Wednesday, 18 May 2016

My Favourite Pregnancy-Safe Core Exercises

Engaging and connecting with our core during pregnancy is so important. A strong core protects our pelvis and low back while baby grows and shifts within and around it. Strengthening these muscles throughout our pregnancy also helps to prevent injury and decrease discomforts. Engaging our core during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period is very different than when not pregnant or a new mom, as our goals are very different and there are precautions we need to be aware of.

During pregnancy, our goals for a strong are not to develop defined "abs" or a "flat tummy". These more superficial muscles are called the Rectus Abdominis (RA), and are the group that is stretched the most as baby grows. We no longer do sit-ups, crunches, or v-sits to develop the strength of this muscle group, but instead learn to engage our deepest core muscles. We avoid these "crunching" motions, as the excess strain on the RA can cause or worsen Diastasis Rectus (DR), which is the separation of the RA. This condition can be uncomfortable during pregnancy and although there are ways to prevent worsening until term, we are unable to correct and heal the stretched fascia until post-birth. Diagnosis of DR can be done postpartum by a trained healthcare provider. Diagnosis during pregnancy is very difficult, as most women have some degree of separation naturally, however, most of us will not require physiotherapy to heal these muscles after delivery. If we are diagnosed with DR postpartum, it is important to begin the healing process as soon as possible through a trained physiotherapist who can provide treatment and exercises. 

Knowing how to properly connect with our deep core muscles, or Transverse Abdominis, (TVA) not only provides the benefits listed above, but also assists in the pushing stage of labour and recovery post-birth. This deepest group of core muscles contains baby, as they are the closest to him or her. They connect to the pelvic floor muscles, which is another crucial group of muscles to connect with during our pregnancy, but that is for another day. When we connect with our TVA throughout our pregnancy and connect the movements to breath, this develops the mind-body connection we will use in the pushing stage of labour. Even women who have an epidural and a decreased sensation of where and how to direct their pushing energy will be more effective at this stage if they have practiced their connection with their deep core. A trained TVA also helps in the recovery process, even if we have a caesarean birth. This muscle group is severed in the delivery process and therefor requires much healing from the inside out. If we challenge this muscle group during our pregnancy, through isometric (i.e. side plank) and mindful movement (i.e. cat cow rotations), they will be better prepared to heal themselves post-birth. There is much to be said for muscle memory and knowing how to return to a normal state. This muscle group wants to contact back to where it was post-birth and with intentional exercises pre- and post-nasally (once able), we will return to a "flatter belly" sooner. 

I mentioned connecting breath to movement and this is extremely important in the mind-body connection of exercising while pregnant. We should be connecting all intentional exercise to breath, but especially our deep core and pelvic floor exercises. When explaining each of the exercises below, I will cue when to inhale and when to exhale. 

My favourite pregnancy-safe core exercises and how to properly engage and connect to ensure you are performing these exercises safely and effectively.

Belly Breathing

  1. This technique can be done essentially anywhere that you are able to sit comfortably, adjust into a tall posture, and find at least five deep breaths. 
  2. Once sitting, place one or both hands on your belly. 
  3. Inhale to relax your core. It will expand, but do not force it outwards. 
  4. Exhale slowly, but audibly to draw your entire front body including baby and obliques in towards your spine. 
  5. Inhale to release. 
  6. Exhale to draw in and contract the TVA. 
  7. Continue for 5-10 breaths. If you ever feel dizzy, please stop, take a break, and then reconnect. 
This is one of the most important exercises to prepare for the pushing stage of labour and for healing post-birth. Once we feel confident in our form here, we can begin to add a pelvic floor exercise to the breath.  Note: I performed this exercise standing for photo/video purposes, but typically practice while sitting with my eyes closed. 

* Video available on Instagram @kellie.fityourlife 

Reverse Plank

  1. Begin by sitting on your bum with feet extended in front of you. 
  2. Place each hand beside each hip. Inhale, allow your belly to relax. 
  3. Exhale while drawing baby in towards your spine and lift your entire body through your palms and heels. 
  4. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds. 
  5. You can work your way up to 60 seconds. 
  6. If this is ever too much pressure on your hands or front body, bend through your knees to bring the soles of your feet to the floor. Hold and breathe there. 

