Monday, April 30, 2012

Waddle Warning

Don't let the pregnancy 'waddle' wreak havoc on your body.What does a pregnant waddle look like?
Toes out, short strides, torso leaning back.

Why is it bad?
It puts excessive strain on the lower back and contributes to the weakening and shortening of the gluteal muscles, abductors (outer thighs), hamstrings and lower back.  The result? Back an pelvic girdle pain....and more more back and pelvic girdle pain.  

What can we do about it?
  • Walk with a long but natural stride.
  • Lightly engage deep core muscles while walking.
  • Keep your toes pointing forward.
  • Strengthen the adductors (inner thighs), abductors (outer thighs), glutes, hamstrings and core (pelvic floor, TVA, rectus abdominals and erector spinae).
  • Stretch and lengthen the abductors (outer thighs), glutes, hamstrings and low back.

Waddle Prevention Routine
Always seek medical advice before beginning or continuing an exercise program during pregnancy.  We recommend completing a PARmed-X for Pregnancy with your health care provider.

1. Warm Up: 10 minute walk with mindful posture and stride. Gradually increase speed to the point where you feel warm enough to do your workout.

2. Stationary Lunges:
  Make sure your stride is long enough so that your front knee does not go over your front toes.  Stay tall in your torso.  Hold onto the wall if needed.  Make sure your pelvis is square and both toes are pointing forward.  Push your front heel into the earth as you come up in order to better activate the hamstrings and glutes. 10/leg.

3. Active Recovery: 2 minute brisk walk.  Focus on lightly engaging your deep core muscles.

4. Walking Lunges:
Begin with a right leg forward stationary lunge.  Step forward with your left leg into a left leg forward lunge.  Continue alternating forward legs as you travel forward.  If you do not feel safe, stick with stationary lunges.  20 reps.

5. Active Recovery: 2 minute brisk walk. Focus on a natural stride and a tall torso. 

6. Repeat steps 2-5

7. Cool down: 5 minute walk.  Maintain good posture and gait.

8. Super Moms: Begin on hands and knees.  Extend opposite arm and leg.  Hug baby to spine.  Breath naturally. 5/side.

9. Baby Hugs: Sit cross legged or tall on a ball/chair.  Inhale to prepare.  As you exhale, activate your pelvic floor and hug your baby into your spine using your TVA muscles.

10. Wide Leg Forward Bend: Stand with legs wide, toes pointing forward or slightly in.  Hinge from the hips keeping spine as long as possible.  Use a chair as support if needed.
Note: It is okay to bend your knees.

Child's Pose: Widen knees to make room for breasts and belly.  While in this position, engage your pelvic floor each time you exhale.

Side Laying Quads/Hip Flexor Stretch: Rest head and neck.  Keep legs parallel and tilt pelvis under to lengthen the hip flexors.  Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on other side.


Pre and Postnatal Posture Part Two

How does your lower back feel today? 

The number one complaint during pregnancy is low back pain. For new moms, it is definitely in the top three (right behind fatigue and mommy brain). So what causes low back pain? How do we prevent it? How do we manage it?

During pregnancy (10 months!) the weight of your uterus pulls your pelvis forward into an anterior tilt.  Think of your pelvis like a bowl of water and you are pouring the water out in front of you.  This leads to a larger than normal curvature of your lumbar spine (lower back) called excessive lordosis.  The result?  A sore lower back.  After baby is born, you may find it takes several weeks or even months for your pelvis to move back into a neutral position.  This postural shift coupled with caring for baby means many new moms suffer from chronic lower back pain as well.

Here you can see a typical progression from a neutral spine to excessive lordosis.

Enough of the doom and gloom.  What can we do about it?!

1. Get to know your deep core muscles.  Your pelvic floor and transverses abominal muscles (TVA) are key in preventing and reducing excessive lordosis.  Aim for 10 pelvic floor lifts (aka Kegels) on the exhale and 10 TVA (aka belly button to spine or baby to spine) activations on the exhale 3X a day.  As you get stronger, aim to contract and hold these muscles while maintaining normal breath. Click here for more info on pelvic floor.

