For Everyone Involved in the Race for Life

Dear Everyone involved in the Newcastle Race for Life 2015,

I shouted ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to as many of you as I could yesterday but with so many people attending the Race for Life, Newcastle, it wasn’t really enough. That and the fact that I was only just wheezing it, probably inaudibly, from about 2km into the 10k run.

So I thought I would write to everyone involved as well.

It started off personal, doing this Race for Life. A challenge to my post-baby fitness to run 10k as fast as I could and then get round the 5k course. A personal way to remember my 3 grandparents and sister-in-law taken by various forms of cancer. More positively to celebrate my cousin surviving 5 years cancer free after her breast cancer diagnosis in her late 20s.

An opportunity with the incredibly support of my generous family and friends to raise a bit of money for cancer research.

It turns out to have been so much more than that.

I wanted to say such a huge congratulations to everyone who made it round the course.

You were all amazing.

Those of you who sprinted round in 20-odd minutes and those who made it round in well over an hour.

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The time and the ‘race’ didn’t actually reflect how incredible you all were. What you really achieved was to take your experiences of sadness, suffering, sorrow or survival and turning them into something positive.

So many of you had signs on your backs telling us why you were running. I read as many of them as I could. Some still make me tear up:

‘For myself’

‘For everyone still fighting’

‘For my Mam’

‘For my Dad who beat cancer. And my baby sister who didn’t’

‘For a world where my one year old daughter can grow up without fear of cancer’

So many stories. So much motivation to raise money for further cancer research.

I’ve never been anywhere surrounded with so much sadness and positivity at the same time.

At the start you all stood in silence for a minute remembering your personal reasons for running. I stood there too, and joined in with some of your tears.

THEN

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There was an explosion of pink shiny ribbons. Minutes later there was a sea of awesome ladies in pink, a few with tutus and fairy wings, bopping to the warm up music.

Fabulous.

So congratulations to you all if you were part of this. Your stories were heartbreaking and inspiring. Your running, jogging, walking and dancing with such motivation a privilege to have been a part.

To the organisers, volunteers and supporters a huge thank you too. This incredible event could not have taken place without you. You made what could have been a difficult trek round many kilometres feel fun. Your enthusiasm actually made me smile at 8km into my run. I don’t think ANYTHING else has ever achieved this.

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Thank you so much everyone at the Race for Life, I think half a million pounds were raised in Newcastle over this weekend for further cancer research!
Have you ever been involved in a Race for Life? I’d love to read any of your comments.

Please note I was a little carried away with everything on the day and did not take a single picture. So please forgive these posed ones taken on my return home. I am quite clearly not a fitness model, and did not think to shower or fix my hair post-run, but was very proud to be wearing my new T-shirt!

I’m delighted to be able to share this post with #fitnesstuesday at http://www.fitness4mamas.com And here

#BloggingToJogging

 Approach to exercise: 8 lessons from a determined toddler

My baby has just turned 11 months. Watching him on his determined quest to walk has reminded me of some important considerations about the way we approach exercise as adults.

His determination and dedication are inspirational. Goal setting and risk assessment require a little work.

Here are 4 things he has reminded me about physical fitness:

1. Find something that generates enthusiasm:

He just loves to walk. It might be hard work but he will practice at every opportunity. This is true about my approach to fitness too. I love to run so enthusiasm is a major motivating factor. I quite enjoy Pilates but primarily do it because it’s good for me. Both reasons are motivating factors, but I spend much more time running. Finding an activity that makes you enthusiastic will help you prioritise it when time is pressured.

2. Fit it into your everyday life:

Walking is one of the easiest exercises to fit into everyday life. Well, perhaps not for a wannabe toddler, but it is once you’ve mastered it as an adult. The NHS advices 2 hours 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week (for adults aged 18-64). Fast walking counts as aerobic activity. I particularly like the advice that to gauge if you’re working hard enough you should be able to talk but not sing a song… I’ll rember that next time Sunflower requests a reduction of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ while I’m pushing the pushchair.

