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 (combined class with Fit Bootcamp)
    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 | 7pm | Ogilvie Ridge Park (combined class with Prenatal Fit)
    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).