Postnatal health with Pilates
After having a baby, mommies are consumed with overwhelming emotions, thoughts, baby duties, fatigue and as always, trying to find time for mommy. We all know we are better mothers if we take time to exercise and take care of our health. It seems impossible at times, but small things make a world of difference. As a working mother of a 3 year old, I know it is difficult, but balance is important. When I take time to exercise, eat healthy and find extra sleep, my world is unbelievably different than when I don’t.
When I say Postnatal Pilates, I am talking to all mothers. Many of these tips are important for those of us with new babies, but much of this applies to mothers with big boys and girls as well.
Before beginning a program after having a baby, you need to be released from the doctor. Instructors should not let you start without clearance from your doctor. It is usually six weeks before you can exercise and for good reason. Six weeks goes by fast and your body needs this time to begin the process of returning to normal. Once you have the physician’s release…get moving!
Cardiovascular exercise needs to be a part of your program
Find a mode of exercise that works for you. Walking is a great way to start. If you can put the baby in the stroller and start walking, you will feel great. Whether you are using your stroller for casual walking, power walking or jogging, be aware of your posture. Many moms round their shoulders forward while pushing the stroller which can lead to poor posture. As you push the stroller, work to bring the shoulders back and down to engage the muscles in your upper back. Feel the muscles surrounding your shoulder blades sliding the shoulder blades down the back into a “V”. These are the scapular stabilizers which are important for good posture.
Engaging the scapular stabilizers is an exercise you should practice throughout the day every day. Moms round their shoulders most of the time and don’t realize their posture is changing. They round over while breastfeeding, holding the baby, picking up the baby, playing with the baby and with toddlers as well. We round over when we go on the computer and when we are in the kitchen. It becomes such a comfortable position that this becomes how we sit and stand in every day situations. You can see the pattern and why we have to work consistently every day to change it. Pilates is a great place to start for improving your posture.
Pilates is amazing for so many reasons for moms, including posture, breathing, strengthening the pelvic floor and the deep core muscles. Posture is one of Pilates’ specialties. We work the scapular stabilizers in every exercise. When starting Pilates, it is beneficial to work privately with a well-trained instructor first. Optimally, most people continue private training, move into small group classes or work on their own with the guidance of their instructor periodically. The benefits of Pilates are much greater when a well-trained instructor is involved.
Two Pilates exercises on the foam roller for engaging the scapular stabilizers
Both exercises can be done on the floor without a foam roller as well.
Begin lying supine on the foam roller with your arms reaching to the ceiling, knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and pelvis in neutral. Inhale to reach farther and feel your shoulders leave the foam roller. As you exhale, feel as if your shoulder blades return to wrap around the roller. Repeat 5-8 times.
Elevation and Depression of Scapula
Begin lying supine on the foam roller with your arms extended to the floor by your side, knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and pelvis in neutral. As you inhale, slide your shoulder blades up your back and bring your shoulders to your ears. As you exhale, slide your shoulder blades down your back and press your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat this 3-5 times.
Postnatal health with the Pilates Principles
Pilates focuses on engaging the pelvic floor muscles and deep core muscles throughout every exercise, which all mothers need, but especially moms that have carried and delivered a baby in the last few months. Once your instructor helps you find and engage the pelvic floor muscles and deep abdominal muscles, you can practice this at home as well. We are all familiar with Kegel exercises which engage the pelvic floor.
Breathing techniques are also amazing when added to your daily routine. These are principles you should learn in the first session with your instructor and continue throughout your Pilates training and daily life. Breathing helps relax you and reduce the tension in your neck and shoulders. Proper breathing during Pilates will teach you to engage the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
All moms know that our time is precious. To make the most of this time, start with an instructor for at least 3-5 sessions to learn the Pilates principles. Continue with private sessions if you are able. Once you have done the introductory sessions, the instructor will know if you need more guidance before entering a group class. Group classes are very beneficial when you are at a Pilates Studio because the classes should be small. You want to be in classes that are 4-6 people and taught by a professionally trained instructor. With a small foundation of private sessions, group classes are beneficial and fun.
You don’t want to completely be on your own until you feel that the Pilates principles and exercises are well understood. Practice on your own at least once/week while staying involved in private sessions or classes. Take questions and concerns to your instructor when either you are not feeling an exercise, or an exercise does not feel good for some reason.
Pilates instructors should not only teach Pilates principles and exercises, but also encourage a healthy lifestyle, without going outside of our expertise. As we all know, there is more to being healthy and losing weight than just exercise. If a client needs expertise outside of our field, we should refer them to a professional that can help them.
When trying to get that extra weight off and just feel a little more energized, water and nutrition are two important factors as well. As you run around, keep a bottle of water with you. Our body needs water for many reasons, but we don’t always think about our metabolism as one. Our cells are at least 90% water and need a continuous supply for healthy function. Breastfeeding moms especially need extra water to stay hydrated. Trade that soda for a cup of water or brewed green tea. It may take time, but try adding an extra cup each day to keep yourself hydrated.
Some basic nutrition tips can make a world of difference
If you feel you really do eat healthy, but you are not reaching your goals, it is great to seek the guidance of a nutritionist. Be honest with yourself first and look at what you are putting in your mouth. Here are general nutrition questions we ask our clients:
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Are you drinking soda (diet or regular)? How many? Neither is good.
- Do you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks? You should.
- Do you eat real food or is it mostly snack bars, processed food or fast food? You need to eat whole foods. What are whole foods? Do the circle on the outside of the grocery store. Eat real vegetables, real fruits, and real meat. Avoid preservatives. Your body loves real food and you will notice the difference.
- How much sugar do you eat?
- Do you eat a lot of fried foods?
It is important to say one more time to be honest with yourself about what you are putting in your mouth.
It is hard to get sleep, I know. Try to just catch up at least once/week with a nap, going to bed early or sleeping in. This is hard, but you can make it happen.
Try to tackle one lifestyle change at a time. It doesn’t have to happen all at once. Every little bit helps lead to a healthier life and helps you to feel the best you can.