Post Pregnancy Fitness - Part 2

In the last post I shared some general tips about post pregnancy fitness and getting those pre-baby abs back. Now it’s time to get a bit more specific and take things up a notch to flatten that tummy and strengthen the core.

When it comes to exercise, routines can be as simple or as complex as you like to make them. Personally I believe that exercise should be simple, fun , and efficient to ensure that you will stick with it! Here is a simple core training program of 4 simple moves that you can follow and wont require you to do a single crunch! I call it the Core 4!

Exercise 1

Targets the Transverse Abdominus. The Transverse is a deep abdominal muscle that basically acts like an internal girdle to help pull all of the core muscles in tight. Either standing or lying only the ground simply take a deep breath and draw your navel in toward your spine. As you feel your abs begin to tighten, hold that position for about 10-15 seconds and release. Breathe normally the entire time – don’t hold your breath! Repeat 3-5 times working up toward 10 repetitions.

Exercise 2

Targets the Oblique muscles which are located on the sides of the stomach. Sit on the ground and bend your knees with your heels touching the ground. Lean your upper body back slowly until you feel tension on your abs. If you feel a strain on your low back, sit up straighter. Clasp your hands in front of your chest and slowly rotate side to side moving your hands toward the ground as you twist. Twist all the way to the right and all the way to the left and return to center. That is one repetition. Shoot for 10-12. As you get stronger, lean back further, lift your feet off the ground or hold a light medicine ball for resistance.

Exercise 3

Works the “lower abs”. There really is no such thing as the lower ab but I am referring to that “pooch” area all women want to eliminate. When you work your abs from the bottom up the resistance is closer to the lower portion of your abs and consequently more of the work is being done there. To work from the bottom up lay on your back and bend your knees to a 90 degree angle with your shins parallel to the floor. Slowly roll your hips up ward off the floor bringing your knees toward your chest and return to the starting position. Perform 10-15 slow repetitions.

Exercise 4

The Plank for core stabilization. The plank is a great exercise to strengthen the entire core. Simply lie face down on the floor. Then prop yourself up on your forearms and toes lifting your body off the floor. Gently pull your navel in toward your spine to create a straight back. Maintain normal breathing and try to hold this position for 10 –15 seconds. Add time with each workout until you can hold the plank for 60 seconds.

You will note that these 4 exercises work the entire core through both stabilization and movement. There is a great piece of exercise equipment on the market called the Ab Coaster which allows you to do all of this on one simple machine. The Ab Coaster mimics the hanging leg raise exercise which is considered to be the gold standard in core training because it requires you to stabilize the core while moving through a range of motion. The problem is that most people don’t have the strength to do it. Now they can with the Ab Coaster. Check it out at HERE

The human body is amazing and it will begin to recover from pregnancy within days. Noticeable change will begin to take place 4-6 weeks postpartum provided you are following a sensible eating and exercise plan. The key is to get started and begin to build momentum. Start with a couple days a week and go from there. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect, but takes positive steps daily. Your body and your baby will be glad you did!

Post Pregnancy Fitness - Part 1

It all started about 20 years ago. I was fresh out of school and had just landed my first job as a personal trainer at a local health club. My first client was a young lady in her early 30’s just looking to “get in shape”. There I was, my very first workout, with my very first client on my very first day! I was so excited. About halfway through the workout things were going great, she was working hard, feeling the exercises in all the right places and having a good time. I was so happy. Then it happened – we finished a set of lunges and she turned to me and said “I don’t feel so well” and she ran into the locker room. I felt terrible. Had I pushed her to hard, was the workout not appropriate, what happened? She came out of the locker room looking green and told me she had enough for the day and was going home! I couldn’t believe it – I thought I was so well prepared and I blew it on my very first day. I was so dejected.

That night I went over the workout again and again in my head trying to figure out where I went wrong. After a long night of thoughts racing through my head I finally fell asleep and woke up the next morning to try again with another client. Just as I got to the gym, I got a phone call from yesterdays client and she told me she found out she was PREGNANT! That’s why she had gotten ill the day before during our session. I thought to myself – phew – it wasn’t me after all! Thus began my career as a trainer in which I worked with many female clients both during and after pregnancy.

Working out while you are pregnant is generally very safe and in fact recommended in most cases. Of course it is always best to check with your physician for the proper guidelines. The same is true of post partum fitness routines which will be the focus of this article. Most of the women I have trained or spoken too want to get back in shape quickly after pregnancy and especially want to flatten those ABS! In this article I will share my top 5 tips and then in part 2 we will get more specific about those ABS! So Here we go.

