After growing, giving birth and nursing three babies, I came to appreciate my body in a whole new way extending far beyond what it had done for me physically in my running career. I enjoyed (most) every minute of being pregnant and the sweet months of new motherhood following. With each pregnancy, I allowed myself to step away from my type-A training schedule and expectations of how quickly I should be bouncing back in both athletic ability and appearance. These physical and mental respites were a blessing that helped keep me healthy, happy and centered.
What wasn’t a blessing were the progressively worsening issues I experienced as a result of these big babies, average weight over 9lb pounds! Embarrassing problems like incontinence and bladder prolapse related to pelvic floor weakness and dysfunction and, to a lesser degree, Diastasis Recti, a muscles separation in the abdomen that can contribute to mommy pooch. My doctors were pushing surgery, but I was scared and unsure, so I researched ways to self-correct with specific exercises and have been feeling great for years. I recently discovered the team up between Natalie Hodson and Dr. Monique Middlekauff, a specialist in pelvic floor dysfunction, to create a 30-day program called Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor. This easy-to-follow, at-home program includes many of the things I did and LOTS more, and I am excited to recommend it! Read on to get the details!
First, let me clear the air about the six-pack abs image that follows me around. Yes, I love them (how can you not when 50 years old!), I work hard for them (doing some exercises a new mom shouldn’t yet try), and they benefit me immensely when I compete in obstacle racing and strength/fitness events. But, I would definitely still be ME without them, it really doesn’t matter what I look like, my primary goal is to be healthy and strong enough to do keep doing the things I love.
(above) Obstacle course racing is one of the things I love to be strong for, however, I wouldn’t have been able to take on the training after babies without strengthening my abs, core and pelvic floor FIRST.
So, that being said, Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor 30-day program is a gentle, healing place to start in the weeks or months after giving birth. Don’t be in a RUSH, enjoy the time with your precious baby and let your body do what it was designed for! There will be plenty of time for long runs, CrossFit, HIIT classes, boot camps and all those other rigorous workouts later. Your level of intensity needs to match your level of recovery to prevent added stress to your core, pelvic floor and sanity. In the meantime, you can start getting these muscles back into shape to help improve any issues you are having with incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction or — if you aren’t having symptoms, the Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor 30-day program is also an excellent proactive program.
As I mentioned, my biggest issues after a 10-year cycle of getting pregnant (some troubles), being pregnant and post-partum along with another 5 years of still dealing with the physical repercussions was incontinence (in one delivery my urethra was torn) and pelvic floor dysfunction, specifically a prolapsed bladder. The incontinence was pretty bad, and even worse at “that” time of the month.
Of course, I expected my “mom pee” after sneezing, jumping, and laughing, but I also became very resigned to the fact I peed my pants at every race run. If you have this problem, you know there’s no “urge” to go or ability to hold it in, the urine just comes on out as it wishes. I tried not drinking much before a race, but obviously that wasn’t smart as dehydration is worse than incontinence. My typical strategies to deal with this embarrassing problem were elaborate – arriving hours ahead for multiple porta-putty visits, wearing bulky pads, wearing a skirt or shorts that camouflaged wetness, and (gross) relying on my compression socks to sop up any overflow before it got in my shoes. Of course, my husband or mom would always be waiting and the finish with a clean, dry set of clothes. But thanks to an ongoing exercise regimen similar to the one in Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor 30-day program, this problem has improved at least 90 percent.
(above) Oh, this is an oldie! Before I got things tightened back up, this was the race where I pulled out a soaked pad while running, rolled it up, aimed it toward a trash can at water station where it unfurled and hit someone. I almost died of embarrassment.
The other problem was the bladder prolapse, so not fun and people like to talk about it even less that incontinence. Typically, your bladder is suspended and supported via a “hammock” pelvic floor muscles and tissue. When this support system is weakened and stretched through factors like pregnancy, age, weight, the bladder MAY drop and/or bulge into the vagina and in worse cases, go so far as to peek outside the opening. Thankfully, my bladder never saw the light of day (ha-ha), but I definitely felt it in the canal and, while not painful, a very disturbing and alarming sensation. This went in varying degrees of prolapse for years. After I decided I was done having babies, my doctor and I would discuss having a surgery where the failing “hammock” would be repaired and/or replaced with mesh. I wanted to be rid of this problem, but I didn’t want to go under the knife and I hated the idea of a running hiatus to recover (I was getting stubborn). But, I’m glad I was stubborn, because with only core-strengthening exercises, like many found in the Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor 30-day program, I was able to strengthen and pull everything back up into its proper place!
I love that the Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor 30-day program can be done completely at home without equipment, there is no added stress of getting to a gym and leaving your new baby behind. If you are a person who is motivated by group fitness, then invite over another new mommy or two and work on the program together while swapping survival tips. You download the program and print out or view straight to your iPad or laptop – there is also access to videos that further assist in the understanding of exercises and how to engage each muscle. I’ll give you a sneak peak of one of the gentle but effective core-strengthening exercises that’s still a favorite of mine today, the Glute Bridge.
- Lay on back, knees up and arms resting comfortably by side.
- Tighten and squeeze pelvic floor.
- Activate muscles of glutes and lift hips off the floor until in straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Hold for count of 1 (gradually increasing your hold as you feel stronger).
- Gently lower to floor, rest, repeat.
And, as a “fit foodie” myself, I appreciate how this exercise program has a solid section on nutrition to help you recover faster and feel better in the process. Losing weight post-partum is not a competition, regardless of how it is portrayed by celebrities and on social media. It is ridiculous and unsafe to think you will have that “bikini body” a week or a month after giving birth – you still may not after year, don’t worry. No normal, rational person expects that of you – and that should include you, okay?! While I have my fitness level back and a better body than before babies, I still have reminders of my pregnancies, a stretch mark around my belly button, varicose and spider veins and a little excess skin on my lower abs – aside from my actual children, these are my trophies and I don’t let it shake my confidence! Also after giving birth three times, it reinforced to me that our bodies are given to use to be used for good, for reproduction, for sweaty hard work, for challenging, for hugs, for love — and it is really of no concern how you look. That’s why this (below) is one of my favorite sayings: Find out more about the life-changing Abs, Core & Pelvic Floor 30-day program and find out how to get started. If you have any questions about urinary incontinence or bladder prolapse as related to running or working out please feel free to leave a comment or reach out by email. Also, for those of you not pregnant or in post-partum recovery and looking for the six-pack building ab workout – I’ve gotcha covered and will talk about it later in the month.
How many kids do you have? Any of these problems affected you, what did you do? What’s the most embarrassing “pee story” you have, come on, I shared! Drop me a comment – XOXO, Jennifer
“This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Natalie Hodson, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #abscorepelvicfloor http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV”