages through to recovery. It explains the mechanical effects pregnancy has on the body and discusses what to look out for in clients to help determine their level of recovery. Some simple observations and adaptations would be that as the baby grows and the woman becomes larger at the front, by around the end of the first trimester exercises in the prone (face down) and supine (face up) positions should be reduced or minimised. This would probably naturally occur as many would feel uncomfortable in those positions. Changing from elliptical-trainer to recumbent bike; this simple change in equipment choice later in pregnancy can help ease or prevent pubis synthesis pain (pain around the pelvis). Also the need to stop all resistance training during pregnancy is false. I would agree it is not the time to take up extreme kettlebells or begin heavy Olympic lifting but, maintaining your gym routine and keeping active is key to a healthy you and baby. You can still achieve a very effective training programme whilst pregnant whether that be strength training, running, swimming or boot-camping. It just means that the PT or instructor must amend and adapt the training to suit you (which should be their job, right?) and still allow you to swing the kettlebell and lift the barbell until further changes need to be made.
- Recovery. This is different for everyone and does need a doctors sign off usually after the 6 week mark. But in terms of exercise planning during the recovery, it is almost the pre stage in reverse. Your goal is to slowly get back to where you were before giving birth and then gradually rebuild your strength, range of motion and fitness through layering of exercise prescription.
APPLICATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
Most of the mums who have attended Get Fit have joined around 12-24 months after their last baby. This isn't to say that they could not have started sooner, but it seems to be a time when they have finally got time and a lifestyle that allows them to get out and get their body back to full strength. It is this time gap that can also present some issues as most have done minimal exercise and although have recovered are not back to where they were before the birth in terms of fitness levels and/or core repair.
For me, there are two areas that I ask them to focus on: the core and glutes. I still also recommend kegel and PFM exercises in most cases as a lot of the ladies just weren't aware of what to do in the initial stages after having their babies. I explain neutral positioning and how to try to involve this in everyday life and throughout the sessions. Most of the exercises we do are compound exercises, so involve many muscles. I stay away from crunches and sit ups which suits quite well with postpartum women and many clients to be honest. A lot also complain of weak or bad backs, so creating a strong frame and base is where I like to start.
I use plank progressions, hollowing and leg raise progressions to target the core. This varies person to person in terms of their level of recovery including diastasis recti (separation of the abs) and doming (a dome shape occurring when sitting up at around your belly button). From the outset I try to get them to strengthen their glutes through various exercises including squats, goblet squats, step ups and kettlebell swings. If they strengthen their glutes it will ultimately help create good posture and fix the lower back issues.
For me its all about 3 factors:
- Being realistic in terms of your starting point after the birth (remember your level of fitness before the birth).
- Start early (during all trimesters and within days of giving birth) and be consistent with kegel and PFM exercises
- Keep your nutrition on track; during all trimesters try your best to fuel your baby’s growth yet keep your own health in check (this can be only be a few extra hundred calories, you are not actually eating for two adults).
So to the 3 P's; Planning, Pre-natal and post-natal. You could class it as pre but, I honestly think that even if people are thinking and planning to have a baby then they should start to focus on preparing their body as early as possible, that way they are in the best starting position once things like morning sickness or hormonal changes kick in. Every health advantage you can gain will help not only in the pregnancy but in the actual birth and recovery. The pre-natal is all about monitoring how you change and adapting to how you feel and what is happening with your visible signs and also things like your recovery, your heart rate and how you feel during your exercise sessions. A simple tip here is to keep a log, not only of the times, weights etc...but the way you felt throughout and after your sessions. Then as things change you can see for yourself and realise that it is just part of the amazing process.
Stay strong mummas!
When you decide to do something different with your life - make a change - improve yourself. You get people, who all of sudden seem to care how many times you train, investigate the breakfast you are eating and enquire how much wine you have had this week.
These people are your duvets. They are trying to keep you where you are, snuggled up in your comfort zone where you have been for so long. They are more than likely the first ones to make fun of your new lifestyle changes, suggest that you won’t keep it up, try and persuade you to come out and leave the training for today. But if the truth be told, they want to be like you. Some people don’t like to see others succeed, especially if if they are accomplishing a goal they want to achieve, i.e. fat loss.
