Birth, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum

Don’t Put up With Leaking During Exercise

I’ve written a lot about my experience postpartum, and care I believe women should receive in the immediate postpartum period, but what about down the line?

What if you are 1, 2, 10 years out from your most recent birth?

What if I told you, once postpartum, always postpartum?

Growing a birthing a human fundamentally changes our bodies for the rest of our lives.

sneeze-and-pee

Do you relate? You would not believe how many women I’ve heard from who describe symptoms of pelvic floor (PF) dysfunction years after their last baby.

What do I mean by PF dysfunction?
Well there are varying degrees, but symptoms can include but are not limited to:

Peeing or leaking urine when you sneeze, jump, run, laugh or cough.
Feeling like you always have to pee, no matter how long it has been since you last went
Dribbling urine after you get up from the toilet.
Feeling like there is still urine in your bladder after you finished peeing.
Feeling like you have to bear down or push on your abdomen to fully empty your bladder.
Feeling like you have to push on your perineum in order to fully empty your bowel.
Pain in your perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) with activity or prolonged standing.
Unexplained lower back pain.
Painful sex or decreased sexual pleasure.
Feeling as though the vagina is too tight or small for sexual penetration.
Feeling of laxity in the pelvic area.
Inability to consciously contract (or Kegel) or relax the pelvic floor .
Inability to distinguish between a bowel movement and passing wind.
Inability to control passing of wind or bowel contents.
Protrusion of internal organs out of the vaginal opening.

If you can relate to any (one, or more than one) of the symptoms listed above, it is possible you may be experiencing some degree of PFD.

mom-wet-pants

I know what you’re thinking; ‘But I’ve had babies, don’t all women just pee themselves after they have babies? Isn’t this normal?

The answer is a resounding NO!

If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would.

But what about all of those Poise, Always, and Depends commercials? They make it seem like it’s just something we have to accept.

mjaxmi1kmte3ytdmndfmotm2mtuy

Better buy some diapers, because you’re never going to keep your pee in again.

No.

No. No. No. No. No!

While urinary incontinence (one of the most frequent symptoms of PFD) is common it is not normal!

Some of you might now be saying “Well, that’s what I thought, and I told my doctor and he/she said ‘Just do your Kegels, you’ll be fine.

There seems to be a huge disconnect in the medical/obstetrical world when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction. A lot of physicians and midwives seem to think that as long as your organs aren’t falling out, you’re doing okay.

This is not the case! There is help!

Can I get a Hallelujah?

So what can you do?

Do I really have to say it again?

I will. Because I can’t say it enough.

Pelvic Health, or Women’s Health Physiotherapy!

You’re thinking “But how? If my doctor doesn’t think anything is wrong, how can I get a referral?

Most Pelvic Health Physios don’t require a referral*!

Now you’re asking “How Do I find a physiotherapist?

Here is a list of websites that offer search within Canada to find local physiotherapists who specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor:
Pelvic Health Solutions
Pelvienne Wellness
Physio Can Help**

Once you’ve worked with a physio to determine where you are at, in addition you can work with a personal trainer who specializes in postnatal training to get your strength back! That’s what I am here for! I am now taking on a few clients to start building my personal training career and experience! Feel free to contact me for more information, either through this website, or on my Facebook page or Instagram page.

download

And please, please, do not think you have to live with wet panties for the rest of your life!

*some benefits/insurance plans do require a physician’s referral to pay for the service
**General physiotherapist lookup – not specific to PF
fitness, pelvic health

Why the ‘Squat Challenge’ Didn’t Give you a Better Booty

You’ve probably seen all of those ‘squat challenges’ floating around social media, selling a better booty with more squats, right? You may have even tried them, hoping that it might help correct the flatness your bum seems to have acquired over the last few years. You squat, squat, squat and still have a flat butt… What gives? Well the problem just may be a butt wink.

What exactly is a butt wink?

Well when you are performing a squat, and you lower down to the floor, for a lot of people their bum rolls underneath them and tucks as they get lower into the squat, rounding the lower back. This is referred to as a ‘butt wink’.

Why is this a problem?

Well the problem is three-fold.

First and foremost, when your bum tucks under, your glutes are virtually knocked out of action (hence why doing squats didn’t fix your flat bum). They are unable to fire appropriately in this position to help push your body out of the squat. This is bad. This is bad because your glutes are supposed to be one of the prime movers in a squat and if you are taking them out of the equation then you are forcing more work onto the quads and the anterior chain, which is already tight as a result of our sitting culture. We want to squat in a manner than balances all of the muscles in the lower body, the quads, hamstrings, glutes and even the calves.

Second, when your sacrum and pelvis roll under in a squat, this forces your spine out of ‘neutral’ and creates extension in the lumbar spine. Now, our spines are designed to flex and extend, but when doing a squat, this is not the action we are intending to strengthen and can cause problems like disc and ligament damage. No one wants to knowingly cause disc and ligament damage in their spine.