This graphic gives you a visual of the importnance of a strong pelvic floor.

2. Stretch!  Spend extra time stretching your low back, hip flexor, quadricep and hamstring stretches. 

Child's pose, pictured below, is a restorative stretch that targets the lower back, thighs and glutes. With arms extended, it also lengthens the anterior deltoids and Pectorals.

A side lying quadriceps stretch with a posterior pelvic tilt (tuck pelvis) helps to lengthen quadriceps and hip flexors. 

3. Find neutral.  Just like Kegels, we recommend setting certain times of day that you check in with your pelvis.  For example in the elevator or each time you get up from your desk/feeding baby.  Place your hands on your hips and tilt your pelvis under and back a few times before settling into neutral. 

A special thank you to Kyla Baker Photography and our mommy models Kait and Emma from Fit 4 Two Stroller Bootcamp.

As always, questions and comments welcome.

Click here to read Pre and Postnatal Posture Part One

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Can exercising during pregnancy make labour shorter? Easier? Less painful?

This is one of the most challenging questions we get asked.  We would love to simply say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but neither answer is 100% true.

Clapp & Dickenson (1984) found that pregnant women who exercised regularly throughout their pregnancies had a higher incidence of uncomplicated, spontaneous delivery and their labours were 1/3 shorter than the control group.  They also observed that the pregnant women who stopped exercising regularly midway through pregnancy had similar outcomes to the control group.

There have been similar studies that support the labour benefits of regular exercise throughout pregnancy.  It makes sense that fitter women might have an advantage over women who are unfit.  That said, after working with pregnant women for over 9 years I also recognize that there are many factors out of our control.  For example, baby might decide to put her hand by her face while trying to exit the birth canal.  A fit mom is as likely as a non fit woman to have placenta previa.  A fit mom’s labour can be slowed by the same factors that can slow an unfit woman’s labour.

So what do we do with all this information?  Well, if we know that an active pregnancy is one factor that we can control (assuming a normal pregnancy) then it makes sense to get moving and keep moving.  Not sure where to start?  Read on.

Cardiovascular Endurance
Labour could be 4 hours.  Labour could be 2 days.  Either way, a strong cardiovascular system is going to help you to cope with the demands of childbirth.  If you have a caesarean birth, being fit can also help speed up your recovery.  Aim for 30 minutes of cardio (not including warm up or cool down) 4 days a week.

Muscular Endurance
Research shows that changing positions in labour and being able to get into a squat position significantly effects length of labour and increases your chance of having an uncomplicated vaginal birth. Labour takes strength and stamina.  Aim for 2 sets of 10-15 reps for each major muscle group.  A  Fit 4 Two class is great way to learn safe and effective muscular endurance exercises that you can also do on your own.

Hands and Knees
At Fit 4 Two, we like to incorporate several 4-point prone exercises into each class.  This position relieved lower back discomfort (most common complaint of pregnancy) during pregnancy and encourages the fetus to stay in the optimal position: head down, back against mom’s tummy.  Optimal fetal position usually means a less invasive, shorter, more comfortable birth.

Pelvic Floor
A toned pelvic floor is a more elastic pelvic floor. A more elastic pelvic floor means an easier exit for baby (all things being equal).  Be sure to incorporate pelvic floor exercises, often called Kegels, into your daily routine.  We recommend reading our recent posts 5 Reasons Pregnant Women Need a Strong Pelvic Floor and Dear Gymnasts, Dancers,Waitresses and Horseback Riders.

Mental Preparation
Many women who exercised regularly through their pregnancies report feeling that their labours were more manageable, easier or quicker.  Perhaps this is because these women had more confidence in their bodies' ability to cope with the sensations of labour.  Through exercise, they had seen what their bodies were capable of.  Perhaps they prepared themselves mentally for the strenuous task ahead of them and were able to send themselves the same positive messages like "I am safe", "My body was designed to birth my baby" and "Every contraction means I am closer to the "finish line".  It's food for thought.

Motivated to get moving?  Come try a Fit 4 Two class.  Click here to find a prenatal fitness classes in your community.