I digress. My newbie toddler has beautifully demonstrated how to fit his chosen exercise into everyday life. He walks as soon as he is awake in his cot. He potters around the furniture. In the bath. In his cot again at night (I definitely don’t advocate getting up at 3am in order to demonstrate your commitment to exercise). On a more sensible note whether it is walking, gardening, workouts with your baby or planks in the living room, choosing something that fits with your daily routine is helpful when life is busy.

3. Fun triumps over style:

His wobby gait would not win him any awards for elegance. But does he care? He has so much fun with his delighted totter. I suppose this part of the message of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. It doesn’t matter what we look like during a workout, having fun is the key.

4. Get help from others:

He will grab the hand of any passerby. He can toddle between bits of furniture but it’s so much more fun to drag someone with him. I’ve recently rejoined my running group, after an 18-month baby-related absence. I enjoy the sociability and find the group setting incredibly motivating.

Now much as my 11 month old is a genius for imparting all this wisdom about exercise. Here are a few points he might need to work on: 

1. Set yourself achievable goals:

Yes darling, I know you might very badly want to climb into the bath by yourself. No matter how often you try it isn’t going to happen. Wait until you’re a little older. This currently applies to me. One day I’d love to run a marathon. Right now I couldn’t do it. Just as he clings tenaciously to the hope of getting into the bath unaided (a goal that he will achieve in time). I too believe I will run a marathon. In the meantime we both need more appropriate short term goals.

2. Make sure you get some rest:

Again to reiterate point 2 above; If like my gorgeous boy you’re getting up at 3am to workout, stop it. Relax a little. Rest and kindness to your body are helpful too.

3. Mix it up a little:

After my 40th circuit round the living room with him I quite fancy a change of scenery. Or adult company. Or failing that just a cup of coffee. Whilst it is admirable to work conscientiously towards a goal, variety is important too. Ideally adults should be doing muscle strengthening exercises on two or more days a week in addition to aerobic exercise.

4. Try to learn from mistakes:

I admire his persistence. It is an important trait to achieving exercise related goals. However, my little one, you have now bumped your head ten times on the edge of that table. Improve your co-ordination then try again. Similarly, I have tried multiple times to complete the dreaded Pilates ‘teaser’. I’ve put my attempts to one side for now. I need to work more on my core strength, co-ordination and balence. If a goal is out of reach, try to find a new way of approaching it, or work on some different skills.


So there you are 8 fitness related lessons from my determind toddler. 

He is so delighted by this new adventure I can’t help but share some of his enthusiasm. In fact I would quite like to apply a toddler’s infectious zest for learning and taking on new challenges to all aspects of life. 

However whilst I love and admire his enthusiastic totter, right now it would be a little more restful if he sat down occasionally. So when I’m not waxing lyrical about my inspiring boy you will find me in the kitchen sneaking a coffee after his morning living room circuits.

As always I do enjoy reading your comments. Have you found any unusual sources of fitness inspiration?

The Twinkle Diaries
Mums' Days
Fitness 4 Mamas
Fitness Friday

Barriers to exercise for parents

Barriers to exercise

I’ve been reflecting on barriers to exercise and fitness as a new(ish) parent.

This is a topic of importance to me personally. Well it is important to me now.

I was told in the early haze of (second time) parenthood I needed to exercise for ten minutes a day.  I knew then in my head it was important; My poor tummy muscles, objecting to even the teensiest bit of stress, knew it was important; but my heart, and hands, were too full of my brand new baby boy.

I was so lucky to have sufficient support from professionals, family and friends to achieve this tiny, but also challenging goal.

There are many potential barriers to exercise as a parent.

I am not advocating rushing back to the gym in the early days as a parent. Far from it. Conventional advice I received was to avoid high impact exercise such as running for at least 3 months after childbirth. Many women like myself with pelvic floor weakness may even be advised to take it easy for 6 months.

But what about those like me who need to do something early to re-establish core strength; Or those that enjoy the social, as well as the physical benefits, of exercise; what about later on… Being a parent lasts a long time.