Third, butt winking or bum tucking shortens the pelvic floor, and bulges the anterior core or transverse abs. It puts the entire core into a less optimal position which prevents it from functioning the way it should. Squatting properly can strengthen the core, and you want your core stability system working optimally, especially when you start doing things like adding weight.

So I challenge you to either get in front of a mirror or take a video of yourself and see how your pelvis performs in a squat. Especially if you are doing squats with weight on your shoulders, like a typical barbell squat, as this can accentuate any butt wink you may have. Your spine and pelvis should remain aligned throughout the movement, with flexion occurring in the hips, knees and ankles.

Next, work on correcting the wink. The first step is to identify at what point your butt tucks under. Sometimes all it takes is to be mindful of this, and consciously keep your bum and pelvis in the right position. Sometimes your physical anatomy is working against you, not everyone’s hips are the exact same shape. Some peoples hip sockets face forward, some out to the side, some are shallow, some are deep, some have long femur necks, some short and these all affect how we get down into a squat. Try playing with your stance, widen your feet a bit, turn out your toes a bit, and see if this helps. Very rarely it is due to muscles that are too tight to allow that depth of squat with a neutral pelvis, but this isn’t often the case.

The last reason may be that you’ve been squatting improperly for so long that you are now imbalanced between the front and back of your body, usually the quads overpowering the hams and glutes. To overcome this, you can try squatting either with the weight in front of you, like a goblet squat, or using something to hold onto, like a TRX handle or doorframe and focus on putting your weight into your heels and trying to keep your shins as vertical as possible. Doing squats aided in this manner will force your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) to do more of the work, allowing them to strengthen and balance out the quads.

So next time you bring your ass to the grass, remember not to wink.

Your booty will thank you.

Why the

fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Let go of the Ego

Let me tell you a story.

Doing my personal training classroom training, included a ‘fitness class’ for one hour at the end of the weekend. Our ProTrainer had the intention of teaching us some lessons beyond ‘how to exercise’ and she certainly did.

Now to clarify, at this point I was 3 months postpartum, had only had one session with my physio and wasn’t really supposed to be doing any sort of intense exercise. However, I love intense exercise, I am supremely competitive and cannot stand the thought of others thinking I was lazy or not ‘fit’ enough.

Before the class began, we were told ‘bring something with sugar in it, like fruit or juice. Do not bend over so your head goes below your heart at any point during the class, do not let your feet stop moving, and above all do not leave the room alone’.

I knew things were about to get serious.

I was excited. I hadn’t had what I would define as a ‘real’ workout in months. We get through the majority of the class, lot’s of squats and lunges and such, nothing I couldn’t handle. Then our instructor says “If you’ve had a baby, you’re going to hate me”.

Oh shit.

I literally JUST had a baby. This isn’t going to be good.

She coaches us to skip (without the rope). Continuously. For what seemed like forever.

Now for most of the class, this was an intense physical workout, that challenged their body and fitness.

For me it was mental.

I nearly broke down in tears during the class. She had taught us earlier in the course to ‘check our ego’. To not focus our training on ‘being the best’ or comparing our clients to anyone but themselves, and train them at the level they are at, not the level we think they need to be. It took every ounce of me to listen to that message for myself during that class.

You see, physically I definitely could have kept up with the class, no problem.

At the expense of my pelvic floor.

That could have easily been one of those moments you hear about where the woman leaves with soggy underwear, or worse, my uterus getting ready to fall out. But no one in the room knew that, all they could see was that I appeared as though I wasn’t trying. From the outside it looked like I didn’t care enough to push through the class, because I definitely wasn’t tired, and it was obvious.

This killed me.

I always prided myself on at least giving it my all. Busting my ass, so at least if I didn’t ‘win’ or keep up, at least I gave it my all when it came to anything physical. But this time I was faced with limitations. I had to have a frank discussion with myself:

Is this worth it?
Is ‘pushing it’ in this class with a bunch of people you may or may never see again worth potential life long damage? 
Is it worth sacrificing your body to prove something to these people who probably don’t actually give a shit?

And the answer was, obviously, no.

But it killed me. I hated that I couldn’t push through the discomfort. That I couldn’t just ignore what my physio said and jump until my calves gave out.

Eventually one of the assistants to the instructor came over and asked me if I was okay. “Are you leaking?” she asked. She knew. I explained I wasn’t but I was in physio and not willing to risk it, she understood and showed me some modifications to help me continue to participate without risking injury. It was at this point that I realized in my own embarrassment I had slowly moved to the back of the room. I was almost against the back wall, unconsciously hoping that no one would notice that I wasn’t fully participating. Trying to shrink back into the shadows and not allow myself to be seen as ‘unfit’ or not trying.

That was the moment I vowed to never allow any of my clients to feel like this. To never let them feel like they weren’t good enough to participate, or that their level of participation was inadequate. It was a terrible feeling that I hope I never invoke in anyone I am hoping to help. It was in that moment that I learned that training isn’t about the ego. It’s about where are you are here and now. Not where you were 6 months ago, where you were before you got pregnant, not where you were when you were 18. Right now. It’s about maximizing the abilities of your current body, today, in this moment. Some days, you might be able to bang out a circuit and feel like a rock star, other days the baby may have kept you up half the night and all you’ve managed to eat is a toaster strudel and a litre of coffee, and that same circuit feels impossible.