Kneeling Superwoman

  1. Begin on all-fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Engage entire arm by rotating elbows to have creases face each other.
  2. Slowly lift right arm in front and reach finger tips forward. Lift left leg to pull heel behind and backwards. 
  3. Find a neutral spine. 
  4. Engage core by "hugging" baby in towards your spine as you exhale. 
  5. Either hold here for 5-10 breaths or gently pulse upwards (maximum one inch of movement) for a count of 5-10. 
  6. Repeat second side. 

Cat Cow Rotations

    1. Begin on all-fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Engage entire arm by rotating elbows to have creases face each other.
    2. Exhale to draw baby in towards your spine in a "hugging" motion. 
    3. Press through your hands and knees as you begin to round your spine towards the ceiling and draw your chin towards your chest. 
    4. Curve around baby as much as you are able with comfort. 
    5. Inhale to slowly release baby towards the floor as you shift your gaze upwards and curl your tailbone towards the ceiling. 
    6. Maintain some engagement with baby to prevent excess pressure on your low back. 
    7. Continue to move with breath at your own pace for 10 rotations. 

    Kneeling Side Plank with Leg Abduction

    1. Place right elbow directly under right shoulder and right knee in line with the body and right foot behind. 
    2. Lift through knee and elbow to press right hip upwards. 
    3. Left hip should be directly stacked over right hip with baby "hugged" in towards spine. 
    4. If you are able to find balance, lift a strong left arm towards the ceiling. 
    5. If balance allows, now lift left leg upwards. 
    6. Maintain strong core while keeping both arms and legs engaged. 
    7. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds. 
    8. You can work your way up to 60 seconds. 
    9. Repeat second side. 

    Complete all exercises at least 4 times per week for 
    1-2 sets each time. 


    Thursday, 12 May 2016

    Summer 2016 Registration Now OPEN!

    Keep your body active all summer long with our classes tailored for your stage of life and fitness level! Fit Your Life offers Prenatal Fit for mamas-to-be of every gestation, Mom & Me Fit for mamas on the move, and Fit Bootcamp for all women who want to have fun and get fit!

    Enjoy the fresh air. Laugh too much. Develop healthy habits. Learn to love your body. Surround yourself with those who lift you up. 

    Summer 2016 Schedule
    June 6 - September 1 
    (no classes​ July 6, 7, 11, 12, August 1)

    Mondays | 7pm | Ogilvie Ridge Park
    Wednesdays | 7pm | Ellingson Park 
    (combined class with Fit Bootcamp)

    Tuesdays | 9:15am | GHV Bulyea Park (June 7, 14, & 21)
    Tuesdays | 10am | Magrath Heights Park (June 28 - August 30)
    Thursdays | 11am | Ellingson Park

    Mondays | 6pm | Ogilvie Ridge Park
    Wednesdays | 7pm | 
    Ellingson Park (combined class with Prenatal Fit)

    *more details on each class via links in their title

    4 Class Pass | $65 ($15/class)
    6 Class Pass | $90 
    10 Class Pass | $145 ($14.50/class)
    12 Class Pass | $165 ($13.75/class)

    ​- you can "mix and match"​ class times ands styles, as the passes are valid for all classes throughout the week!
    - all class passes are valid for two months from the first use
    - minimum two hours notice on class cancelation or one class pass will be used

    Tuesday, 10 May 2016

    Why I exercise during pregnancy

    During pregnancy, our body is ever changing. 
    Some days we are full of energy, our skin is glowing, and we are high on this little life growing inside of us. Other days we are exhausted, eat everything in sight and never satisfied, and cannot imagine that we need to "last" another however-many-months in this condition. 
    Butt Blasters
    Photo by Roughley Originals Photography 
    Despite the few rough days I have experienced during my pregnancies, I absolutely love the journey! I love learning of others experiences and their interpretations of it all. I love that our bodies grow these little humans and shift whatever needed in our existing state to do so to the best of it's ability. I love that each pregnancy can be so different for some and for others, two pregnancies are nearly identical. The one thing I love most about pregnancy is embracing my changing body and learning to work with these changes through exercise. 