These are some of the barriers to exercise I have encountered as a parent. Perhaps you have also experienced others?

1. Time: It can just be so busy. Juggling children, domestic duties, work and sleep. Exercise and fitness may not be a priority for precious adult time. Sometimes this is quite appropriate; time for emotional wellbeing is also vital.

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2. Energy: It is tiring physically and sometimes emotionally exhausting as a parent, particularly if sleep is disrupted. Fortunately running after toddlers, lifting and carrying babies, walking with pushchairs and generally being physically active is in itself good for physical wellbeing. Personally I still feel a greater benefit from also having adult time to exercise. I also find I tend to gain energy from exercise in this way, even when my energy resources are low.

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3. Motivation: I’ve been struggling to write about motivation for weeks now. Not because I lack motivation but because I know how hard it can be to find. I don’t want sound patronising or as if I have all the answers. I often rely on the inspiration of others to help motivate me.

4. Confidence: I think this particularly applies to women after having children. Our bodies undergo immense changes. They don’t necessarily look the same and they may not respond in the someway to physical stress. I can’t be the only one worrying about exercising whilst breastfeeding or about the consequences of pelvic floor weakness whilst running (that means potentially leaking a little wee).

5. Childcare: Definitely a practical issue for many parents. There are some classes to which you can bring children also some gyms with crèche facilities. Knowing what’s on where can be a challenge too.

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6. Knowledge: Following on from the point above, I often rely on friends to recommend groups and classes.

7. Guilt: Although finding motivation and time for fitness is difficult, sometimes justifying adult time for our own priorities is almost as hard.

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I felt a little deflated after writing this list. I don’t just want to write about the barriers to exercise as a parent without being able to offer some kind of solution.

I alone don’t have all the answers and nether does this blog. However, I believe that many of these barriers can be overcome by parents. Particularly when they are not trying to overcome these barriers in isolation.

So I’ve created a Facebook group for parents to share motivation and ideas. I hope Mums and Dads might use it to share their knowledge of local exercise classes suitable for kids and parents; to motivate each other; to help others improve confidence and to perhaps share and achieve goals together.

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Here is a link to the group. I hope it might help a few of us over come some of these barriers to exercise.

Ten Minutes Spare – Families and Fitness

Please do come and join in if you think it may be useful to you. I’m sure that you will be able to inform, inspire or motivate someone else.

30 Second Summary: It can be tough to exercise or maintain fitness as a parent. I hope that this new group might help overcome a few of these barriers.

What have been the biggest challenges to looking after your physical health as a parent? Have you any tips for overcoming them?

I’m linking up with these great blogs:

Mami 2 Five
Mummascribbles
Fitness 4 Mamas

Running with gratitude

Running with gratitude (the slightly less cool version of running with attitude)

The exhilaration of a bit of time to myself is matched by the wonderful feeling of freedom running along the beautiful Northumberland coast.

But on some days I’m exhausted. Emotionally and physically. There can’t be many jobs that require you to walk around doubled over, both hands occupied by a small want-to-be-toddler. Simultaneously dealing with the capricious whims of 2-year-old want-to-be (insert interchangeably dancer, doctor, shop keeper, member of Peppa pig) Parenting is amusing, beautiful and ever-changing, but relaxing it is not.

Some days getting out the house to soft play is a 45-minute ordeal. Getting my trainers on at the end of Mummy duty (or rather the evening break before night shift starts) requires a little effort.

But then I remember. I am so lucky to be able to run.

To do this thing that I love, that is also good for my body physically and good for my mind emotionally (I’m still talking about running, tsk no smut here.)

I’m so grateful because after the birth of Pumpkin I wasn’t sure I would run again.

Two weeks after the birth of my gorgeous, and hefty 9 pound 2 baby boy, I discovered I had a third degree uterine prolapse.

As a medical professional I was fairly sure of the diagnosis even before it was confirmed by my GP. I knew that it could potentially result in bothersome but ultimately not serious symptoms.

