As a post-natal fitness specialist, the number one complaint I hear from new mamas trying to get fit is that their tummy takes longer than the rest of their bodies to bounce back.
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Hold onto your hats, because I am about to give you a quick and dirty “science” lesson. When you get pregnant, your body sends a message to your abdominal muscles to lengthen (which is awesome because otherwise we would tear an abdominal muscle once our little ones started growing inside us). The downside of this hormonal message our body sends out is that there is no converse message saying “Hey! Abdominals! Your work is done now. You can go back to ‘normal’.” That means that we have to put in some work on our end to get those tummy muscles to tighten back up.
But getting back on the workout horse can be scary, especially when mamas can be diagnosed with things like diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, or even organ prolapse.
Here are four simple exercises to help heal that mummy tummy. They will teach those abdominal muscles to start working again without creating further injury.
1. Four-Point Tummy Tuck
Lie down on the ground with your feet on the ground and your heels close to your bum. Take a big inhale, expanding your belly. Take a small pause. Forcefully exhale through your mouth, pulling your belly button into your spine and pulling your diaphragm under your rib cage. Hold that contraction for a count of four. Release the contraction, take a couple of regular breaths, then start again. Work your way up to holding that contraction for a count of 10. Make sure to keep breathing regularly while in the contraction.
2. Heel Taps
Lie down on the ground with your legs up in a 90 degree angle. Knees over hips, lower legs parallel to the floor. Take a big inhale, expanding your belly. Take a small pause. Forcefully exhale through your mouth, pulling your belly button into your spine and pulling your diaphragm under your rib cage. Once you have that contraction, slowly lower your right heel to the ground, tapping it on the ground. Raise it back up. Slowly tap your left heel to the ground. Raise it back up. Let go of the contraction. Start again. You want to work your way up to four taps per side without losing that contraction. If you feel you lose it, start over again.
3. Bird Dog
Get on all fours, knees under hips, hands under shoulders. You are going to inhale a big breath. As you exhale, pulling that belly button in to your spine, you are going to raise your right arm and your left leg parallel to the ground, holding them out for a count of four while keeping the contraction. Lower your limbs to the ground. Take a couple of normal breaths. Repeat with your left arm and right leg raising this time. Lower your limbs to the ground. You want to work your way up to holding those limbs parallel to the ground for a count of 10 without letting go of that contraction.
4. Side Plank
Lie on your right side but with your hand (or elbow under your shoulder). Pop your hip off the ground either using your knee as leverage (the “easier” version) or your feet as leverage (the harder version). While you pop your hip up off the ground, take a big exhale pulling that belly button to your spine. Hold the contraction and the plank for a count of four. Lower your hip to the ground and breathe regularly. Repeat. Once you have done four sets, switch to lying on your left side. You want to work your way up to a count of 10 while holding that contraction on each side.
The hardest part about getting back on the fitness train is remembering to be patient with your new mama body. It took you nine months to grow a human inside you. Your body deserves time to heal and recover, so make sure you are listening to the signals it is giving you. These exercises will start sending messages to your body that you are ready to get your fitness back.
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