Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Babywearing Toning + Mom Fuel

Okay, let’s get real for a few minutes. Being a mom of two is awesome, a ton of fun, humbling, and tough. Yea, it’s tough. Brooke and I were in such a groove on the days we had together – I knew how long it would take to get fed, ready, and out the door. Toss (not literally!) an adorable newborn into the mix and goodness knows how long it can take! I love the learning adventure and the little daily challenges, but most of all of the extra love that having two sweet girls has added to our home. 

Nearly two months in and I am feeling more confident each day in this new routine and the chaos it ensues. Sure, Mikah is still feeding on demand, so that is not always 100% predictable, but it is getting better. She is also a snuggly baby, which is lovely and incredibly sweet, however, a little tricky with a busy and fun toddler who wants to play and needs to eat! Therefore, Mikah is in the carrier a lot. Good thing she loves it! I usually love working out first thing in the morning and there have been quite a few days that either I get it in before they wake or both girls are agreeable to join in. We make play time out of it! However, there are other days where timing works out best to sneak in my workout at naptime so I have created a few new “babywearing” workouts! These are great as you automatically have an extra 10, 15, 20lbs strapped to you, you are forced to engage your core to align your spine, and baby gets snuggles (in our case, usually a solid nap)!! Win-win-win!

Babywearing Toning

what you need:
· two medium weight dumbbells (8-12lbs)
· a mat
· supportive baby carrier (we love our Ergo Baby!)
· water

30 seconds each
1. Squats with calf raise
2. Low pulsing lunges
3. Walking jacks
4. Squats with alternating leg abduction
5. Alternating lunges with front kick
6. Walking jacks

45 seconds work : 15 seconds rest x 2 rounds
1. Weighted squats
2. Biceps curl to shoulder press
3. Deadlifts
4. Triceps dips (off steps, coffee table, or other hard surface)
5. Sumo squat hold with calf raise
6. Wall or elevated push-ups

Core & Stretch
· 1 minute of belly breathing with kegels while kneeling
· minimum 2 minutes of various standing stretches

· please make sure you have been cleared for exercise from your healthcare provider postpartum
· keep your core engaged throughout the workout to protect your low back and keep your spine in good position
· workout when your baby is fed, changed, and ready for a nap or play time! If he/she stays awake, then talk, play music, and/or sing throughout your routine!


Workout done, now, we need to fuel our bodies! It has been over a year since I have done my best to keep our freezer stocked with healthy snacks for busy days, to pack for lunches, or when we are rushing out the door. Yes, it is some extra work, but so worth it and incredibly handy! As a new mom of two, exclusively breastfeeding the Littlest, and keeping active, I am HUNGRY! Having nutrient-filled on-handed delicious snacks ready to eat in the freezer is key!
Two new energy bite recipes can be found below!

Chocolate peanut energy bars
· 2 cups pitted dates (soaked for at least 15 minutes)
· 1 cup unsalted peanuts
· 1-2 tbsp cacao (depending on your chocolaty preference)
· 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until doughy consistency. Take a pan or container and line with parchment. Spread dough to ½-¾ inch thickness in pan. Press down firmly to even it out. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to set. Remove from freezer. Take parchment out of pan and cut into 1x1 inch squares, or desired shape. Store in airtight container. Enjoy!
Keeps in freezer for 1 month.

Cookie Dough Bites
adapted from Oh She Glows
· 2 cups raw cashews
· 1 cup rolled oats
· 1 cup dates (soaked for at least 15 minutes)
· 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
· 2 tbsp nut & seed butter
· 1 tsp vanilla extract
· ½ tsp sea salt
· 4 tbsp dark chocolate chips
Place cashews and oats in food processor and grind until a fine flour forms (30-60 seconds). Don’t over-process, as the cashews can begin to turn into a butter. Add all remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix until doughy consistency. Remove blade from food processor and add chocolate chips. Mix in by hand. Form 1-inch round balls. Lay on a baking sheet to freeze for 30 minute before storing in airtight container. Enjoy!
Keeps in freezer for one month.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Welcome sweet Mikah!

We welcomed our second daughter to the world on October 4, 2016 at 8:27am. 

Mikah Marie is sweet, snuggly, and so precious. Big sister Brooke is incredibly proud and loves "Baby Sister" so much already!