    My fitness goals started their shift the week we found out we were pregnant. I now focus my workouts on strengthening muscles that will assist me is caring for a toddler and a newborn and on an easier postpartum recovery. I work my lower body so that my legs will be ready as I gain weight over the coming months. I continue to challenge my cardiovascular system to hope for healthy weight gain and to decrease my likelihood of gestation diabetes or hypertension. I perform toning exercises for my upper body to ensure my postural muscles are ready for hours of cuddling and nursing and that my arms are ready for rocking my sweet little and carrying a bucket seat. I concentrate on breath and core engagement to ensure my transverse abdominis isn't forgotten through any stage of pregnancy or birth and so that it is ready to begin it's reconstruction after baby arrives. Pelvic floor work, including contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles is critical as the weight of our uterus and all it's contents (baby, amniotic fluid, placenta, etc!) pull down on this "hammock" of muscles with gravity. I choose to stay active while pregnant because it makes me feel strong and healthy. 

    Reverse Plank

    Moving my body makes me feel beautiful on days where I have difficulty connecting with myself because of all the physical changes occurring. It helps me enjoy the process and find appreciation for it all over again!

    It is truly amazing how even 10 minutes a day of focussed, safe, effective exercise can increase our heart rate, help us connect with little life inside of us, and make us feel like ourselves again! 

    Ball Chest Press
    Photo by Roughley Originals Photography
    A list of my favourite prenatal-approved workouts are here and a few more have been added here, here, and here! I recommend always having approval from your healthcare provider before exercising during your pregnancy and you should stop if anything is painful, doesn't feel "right" (listen to your body!), you experience any bleeding or leaking from the vagina, become dizzy or faint, and feel like you are overheating. 

    Make sure that you fuel your body with fresh and delicious food before and after your workout and that you are drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water everyday!


    Enjoy the journey!!

    Wednesday, 4 May 2016

    Seedy Breakfast Bowl

    I love a satisfying breakfast! 

    When it's delicious and easy, even better! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it tells our metabolism to kick in, wakes us up from the inside out, and fuels us for everything the day holds. 

    One of my lovely clients shared this recipe with our group and I could not help but try it on my first opportunity. Since you can prepare it ahead of time and it is good in the fridge all week, it's the perfect quick, easy, delicious, filling, and customizable breakfast bowl! It is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan for those who need it. 

    Seedy Breakfast Bowl
    Makes 8 servings

    2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/2 cup chia seeds
    1/2 cup hemp seeds 
    1/2 cup ground flax seeds 
    1/2 cup dried chopped fruit (I used dried unsweetened cranberries)
    1/4-1/2 various spices (I used cinnamon & nutmeg, however cloves & allspice would be a great addition!)

    Mix all ingredients well in a bowl with an air tight lid or in a large mason jar. Put in fridge until you are ready to eat.
    To prepare
    Take 1/2 cup dry mixture and pour 3/4-1 cup near boiling water into bowl. Mix well and let sit for 3-5 minute. Top with fresh fruit, nuts, or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt for a creamier texture (non-vegan). 


    Friday, 22 April 2016

    Arm Blast

    This 25 minute workout is meant to leave your arms feeling amazing!! that Jell-O sort of way :)

    Pregnant Mamas - please be extra careful with all the push-ups! Make sure you're engaging your core and on an incline. Alternatively, you can substitute other arm exercises with weights (shoulder press, biceps curls, incline chest press, etc). If you have diastasis recti, or think you do, please modify the push-ups with alternate exercises!!! xox
    Here we go....

    Exercise Descriptions

    Butt Kicks
    Standing. Lift heels of the floor to find the balls of your feet. Begin to jog your feet while trying to kick your butt with your heels. Low impact version is to walk this out while moving as quickly as possible, shifting your weight side to side.

