The types of questions I get the most often are: Is this a good exercise for diastasis (or insert X diagnosis: prolapse, incontinence, hip pain, low back pain, etc. )? Can you give me 3 exercises to avoid in pregnancy or post partum? Conversely, can you tell me 3 exercises that athletes should be doing during pregnancy or post partum? Is Pilates (or yoga, CrossFit, Barre, Zumba, running…you pick) good/safe/effective during or after pregnancy?
These questions speak to the premise that a particular exercise, exercise program or simply strengthening a muscle is the solution to pregnancy and post partum issues, or ANY physical issue. While exercise and strengthening are important, critical in fact. Looking at the strategy someone is using to perform an exercise….any exercise… is the path to using it to address XYZ diagnoses, and to protect and promote pelvic, musculoskeletal, and performance health simultaneously during pregnancy and into postpartum.
A particular strengthening exercise or exercise program isn’t the solution, an effective strategy within ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM is.
By preaching strategy, balance between muscles and pressures, coordination and efficiency of movement patterns, your brain is the focus, not if one particular muscle group is strong or weak. Rebuilding your connection with the muscles that have been impacted by pregnancy is about brainwork first, body work second. Strategy before strength.
That may sound like gibberish when you simply want to know the steps you need to take to get better. But guiding you towards recovery means you need to understand that at the end of the day you may need to change HOW you are using your body in your day to day function and inside your fitness. HOW you use your body is your brain’s strategy to meet a demand. For example, are you holding your breath to get up from the couch? That is your brain’s strategy. WHY your brain chose that strategy instead of a more appropriate one (you shouldn’t have to hold your breath to get up from the couch) is what you need to sort out first and address.
Without that understanding exercise programs may not be as effective to help you recover. They absolutely may have positive outcomes…social opportunities, movement feels good and is good, stress relief, gaining strength again, weight loss, cardiac health, bone health, etc. That is all important and awesome! But if there are aches and pains or leaks or pressure in your vagina or doming along your midline associated with those exercise practices that are not improving, these are signals that you need a new strategy for HOW you are participating in your activities and exercise to help you effectively RECOVER from pregnancy (no matter how long ago it was) and REBUILD towards your goals. The best part is that means you get to keep doing what you like by monitoring and modifying as you go and ANY EXERCISE can be part of your recovery and re-building program! We just need to have a conversation with your brain to help you do it more effectively, efficiently, painlessly and dry.
Teaching effective strategies before, during and after pregnancy will carry over into a lifetime of movement, function and fitness..no matter the type of movement, function or fitness. Time to change the narrative around exercise folks! Time to talk strategies.