By Jordan Blair, Senior Instructor
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Pilates is an exceptional cross-training modality. You don’t have to be an athlete, professional or weekend warrior, to profit from the benefits of a cross-training regimen.
Parenting could be your thing.
Anyone who’s spent more than 10 minutes with someone four years or younger, knows childcare is an advanced, eclectic sport for only the elite athlete. Mom or dad – you need to train to keep your physicality at peak performance. The cardio required to keep up with a 3 year old. . . not for the faint at heart. Literally.
But lets zero in on the moms and the first 12 plus months of motherhood training.
First of all – Congratulations! You made a human! Can we take just a minute to revel in how incredible that is? That your body instinctually knew what to do and did it!? My own kid will be 20 this year, and I’m STILL in awe that I not only made him, but my body knew how to house, nourish, and when the time was right, coax him out into the world. (Which by the way, is parenting in a nutshell).
Second – a shout out to how exhausted you presumably are. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. And to mention you went into said torture with a body that endured a not trivial amount of trauma. All kidding aside, gestation, labor and childbearing, is fantastically hard on the body.
Take the pelvic floor. It is a deep core muscle and really the only thing holding all your insides, inside. Undoubtedly, some tone and strength needs to be restored after nine months of pregnancy, let alone a vaginal birth.
Imbalance in the pelvic floor muscles can be the culprit for a plethora of aliments: pelvic pain; back pain; reduced sensation in the vagina; prolapse; incontinence.
A friend of mine confessed to me after her kids were in their teens that she suffered from some incontinence. She stopped running, even as a quick jog across the street for fear of losing bladder control. When out for the day, she had to make sure she was never far from a restroom, and as a fitness instructor herself, made sure her bladder was entirely empty before teaching a class. All those years she assumed nothing could be done. Not true!
The instructors at Bodycenter Studios main focus is on making sure all of our clients have healthy working deep core muscles. The pelvic floor is part of that make up. With proper cuing, new moms can quickly regain healthful tone. And I’m happy to say my friend did too – even after two long hard labors and 13 plus years!
Another common condition pregnancy can cause is diastasis rectus – the separation of your rectus abdominus, aka your 6-pack. (which is really an 8 pack, but I digress).
Your rectucs abdominus is what allows you to do all the situps you love doing so much. When it is separated and you try to do a sit up it will bulge and most likely horrify you. Also, sit-ups will be near impossible, and seriously not recommended!
Time is a little of the essence with diastasis recovery. The longer you wait, or in some cases if the separation is large, surgery is required. Fear not though! You do pilates! And your instructor will be making sure you are recruiting your transversus abdominus (another deep core muscle – think girdle). They will also be keeping you out of forward flexion – aka sit ups – until your rectus has knit back together. Meanwhile, yay! Planks! Ha ha. Maybe not quite yet. Inversions also need to be done with guided coaching if you are healing from diastasis.
It also needs to be mentioned, new moms are carrying a 7lb, and growing, weight around with them all day every day. A welcome relief some may think after being preggers for most of a year, but. . . remember your deep core muscles have been taxed, and you haven’t slept, plus you’re probably ravenous. So, most likely your back, neck and shoulders are feeling sore. Some of that is because you stare down at the amazing person you made for hours on end and no one is going to tell you to stop doing that! Not that you would listen to such terrible advice anyway. Besides – you go to pilates!
While you and your instructor are retraining your deep core muscles, you two will also work on your general postural alignment and of course shoulder strength and stability. It’s just what we do – us pilates instructors. We keep you balanced so you can keep doing what you love. Which with a baby, is probably contorting yourself into knots, and bouncing or rocking, to keep your little one asleep or at the very least from crying. When you can, hand that little bundle off to willing friend or grandparent and get to pilates. Trust me it will be worth it, because don’t forget about your ligaments.
They’ve been chock full of hormones for nine months, and that’s not going away anytime soon, especially if you are breast feeding. Why do we care about the hormones in your ligaments? Glad you asked – it made them loose and supple and relaxed so your skeletal frame could move bones around to make room for your babe. This means your joints are loose and not so stable. It will take some time for your ligaments to stabilize, so in the meantime work your muscles! If you’re going to pilates, you’re doing great! And please tell your instructor if you are having pain or difficulty in your body. They want to know, because they want to help!
Finally, a regular pilates routine after pregnancy and child birth is excellent for your confidence. Taking care of yourself is necessary – even more so now that you have a child. Remember we put our oxygen masks on first so we are able to care for our young ones.
And finally, finally, all that is mentioned above is beneficial to any new mom, regardless of diastasis; incontinence; emergency or planned c-section (another common birthing trauma requiring vital and delicate focus on restoring healthful recruitment of the abdominals).
So if you just had a baby, or are about to have one, or know someone who has, or is about to have, or you/they are otherwise engaging in the sport of motherhood, make sure pilates is part of the training regimen, because pilates is exceptional for cross-training. See what I did there – said it again.