As a women I cried a little. I quite liked my organs where they were. Most of all I cried because I was worried I would never run with freedom again.

Running has always been part of my life. I would not consider myself a serious runner. I usually ran alone for enjoyment rather than competition. However, the thought of not being able to run without risking further damage to my pelvic floor was difficult.

Of course I like to think if running wasn’t to be I would have coped graciously. Loss of running pales into insignificance in comparison to many of the things I see at work.

But I was lucky.

My prolapse dramatically improved and by the time I attended for my 6 week postpartum check it had almost fully resolved.

So when I lose motivation or when I’m tired at the end of the day sometimes I curl up on the sofa and enjoy precious time with my husband.

Even on those nights. I know how lucky I am. That at any time I can put on my trainers and go out for a run. The freedom that could have been taken away from me is a constant motivation to go out and exercise.

Of course I am also human. Some days when I run I am tired, achy and disinterested. But mostly these days I run with gratitude.

How do you feel about exercise? Is it a chore when you are too busy or is it something to look forward to as a bit of an escape and time for yourself?

Please note this is not a formal review of evidence about running with prolapse. I will be writing more on this topic later. This post was primarily focussing on my emotions.  I hope some of the following might be of interest if you are concerned about running and prolapse. 

Running in Lavender

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Fitness 4 Mamas

New equipment for flat abdomen – a piece of string!

Physiotherapist Sammy Margo says achieve flatter abs using a piece of string.

Has anyone else read about this method suggested by physiotherapist Sammy Margo, for toning the abdomen without using exercise equipment or going to the gym?

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Women lying floor doing abdominal exercises

It sounded intriguing so I thought I’d do a little more reading.

Sammy Margo is a physiotherapist based in London and has been quoted this week in the Daily Mail and previously in the Guardian. She has produced this video which encourages people to focus to engaging their core muscles in everyday life using a piece of sting.

The idea is simple.

  1. Draw in tummy by contracting abdominal muscles.
  2. Release by 50%
  3. Tie a piece of string around narrowest part of tummy when 50% contracted
  4. The string will act as a reminder to hold abdominal muscles slightly contracted during the day.

The theory is that consistent engagement of the core muscle tones the abdomen and results in a flatter tummy.

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In particular the video claims that integrating abdominal exercises in this way into everyday life results in:

  • A flatter stomach
  • A work out for the core
  • Improved abdominal tone
  • Improved posture

Whilst I love the simplicity and sense behind this method, I’m intrigued to know how it actually translates into practice.

I don’t know if Sammy Margo has had a chance to formally test her method yet. It would be useful to know how long someone might use this method before seeing any results? Are there any practical difficulties with the string? Can it achieve a real change in appearance or just as a supplement to other exercise?

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I have had trouble with Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) following the birth of my second baby. During my physiotherapy I was advised to contract my abs to around 30% during all daily activities.

This video from Sammy Margo is potentially a good way to remind myself of the original advice. I’m unsure if it will really result in a flatter tummy. But for the sake of a piece of sting I’m defiantly willing to give it a try.

I’ll report back with my experience in a few weeks.

What do you think? Would you try this unusual method to get a flatter tummy without hitting the gym.


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7 tips for finding time to exercise

How to find time to exercise in a busy life

Like many of you I have a life that feels full. Full of the wonderful, demanding and chaotic time with my family, full of the mundane  housework and shopping, full of amazing friends with whom I can spend some precious adult time. I am fortunate to currently be on maternity leave but soon the pressures and commitment that come with work will intensify the demands on my time.

I am lucky to have all these things clamouring for my time. I may not always feel this when I’ve been up at night with a grumpy baby, trying to cook dinner and entertain a toddler who often needs a potty trip at inopportune moments, but I am grateful that life challenges me to balance so many things on a daily basis.

Finding time to exercise is just another of the challenges resultant from a busy life .

Actually this is a two-part challenge – firstly motivation to exercise is required ( I find this motivation occasionally goes into hiding somewhere under a pillow, much as I would like to after a bad nights sleep).

