It’s no secret that pregnancy can do a number on your midsection. Although it might be the tautest it’s ever been as you waddle your way into the hospital to give birth, it’ll likely be quite the opposite by the time you’re leaving with baby in arms. But that squishy physique won’t stick around forever; with time and practice, you can reconnect with your core.
The first time Lisa Reynolds, director of Pilates and GYROTONIC method at East Bank Club in Chicago, tried to activate her core after giving birth, she admits to thinking, Is this thing on? “It felt like I was sending my mental energy through a broken wire,” she recalls.
So with the expectation that it may take a while to rebuild your body, Reynolds recommends starting simple. While lying on the floor, “Take a big inhale, and then try to forcefully press out your breath with your waist,” she instructs. Practice this for several minutes most days until you start to re-establish a mind-body connection.
As you work to bring back your abs, beware of a condition called diastasis recti, in which the abdominal muscles become separated. “If you see your belly bulge out when you start exercising, that’s definitely a telltale sign,” Reynolds says.
If you suspect you have diastasis recti, consult your health care provider for a professional assessment and to learn the safest techniques to repair the separation.
Your belly might be your trouble area, but situps aren’t your solution. Once your practitioner has given you the green light, start incorporating whole-body exercises into your routine. “Anything you can do that’s a full-body movement is going to help you restore your core because you’re going to call on it,” explains Reynolds. For a low-impact option, try swimming laps at your neighborhood pool. “Swimming is amazing because the water supports you, so if your back is sore because of a weak core, it can relieve some of the pressure on your spine.”
Remember, too, that you don’t have to go to the gym to fit in a workout. “Staying active doesn’t necessarily mean doing the treadmill,” says Reynolds. “If you can walk somewhere, walk somewhere.” Playing with your kids, cleaning the house and taking the stairs count, too. “Moving is going to help restore you,” assures Reynolds. “If it feels good to move, move.”