And that’s okay.

We have to learn to accept the here and now and forget about comparisons or being good enough. We can find balance between challenging ourselves and feeling inadequate because someone else can do it better.

We are strong even in our weakest moments.
We are enough today, tomorrow and every day.

 

Let Go of the Ego

Birth, fitness, Pregnancy, Uncategorized

What I Learned From my Labour & Birth

They say hindsight is 20/20.

39 weeks
Me in early labour at 39 weeks pregnant!

I thoroughly believe that is true. Looking back at my labour and birth of nugget nearly 6 months out, there are a few things I would have done differently, if I had the chance. This doesn’t mean I regret anything. I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time, but I also believe that it’s smart to take every experience you have and try to learn something from it.

  1. I wouldn’t have pushed so early
    As soon as I felt the urge, I pushed. It felt good, so I kept doing it. Looking back now, I think I was just over excited and should have let my body and my uterus do more of the work before I started actively participating. Even when a woman is not actively pushing, your uterus is still working to bring baby down with each and every contraction. I would have focused more on ‘breathing baby down’ or breathing through contractions and allowing them to do their work and conserving my energy for the work of actively pushing later on.
  2. I would have squatted more during labor
    I honestly have absolutely no idea why I didn’t do this. Squatting during labour helps open the pelvis and relax the pelvic floor, allowing baby to come down more easily. I prepared by squatting throughout my pregnancy, I knew that squatting in labour was beneficial, but for some absurd reason it did not pop into my head once to squat during labour. I think maybe I had it in my head that squatting should be reserved for pushing, but even then I didn’t think of it.
  3. I would have paid better attention to my posture
    All day in early labour I was so keen. I stayed in alignment, made sure I was giving my baby the best passage through, until I got into the birth tub. For some reason as soon as I got in there, I sat back on my sacrum (re: slouched) and I believe that influenced nugget bumping into my pubic bone on his way out. I also started out pushing in this position, which when I think back was actually a terrible idea!
  4. I would have slept!!
    Man, I wish I had slept more in early labour. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and stayed awake until 9 the next morning after he was born, with the exception of a few very short naps. I had it in my head that labour was going to be quick and didn’t let myself relax. I was also worried if I got too relaxed, labour wouldn’t start and I would have to be induced. Being induced terrified me, so that was always in the back of my mind.
  5. I would have paid closer attention to my body
    Going into labour I thought I was very body-aware. Now, thinking back, I don’t remember feeling the baby move down. I was shocked when my midwife told me how low he was because I didn’t feel it. I don’t remember feeling my contractions move him down until he was crowning. I don’t remember feeling my pelvic floor, whether it was relaxed or not. I would have put more mental effort into concentrating on how everything felt and how it was changing as I progressed.
  6. I would have seen a women’s health physiotherapist prenatal
    Now this isn’t essential, however I believe it would have dramatically helped me connect with my transverse abs and pelvic floor while I was pregnant to better prepare them for labour and postpartum. It probably would have also made me realize that I had a tight pelvic floor and allowed me to work on releasing that tension before I went into labour.
  7. I would have moved more in the later stages
    If I had known how much of a difference getting up and walking out to my car and contracting in those awkward positions would have made, I would have done it so much earlier! If I had known possibly hiking up and down the stairs even one time would have helped nugget sneak past my pubic bone and stop that excruciating pain I would have done it in a second. My midwife said later she thought about suggesting it, but didn’t think I would have been very receptive to the suggestion, which may or may not have been true.
  8. I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself
    As soon as my water broke, it was game on. I was raring to go. I’ve never been much of an endurance athlete and that was totally reflected that day. I wanted things to happen and I wanted them to happen NOW. I happened to be wearing my FitBit and I recorded nearly 60 stories of stairs walked that day! Looking back, instead of basically climbing a mountain worth of stairs, I should have rested, relaxed, and let my body do it’s thing.

I hope you can learn a bit from the things I would do differently if I had the chance. I’m hoping I will remember this when it comes time for nugget #2 and I can have the homebirth I dreamed of the first time around. I can only hope that my words and experience will help even one other woman takes steps towards having the birth that she hopes for, whatever that looks like.

what I learned

fitness, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Why I’ll Never Tell You to do Crunches

When I started my PT training, I learned that one of the exercises I needed to  perfect for my practical exam was the crunch (or abdominal curl up).

I was annoyed.

I hate crunches, doesn’t everyone?

But I hate them for reasons other than they suck to do. I hate them because they aren’t very functional, and they usually do more harm than good. And guess what? They probably aren’t doing anything to help you flatten your stomach, especially if you’re postpartum and have a diastasis recti (DR). They also can wreak havoc on your spine and your pelvic floor. Bet you didn’t know that either?

A lot of women with DR experience a ‘belly pooch’ or feel as though they still look pregnant weeks (or months) after birth. So they think, I just need to train my abs to suck that tummy in, so they get on the floor and crunch, crunch, crunch until they cannot crunch anymore. And they still  have a pooch, or sometimes it even gets worse! This is because DR is the thinning of the linea alba down the middle of the abs. The linea alba is the line of connective tissue that all of your abdominal muscles attach to, and it runs vertically from your ribs to your pubic bone, between the rectus abdominus, or 6-pack muscles. When you crunch, you increase your intra-abdominal pressure, pull on all of those abdominal muscles, and increase the tension on the linea alba. If it is already weakened, such as in DR, then you are just adding to the damage. If you’ve ever done a crunch and noticed a bulge in the middle of your belly, that’s your linea alba failing to support the pressure inside your belly.

So if this pressure can affect the linea alba, it only makes sense that it also affects the pelvic floor. In my previous post I talked about the pelvic floor being a trampoline that is stretched out postpartum. Which means, if your pelvic floor is already stretched and weak, then it will have a difficult time supporting the increased abdominal pressure created with crunches and it will delay the healing of the pelvic floor. This puts you at an even higher risk of incontinence or prolapse.

Now, my goal is to encourage women to focus on rehabilitation and training their body postpartum to be as highly functioning as possible. But, I know realistically, a lot of women will also have goals relating to their appearance, and that’s okay. The good news is repairing a DR will help in both because not only will it help your core function better, it will help reduce waist size, or that ‘mummy pooch’, which I know a lot of women struggle with.

I know I felt like my whole life changed so drastically after nugget was born, all I wanted was to feel normal in my body, to have that be one thing that was the same. So I get it, I understand wanting your clothes to fit and wanting to feel attractive to your partner. It doesn’t make you vain to feel this way. What I don’t agree with is sacrificing function in order to look a certain way, I believe we can have both! It might take a little more time and we have to let go of that ‘training ego’ that says we have to do crunches or whatever, because there are better ways of doing things.

The key to tummy is the transverse abdominus (TA), or the deepest ab muscles and learning how to engage them properly. Most people have difficulty connecting with these muscles without engaging their more superficial core muscles like the obliques and the rectus. But if you’ve ever ‘sucked your stomach in’ the TA is what you are using. It is also important to engage your pelvic floor when you engage your TA as they work together, which I learned from The Pelvic Floor Piston: Foundation for Fitness when I did the program. The core muscles are a team and you have to train them together in order for them to function well.

Now you don’t have to be training to practice working with your core. The core is always on, always part of your daily movements. If you didn’t have your core, you wouldn’t be able to stand up or lift anything, or breath or cough. In fact, once you’re a mom, it’s even more important that you learn to engage your core through your daily activities. Think about how much you lift in a day, your baby, laundry, groceries. That’s all lifting! These are perfect opportunities to practice engaging your core and sneak little workouts in throughout the day. Think about lifting your PF and bringing in your TA every time you pick the little one up & every time you carry a load of laundry. Pretty soon you’ll get better and better at being able to feel those muscles and engage them appropriately. If you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and can’t connect with those muscles no matter how hard you try, I encourage you to seek out a pelvic health physio in your area who can help you learn to use them properly.

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While I am in the process of obtaining my PT certification with prenatal/postpartum specialization, I’m not quite there yet. Even then, I won’t be able to help everyone, but I don’t want that to hold you back from reaching your goals. My lovely friend Lorraine Scapens over at Pregnancy Exercise has most generously offered to give my readers a 10% discount on her programs that I used when pregnant and still use postpartum; Fit2BirthMum & Birth2FitMum as well as her other programs Super Fit Mum & No More Mummy Tummy Challenge. Simply enter the discount code ‘HMHB‘ at checkout to get your 10% off!

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Pregnancy, Self Care

Why the 6-week Clearance Isn’t Enough

So you’ve had your 6-week postpartum check-up with your doctor, OB or midwife. They say ‘All is good, you can resume exercise’. You think ‘Awesome! I’m going to go out for a run tomorrow!’. Then tomorrow comes, you start running, and you feel like a bowling ball is bouncing inside your vagina, you leak, or worse you lose control of your bladder or bowels.

No one wants this. Why didn’t they warn you?

You’re not alone. The fact is, it takes a lot longer than 6 weeks for your pelvic floor, abs and uterine ligaments to return to normal. I am 5 months postpartum and still only feel maybe 90% normal. I can’t tell you why doctors and midwives don’t talk about this, but I’m hoping by reading this you’ll have a little bit more insight into postpartum exercise.

I talked about relaxin and pregnancy before, but did you know relaxin influences you for up to 3 months postpartum? And other hormonal changes will influence the laxity and strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments as long as you are breastfeeding?

True Story, Bro.