Our birth story is not one that you typically find when searching for "perfect birth experience", however, it was our perfect delivery. Actually, we have been blessed with two perfect deliveries. Being a labour and delivery nurse for five years, I have seen nearly every type of delivery and heard many birth plans. So for Keith and I, with our first daughter Brooke, our perfect birth experience was one where she arrived safely into this world. On April 16, 2014 I went into labour, but by the morning of April 17, I needed some assistance increasing the strength of the contractions with an artificial rupture of membranes (my obstetrician "broke my water"), followed by a syntocinon augment. After hours of strong contractions and not much change in cervical dilation I chose to try an epidural, in hopes that it would help me to relax muscles I thought I had been, but maybe wasn't. A few hours later, with minimal change in my cervix and Brooke's heart rate showing signs that she might not be able to tolerate labour much longer, my wonderful nurse, obstetrician, Keith, and I collaboratively decided that a cesarean section would be optimal for the safe delivery of Brooke. 

It was beautiful. After we made the decision of a caesarean birth, Brooke was born 30 minutes later, and placed on my chest less than two minutes after entering this world. With Keith by my side, it was everything we had ever hoped for in meeting and holding our sweet daughter for the first time. 

Fast forward to April 2016 at my first obstetrics appointment at 13 weeks gestation with the next pregnancy, where I was asked what our birth plan was. Keith and I had already discussed our options for attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) or scheduling an "elective section". We decided that we were 100% comfortable with a repeat cesarean birth and booked it that day! When asked by friends, colleagues, and clients why I was not attempting to VBAC, my answer was that it was our personal choice. I have witnessed beautiful and successful VBAC deliveries and I have seen scary situations for both mother and baby's safety in these attempts. Each family needs to make their own decisions in collaboration with their health care provider based on their own specific situation. 

For the majority of our pregnancy, we knew the exact date and approximate time that our baby would be born. How amazing is that? For us, it was! Sure, there was the possibility I would go into labour prior to that date, and we made sure to discuss that scenario with our obstetrician. However, that scenario never arose and I did not need to go to the hospital, as a patient, prior to our delivery date. 

October 4, 2016. Keith and I had a lovely sleep and woke excited knowing that in a few short hours we would be holding our new baby! I was thirsty and hungry, as required to have nothing by mouth (NPO) prior to surgery. We drove to the hospital giddy like children on Christmas morning. After checking in, we walked up the stairs (I knew it would be awhile before I could do four floors of stairs again!) and were welcomed with smiling faces on unit 4 South (the Assessment Room). We chatted and laughed with our wonderful nurses while they completed my paperwork and started my IV, all the while I couldn't help thinking, this is perfect - this is exactly the morning I had planned in my mind. 

We walked ourselves to the operating room (OR), took a few photos, and then I sat on the OR table for my spinal anesthetic. Once again amazing and happy thoughts were running through my mind, as everything to that moment had gone completely as anticipated. Keith was able to join me after the anesthetic was in effect and the surgery had begun. I felt much less "foggy" than with our first caesarean, I think likely because of our great sleep! Feeling the "pushing" sensation from the top of my abdomen, I knew it was almost time to hold her, so I looked at the clock, gave Keith a kiss, smiled at our amazing "Baby Nurse" and heard the most beautiful sound - Mikah's cry! She had arrived! 

8:27am. After cutting her cord, they carried her past me to the baby warmer to dry her off and Keith went over to meet her. She was then placed directly on my chest and what an incredible feeling that was! Within minutes, sweet Mikah was bobbing her head to search for some nourishment and latched herself right there in the OR! It wasn't the most comfortable nursing position - completely flat, unable to move my lower body, and with oxygen prongs in my nose, but I didn't even care. It was beautiful and amazing. 

Thoughts were racing through my mind, "Is this really happening? Did we really just have our perfect, planned cesarean birth that we had anticipated since early April?" You bet!

My spinal anesthetic took a little extra time to wear off, so we were in the recovery room longer than expected. Keith and Mikah stayed with me the entire time. We cuddled, fed, and took a few photos. Once we were transferred to postpartum, we shared the news with family and friends and excitedly waited for Brooke to make her way to meet "Baby Sister" with her grandparents!