1. Patience

Every client is different and every pregnancy is unique. However the most common concerns post pregnancy are losing that ‘baby weight’ and getting the stomach back in shape. The good news is that both of these concerns are attainable with some patience, dedication, and hard work! It is important to remember that your body went through 9 months of changes and you aren’t going to get it back overnight. It is a time to enjoy your baby first and foremost and then to begin a sensible routine of healthy eating and exercise.

2. Understand What Happened to your Abs

During pregnancy your abdominal muscles (rectucs abdominus) separate. The basic purpose of this to allow the growing fetus to come forward, not backwards which can cause strain on the low back. Though it sounds like a big deal, this is completely normal and in most cases the muscles return to their normal state post partum. This separation is known as diastasis and is generally detectable after about month 5. The problem occurs when the muscles separate too much (generally caused by weak abdominal

muscles) which can lead to low back, pain, sciatica, inflammation etc…. The great news is that this separation begins to close within days after delivery. A sound core training plan will have those abs back in shape before you know it – though you should allow at least 6 weeks for a full recovery.

3. Start Slowly

Generally speaking the best way to tone up post baby is with a routine consisting of cardio vascular exercise, total body strengthening, and proper nutrition. Depending on your pre-pregnancy fitness level and how well you maintained it during pregnancy you should begin with a low to moderate cardio-vascular exercise program (walking, elliptical, swimming) 3-4 days per week for 20-30 minutes. Total body strength training should also be performed using moderate weights and repetitions 2-3 days per week. There are also several “mommy and me” routines available which allow you to tone up while spending quality time with baby!

Speaking specifically about the core it is important to perform exercises that not only strengthen the superficial muscles that you see (rectus abdominus and obliques) but also the deep core muscles such as the transverse abdominus and the low back.

4. Regain Control of your Nutrition

Often during pregnancy women become a bit more lax about their diets. They may have cravings for something salt or sweet and within moderation its generally ok to indulge. It’s never a good idea to restrict calories during pregnancy buy now that you are trying to drop that baby weight its some to get a bit more disciplined. It is always best to check with your physician, a nutritionist, or a registered dietician for the eating plan that is best for you. Generally however, I would recommend a diet that is high in fiber, and rich with whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. The meal plan should also consist of moderate carbohydrates for energy, protein for muscle building and be low in fat. There are so many theories out there on nutrition but ultimately we all have to find what works best for us as individuals.

5. Have a Well Rounded Routine

Once you have clearance from your physician to begin exercising its best to start slowly and focus on all components of fitness. Many women want to jump right back into the cardio routine but don’t neglect strength training and flexibility. Start with 3x per week and increase from there.
As mentioned above Cardiovascular exercise should be performed for 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity. This could include walking, elliptical machines, swimming etc. Basically anything that will moderately increase your heart rate and keep it there for 20-30 minutes. If this is too much in the beginning you can break the 20-30 minutes up into 10 minute segments to reach a total time of 20-30 minutes. As you get in better shape strive for continuous exercise and gradually increase the intensity.

Next perform some basic strength training exercises to tighten and tone the muscles. You can start with basic body weight exercises such as push ups, squats and lunges. Try for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets. A routine might look like this. Start with 10 reps of body weight squats. Rest 30 seconds. Move to the ground and perform 10 push-ups (on your knees is fine to start with). Rest 30 seconds. Perform 10 alternating lunges. This sequence is one set. Rest for about a minute and repeat 2-3 times. Once you can complete this routine 3 days per week you can increase the intensity and complexity of your strength training with the help of a certified personal trainer.

Round out your routine with the Core 4 program described in the next post and some gentle stretching.

Enjoying life with your new baby is one of the greatest experiences in life. However, its also important that you take care of you so you have the strength energy and vitality to keep up with your growing bundle of joy. The tips above will get you stared and in the next article we will get a bit more specific. Now go play with your baby!

Small Space. Big Impact.

Small Space Big Impact

One of the biggest challenges facing the fitness industry is SPACE. One of the single largest fixed costs for a fitness club or studio operator today is rent. Because space is so expensive we have seen a shift in the way many clubs are designed. Every square foot is carefully planned to maximize efficiency and eliminate waste. In fact, this was one of the key drivers to the rise of the Studio Market! Operators figured that if they could eliminate low usage areas and include only those that produce the most profit, it would be a win! They were right! In fact, according to IHRSA, since 2010 boutique studios have become the fastest growing segment of the industry.

