Before I had kids I didn’t work out. I never worked out when I had babies. I never even heard the term diastasis recti until I did my Instructor qualification!! So I’m essentially playing catch up here. I work out, I eat well, I’m strong, would consider myself quite fit and have a very active lifestyle, but have really struggled to lose my second baby mummy pouch. (That’s what 4 extra stone on a petite frame will do to you!) We’re not talking months here, we’re talking years. Years of core workouts, watching my diet, trying to shrink my stomach ( I did even try that shrink wrap trick at one point) but nothing worked until I learnt this little secret! Want to know how? Read on….
So what’s the trick, closer to the camera? Light trickery? No! Constant dieting? Nope! Fake tan contouring? No and no! Holding my breath, that’s guaranteed to make you look thinner right? Not a chance!
So would you like to know my secret trick? It’s only £6.99 a month if you sign up today, for 36 months, plus life time membership, 10 diet pills a day and…….only kidding!!
So by now you are either rolling your eyes wondering what nonsense you are going to read next or you are desperate to know how to fix that mummy pouch/saggy tum right? Stick with me while I explain a bit of the background first and then I’ll get to it!
What muscles are involved in the core? We all know by now it’s the obliques, transverses abdominis (wraps around your spine to keep you upright) and the rectus abdominis (6 pack muscles!), but there is a lot more to the core than that! The glutes, multifidi (in the back) AND pelvic floor (yes you heard me!) are all important parts of the chain. They all need to be strong and working together to have a well rounded core.
I don’t know about you but if I do something just every now and then, I lose interest. I do it a few times, nothing happens and completely forget about it. How many of us kept up our kegel exercises after baby? So when I explain this wee move to you, I want you to chose times through the day when you can remember to practice, along with the specific times I give you. FYI, this will also massively help with your pelvic floor muscles! No more panic when you sneeze!
This is not an intense move but if you feel something isn’t quite right with those stomach muscles (you don’t have to have had a baby for muscle separation to occur!) go and get checked with your G.P. first, I cannot stress this enough!
Here’s how to do it….
1: Stand up tall and relaxed, it helps if you can do this side on to a mirror
2: Now, the part that has been long forgotten about, right? We’re going for an upwards movement starting at those pelvic floor muscles. I’m sure you’ve heard it said before, imagine a piece of string coming out of the top of your head to make you stand up nice and tall, except………you’ve guessed it, where does this piece of string begin? Right down there, in your pelvic floor! I read a lot of analogies for this including imaging straws (eek!) etc, but I think the string image will suffice! So go ahead and grab that piece of string.
3: From here it’s an upwards (not inwards) movement, imagine a tight zipper running upwards from those pelvic floor muscles up to the bottom of your ribs. This is where that mind to muscle connection is very important, so watch in the mirror as you pull up that zip. You should see, even if it’s only miniscule to begin with, the stomach muscles lifting and beginning to flatten. NOT sinking inwards. DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH! You should be able to breath comfortably from your diaphragm. Don’t forget to keep holding that string!
4: To begin with you can match the zipper pull to the downward inhilation, hold for a sec or two and release with the upward exhilation, but when you are confident I want you to hold the zipper at the top and allow a few easy, deep breaths in and out from your diaphragm. (so the breath is travelling upwards and downwards) Your shoulders should be relaxed, not up round your ears, or you wont be able to do this. This is a really subtle move so if you notice any other big movements say from your shoulders, hips etc then chances are you haven’t fully engaging your transverse abdominis which is the one we are trying to isolate.
Here’s how to check if you’re doing it right. I’m going to show you another picture now (actually cannot believe I’m showing you all these pics of my belly, I haven’t worn a bikini is years!!) The first picture shows me standing slumped, allowing my hips to tip forwards and downwards, you can see the bottom area sits out.
The second picture shows me holding my breath, which is what we don’t want! My stomach just under my ribs is sucked in tight, I can’t breath comfortably and the wee mummy pouch? Still there! My back is flat and butt tucked under. By forcing your butt down into this position yes, you may appear slimmer but you may actually be putting pressure on you bladder, making things worse!
Picture 3 is my work in progress. I don’t have a 6 pack, heck I don’t really need one. My jiggles don’t slow me down a bit, but I want to build a strong, solid core this is now my focus. I still have a loose area there but it’s improving and lifting every day.
There’s a little phrase that I hear in my head all the time which has become a mantra for me. I used to think about it from an aesthetic point of view, but now I think about the strengthening. “Your body will shape the way you move it.” If something isn’t sitting right, don’t just accept it as inevitable, oh it’s my age, I’m just too fat, it’s just from having babies…..that doesn’t have to be the answer. Look for the cause and make a plan of action. If you are unsure, seek out a professional that can help you.
So if you have a bit of a saggy tum, or mummy pouch, weak pelvic floor or maybe your belly pops up when you try to perform stomach exercises, then make this little move part of your plan for moving forward. I’m sure you’ve realised by now that I may have stretch the truth a little calling it a “trick!”
Try this now, bend over to pick something up, does the loose bit of your belly hang down? Mine did! So you plank in this position and you do your press ups, are you involving your core or are you just allowing it to go “like it always does?” Before you go into this prone position from now on, I want you to grab that string and pull up your zipper. I bet there isn’t as much there now! Does your belly pop up when you do stomach exercises on your back? Your muscles aren’t all engaged, get that zipper up! Going in to a squat? Feet under hips and do the same, it is harder in this position but stick with it. If you haven’t engaged those pelvic floor muscles, you can actually weaken them causing, or worsening, urinary dysfunction. Such a minefield, which is why we have to go gently and look at the bigger picture.
So how and when am I doing mine? Well for a start, I’m limiting my plank time. In fact, for the first two weeks I didn’t do any. There is no harm at all in planking, but if you can’t keep those muscles engaged then the belly starts to slip, the back starts to sag and you will undo all your hard work. Get yourself zipped up before you go into your plank and only hold the plank for as long as you can stay engaged. If it all starts to slide, drop down to your knees, rest and repeat.
I also do these first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and every time I stand up from sitting. Don’t overdo it on the kegels though as we don’t want to over tighten the pelvic floor muscles. Take your time and do it right, matching it with healthy eating and exercise that works for you.
And that didn’t cost you a penny!!