Our entire delivery went as planned. We are ever grateful to our nurses, obstetricians, anesthesiologists, and unit clerks who made it happen! 

Two days later, Keith, Brooke, Mikah, and I drove home. What a surreal and beautiful feeling thinking, we are complete. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Deep core activation while recovering from a cesarean birth

Yes! It is true! We welcomed our sweet baby girl to the world earlier this month and have been in awe of her ever since. I will post about our birth experience and more about her very soon. 

In the meantime, I have been asked multiple times in the past few weeks about my transverse abdominis (TVA) or deep core activation techqniques; how I used these techniques throughout my pregnancy and how I am re-introducing them to my daily routine as my body heals from our cesarean birth. To begin, I did not know about these techniques when I was pregnant with Brooke, our oldest daughter, who was born in April 2014. I had a great recovery after her delivery (also cesarean), as I was cleared to begin upper body exercise with slow integration of lower body exercise at 4 weeks postpartum and cleared to begin core work and running at 6 weeks postpartum. I felt great! That being said, my core already feels so much stronger than it did at 2 weeks postpartum with Brooke. I already feel like myself and have to be very careful to not overdo it each day, as I am feeling so great already!

One week postpartum
Two and a half weeks postpartum

Walk & stretch in the ravine
Although I am yearning for a sweaty workout, I know my body is not quite ready for that yet. After all, a cesarean section is major surgery and we must remember that when healing from one. I am finding myself able to walk a little farther each time we head out and my pace has been steadily increasing. I have alternated between wearing our newest addition in the ErgoBaby Carrier and pushing her in the stroller. Both have been great to focus on my posture and engage my core as I walk. This past week, I have made a solid effort to do a full body stretch each morning, with a little foam rolling as I can tolerate it, and also integrate deep core work. 

My Morning Routine

Morning stretch with my Littles

  • Downward facing dog
  • Kneeling lunge stretch (some mornings this tugs on my incision, so I gently back out and skip it) - right
  • Downward facing dog
  • Kneeling lunge stretch - left
  • Downward facing dog
  • Pigeon pose - right
  • Downward facing dog
  • Pigeon pose - left 
  • Butterfly stretch
  • Firelog (stacked shins while seated) - right
  • Firelog - left
  • Various upper body stretches

Then, I come into a comfortable seated position, either crossed legged or kneeling

TVA activation

  • Belly breathing x 5 | sitting tall, as you inhale allow the belly to relax. exhale and gently pull the belly in towards the spine. repeat.  I do have a video on this technique posted on my Instagram account @kellie.fityourlife
  • Kegels x 5 | with breath. inhale as you relax the pelvic floor down towards your mat. exhale as you progressively squeeze the pelvic floor as "high" as you can without tightening the glutes. repeat.
  • Belly breathing + kegels x 10 | combine your belly breaths with kegels while continuing to focus on breath. 
  • Cat cow x 5-10 | come onto all fours with a neutral spine. hands under shoulders and knees under hips. inhale as you look towards the sky at the same time as you curl your tailbone upwards. your belly will drop down. move slowly, as you don't want to pull your healing c-section incision. exhale as you round your spine towards the sky and draw your belly inwards bringing your chest and thighs closer together under your body. continue to round with breath. 
  • Supine TVA activation x 10 | lay on your back with knees bent and feet resting on the floor. place your hands either under the small of your back (where it will naturally round away from your mat) or on your belly. inhale to relax your core. exhale to press the small of your back into the mat. hold for one full breath. on the next inhale relax. repeat. 

Remember to continue to listen to your body. Every body will heal differently and at it's own pace. How these techniques feel in your body can also be affected by how you engaged your TVA during your pregnancy, the type of labour you experienced, and your surgery. Take each day as it comes, as some will be easier than others. If you experience increased vaginal bleeding, please take a rest day or two before trying again. If you experience any increased pain, swelling, oozing, or bleeding from your incision, please take a rest day and contact your obstetrician's office if these symptoms worsen or persist. 

Enjoy these special moments with your family, I know I am!!

Friday, 30 September 2016

5 ways to get motivated for those early morning workouts!