Secondly, I need time to put this motivation into practice.

I’ll be looking at motivation to exercise later this week, but here are some practical ways to exercise when time is very precious.

7 tips for finding time to exercise

1. Short workouts at home: As the name of my blog implies just finding ‘ten minutes spare’ is often enough to achieve something worthwhile. When I am really struggling to find adequate time I do a ten minute exercise routine that doesn’t require any equipment at home.

2. Exercise DVDs: I’ve already written a little about my experience of learning Pilates at home using exercise DVDs. There are also numerous youtube videos to keep you motivated without needing to attend a gym class.

3. Early morning exercise: At the moment my precious sleep is frequently interrupted by baby Pumpkin so there is little chance of me voluntarily getting out of bed before he is awake. Mr R, however, often does a workout first thing in the morning before the chaos commences for the day.

4. Easily accessible exercise equipment:  Mr R has a bar for pull-ups over a door frame in our house. Glamorous it may not be, not practical and easily accessible it certainly is!

5. Running: I do find that this is one of the most time efficient ways to exercise, its quicker to simply on a pair of trainers and get out the door than to attend a gym. It’s also possible to go whenever you have a spare moment rather than struggling to make a timed class or group.

6. Cycling to work: I am currently on maternity leave but Mr R cycles to work once a week.

7. Walking: I walk on a daily basis, usually pushing a heavy double pushchair. This is not something I would have considered exercise pre-children, but I do now count it as physical exertion. Extra credit if done with a shopping-laden pushchair, one-handedly, whilst clutching a toddlers hand, with a baby strapped to the chest (yes I have done this…on more than one occasion)

Exercise as a new Mum brings extra challenges. Your body has undergone immense changes and it is advisable to wait until after the 6 week post-natal check before commencing a formal exercise regime. Once you have the go-ahead to start working-out the following are some of the options for exercising with a baby.

  • ‘Bring your baby’ exercise classes: There are often local classes organised for Mummies where baby’s can be brought into the exercise room. There are also some classes where babies can be worn in slings
  • Gyms with crèche facilities
  • Outdoor classes where you can exercise with a buggy
  • Home workouts with your baby. I have enjoyed reading the baby wearing workout from breaking muscle.com. I have never personally done any formal exercises whilst baby-wearing, but simply carrying your baby is in itself a form of exercise.

I am constantly inspired by some of my amazing friends and acquaintances who have achieved fantastic exercise and health related goals in their busy lives. Later this week I will be writing about motivation to exercise, which consists of having goals and inspiration. I am blessed to have both reasons to want to remain physically fit and to be surrounded by inspiration.

30 Second Summary: Finding time and motivation to exercise can be a challenge. Here are 7 tips for fitting exercise into a busy life.

Please do let me know if you have any tips for how you manage to find time to exercise in your life when things are busy? I always enjoy reading your comments.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Parkrun

5k Parkrun

On Saturday I ventured out into the wind and cold voluntarily before 9am. Actually the time is irrelevant. As to a Mummy with two little ones 5am is a bit early, 9am is most certainly not.

The wind and the cold were braved in order for me to participate in a 5k parkrun. This marks the first timed run in which I have taken part since having baby Pumpkin.

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For those of you who have never heard of parkruns, these are fantastic weekly organised runs that happen in many locations around the country. The events are free and open to runners of all ages and abilities. They usually take place on a Saturday morning around 9am, often through picturesque locations.

How to take part in a Parkrun

Prior to taking part in a parkrun you need to register online. A unique bar code is then generated and you print this and take it to the run.

My local Parkrun takes place on the Whitely Bay Links Common, this is a pretty green area adjacent to the sea front. The course is a mixture of gravel and tarmac paths and involves a couple of small inclines.

What is it like to take part

  • My local parkrun this week had 302 participants!
  • The fastest runner completed the 5k run in a fairly quick 17 minutes 23 seconds
  • The slowest few runners all finished in just under an hour
  • During my run I was overtaken by 2 dads pushing pushchairs.
  • I ran past several children (and was overtaken by a couple too!).
  • I saw several dogs running alongside their owners too.