Ask any fitness equipment manufacturer what one of the most common objections they hear is and they will tell you “I dont have the SPACE”. However it’s not about the space - it’s about the space for the RIGHT THINGS. If you knew that a piece of equipment or program was what your members wanted, you’d find the space - or they will go somewhere that did!

In the last 5 years or so the industry has also been overtaken by the FUNCTIONAL TRAINING movement. Functional training is supposed to mimic activities of daily living and provide exercisers with the strength and mobility to be more active and productive in their everyday tasks. It’s certainly great exercise, but because of the dynamic nature of functional training, it requires a lot more of that precious SPACE! Examples include Medicine Ball Throws, Tire Flipping, and Battle Ropes. When exercise is done on stationary machines the space requirement is fixed and predictable. Functional training throws all of that out the window and the space needed can be massive.

The payoff can be there, but you have to consider the amount of space you are giving up for one or two people to do one movement. For example, if you have members looking to flip tractor tires - a very popular exercise - you might have to devote 30-40 yards of space to ensure that they can get an effective workout and not endanger your other members who may be using the space for stretching or core work. Battle Ropes can pose the same challenge, requiring 20-30 feet of distance for just the rope! This type of training is certainly EFFECTIVE but from a space perspective it certainly is not EFFICIENT! What’s a club to do?

Fortunately for the industry certain manufacturers, like The Abs Company, recognize this dilemma and are focussed on equipment and programming that addresses these critical issues. In short they are focussed on equipment that requires a SMALL SPACE but makes a BIG IMPACT! Additionally such products solve the three biggest issues surrounding functional training: SPACE, SAFETY and FACILITY DAMAGE.

Exercisers have been flipping tires for decades. This type of training is extremely dynamic and provides users with strength, power and aerobic fitness in one exercise.
It’s one thing if you have the ability to use tires outdoors but when you bring them inside it’s another story. The TireFlip 180 and TireFlip 180XL require a space that is only 5 feet wide and 4 feet long! In less than 20 square feet you can perform all of your Tire Flipping movements! That is a huge space saver! Additionally the anchor points on either side of the unit allow you to perform battle rope or elastic resistance exercises allowing you to set up a 3-4 person circuit training workout in a fraction of the space you would normally need. Finally, the ability to add plate loaded resistance eliminates the need for multiple tires in a facility by giving you a training range of 100-240 lbs !

Another innovation from The Abs Company revolves around the ever popular Battle Rope exercise. Again this dynamic workout is extremely effective but you have to devote 20-30 feet of floor space just for one person to train! The all new Battle Rope ST® solves this issue with its revolutionary design (see inset)

One of the biggest challenges with functional training is safety. The moves are not typical for the average user and without proper instruction, injury can occur. Tire Flipping is no exception with most injuries occurring when the unstable tire starts to roll away from the user. They can get injured as their body ends up in an awkward position trying to regain control. Additionally there is always risk to the unsuspecting exerciser who can have the tire fall or roll on top of them while they are simply lying down to stretch! Again, the TireFlip 180 solves this issue by moving in a defined and fixed path of motion. Safer for both the user and the exercisers around them!

Facility Damage
Finally, many of the functional moves today put the actual facility at risk for damage! When tires are leaned up against a wall or continually flipped onto the floor it can’t help but damage the surfaces, leaving your beautiful facility looking worn! The TireFlip 180 solves this issue because the tire never hits the floor, instead landing on the raised bumpers which also help users get a comfortable grip on the tire for more effective flipping. When members are launching the medicine balls into your walls and onto your floor damage ensues. The Ab Solo allows users to fire the medicine balls into a padded return for a fun safe and effective functional core workout!

It’s no secret that today’s members are looking for something different. They want functional movement and they want an experience. Whether you own a big box club or a boutique studio it’s imperative to find a way to give them what they want while keeping the realities of the business and facility in place. Products that require a SMALL SPACE but make a BIG IMPACT are the answer!

Efficient Equals Effective

Efficient Equals Effective

We recently had an article published in the National Fitness Trade Journal that really highlights our core concepts when designing a successful fitness space.  Take a look at the full article here Efficient Equals Effective