The Benefits of Exercise after giving birth and 3 simple exercises for core and pelvic floor strength

The Benefits of Exercise after giving birth and 3 simple exercises for core and pelvic floor strength

Why you should exercise after giving birth?

  • core recovery allows our spine to regain stability
  • reduction of postnatal injury – leg cramps, oedema, CTS, altered blood pressure, constipation
  • pelvic floor – reduces incontinence
  • posture – reduced lower back pain
  • improves our stamina and energy levels
  • natural high – improved positive mood
  • improves sleep – exercise results in our body releasing relaxing hormones
  • fat burning – activity increase metabolic rate, which helps burn fat
  • improved self-image – reduced post natal blues

When is it safe to exercise?

There are certain conditions after you've had a baby when you should seek medical advice before starting an exercise programme. I've listed these below. However, in general, if you had a natural birth you can:

  • start exercising your core and pelvic floor 24 hours after birth (gently)
  • start active (walking/small jogs/body weight exercises) 6 weeks after giving birth

If you had a caesarean section you can:

  • start exercising your core and pelvic floor as soon as you feel like you are healing well
  • start active (walking/small jogs/body weight exercises) 12 weeks after giving birth

Exercises to avoid:

  • —Plyometric
  • —High intensity
  • —High impact
  • —General population classes (post birth classes for mums are not included in this)
  • —Prolonged stretches
  • —Flexion exercises (bending forwards)

If you have one of the below conditions, it is advisable to seek medical advice before commencing an exercise programme:

  • —Severe or chronic conditions
  • —Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes
  • —Extreme morbid obesity
  • —Extreme low weight
  • —History of sedentary lifestyle
  • —Poorly controlled hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • —Poorly controlled thyroid disease
  • —Heavy smoking
  • —Before 6 weeks if natural birth
  • —Before 12 weeks if caesarean section
  • —Any unstable condition
  • —Resting tachycardia
  • —Blood pressure over 160/100

Core/Pelvic Floor Exercises:

Four Point Vacuum -> lifting hands -> raising arms -> raising legs (baby underneath)

Four Point Vacuum -> lifting hands -> raising arms -> raising legs (baby underneath)

Lying on back, squeezing core -> Sliding Leg along floor -> Holding one leg above floor and sliding other leg -> Holding both legs above floor and sliding both back and forth (baby on chest)

Lying on back, squeezing core -> Sliding Leg along floor -> Holding one leg above floor and sliding other leg -> Holding both legs above floor and sliding both back and forth (baby on chest)

Glute Bridge -> hands pressed down into floor -> lifting hips and squeezing core, pelvic floor and glutes. Gently lower. (baby on chest)

Glute Bridge -> hands pressed down into floor -> lifting hips and squeezing core, pelvic floor and glutes. Gently lower. (baby on chest)

Going skiing? Don't forget to stretch ...

Going skiing? Don't forget to stretch ...

You've spent the last 4 - 8 weeks prepping for your ski holiday. You're in the best condition of your life. You're nailing those powder turns. As you come to a halt at the bottom of the last piste, you're mind is on one thing ... quenching your thirst at the local tavern.

Here are four reasons why you should stop, cool down and stretch first before heading for that beer.

Cooling down will help clear out toxins:

Your muscles are a little like the engine in your car. Fuel in the form of oxygen goes in, this is used to create energy in the muscles and the power you need to keep an even kilter on your skis. As oxygen is burnt, your muscles create waste products. These waste products are pushed into the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system doesn't have a pump like your blood stream. Therefore, to flush out the toxins from the muscles, consider walking around for 3-5 minutes post skiing.

Stretching will maintain your flexibility:

When you are skiing, it's like you've performed 100s of squats throughout the day. If you were to do that in a gym, you'd know to go and stretch afterwards. Skiing should be considered a strengthening exercises. All strengthening exercises tighten the muscles up. To ensure that you have mobility day after day, it's important to lengthen the muscles post activity with stretches held from 30 seconds - 1 minute.

Stretching can improve performance:

If you want to improve your performance on the slope, you need to look after your body. You may find that a certain move isn't available to you. This is not necessarily because there is no strength in the muscle. It may be due to a mobility issue, which restricts your movement in a certain plane of motion. By stretching (dynamically) before skiing and performing static stretches afterwards, you are going to increase the performance of your body.

Stretching can reduce the risk of injury:

Say you've skied for a week and you're starting to feel a little sore. At first you started feeling a niggling pain in your ankle or knee. In the second week the niggle turns into an ache. By the third week you're struggling to put pressure through that leg when you're turning and by the fourth week what was once a niggle is now an inflamed tendon and you can't ski for more than an hour without continuous pain.

At this point, your options are to rest (not going to happen if it's a powder day), or to try and strap the affected joint. This may work for a short period of time, but you will have to rehabilitate the injury later on. An inflamed tendon can take more than 8 weeks to recover. It can also turn into a tear or complete rupture of the soft tissue, worst case.

The simplest way of ensuring that you reduce the risk of injury is to stretch after skiing. This means holding static stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute. By lengthening the muscles before they repair, they will shrink (the strengthening process) less and provide you with the mobility required to continue skiing.

Stretching will allow muscle tissue to glide:

By adding tensile pressure to a muscle, this helps remove adhesions from the tissue. If there are no adhesions, the muscle will glide smoothly, making movement flow as you ski down the slopes.