Forever Young

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Overall it is a really inclusive event. The Parkrun is supervised by voluntary marshals, who point you in the right direction and provide friendly support as you run.

Results

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Later on the day of the Parkrun you receive your results via email. This gives you your time, gender position, overall position and also age grading. You can also look them up online and will see a list of all of the participants and their times.

The age grading is a cleaver score that allows you to compare yourself against someone of a different gender or different age. The higher the score the better the performance. These scores are calculated as a percentage against the world record for your gender and age group.

My experience

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On saturday, I completed the 5k distance feeling tired but not exhausted. I was a whole 4 minutes slower than my personal best so plenty of room for improvement. This still represents a huge achievement for me.

**NOTE: For those of you who feel uncomfortable, or uncomprehending at the term ‘pelvic floor’ I suggest you skip these last two paragraphs***

After having Pumpkin the weakness of my abdomen (diastasis recti) also caused weakness of my pelvic floor and a uterine prolapse. Running is one of the activities that may exacerbate a prolapse. Fortunately for me this has now resolved. I’m not going to go into any more details now, but suffice to say I am delighted to be able to run with all my organs in their correct anatomical position.

So on Saturday morning I could have stayed at home, having a calm family morning with my two angelic children. Or more realistically a chaotic, noisy morning full of laughter and the occasional tantrum. Instead I thoroughly enjoyed my 5k run, despite the wind and the cold, and am immensely grateful to have been physically able to participate.

30 Second Summary: Parkruns are free 5k running events that take place on weekend mornings in various locations throughout the country. The runs are friendly and inclusive of all ages and abilities. The results system is thorough and allows a participant to easily track their progress against themselves and other competitors.

Do you have any experience of parkruns or other 5k runs? Or like me have you had any injuries or complications that have made running more challenging? Do leave any thought in the comments section.
Further information

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Pilates for Diastasis Recti

Anyone else not know their ‘Downward Dog’ from their ‘Hundred’? Confused about the difference between Pilates and yoga? Or perhaps like me struggling with a mummy tummy or diastais recti after pregnancy and wondering what might help? 

Why I started Pilates

I have written a little already about my experience of diastais recti. 

After the birth of Pumpkin I experienced:

  • Difficulty sitting up from a reclined position
  • Discomfort coughing or sneezing 
  • Difficulty lifting anything including my baby!
  • Pelvic floor weakness
  • A excessively rounded tummy despite very little weight gain during pregnancy.

I had a five finger breath diastais recti and wore an abdominal support for several weeks with physiotherapy input for 3 months.

My experience is probably just more extreme than that faced by many women as their bodies adjust after pregnancy. 

Here I’m going to write about some of my ongoing exercises after my diastais had significantly improved. After finishing physiotherapy it was recommended that I continued regular exercise at home. One of the things that was specifically recommended was for me to do some Pilates.

I now have a couple of DVDs and try to do a Pilates workout at home at least once a week.

Photograph of women with diastasis recti after finshing Pilates exercise at home

I’d never done any Pilates before this and to be quite honest I wasn’t even sure of this difference between this and yoga. I also wasn’t sure why Pilates was particularly recommended for helping recovery from diastasis recti.

This is my understanding of it now.

About Pilates

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1900’s from a mixture of Western forms of exercise, yoga and martial arts. Therefore there are many similarities between yoga and Pilates, however essentially yoga has a spiritual side that Pilates does not.

Reported benefits of Pilates

(Please notes these benefits are consensus of experts on the internet rather than formal research trials. According to NHS choices very few of the health benefits of Pilates have been subjected to rigorous scientific examination)

  • Improved coordination and balance
  • Improved strength
  • Exercises easily modifiable for complete beginners or experts
  • Stress Relief
  • Improved core strength
  • Improved flexibility

Pilates and Diastasis Recti

Pilates is thought to help some women with diastasis recti as it focuses on engaging the transverse abdominal muscles.

