Ideal vs. Reality
I am a mother of three and the owner of a physical therapy practice focused on women from pregnancy through to their return to fitness. With my first daughter, I was sick from 5 to 15 weeks while working full time as a PT, my husband was deployed, and I was throwing up constantly. Working out was so far from my mind. I wanted to be the fit and healthy mom who can handle it all and look adorable in pregnancy workout clothes. But sometimes reality just ain’t that pretty. So if you are like how I was, I want to give you some tips on what you can be doing to help prepare your body for birth if exercise just isn’t happening.
3 Practical Tips To Start Today
Really, breathing? Yes, really. I will admit that early in my career as a physical therapist I thought focusing on breathing was a waste of time and blew it off as not important. After over ten years of experience and retraining breathing with women I am a true believer in breath work.
The way you breathe influences the pressure placed on your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor EVERY TIME you take a breath. Many of the conditions causing pain for my patients can be directly attributed to the inability to handle the pressure created by the way they are breathing. This also influences how much stress hormone, cortisol, is floating around your body.
Cortisol is your body’s built-in alarm system and can contribute to anxiety, depression, headaches, problems with digestion, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.
Does this sound like a list of the many things women struggle with, especially after having a baby, that can all be tied back to how they breath? That’s why we place such importance on this with the women we work with at our practice.
Using Your Arms Now
In a few short months, you will birth a rapidly growing infant that you will carry, feed, diaper, place in a carseat, take for walks, and love on. Most newborns are 6-10 pounds and quickly get heavier and heavier. Are your arms and neck ready for that? How much do you use your upper body right now?
Many new moms I speak to complain of neck and shoulder pain that they attribute to feeding or nursing positioning. What I most often discover is that women are all of a sudden using their upper body more frequently with sustained holding and carrying. Their neck and shoulders simply are just not prepared for it. Start using your arms more now in preparation. Here are some examples. Place the cup or pan you use most often on the highest shelf of the kitchen so that you are reaching and holding above your head many times per day. Carry your groceries in one bag at a time to increase carrying time. If you are at the park with other children use some of the playground equipment to hang on, or do inclined push ups on the slide while your kids are playing. Get creative and have fun with it!
Walking is the first exercise I have every one of my patients start if exercise seems impossible or overwhelming. If you are currently someone who does not walk for exercise, start with 10-15 minutes at a comfortable pace. You should be able to talk without difficulty during this walk to gauge that you are not walking too intensely. If you are someone who does walk for exercise already, I recommend adding intensity by adding inclines or declines.