    High plank (from hands) and jump forward into a low squat. Hands back on the floor and jump back. 
    Stepping back and forth is a low impact variation!

    Wide Push-Ups
    Have hands wider than shoulders and begin from toes or knees. Lower entire body in one line to your limit and return to starting position in one straight line. Be cautious of your core and how it is supporting your low back. 
    Low impact version is on an incline or from the wall.

    3 Push -Ups and Plank Tuck
    Complete three full narrow push-ups (from toes or knees) then hop feet forward and back. Like a tuck jump, but front plank position. Continue with three push-ups. Repeat until time is up!
    Low impact version is stepping feet back and forth from hands and can also be performed on an incline.

    Squat with Cross Crunch
    Give those wrists a break by standing with feet hip width apart and hands together. Squat nice and low to reach elbows to your knees. Keep the weight in your heels as you lower your glutes behind you. As you stand up, bring right knee up towards left elbow, balancing on right foot. Repeat squat and then bring left knee to right elbow. Continue to alternate watch repetition.

    Mountain Climbers
    Begin in high plank position. Bring one knee at a time towards chest and replace the foot beside the other before the opposite knee comes forward. Hips should remain low and core engaged. No jumping of the hips. 
    Low impact version is on an incline and bringing the knees to the outside of your body, rather than straight towards your chest.

    Back Lunge to Hop
    Begin with feet together. Step right foot back into a reverse lunge deep enough that both knees bend to 90 degrees and the front knee does not cross over the front toes. Press through left foot while engaging low core to bring right knee up and through to a hop! Repeat for 30 seconds on this side before switching to left reverse lunge.
    Low impact version is a step through to calf raise.

    Jump Squat
    Feet start hip width apart and lower into a deep squat. Using your arms, core, and legs, power through to a jump! Land as softly as you can, as if there is a baby sleeping in in the level beneath you! Repeat!
    Low impact version is raising through to a calf raise!

    Burpie with Plank Shuffle
    Complete at full Burpie, but at the bottom when in plank, walk hands and feet to the right and then back to centre before jumping or stepping back up. On the next one, walk tot the left, then back to centre. Continue to alternate until time is up!!
    Low impact version - this can be done on an incline.

    Speed Skaters
    Shifting weight by lunging side to side while using upper body to propel your weight. Keeping back toe off of floor focusses more on balance.Low impact version is walking side to side, but still as quickly as possible and/or touching back toe down if needed. 

    Finish off with a few minutes of full body stretching!


    Thursday, 31 March 2016

    Spring 2016 session is now open for registration!!

    The air is warmer, daylight is longer, and spring is right around the corner!

    Spring registration is now OPEN!

    We have changed registration this session to accommodate busier spring schedules and more ladies wanting to try a variety of classes, especially as we head outdoors! We are now offering four different "class pass" options which you can mix and match with the different classes throughout the six week session or you can choose to stick to your usual one class per week! The choice is completely yours!

    Spring 2016 Schedule
    April 18 - May 30 
    (no classes​ April 28, May 19, & 23)

    Mondays | 7pm | Whitemud Creek Community Centre
    Wednesdays | 6:30pm | GHV Bulyea Park
    (combined class with Fit Bootcamp)

    Mondays | 9:30am | The Surf Studio
    Wednesdays | 10am | McKernan Community Hall

    Thursdays | 11am | GHV Bulyea Park
    Mondays | 6pm | Whitemud Creek Community Centre
    Wednesdays | 6:30pm | GHV Bulyea Park
    (combined class with Prenatal Fit)

    *more details on each class via links in their title

    4 Class Pass | $65 ($15/class)
    6 Class Pass | $90
    10 Class Pass | $145 ($14.50/class)
    12 Class Pass | $165 ($13.75/class)

    ​- you can "mix and match"​ class times ands styles, as the passes are valid for all classes throughout the week!
    - all class passes are valid for two months from the first use
    - minimum two hours notice on class cancelation or one class pass will be used

    Tuesday, 29 March 2016

    When and how do I begin exercising after my baby is born?