A diastais recti is a separation of rectis abdominus  (the six pack muscle) due to stretching of the linea alba, the connective tissue, joining it together. Any exercises that cause stressing of the two sides of this muscle may prevent the separation from healing.

Examples of potentially unhelpful exercises

  • traditional sit ups
  • crunches
  • roll ups/downs
  • bicycle

My experience of unhelpful exercises

I was taught to check if an exercise might be unhelpful by looking for ‘doming’ of my tummy. In the early days after having Pumpkin everyday activities such as having a cough would cause my stomach to budge. However by the time I’d finished physiotherapy I could perform exercises such as the bicycle by ensuring that my transverse muscles were engaged.

Why Pilates may be helpful for anyone with Diastasis recti

In Pilates every time you exhale you should focus on the position of the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. This focus and awareness of the activation of appropriate muscles is, in my experience, the most helpful thing about Pilates for someone with a diastasis.

During my home workouts I do still find certain movements that cause doming of my abdomen, however, because I am constantly reminded to check that my core muscles are appropriately activated, I can quickly identify if an exercise is suitable.

The evidence for use of Pilates for healing diastasis recti

It was recommended that I used Pilates by a very helpful and sensible NHS physiotherapist. I respected all the advice she gave me with regards to healing my diastasis and I have no doubt that I would not be anywhere close to as fit as I am now without her input. However, I have not found any actual researched evidence about the usefulness of Pilates for anyone with diastasis recti. This implies that the suggestion that Pilates is helpful for this condition is possibly based on consensus of opinion rather than researched trials. Of course I am not an expert in this matter and would be delighted to hear from anyone who knows of any researched trials.

Final thoughts

My personal experience is that I really enjoy the Pilates workouts that I do at home. I find the occasional exercise that causes doming of my abdomen but because Pilates has taught me a grater awareness of activating the appropriate core muscles it is easy to identify and substitute a different one instead.

30 Second Summary: Pilates is sometimes recommended for women with Diastasis Recti. I have found the exercises enjoyable and overall helpful in engaging my transverse abdominus muscles.

Further Information

Please do let me know if you have any experience of Pilates and if it something you have found to have any particular health benefits?

Why do Squats with a kettlebell?

Squats with Kettlebell

IMG_0867This week I thought maybe I’d try to learn something new for my workout post. I often stick to roughly the same routines and runs so I thought why not use the blog as an excuse to try something new?

I’ve always been slightly intimidated by kettlebells. I only usually use really light hand-weights (only up to 3kg!), but I’ve always wanted to try as Mr R uses a kettlebell as part of his routines.

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So I asked Mr R to show me how to do the most simple exercise he could think of with the kettlebell. He picked squats.

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How to do body weight squats

  • Stand with feet hip distance apart
  • Push body weight backwards whilst bending knees
  • Raise hands out in front for balance, parallel to the ground with palms downwards
  • Don’t let knees go over toes
  • When the bottom starts to stick out, keep spine neutral – don’t let it curve.
  • Aim to get legs parallel (at 90 degrees) to the floor.

Actually when I was researching technique for squats (to be sure I’ve been doing them properly!) I have found debate on-line about the benefits of full squats versus the version above which are half squats. I’ve always done half squats and from what I understand there is debatable risks to the knees by doing the full version. However I did find this very interesting site advocating doing the full squat over the half squat.

Why to do squats

  • Bottom toning
  • Non- impact so gentle on the back, knees and ankles
  • Improved balance
  • Tones muscles in the leg
  • Burns calories
  • Improves core stability

Why to do kettlebell squats?

A bodyweight squat strengths primarily the lower body, back and core. By adding in a kettlebell the arms and shoulders also get a workout.

How to do kettlebell squats

  • Hold kettlebell in front of, and close to, chest with two hands.
  • Lower into squat position as detailed above whilst holding kettlebell close to the chest
  • Keep elbows tucked in.
  • Rise up again and repeat motion

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How I coped with doing kettlebell squats

Actually as you can see by my posture in this picture I found it surprisingly MUCH harder than a weight free squat. I couldn’t squat with my legs quite parallel to the floor and certainly couldn’t maintain it long enough to take a picture!