Check out my skiing stretches below.

Hip flexor stretch

Hip flexor stretch

Hamstring & Hip Flexor stretch

Hamstring & Hip Flexor stretch

Glute Stretch

Glute Stretch

Piriformis (Glute) Stretch

Piriformis (Glute) Stretch

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

Chest Stretch

Chest Stretch

Calf Stretch

Calf Stretch

Lower Back Stretch

Lower Back Stretch

Shin Stretch

Shin Stretch

Soleus (calf) Stretch

Soleus (calf) Stretch

Savoury Pancakes

These savoury pancakes are really tasty and make a great savoury meal, if you prefer savoury pancakes to sweet pancakes. They also take about 20 minutes to make, so they're great for a quick healthy meal.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Pancakes:

200gms sweet corn

2 eggs

4 tbsp rye flour

20gms feta cheese

butter (for frying)

Salad:

1 Beetroot

6 cherry tomatoes (from the vine taste the best)

8 rashers of pancetta

20gms of feta cheese

a hand full of parsley

a hand full of chilli flakes

6 walnut halves

Method:

Put the pancake ingredients into the mixer and mix thoroughly. The mixture should appear slightly lose (drips off a spoon slowly). Transfer the mixture to a measuring jug, I find this the easiest way of pouring the mixture into a pan to fry.

Add a small amount (stamp sized) of butter to a non-stick frying pan and make sure it reaches all parts of the pan - you don't want your pancakes to stick!

Place the pancetta in a frying pan on a low heat and get a plate with kitchen roll ready. Slowly cook the pancetta and transfer to the plate to drain the fats. No extra oil is added when cooking the pancetta.

While the pancetta is cooking, pour your pancake mixture into the centre of the pan until it reaches approx. 10cm in diameter. Using the pan, move the mixture around so that it flattens into a pancake shape. Fry for 1 minute before flipping over to the other side. Fry for another minute and then place on a plate in the oven. The oven should be at 100 degrees to keep the pancakes warm. Continue with the rest of the mixture, and you should have 4 lovely pancakes.

For the salad, slice the beetroot into 5mm slices, and place on the pancakes. Slice the tomatoes in 2 and place around the outside of the pancakes. Add the pancetta to the top of the beetroot, crumble feta cheese on top, add the chilli flakes and parsley to taste and serve!

Sweet Pancakes

These sweet pancakes are my go to treat on the weekend. It took me a while to work out how long to leave them on the hob, as the bananas make them caramelise (read burn) really quickly! 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Pancakes:

2/3 bananas

3 eggs

2 tbsp rye flour

2 tbsp granola (oats, sultanas, flaxseed, mixed nuts)

butter (for frying)

Topping:

frozen fruit (defrosted, of course!)

greek yoghurt

Put the pancake ingredients into the mixer and mix thoroughly. The mixture should appear thick (doesn't easily drip off a spoon). Transfer the mixture to a measuring jug, I find this the easiest way of pouring the mixture into a pan to fry.

Add a small amount (stamp sized) of butter to a non-stick frying pan and make sure it reaches all parts of the pan - you don't want your pancakes to stick! Use a medium-low heat under the frying pan.

Pour your pancake mixture into the centre of the pan until it reaches approx. 10cm in diameter. Using the pan (tipping it), move the mixture around so that it flattens into a pancake shape. Fry for 1-2 minutes before flipping over to the other side. Fry for another minute and then place on a plate in the oven. The oven should be at 100 degrees to keep the pancakes warm. Continue with the rest of the mixture, and you should have 4 lovely pancakes.

Add the fruit and yoghurt to serve. If you really want to sweeten these up, add some honey or maple syrup ... just a splash (1 tbsp), as these contain lots of sugar.

Spicy Chicken, Cauliflower and Broccoli Lunch

Healthy lunches are a little bit of a struggle for me. Recipes tend to be thin on the ground, either involving quite a bit of prep or bread. Now, I love bread as much as the next person, but I'd prefer not to have it every day for lunch. I also find it leaves me feeling a little heavy for the afternoon and I'm better off with something a little lighter.

This healthy salad hits the mark for me - not only does it cover all bases: carbohydrates, fats and proteins, but it also tastes amazing and takes only 30 minutes to make!

Serves 4:

Ingredients:

Spicy Chicken:

- 4 chicken breasts

- 4 tbsp lemon juice

- 4 tbsp honey

- handful of chilli flakes

- 1 tbsp smoked paprika

- coconut oil

Veg:

- olive oil

- broccoli

- cauliflower

- walnut pieces

- spinach

Accompaniments:

- humus

- cottage cheese

- pita bread

Method:

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into small florets (5cm max) and place in an oven dish, drizzle a little (!) olive oil on top, add chilli flakes and bake in a fan oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.

While the broccoli and cauliflower is cooking, cut the chicken breasts into pieces and place in a large bowl with the lemon juice, honey, chilli flakes and smoked paprika. Cover this with cling film for 20 minutes to marinade (if you're able to marinade for longer, even better!).

After 20 minutes, fry the chicken in a wok with the coconut oil until there is no residue and the chicken is cooked through (white in the middle).

Take the broccoli and cauliflower out of the oven and place in a bowl, with the spinach, chilli flakes and walnuts. Add the chicken and mix together. To serve, add the humus, cottage cheese and pita bread.