    One of the most common questions I receive from new moms (or those finishing their last Prenatal Fit class) is when they can return to class or regular exercise post-baby.It is important that you, as a new mom, take time to learn your new lifestyle. Whether this is your first or your fourth baby, your daily life will change and that itself is an important adjustment Allowing your body time to heal post-pregnancy and delivery is also important. No matter the length of one's labour and what kind of delivery they had, the body needs to recover. Starting slow and thinking about re-strengthening the core from the inside out is the perfect place to start.

    Enjoy these moments
    (image by Roughley Originals)

    I know it can be difficult to "take it easy" physically when you're used to exercising regularly, but also so important after a major physical event, like childbirth! This is especially important if you have an assisted delivery (vacuum or forceps) or a caesarean birth. Your body is also adjusting in so many ways both hormonally and physically. That being said, you can safely start incorporating a little more activity as you feel your body is ready. As a general rule, we are told to wait six weeks after giving birth before physical exerting our bodies. This is typically when we have a follow-up appointment with our healthcare provider and they are able to assess if our bodies are ready. I 100% support this and recommend it! That being said, there are little things we can do to move our bodies in the right ways that are beneficial. If you ever have any concerns though or something just does not "feel right", you should stop and see you healthcare provider. 
    Fresh air is great for you & baby!

    After you are feeling semi-normal in your post-birth body, try walking! Start with a little and see how you feel the next day. If you feel great, add 3-5 minutes of walking. If you are feeling more tired, experience increased bleeding, or incision pain, take that day off and try again the next day. If your body is responding well, you can increase the pace and/or duration of your walks, but try to only do one of these per day. In another two weeks (i.e. at the four week postpartum mark), if you are feeling the "need", you could try some gentle arm exercises (i.e. biceps curls, triceps extensions), but be sure to not strain your core. Those muscles will still be healing. If at the five week postpartum mark, the walking and arm exercises are feeling good, you could add some lower body work (i.e. unweighted squats and lunges), but again be very cautious of your low and deep core throughout your movements. The more active you were prior to and during your pregnancy, likely the quicker your body will recover. However, everyone is different and you must listen to your body and respect what it is telling you!

    Another thing you can start almost immediately, as in the days after you are home from the hospital, is pelvic floor work and deep belly breathing. You should be doing your pelvic floor exercises (aka kegels) every day. Every. Day. Promise? Even if you did not push and had a caesarean birth, you had extra weight on the band of muscle that attaches from the front of your pelvis to the back like a hammock. It becomes stretched with months of added weight and pressure. To ensure you are doing these correctly, sit comfortably. Place one hand of your belly and one hand on your butt. Do a few kegels. Did you feel underneath either hand contract? If so, you are doing them wrong! You should not feel any glute or abdominal engagement with kegels. Practice!

    Belly breathing! This is a great way to begin to engage through your deep core before your superficial core muscles are ready. We are going to regain strength and tone from the inside out. Sit comfortably, probably cross-legged or on your knees. Place both hands on your belly. Inhale and allow your belly to expand, don't force it, but allow it to relax. Exhale with more force and with control, bring your entire belly back towards your spine and pull in. Repeat the inhale, Repeat the exhale. Start with five repetitions and increase as it feels right. 

    Once you have been cleared by your healthcare provider, begin to incorporate exercise into your routine every few days, or a few times per week. Focus on full body exercises and continue to listen to your body by assessing how it feels the day after your workout. Attending a postpartum-specific exercise class is a great way to learn what moves are appropriate and also what moves you can incorporate baby into! 

    As for continuing to retrain your core, after being cleared by your doctor or midwife, static core exercises while continuing to practice your pelvic floor and deep core activation are best! Side plank and bridges are great exercises. Also, balancing exercises, such as one-legged squats and pendulum lunges work your deep core from a standing position and therefore not putting addition pressure on your superficial abdominals (rectus abdominis). In the coming months, your core will feel stronger and you will slowly be able to add more movement to your abdominal and low back exercises. 

    Let them be your reason, not your excuse

    Congratulations on the birth of your sweet baby and continue to enjoy each moment of this adventure!