We have all had them. It might be someone at work who questions why you are not eating the team doughnuts, it might be a friend who can’t believe you are lifting weights because they make you ‘too big’ (not true by the way). It may even be a partner who sees your training time or your changes as a threat or a dig at themselves.
But you need to be selfish. You need to realise that you are doing this for you, no one else. If you start to do it for external reasons you are less likely to maintain any change in the long term.
Don’t be convinced by the duvets. This is the right thing to do and you will succeed. Yes it may feel uncomfortable at the start, but that is where you have been for so long, in your comfort zone.
Whether it is training in the park or eating a better lunch...screw them! You are the one who is doing it. The duvets are in awe, they are jealous, they want to be out there with you. They want to be making the better choices, but you know what, they can’t yet, they are either not motivated enough or they just aren’t ready to commit.
Who cares...you are achieving...be the one that everyone talks about...be the one actually using their active wear...soon when they realise that it works and that you are not on a health kick, they will start to ask genuine questions and start their own journey. But until then screw them!
You deserve to be the best you, you can be. Why do you have to settle for feeling “ok” or “average” everyday? Spoiler alert...you don’t!
Let’s get this straight here and now. I am not saying that the way you are, is bad, not good enough or inferior in anyway. But why would you choose to not make the most of everything you have. By implementing change now you can move towards awesomeness.
Think of it as a spectrum:
Average 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Awesome
Be honest, where do you feel you are most days. Write it down. I’ll be honest too, I would put myself on a 7 most days. Somedays I feel awesome and somedays I feel more towards average. What I do know is though, is the days that I am on point of with my food, have slept better or have trained I straight away start to move towards awesome. I find this also applies for me when I’m focussing on something new or about to embark on a project.
You have the power each day to move a little bit closer to awesome. Write or say out loud 2 things right now that make you feel good about yourself. It could be your dedication to something, the smarter breakfast choice you made this morning, the skills you have in a particular field or a goal you have achieved in your life so far. You are an achiever! You have done it before, you can keep on doing it.
If everyday or every week you choose to implement a change that is sustainable then think about how all of these would add up over a year, let alone a lifetime.
Quite simply, I’m on a mission to get you from being #averagetoawesome in any way I can.
When we talk about the ‘core’ most of us think of loads and loads of sit ups, crunches, ab cradles and a sweaty, tight 6 pack.
What we should be thinking about is a group of muscles that work together to give us stability, strength, protection and assist us to be mobile in many directions.
The Rectus abdominus (RA)
The famous 6 pack muscle. Its function is to flex the trunk (pull our torso towards our feet).
What is the pack effect? Simply it is bands of connective tissue crossing over the RA. The level of definition and how much you see them is determined by the amount of fat lying on top and the size of the muscle pushing through.
The Transverse Abdominis (TVA)
The TVA is a corset type muscle which surrounds the whole midsection. It is the muscle that we draw in when we are trying to hold our belly in. It is the key muscle that is activated when we perform the plank position. Place your hands on either sides of your waist, inline with your belly button, cough and hold. That is your TVA. When we come to lifting heavy stuff, bending, jumping, running, if we can activate the TVA we become more stable and help take the load off the lower back.
The Internal Obliques (IO)
This helps with compression of the trunk and is an accessory in breathing.
It also assists in rotation of the trunk.
The External Obliques (EO)
The EO are towards the sides of the torso and help with rotation and bending to the side. They are part of the ‘V’ shape seen on the lower part of the abs.
A series of small muscles that connect the vertebrae. They travel nearly all the way along the spine. They are used for rotation, sideways flexion and raising the torso. These are designed to help stabilise the spine. But unfortunately these muscles are the ones you may feel when you have lower back pain. Imagine these small muscles taking the strain of everyday life. When we engage and use all the muscles listed above and the glutes, it takes the strain off the multifidi and makes the larger muscles work in sync to move us and any loads.
The Erector Spinae (ES)
The ES is actually a group of muscles that are on either side of the spine. They are the thicker muscles that you can see and feel (if developed) at the base of the spine. If you lie on the floor face down (supine) and extend your torso upwards, this will engage and exercise the ES. Along with this extension the ES also helps maintain correct spine curvature and assist in bending sideways.
It sounds like a lot, but by implementing good practice in everyday activities and performing lots of small sets of bodyweight exercises such as planks, pelvic floor contractions, leg raises, cycles and torso raises you will be on your way to a stronger, healthier core.