Let’s look at this logically though. Even if we take the scientific mumbo jumbo out. Your uterus was just huge (relatively speaking), then within the span of 6 weeks (or less) it shrank back down to the size of a pear. All of those ligaments, tendons and muscles that were holding that giant uterus up for 9 or so months have been stretched and loosened to accommodate it. They are going to take time to get back to where they were before. Here’s some perspective, if you had your leg in a cast for 9 months, then got the cast cut off, do you think you could go out and run a marathon 6 weeks later? Doubtful. Why do we treat all those very stressed ligaments inside our abdomen and pelvis any different? They’ve gone through massive changes and we need to respect that. We need to slowly and gently start adding exercises back in to allow those structures time to re-adapt back to their former glory.

Think of your pelvic floor like a trampoline. Now imagine a 400lb sumo wrestler sitting on that trampoline. That’s what your pelvic floor is like at the end of your pregnancy. Trying desperately just to keep everything up. Now imagine that sumo wrestler sitting there for a few months. How stretched would that trampoline be?

Ya, let that visual sink in for a moment.

We want that PF to bounce like trampoline, and be taught enough to resist the pressure of the organs it’s holding up (uterus, bladder, bowels) but flex with breath and impact. If you were trying to fix that stretched out trampoline, and someone kept jumping on it while you were working, it wouldn’t be very effective, would it? This is how it works with your PF and impact postpartum.

So what do I mean by ‘impact’?

I mean jumping, skipping, running, jogging, box jumps, jumping jacks, basically anything where there’s a period of time where both of your feet are off the floor, no matter how short the period of time is. Yes, even if it is a split second. Yes, even if you land gently.

Now, this isn’t to say you can never do these things again. This is definitely something you can work your way back to eventually. But you have to take your time, be careful and do it right. If you want your body to be functional well into old age, it’s important to take care of it now. If you want to have more children and want your body to support those pregnancies well, it’s important to respect this postpartum period and recover appropriately.

So the next question is how?

Well first, go see a Pelvic Health Physio (do I sound like a broken record yet?). Then work with a personal trainer who specializes in postpartum (like me, soon!) or purchase a program that is designed for postpartum women, like Birth2FitMum.

The most important thing, though, is to be mindful of your body. If things don’t feel right, don’t do them! Let go of your ego, and just be proud of where you are at currently. Just because you aren’t in the same place you were months ago, doesn’t mean you are broken, it’s all part of the journey! You grew a human! Go You!

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

My Core & Floor – The Never Ending Saga

I am so thankful I was lucky enough to learn about diastasis recti (DR) and how it relates to pregnancy early on in my pregnancy. So many women I talked to had no idea what this is, how it develops and how it affects their lives going forward. Even some OB/GYNs are poorly informed on what DR is and what it means for their patients. One of my good friends was telling me about the coning in her belly while she was doing crunches in her 3rd trimester and how her OB just told her ‘oh that’s normal, don’t worry about it’ so she didn’t think anything of it and just pushed the coning down while she continued doing crunches! What her OB SHOULD have said was, this is DR, this is what it means, these are the exercise you should not be doing as they will aggravate it and make it worse.

DR is the separation of the abdominal muscles to accommodate the growing uterus, and it happens to up to 66% of women when pregnant. In order to heal this separation, you first need to reconnect with your deep core muscles, the transverse abdominus (TA) and your pelvic floor (PF) and re-learn how to engage them appropriately.

I had a DR at the end of my pregnancy, even though I worked to prevent it. Looking back now, I think poor posture was to blame, but we all know hindsight is 20/20. At birth my separation was about 2 1/2 finger widths at the widest. I was lucky in that simply following my training program, Birth2FitMum, I was able to heal it within 6 weeks. However, once I began seeing my pelvic health physiotherapist (PHP) I realized that it was probably my over-active TA that helped more than I realized. The problem was, even though my TA healed my DR quickly, they further delayed the healing of my poor stretched out PF.

See, the core muscles work in symphony, and when one component is over or under-active, it throws the whole system out of whack. Julie Wiebe does an excellent job of explaining this in her video here. I love her model of the piston system of the core muscles. I experienced the issues she discussed in this video. I was tensing my PF in hopes of counteracting my strong abs. Before visiting my PHP I found Julie’s program The Pelvic Floor Piston: Foundation for Fitness extremely helpful. I’ve since learned through visiting my PHP that I hold a lot of my tension in my core, through holding in my abs and PF and taking short small breaths (because you can’t really hold your diaphragm taught and stay alive!). I’ve been learning how to allow my abs and PF to relax and how to take bigger breaths, and it’s still a work in progress 2 months later. It seems once I get one issue sorted out, another pops up, and after visiting my family doctor today, it seems I am on my way to the pelvic floor clinic in my city.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get in for another 3+ months. In the meantime, I will continue doing my exercises prescribed by my PHP, the pelvic floor piston exercises, as well as a few other exercise I’ve found help me personally connect with my PF and breath. One of my favourites that I’ve been doing since I was pregnant is just sitting in a squat. And no, I don’t mean those awful hover squats like you’re trying not to sit on a public toilet. More like you’re squatting in the forest having a pee. I relax, and it really helps me feel my breath through my pelvic floor. If you are having a hard time understanding how your breath and your PF are connected, try this. I also like to flow through cat-cow poses while controlling my breath and PF contractions. I think the reason these exercises work for me is because it takes my TA out of the equation, because they always want to kick in and take over.