I love morning workouts! 
I find it is the best way to start my day and keep me going through whatever comes my way. Getting out of bed is not usually easy, especially as the sun is rising later, but with these tips I hope you will give it a fair shot!
Yes, even at 38 weeks pregnant and off work, I
set my alarm for 6am and sneak in 20 minutes
of "me" time to sweat before I begin my day!
Remember, it takes time for a habit to form. Some say 21 days. So, give yourself a month of at least three first-thing-in-the-morning workouts per week and see how you feel! Journaling is a great way to keep track of your energy levels; both on the days you complete your morning routine and on the days you do not. Once in the rhythm, I find that I am actually more tired on the days I didn't exercise! 

Here we go:

1) Set out your workout clothes the night before
By choosing what you will throw on the minute you roll out of bed is motivating for two reasons. One, you don't have to think about what you will wear. Two, your clothes are sitting there ready for you and it is difficult to look at them and make the conscious decision to not put them on. 

Want to stay asleep until your Littles are awake? Definitely!
Make it fun for them too. Have special toys or their own
equipment so they become a part of your workout!
2) Choose a fun, yet short and effective workout
You can get a heart pumping, full body workout in less than 20 minutes. Plan your workouts according to how much time you realistically can commit to before your day begins. With the right moves and little to no breaks, you can get sweaty in just 15 minutes! Your endorphins will be bouncing and your morning shower will feel amazing! To make sure you really do not have to think that early in the morning, plan your workouts for the week on Sunday or at minimum the night before!

3) Know that you only have to shower once
That's right! Getting your workout done first thing in the morning actually saves time because you don't have to get ready or freshen up twice. So really ... you're increasing the amount of time you have in the day. You're welcome!

4) Excuses will not get in your way throughout the day
Things come up. Exhaustion sets in. Our day does not go as planned. When we leave our workout until the end of our day, there is a greater chance that something will get in our way and prevent us from getting that sweat in. By starting our day with our workout, not only are we boosting our metabolism, waking our body and mind, but also ensuring that exercise remains a priority!

3-ingredient protein pancakes:
3 eggs
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cottage cheese
Blend together to form batter and cook
like pancakes. Top with fresh or thawed
berries, banana, unsweetened coconut flakes,
a drizzle of pure maple syrup, or
whatever you wish!
5) Have your post-workout fuel ready to go
Making a batch of steel cut oats on Sunday evening and having it ready in the fridge is a great way to save time in the morning and ensure that you have a tasty and satisfying breakfast post-workout! I know I am motivated by food...are you? Other options to make ahead of time are egg muffins or 3-ingredient pancakes (recipe below). Reheat, add your toppings, and enjoy!!
Added bonus: have your coffee prepped and ready to brew! Coffee, yes please! We grind our beans and have our machine ready before bed! I will sometimes start the maker before my workout and the beautiful scent makes it's way downstairs mid-way into my workout. Yumm!


Friday, 9 September 2016

Pregnancy is Temporary Postpartum is Forever

When you first read the title, you probably thought, well that's obvious. What I really want you to think about is how we move throughout the 9(ish) months of gestation can affect our bodies for the rest of our lives. We need to honour this amazing process and respect the changes that occur. 

 Some of you might feel physically and emotionally fantastic throughout your entire pregnancy and only have to modify a few exercises or your intensity as you progress. Others, may notice a significant change from the first trimester and really need to slow things down. There are also those who did not move their bodies regularly prior to becoming pregnant, however crave that connection with their growing physical body, but unsure of where to even begin. 

How can we ensure that we minimize long-term harm to our bodies during our pregnancy?

