1) A military training camp for new recruits with strict discipline;
2) A prison for youthful offenders, run on military lines;
3) A short, intensive, and rigorous course of training.
I rest my case.
The words “Mommy” and “Boot Camp” do not belong in the same sentence together. Or at least a boot camp should not be a “Mommy’s” first choice of exercise post-baby.
I like to compare your core to a house. The roof of your “house” is your rib cage and your diaphragm. So the way you breathe when you exercise totally and ultimately matters. Your house's front and the back door is the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles, your transversus abdominus. This muscle starts in your thoracolumbar fascia near the small of your back and spans all the way around to the front. The very foundation of your house is your pelvic floor muscles.
So if you are training your core during an exercise class, but you do not hear the words vagina, rectum, pelvic floor, Kegel, etc., you are NOT working your entire core. You’re missing one-fourth of it, actually!
And the back door of your house is your lumbar multifidus muscles. The fleshy muscles on either side of your spine turn on in preparation for movement.
What lives in your house? Your organs!
Through the process of pregnancy and birth, your house can undergo a bit of demolition. Some women feel like their bodies are broken after birth, and I am here to tell you that your body is NOT a teardown.
IT'S A MIRACLE!
You grew another human in your body for 9-10 months and then brought that baby from the inside to the outside world.
You are amazing! I repeat, your body is NOT a teardown. It’s a fixer-upper project. I would never ask a fixer-upper house to endure a tornado, just like I would never ask a postpartum body to endure a boot camp exercise class. At least not right away!
So, where do you start?
I firmly believe the first set of exercises a postpartum woman needs to do begins with finding each part of her core or “house." This can be done in a chair. Start with good alignment. That means a pelvis that is not too tucked or not too arched. Imagine your ribs like a bell swinging off your shoulder. You don’t want your bell swung up or down but rather a quiet bell stacked directly over your neutral pelvis.
Now make sure your earlobes are over your shoulders. There we go, now that we are on level terrain, we can do the work of rebuilding your house. Start by bringing your hands to your rib cage. Imagine your ribs like an umbrella inside your body. Take a deep, sideways breath allowing your ribs to expand out into your hands, keeping your shoulders and belly quiet. Exhale and knit the front of the ribs together as you close your umbrella. Repeat this a few
You see, during pregnancy, the ribs can expand out and get somewhat “stuck” there, so
sometimes you need to re-train this lateral breath strategy.
Let’s move on to the front door of your house, your transversus abdominus.
Bring one hand above your belly button and one hand below. Inhale and allow your belly to inflate like a balloon into your hands. On the exhale, gently hug your belly button halfway back towards your spine (not all the way) as you bring your front two pelvic bones towards your belly button. Then inhale and allow your belly to relax again.
Repeat this a few times as you turn the whispering deep abdominal muscles into a louder voice in your brain!
Turn your attention to your pelvic floor, the foundation of your house. Inhale and allow your pelvic floor muscles to melt into the surface you are sitting on like melted butter. Then exhale to contract your pelvic floor like you are stopping the flow of urine. Keep your tummy and butt muscles quiet. Then inhale to relax again.
You can also practice a deeper contraction by picturing your vaginal muscles wrapping around a ripe blueberry and lifting it a few inches into the vaginal opening on the exhale, then
inhale to allow your blueberry to drop all the way out. The breathing sequence might seem backward here but trust me, there is physiology and science to the inhale and exhale that 100% matters!
Now here’s the real challenge. Can you pull it all into one inhale and exhale? Let’s try it!
Check in with your posture and alignment to make sure we are building your house on level terrain. Inhale as you allow your ribs to expand like an umbrella, your belly inflates like a balloon, and your pelvic floor melts like butter underneath you. Now exhale as you knit your ribs together, close your umbrella, bring your belly in and bring your pelvic bones together, and contract your pelvic floor like you are stopping the flow of urine or lifting a ripe blueberry. Inhale to melt and expand and try it all again.
You’re doing the REAL work of building your core from the roof down and the inside out. This is where you belong! Waking up the tiny whispering muscles that make up your inner core and coordinating your breathing so you are managing your intra-abdominal pressure to prepare your body for further core work and impact.
If you eliminate the idea of a boot camp from your vision of postpartum exercise (at least at first), you will allow yourself the opportunity to build a mansion that your organs would be happy to call home!!!
No sergeants, no barking orders. Want to learn the best first exercises?