I’m hoping I can re-learn how to use my core effectively before it comes time to work on nugget #2, and I think I am on the right track. However, some days I just feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle, and I’m hoping the pelvic floor clinic can help me with that. I encourage you, if you feel like something just ‘isn’t right’ to go to your doctor, or find a PHP near you to help you sort things out. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time, and multiple tries to figure out what’s going on and how to fix it. You don’t have to just deal with a dysfunctional body because you had a baby!

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While I am in the process of obtaining my PT certification with prenatal/postpartum specialization, I’m not quite there yet. Even then, I won’t be able to help everyone, but I don’t want that to hold you back from reaching your goals. My lovely friend Lorraine Scapens over at Pregnancy Exercise has most generously offered to give my readers a 10% discount on her programs that I used when pregnant and still use postpartum; Fit2BirthMum & Birth2FitMum as well as her other programs Super Fit Mum & No More Mummy Tummy Challenge. Simply enter the discount code ‘HMHB‘ at checkout to get your 10% off!

nutrition, Uncategorized

Nutrition Schmootrition

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a dietitian or nutritionist. These are just ideas that have worked well for me and should you choose to implement them, that is up to you. In my previous post I mention that I think that nutrition is the most important thing to worry about postpartum when it comes to your mood, energy and general well being. Well a lot of moms ask how? How can I eat and feed my family nutritiously? I usually hear things like its too much work, it’s too expensive, I don’t have time. Well I’ll share strategies I use to help myself keep on track.

  1. Be Boring
    Sounds boring right? Well it is. But I bet if you look at your daily meals, you’re probably eating the same things over and over again. You might switch it up every month or so, then eat the same meal for another month. For example, lately I’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast, greek yogurt with nuts and berries for meal 2, a large smoothie with lots of greens for meal 3 and whatever I have meal planned for dinner. Occasionally I’ll switch out meal 2 or 3 for leftovers from a dinner earlier in the week, but rarely do I actually make a completely different meal.
  2. Pay Attention to How you Feel
    Not everyone is the same when it comes to nutrition. Some people can eat bread daily and feel great and energised, but if I do it makes me feel bloated and sluggish. For some people this is dairy or beans or cabbage. Take a few days or a week or so and make a food diary, whether it’s on paper or using an app like MyFitnessPal, keep track. Then pay close attention to how you feel. Did you struggle to get out of bed this morning, and ate pizza last night? Do you feel gross and bloated in the evening after a bowl of pasta? Are you crampy and uncomfortable after eating baked beans? These are the things you need to think about. The last time hubs and I ordered pizza delivery, I was a miserable bitch the next day, and let’s just say his digestion wasn’t in peak form. Needless to say we’re a lot less likely to order pizza again.
  3. Find Something you Love
    If I tell you to eat oatmeal every day, but you hate oatmeal. You might do it once, or twice, but then you’ll gradually stop until you can’t remember the last time you ate oatmeal. You have to find healthy foods that you enjoy. If you love salad, find a way to make a quick easy salad. If you love chicken wraps, make chicken wraps!
  4. Cook Your Own Food
    Now this is a hard one to get into if you don’t already. I love cooking. It’s like meditation for me, but I can see how some people hate it. I think a lot of what people hate about it is they have no idea what they’re doing! Finding good recipes is key. This is why I love Pinterest. Whenever I feel like I’m in a rut or I want a new idea I go there. There are tonnes of healthy, quick & easy recipes on there for you to choose from!
  5. Choose Real Food
    Your best bet for healthy food is to buy things that don’t require an ingredients list. Like fruits, veggies & meats. There will always be times when you need packaged foods, and I’m not saying they’re all bad. But pay close attention, some greek yogurts are loaded with sugar, or frozen fruits can be sweetened. I personally love frozen veggies. I cannot be bothered to cut up and steam veggies most days at dinner, but dumping a bunch of frozen beans in a bowl and tossing them in the microwave is totally my style.
  6. Choose Healthier Options
    Almost all packaged foods out there have healthier versions available. However, do not be tricked by the ‘low fat’ movement! Most ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’ products are loaded with sugar so they don’t taste like cardboard. You have to read labels. In the ingredients, they are listed based on quantity, so if sugar is the first or second ingredient, then the product is most sugar. Try to find foods with whole ingredients and little fillers or added sugar. Don’t be fooled by hidden sugar like ‘fruit juice concentrate’ or ‘evaporated cane juice’. Sugar is sugar is sugar. Unless it is in the actual whole fresh fruit or veg, with accompanying fibre and nutrients, it’s just sugar.
  7. Meal Plan
    When my husband and I started meal planning we cut our grocery bill by probably 25-50%. How many times do you go grocery shopping because ‘there’s nothing to eat’ yet your fridge is full? This was us. Until we started meal planning! Now at the end of the week, we are down to bare bones, we go and stock up only what we need. Here is the Meal Plan Template I developed and we use weekly. It’s simple, easy to follow and helps you develop your grocery list for the week.
  8. Make Your Unhealthy Favourites Healthy
    This is one of my favourite things. I love being able to make something healthy and delicious! Now, it doesn’t always work, but don’t get discouraged. Keep trying! My favourite recipes that I’ve made healthier are lasagna with eggplant instead of pasta, meatloaf with oatmeal and lean ground beef, shepherds pie with cauliflower instead of potatoes. Honestly, 75% of my ‘healthy’ meals are made from lean ground beef, but you could substitute ground chicken or turkey if you prefer!

