New Year – new you: the talk of resolutions, detox diets and hardcore fat-busting gains never-relenting momentum.
The temptation to rush everything, to jump in with both feet, to make far-fetched pledges is so strong. You want that fat to be gone, you want to kick that sluggish feeling and you want to ring the changes RIGHT NOW.
For the sake of your health, especially if you’re a mom, I ask you to resist the urge to throw yourself into hardcore exercise. Pregnancy and childbirth has changed your body and compromised your core. Unless you have already restored and strengthened your core through focused exercise that heeds the weaknesses of your postpartum body, doing the wrong type of exercise could be harmful.
If you have diastasis recti (abdominal separation) of more than three finger widths, your core is unstable. If you have stress incontinence, your pelvic floor is not functioning optimally. If your back aches, have pelvic pain or a sensation of heaviness in your pelvic floor, these are all red flags that everything is not good order and you need to be cautious about hardcore or high impact exercises.
In your rush to get fit this New Year, ask yourself what is the priority: dropping a dress size or avoiding pelvic organ prolapse? That sounds harsh, but it’s important to think about getting your body functioning optimally before you start to tackle the details like toned abs and a perfect butt (although, you will definitely get those too if you’re committed to improving your core health in a clued-up way).
These sorts of exercises aren’t going to leave you looking svelte, even if you go at them hammer + tongs in 2015, unless you already have got the foundations of a strong functioning core:
- Sit-ups, crunches, oblique twists or anything that jack-knifes your body
- Planks or prone (facing down) push-ups
- High impact exercise like burpees, skipping or running
- Anything that involves heavy lifting
What do you need to do instead? Start by adjusting your alignment. Make sure you stand, walk and move right. Breathe into your ribs not your belly. Learn how to locate, engage and work your core muscles – all of them – abs, back, butt, pelvic floor. Stretch loads – get the hamstrings flexible and release tension in the muscles.
Then get onto the core exercise – focusing on powerful contractions and releases that work in tune with your breath. Activate the muscles and focus on working them with every move you make. For the pelvic floor, kegels can only do so much. The best results come from retraining the pelvic floor to do its job, supporting our organs as we twist, squat, lunge and move around. So do lots of squats and lunges!
Your pelvic floor training plan is open-ended, so there’s no pint in giving yourself a deadline to get it “fixed.” It will get stronger and your mid-line will firm up, but neither job is ever done. You have to keep at it and enjoy the rewards of a stable core for life.
If you work at it – and start to feel stronger in the first couple of months in 2015, then you can move on to more intensive exercise – the sort that busts fat and helps you drop dress sizes. Go for it, mama, but only when you’re core-fit and strong!
So now a final word about dieting: Don’t do it! It doesn’t work and it leaves you hungry, under-nourished and crabby. If you want to make a food pledge for the New Year, make it this: eat real, clean, nutritious, family friendly foods that you will enjoy. No denial, just a promise to eat the good stuff, with as little of the processed, sugary, caffeinated and toxin-filled ingredients we know are not great for our health.
Do that – and you will maintain a healthy weight and be full of vitality. And you will be able to stick at it for the long haul.
Happy, healthy Whole Year, not just New Year!!