  • Balanced nutrition | Health Canada recommends increasing our food intake by two or three food guide servings through the second and third trimesters and while breastfeeding. Increasing food intake with healthy choices will help promote healthy weight gain. For most women 25-35lbs is the recommended amount of weight gain during a full term pregnancy. Your postpartum self will appreciate these habits you've created, as well as making it easier to return to your pre-pregnancy weight!
  • Move your body everyday | If you have no contraindications to physical activity, some form of exercise most days of the week will build healthy habits and also contribute to healthy weight gain. Your relaxed ligaments and widening pelvis will thank you for getting up and moving. Your heart will thank you for increasing it's beat and circulating fresh oxygenated blood throughout your body. Your baby will also thank you for that fresh blood. Your mind will thank you for the endorphin boost leaving you full of "feel good" hormones! Your postpartum self will thank you for creating these habits during pregnancy so that you know how wonderful it feels to move, even on days where you don't feel like it. 
  • Being gentle on your core | Most women who train their core focus on their rectus abdominis. This is the "six pack" group of muscles that is most prominent in our front body. These muscles are stretched and put under strain with a growing pregnant belly. For this reason, it is important to not exert even more stress on this muscles group. Avoiding crunching motions both in exercise AND in daily activities (like going from a laying to sitting/standing position) is extremely important to protect yourself from long term damage. Separation of the abdominal can occur even if everything is done correctly, as genetics and baby's growth also play a role, however, something as simple as rolling onto your side and pressing yourself up with your upper body instead of sitting straight up from a laying position can really help prevent this! 
  • Connecting with your deep core and pelvic floor | By training our core or different "abs" muscles, we will train our torso for carrying excess weight, the pushing stage of labour, and recovery from both vaginal and caesarean births. I have a full post on the best ways to connect with these muscles groups here. These are also exercises that we can begin engaging within days or weeks after giving birth, please follow the guidelines in the full post Pregnancy-Safe Core Exercise
  • Respecting when your body tells you to slow down, even if your ego disagrees | Let's go back to the title of this post. Pregnancy is temporary. Postpartum is forever. So what if you need to stop running at 15 weeks because it doesn't feel good on your body? I can guarantee you can find another activity to get your heart rate up, boost those endorphins, and engage your muscles that will make you feel strong and amazing! Tell that ego that you need to listen to your body and take full ownership of that. Rest when you need to rest and find activities that agree with your changing body. These are also great indicators to follow while you recover after birth. Listening to what your body is asking for and trying activities that are safe and effective for your stage of postpartum will help your recovery. 
  • Take time to connect with your emotional body | The various hormones that pregnant brings will also affect the way you feel emotionally. It is important to take time to connect to and respect these changes, just as we do our physical body. Being present and aware now will also help you in the postpartum time and as you adjust to your new life with your Little(s).

Our bodies all grow babies differently because we are all different. As long as we do our best to really listen to what our body is asking for and respect the changes in each trimester, we will move and fuel our bodies in a healthy way. Pregnancy is a great time to make small and healthy changes that can last the rest of our lives to be great role models for our families. 

Thank you Roughley Originals for continuing to provide such amazing photos!

Monday, 5 September 2016

This is not good-bye, it's see you soon!

Last week was wonderful! It was busy, full, emotional, fun, and so very lovely. We had our four final sweaty Fit Your Life classes of 2016 filled with motivated women and celebrated the beginning of my "mini maternity leave" or "sabbatical" (as Keith is calling it) with a BBQ in our backyard for whomever of them could make it! Our yard has never held so many Moms, Dads, and Littles! We loved every minute of it! 

Thank you to each of you who have joined us along this journey! It has been the most incredible adventure I could imagine and I am grateful for you everyday. Without you, my lovely "clients", this dream would not be a reality. You have created this wonderful community of supportive and inspiring Mamas! Pushing yourselves and each other to be the best that you can be in this extremely special time of our lives. I cannot wait to continue to get to know each of you better during my leave and upon my return to classes!

To Keith, my rock and my love, without your support and encouragement, Fit Your Life would still be "just" a blog and these prenatal and postpartum fitness classes, along with the community that has been created, would be nothing but a wish in my heart. You are my sounding board and my bookkeeper. I literally could not do this without you. I love you more each day. 

To my sweet Brooke, you are my best inspiration. I want to be the healthiest and happiest version of  myself to be able to be the best Mommy to you and your new little sister. Your smile lights up a room and your energy keeps me going. I love teaching with you by my side and I love seeing the friends you have made in our classes! Your genuine caring heart makes mine melt when you sprint over to a crying baby to rock their bucket seat or place their soother back in their mouths. Thank you for being you!

To our beautiful daughter-to-be, as we excitedly wait your arrival, I cannot help but be so grateful for you allowing me to continue to teach classes until nearly 35 weeks pregnant. I have felt so great moving my body throughout this pregnancy as you continue to grow as you are supposed to. Thank you for being a part of this journey literally your entire life. I love you already!