I also struggled to keep my back in a neutral position.

Overall I’m glad to have discovered the benefits of squats with added weights. I’m going to try adding a hand weight first and might work up to using a kettlebell regularly. I’m also hoping Mr R will show me a few other kettlebell exercise now that I’m no longer intimidated by them.

30 Second Summary: Squats are a great exercise for the lower body and core, adding in a kettlebell also works out the arms and shoulders. However, its important to only use weights if you can continue to squat with the proper technique.

Have any of you had any experiences of using a kettlebell? Or like me have you been a bit intimidated of trying out new bits of equipment? I’d love to hear any comments.

Mums' Days

10 minute abdominal exercises

Trying to find time to exercise

I’m sure lots of you will relate to my  struggle to find time to exercise. As I’ve written previously I had a significant diastasis recti after giving birth so it’s really important for me to keep looking after my tummy muscles. If I have a week without core exercises I can feel the diastasis gap widening again. I know not only does this mean my core and pelvic floor are weaker but it also has cosmetic implications. My tummy starts to bulge out again and I can go from being my usual size 6-8 to looking about 6 months pregnant on a bad week!

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So…..I am also a huge fan of 10 minute workouts at home. I’m going to share one of my basic abdominal exercise routines taking around 10 minutes. There is no equipment is required. You will also note that I don’t include any crunches only because I still really find these difficult to do without causing stress on my diastasis recti.

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Please note: Although I can just about do most of these exercises now, if any of you have issues with diastasis recti I would strongly recommend getting a professional to show you how to engage your transverse muscles when exercises and also how to check whether you are getting any doming of your abdomen (which is a sign the recti diastasis is under stress).

I aim to perform each exercise for around a minute.

10 minute Abdominal Workout

1. Plank

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  • Lie on front
  • Push up onto your elbows (forearms remain touching the floor)
  • Try to hold in tummy muscles and also don’t stick your bum in the air!
  • Try to keep the whole body in a straight line.
  • Hold for as long as possible – up to a minute

2. Bicycle

  • Lie on back with knees  and hips bent at 90 degrees and feet off the floor
  • Reach right elbow towards left knee and straighten right leg at the same time
  • Repeat with left arm towards right knee
  • Continue to alternate arms and legs for up to a minute
  • (this sounds really complicated but its not once you’ve started!)

3. Side plank left

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  • Lie on left side
  • Push up onto left elbow and keep hips in straight line
  • Hold for as long as possible – up to 1 minute

4. Side plank right

  • Lie on right side
  • Push up onto right elbow, keep hips in line with the rest of the body
  • Hold for as long as possible up to a minute

5. Alternate Arm/leg stretch (Mr R calls this the superman)

  • Knee onto all fours
  • Lift left arm and right leg off the ground and stretch them at 90 degrees to body
  • Return to start position and repeat with other arm and leg.
  • Continue to repeat with alternate arms and legs.

6. Plank with toe taps

  • Get into plank position
  • Hold position and lift left foot just off the ground. Tap immediately back down again and repeat with right foot.
  • Continue to tap from left to right foot for as long as possible up to a minute.

7. Double leg circles (this one can be tricky….if its too difficult just make smaller circles!)

  • Lie on back
  • Stretch both legs into air – at 90 degrees to body
  • Keeping feet together move legs around in a slow circle
  • Continue for as long as possible up to a minute

8. Side plank push ups (30 seconds each side)

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  • lie on side with knees slightly bent
  • Raise hip off ground (as if doing a sideways push up!)
  • Lower and repeat as many times as possible – up to 30 seconds then switch sides

9. Scissors

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  • Lie on back
  • Raise left leg off ground
  • Lower back to ground and as the heel taps down lift right leg
  • Continue to alternate legs for as long as possible up to a minute.

10. Stretch!

Please let me know if any of you also have experience with diastasis recti or anyone also struggling to find time to exercise?

Mums' Days