"Dave, this health and fitness stuff is easy. Do you know that this week I've cooked and prepped all my food, sorted the family’s snacks and meals, trained 5 times, slept really well each night, had no stress at work, haven't had any unexpected bills, been fairly active all day, had some fun and laughed each day, ticked all the items off my to do list and relaxed in the rest of my spare time."
SAID NO ONE EVER!!!
On your journey to a more great you - whether your goal is related to training, lifestyle, general health, getting fitter, leaner, stronger, smaller or bigger. Life gets in the way. Life is busy. The honest truth is though it is down to you to do something about it. Whichever element you want to change, it is your responsibility - you are responsible and accountable for your actions or lack thereof. If you don't want any of these things above then surely you owe it to yourself to go and get the things you do want.
Lets think about why you want to change something in your lifestyle, really think of the reason. I enjoy challenging myself. The reason I choose to change something is down to the goal I have in mind. I go through phases of improving my sleep patterns, being super disciplined with my training or really closely monitoring what I'm eating. But they all lead towards my main long term goal which is to enjoy time with my family. I want to be active and enjoy the best times I can with my family for as long as possible. I want to motivate as many people as possible to make positive changes in their lives as well and I also want my children to see that working hard, in any context, is a good thing and that feeling uncomfortable yet keeping on going has a positive outcome. I enjoy getting stronger and pushing myself physically, technically and mentally.
We are a busy world. Always on call to our notifications, always trying to do things faster, save time, yet I still here people say that they can't find the time. If if all this 'stuff' is here to make our lives better then how come we still can't STOP - SWITCH OFF - LOOK AROUND - AND TAKE IT ALL IN.
What's your why? Why are you doing what you are doing? If you are looking to achieve something I mentioned in the opening paragraphs then take a minute and figure out how you are going to get it. It might take some time, some planning but you can do it. If you don't look after you then how can you look after anyone else.
I've said it before, but start small. I'm not telling you to quit your job, get rid of your smart phone, find an hour everyday to train, but YOU have to do something. Make a better food choice a few times a week, get out of the office 3 times a day, get to bed in a calm state as regularly as you can, go for walk to clear your head rather than staring at a screen. once you make regular changes those actions turn into habits and those habits become part of you.
Accept the challenge and challenge yourself.
And if this is the first you have heard of it then you have missed 2 days already. But don't worry, head on over to www.facebook.com/getfitdw to catch up and get involved.
It is nothing too complicated and won't take up too much of your time. Just 12 challenges to keep you motivated through to the festive season.
The 12 Days of Christmas are coming...13th December to 24th December. 12 Days of challenges to get you through the festive period. Get involved on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and here on the blog. #12days
It is that time of year where you commonly think about changing yourself or something in your life. But what is the change going to be?
I am myself assessing my options going forward and considering which path to go down. You can see it as a daunting prospect, or as an exciting opportunity.
Some things just fall into place whilst others need more planning and guidance.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your end goal?
- What is the change you want to make?
- How does this change get you closer to your goal?
- Is this change the right choice?
You have options ahead and choices to make along the way. You may stumble and have set backs but the most important thing is that you stay on track.
You want to achieve your goal in the most efficient way possible for you. Your path will be different from any body else as you have different commitments, restraints, likes, and dislikes, so do not compare someone else's path with your own.
Change is personal.
Why do people choose personal training?
Personal training is scheduled around you. Time is precious and we want to make the most out of what spare time we have. By making appointments-arranging PT sessions-allocating time for training- you are making a commitment to your trainer and yourself.
You are very unlikely to not turn up or put the session off.
To add to this you should be confident that when you do get there the session will be effective and worth the time you have put aside. People can often waste time in the gym or when training at home as they browse their phone, are distracted by house hold tasks or family members, or simply don't have a plan to workout.
There is a cost involved to personal training of course. But it is a service, a service that can lead to positive changes in your health and life. It can be the game changer for confidence, motivation, determination, satisfaction and simply feeling a better sense of well being.
Do your homework though and have a meeting/consultation with any prospective trainers...we do do things differently. But if you feel you could learn and benefit from a personal trainer then take the plunge see where it can take you.
#personaltraining #oxfordshire #didcot #blewbury #abingdon #berkshire #fitness #health #gym
Here it is folks, Day 1 of 12 Days to Xmas...you've still got time ;)
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