Now... here are a few images from Fit Your Life's final week of 2016!

Prenatal Fit / Fit Bootcamp combo class
Stair workout as our last Tuesday morning Mom & Me Fit!
23 amazing Mamas and their Littles to sweat through our final workout together before the break!

Fit Your Life "See You Soon" BBQ

Photo by Roughley Originals
This is not good-bye, it is see you soon. Stay in touch, keep those bodies moving, and we will be sweating together again before you know it!
xox, Kellie

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Winding down and gearing up!

Thank you Roughley Originals!
The past few weeks have been emotional as I have said "see you soon" to many clients as classes wind down for the summer. Next week is our final week of scheduled classes before our sweet girl is born! We are planning to take a few months off to enjoy the special time with her and then gear back up for classes early in 2017.

Fit Your Life has been an amazing journey thus far. The growth that we have experienced, the truly incredible women I have met, and the daily joy that fills my whole being are more than I ever could have imagined!

Thank you to every single person who has supported, encouraged, loved, and pushed us along this path! We are so excited for many things to come in the next year and to share with all of you! 

We will be in touch! 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Being present as a busy mom

Being present is something I think many of strive towards in this society where we want to do everything, be everything, and make it look pretty at the same time. I am no different. I thrive on having a full schedule of things that make my heart and mind happy, but sometimes struggle to be completely focussed on where my feet are, not where they are headed next. 

The past few weeks have been exceptionally busy with weekend getaways, an amazing friend's wedding celebrations, shifts at the hospital, a new round of fitness classes with more clients signing up every week, and trying to enjoy the beautiful weather with Brooke and Keith. At the end of each day, I reflect on the events, laughs, memories of the past 14 or so hours with my hands on my growing belly and connect with the Littlest Willie kicking and rolling around inside. 

People tell you that your pregnancy will be different when chasing a toddler. You don't have as much time to enjoy each flutter throughout the day or journal your daily physical and emotional feelings. I am okay with this, but still want to take time each day to connect with this beautiful human on the inside and remind her how excited we are for her to join our family in a few short months. 

My goal over the next few weeks is to really take in each moment. We still have plenty going on, but slowing down, breathing, and keeping my mind where my feet are will help me accomplish this. I want to appreciate these next few months with Brooke before she becomes a big sister! I want to spend more quality time with Keith before we become a family of four!

I am excited for this challenge and all of the beautiful memories that will come along with it!


Monday, 13 June 2016

Fresh & Fun!

I love learning new techniques and ideas! I find it is so easy to get stuck in the same fitness routine, whether is be my own workouts or creating fresh classes for my clients. After attending AFLCA's 2016 Fit Rendezvous, I felt inspired to create new and fun classes using everything I learned. 

Fresh & Fun! full body workout was created the week after the fitness conference. I love this new-to-me technique of combining basic combination movements for a short amount of time, but with many sets. My clients loved the fresh format!! It is a struggle to push through this many sets, but they were so thankful they had each other and made it through!

Fresh & Fun!
full body workout

My incline push-up on the MoveBALL from my knees

prenatal exercise modifications are in blue

Warm-Up | 5 minutes
30 seconds per exercise

  1. Prisoner walk lunges
  2. Plank | Reverse plank
  3. Prisoner walk lunges with added one lunge at bottom
  4. Plank with walk | Reverse plank with walk
  5. Prisoner walk lunges with added two lunges at bottom
  6. Plank with 3 walks & triceps push-up | Reverse plank with 3 walks & triceps dip
  7. Frogger
  8. Crab walks
  9. Jog in place

Circuit | 25 minutes
30 seconds per exercise x 8 rounds | 30 seconds rest after each round
  1. Squat jumps | Squat to calf raise
  2. Push-ups | Kneeling or incline push-ups
  3. Reverse lunge to glute raise balance (right)
  4. Reverse lunge to glute raise balance (left)
  5. Figure 4 balance with overhead triceps extension

Core | 5 minutes
30 seconds per exercise x 2 rounds
  1. Plie squat hold with weighted circles (switch directions for second round)
  2. Standing back extension (switch sides for second round)
  3. Side plank (right)
  4. Side plank (left)
  5. Plank | Reverse plank
Make sure to stretch!

Enjoy!! xox

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.