Hopefully these tips will help you get on the right track to eating better! I know since I started paying closer attention to my own nutrition it has been like night and day with the way I feel and how I interact with my family, and I hope you have the same experience!

motherhood, Self Care

5 Tips to Feel Awesome and be a Better Mom

You’re a new mom. Maybe this is your first baby, maybe it’s your second, third or twelfth.

You drag yourself out of bed every morning, way too early. You’re cranky and irritable. The fatigue is getting to you. You snap at your husband and feel like everyone and everything is out to annoy you.

You feel like you’re in the trenches and you’re just trying to make it through the day, everyday, bedtime can’t come soon enough. Once it does, it’s all you have to muster up something to eat before crashing on the couch, or going straight to bed yourself.

Does this sound like you?

It was me too. We’ve all been there. In a rut, don’t know why we feel so awful, even when we have a decent night’s sleep (well, relatively compared to those newborn days).

Well I’m here to tell you there are things you can do to help. And they’re not hard, you just have to do them and be consistent.

  1. Walk
    You’re home with the baby, you’re tired, he’s cranky. It’s the middle of the afternoon and bedtime seems lightyears away. Get dressed (because who are we kidding, I don’t get dressed unless I’m leaving the house), pack the baby in the stroller, grab the dog if you’re feeling extra ambitious, and get out and walk. Around the block, to the store, grab a coffee, maybe run a few easy errands to make it feel like your accomplishing something. Just walk, it doesn’t matter how long, but the more you do it, the longer you’ll find yourself going, and the better you will feel after each outing.
  2. Drink Water
    This one is especially important if you’re breastfeeding. If you feel hungry, even though you just ate, you’re probably thirsty. Try your best to keep water bottles around the house and full. Drink while you feed the baby or during his naps. Studies show that even 1-2% decrease in hydration can lower your mood, make you feel frustrated more easily, decrease your attention span and increase headaches. Sound familiar? You’re probably dehydrated.
  1. Sleep
    I know, I know. You’re laughing at me right now. But seriously. Try your best to get as much sleep as you can. If that means laying down with the little ones at nap time, do it. The laundry can wait. Studies show that people who are sleep deprived feel more angry, sad, stressed and mentally exhausted. Again, Sound Familiar?
    One problem moms typically say impacts their sleep is they can’t fall back to sleep after being up with babe. One strategy that has worked for me is laying in bed, eyes closed then thinking of 5 things I can see, 5 things I can hear, 5 things I can smell, 5 things I can feel, then 4 things, then 3 things. If you aren’t asleep by 1, then start again, although I’ve never made it past 3.
  1. Take Time for Yourself
    Even if it’s a 10 minute shower, allot time to yourself with no responsibilities. Hand the baby off to Dad, turn on some music, relax and pretend you’re not in charge of anyone for yourself, for a set period of time, every day. If you have the chance, maybe make this the opportunity for your walk. If your partner works, when they get home, give them and the kids a chance to spend some one-on-one time together and take off, even if it’s just for a quick jaunt around the block. The key to this is to shut off your mind the best you can. Don’t worry about what needs to get done, what errands need to be run, and most of all don’t worry how hubs is surviving with the kids without you. He can do it, I promise!
  2. Eat Well
    I think this is the most important one. You have to fuel your body in order for it to run at peak performance. Choose nutrient-dense foods that give you the most bang-for-your-buck. We all know how difficult it is to find time to eat something when worrying about little ones, so make sure when you do have the chance to eat, it’s something of value. Try to eat something green every day. I love salads but I find them too time consuming to make and eat, so instead I usually whip up a smoothie with a handful or two of spinach or kale in it once a day. I’d like to say ‘eat clean’ because it’s what most people understand the best, however I don’t believe that there is one ‘clean eating’ definition. I think it varies from person to person and depends on how you feel. For example, I feel like garbage if I eat too much bread or wheat based carbs, so I limit those for myself. I would never recommend that for another, though, because they might do fine with bread but feel like crap when they eat cheese. So they key is to pay attention to your body, your mental state and your energy levels and see if certain foods affect them. The best way I can think of doing this is to keep a food diary, I find it easiest to use an app like MyFitnessPal or something similar, but if writing it down on paper works for you, do that!

Notice I didn’t put exercise on this list? I don’t think it’s 100% necessary. If you can’t manage to nail down these 5 things, you’re not going to benefit much from exercise, in fact it might make you feel worse. Exercise is a form of stress, and if your body isn’t equipped to handle that stress, you’re not doing yourself any good. If you can manage to these 5 things, I promise you’ll have more energy, feel happier and have more patience and compassion for your little ones.

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, Pregnancy, Self Care

Pregnancy Fitness – How I did it

In previous posts I mentioned that I maintained working out throughout my pregnancy. Now let me preface this by saying I am not a doctor, midwife, physiotherapist or personal trainer (working on this one!) and I am simply explaining what I did, what worked for me and how I felt doing it. Before I got pregnancy  I was working out regularly, lifting (relatively) heavy weights and doing some high intensity workouts.

Most women experience a dip in stamina in the first trimester, and I was no exception. Even though I only had minor morning sickness I definitely had the fatigue, all I wanted to do was sleep. And I did. Because why not? I was smart enough to realize that come 8 or so months from then I wouldn’t be able to sleep all day, so I did! In addition to magnificent, glorious, magical sleep (can you tell I am writing this post-baby, with a 2 month old who still enjoys multiple night wakings?) I continued on my merry way working out the way I normally do. I lifted weights 1-3x per week, depending on my work schedule, and walked 25-60 minutes with the Big Brown Dog 4-6 days a week. I did not do traditional “cardio”, mostly because I fucking hate running. Hate. Despise. Loathe. I tried it once last year in preparation for the Tough Mudder. I managed to scrounge out a few 8km runs and deluded myself into believing I found the ‘runners high’ but nothing stuck.

I digress.

The moral of the story is until about 14 weeks, nothing changed. I worked out normally, lifting ‘heavy’, walking. Living life. Somewhere around the beginning of the 2nd trimester I decided to purchase the Fit2Birth Mum program from pregnancyexcercise.co.nz. I cannot say enough good things about this program. It felt exactly as hard as it should, I ended my work outs sweaty, but I never felt overworked or out of breath. The best part of her program is the owner, Lorraine Scapens, also hosts a Facebook group for each program and answers questions from users about their specific needs in a timely and friendly fashion.

In addition to the Fit2Birth program I continued my weight lifting, progressively lowering my weights as the weeks went by. For some perspective I started deadlifting and squatting approximately 150lbs, and my final weight lifting session was somewhere around 34 weeks and I was lifting about 65lbs, read: less than half my normal, but probably way too heavy for some other women. I also focussed on maximizing the strength and flexibility of my pelvic floor. I did many stationary squats (think peeing in the forest) as this has many benefits for pregnant ladies, which I will get into in it’s very own post later on down the road.

Now for the benefits, at least from my perspective.

As mentioned previously, around 9 weeks or so, I made a lengthy journey across the country to share the good news with my family in person. This included many hours sitting awkwardly in an airplane. I think it’s no coincidence that this is also when I started experiencing sacral-iliac joint pain. I thought this was the end of the world as I knew it. Working out keeps me sane. I knew a lot of women start having SI joint pain, and they are hooped. No more workout. No more walking. No more functioning. Done. So I snuck down to my nice little basement gym and did the easiest workout I could muster, and prayed and went to bed. The next morning before I got up, I was so paranoid that the soreness from my workout would be the death of my in addition to my newfound SI pain. I got up. I was sore. But no SI pain? Magic!

Well if you think about it, SI joint pain is usually born from a poor interaction of the sacrum and the ilium, two bones on the back half of your pelvis. Relaxin allows the ligaments holding the two bones together to loosen, allowing the bones rub painfully. One would think, strengthening the muscles around these bones would help hold them in place properly, decreasing the amount of pain. This was certainly true for me. This carried on throughout my pregnancy, every time I got lazy and didn’t work out for a while, my hips would get sore, I would work out, the pain would go away.

I also believe working out helped Nugget be in the perfect position for birth from early on. At my 20 week ultrasound his head was so low in my pelvis the tech had to all by smash my bladder in order to see it well enough to take measurements. This was true again for my follow up ultrasounds at 24 and 34 weeks. As soon as I knew that he was head down, I squatted until I could squat no more! Squatting is a functional movement. Back in the day (re:100+ years ago) humans used to squat regularly. Think hunting/gathering/child rearing/harvesting fields etc. Our bodies were designed to squat! It makes so much more sense physiologically than bending at the hips. We are so much stronger in a squat! Also, squatting helps open up the pelvic bones and lengthen the pelvic floor to allow the baby’s head to descent into the pelvis and make it less likely to flip. I’ll explore and share my love for the squat in it own post later on, as I could go on forever!

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While I am in the process of obtaining my PT certification with prenatal/postpartum specialization, I’m not quite there yet. Even then, I won’t be able to help everyone, but I don’t want that to hold you back from reaching your goals. My lovely friend Lorraine Scapens over at Pregnancy Exercise has most generously offered to give my readers a 10% discount on her programs that I used when pregnant and still use postpartum; Fit2BirthMum & Birth2FitMum as well as her other programs Super Fit Mum & No More Mummy Tummy Challenge. Simply enter the discount code ‘HMHB‘ at checkout to get your 10% off!