Parent Fit – Part Four

Is it possible to stay healthy when your world is turned upside down?

When children arrive, all your health goals go out of the window right…? This week: Tips for pain relief and more ‘baby carrying power’!

In this series we’ve been looking into ideas that actually support a healthy lifestyle when children arrive (or any other life situation that turns your world upside down).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You may find this hard to believe, but I’m not actually a midwife J . Please do not take these ideas as prescriptions, see your health professional before you do anything.

What to do when you’re in pain?

When children arrive, weird and wonderful physical tasks that would not have entered your head become part of daily life (taking a baby seat out the back of a 3 door car anyone!). As you can imagine (and may have experienced) these movements place new stresses on the body.

Your body is an amazing creation and will put up with a huge amount. But it does have its limits, and the weaker areas, like the lower back for example, can suffer over time. So today I wanted to share with you a couple of simple strategies that can help relieve the pain, and hopefully stop it coming in the first place.

Strategy one: It’s all about your BACKSIDE! The Wall Standing test

Due to modern living, most of us have a weak mid-section (lower back, stomach etc.) When you add an extra weight to a weak system i.e. carrying a baby for hours on end, something has to give. The wall standing test is a movement that firstly highlights what good posture feels like and secondly, how to train the right muscles make it the norm.

– Stand with your heels, hips and head against a wall, getting your shoulders right back.

– Slide your hand between the wall and your back, in line with your belly button. Optimal posture is where your shoulders should be level and against the wall, and the meaty part of your hand snuggly fitting between your back and the wall (which is at belly button level).

– If like many of us, you have too much of a gap at your lower back (or not enough), try flattening or arching your back until you get the right position.

– Hold this position for 10seconds, rest for a few seconds, repeat 10 times.

I’ll warn you, it will feel really weird at first, but you’ll be strengthening your back, stomach and buttocks which are crucial when carrying and lifting things. We’ve really found this helps (squeezing your buttocks and stomach) when carrying the baby.

Strategy two: Have a lie down

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Most of us will feel back pain at some point. I would always advise to go and get it checked out by a professional, but this exercise often helps relieve the pain for a short time (which is priceless sometimes)

* Lie on your back with your legs up over a block or a chair

* Place your arms out to the sides at approx. 45degrees with palms up. Touch your thumbs to the floor

* Relax your upper back and ensure your lower back flattens to the floor evenly from left to right

* Hold this position for five minutes

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Parent Fit – Part Three

Is it possible to stay healthy when your world is turned upside down?

When children arrive, all your health goals go out of the window right…? This week: How to get rid of those aches, pains and get your body back

In this series we’ve been looking into ideas that actually support a healthy lifestyle when children arrive (or any other life situation that turns your world upside down).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You may find this hard to believe, but I’m not actually a midwife J . Please do not take these ideas as prescriptions, see your health professional before you do anything.

This week I want to talk about strength

Working on strength is often misunderstood. Many think it means getting massive muscles and looking like Arnold Shwarzenegger. This misunderstanding often puts people off what is one of the most important aspects of health.

Why is strength so important?

In essence, strength allows you to lift, move, and carry yourself and external objects without hurting yourself. It can prevent injuries; it can also help you recover from them. It is so important that scientists actually use strength as one of the main indicators of longevity (how long you’re going to live). The great thing is you don’t always need expensive equipment to improve your strength.

What will help new parents?

What the female body goes through to deliver a child is unbelievable. It is literally trauma to the body. Tissues can be torn, stretched, pulled, all kinds of things! The big exercises like squats, deadlifts, pull ups etc. are extremely effective at strengthening the body, and I would advise those once you feel ready (always clear it with your health professional first, but you’ll start to know when you feel ready).

In the initial stages however, there are a few exercises that will strengthen up key areas of your body, helping reduce pain, make daily tasks easier and reduce the chance of injury in the future. And men, don’t think this will only benefit the girls. What use are you to the cause if you’re a physical wreck!

1) Prone Cobra

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Ever felt your back start to ache or your shoulders have caved in after holding your child for a while? This exercise is a lovely stretch for your chest, shoulders and develops strength and endurance in your back.

* Squeeze bum muscles together and raise shoulders off the ground by squeezing your shoulder blades together, keeping the chin tucked in

* Hold this position for 10 seconds, relax by lying face down. Rest for 10seconds then repeat 5 more times (or until you cannot keep correct technique)

2) Hip raises

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This movement strengthens the crucial posterior chain muscles (back of legs, buttocks & back) that support your body. Start by squeezing your buttocks, flatten your lower back into the floor and raise your hips as high as you can. Slowly lower to the floor, aiming to complete 10reps. Rest and try 2 more sets.

3) All 4’s superman’s

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Not only will this provide essential strengthening to those tummy muscles that often decide to pack it in after childbirth, but this will really challenge your balance

* Assume the all 4’s position

* Draw belly button in and raise one arm off the ground at a 45° angle with your thumb pointing upwards until it is at the same level as your body.

* Then extend the opposite leg out and back until it is level with the body.

* Try not to move over onto your supporting hip/shoulder or change the curvature of your back, again imagine that tray containing glasses of water is on your back and you don’t want to cause any spillage!

* Hold this position for ten seconds then lift the other leg and arm. Aim for 10 repetitions on each arm-leg, but only if your technique stays good, as soon as you lose good form stop!

1) Intro – mindset

2) Movement

3) Strength

4) Pain relief

5) Nutrition

6) Sleep/rest

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Parent Fit – Part Two

Is it possible to stay healthy when your world is turned upside down?

When children arrive, all your health goals go out of the window right…?

In this series we’ve been looking into ideas that actually support a healthy lifestyle when children arrive and your world is turned upside down.

I understand that if you haven’t got children you may feel this is not for you. You’d be right. But you may be able to use the principles outlined when going through certain crazy situations in work or with family that completely turn your world upside down.

But before all that…

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You may find this hard to believe, but I’m not actually a midwife J . Nor am I a doctor or any other of those amazing people on the maternity ward. The topics we discuss in these articles are merely observations and suggestions from someone who’s studied how to improve the performance of the human body and mind-set as a living for over 15 years. Please do not take these ideas as prescriptions, see your health professional before you do anything.

This week I want to talk about movement

You may notice I have used the word movement not exercise. This is for a very specific reason. When you hear the word exercise, what are the first images and emotions that come to mind? For most people, it involves a sweaty gym and often, a sense of punishment or obligation.

There is a common belief that the only way to benefit from exercise is that you have to do it in a gym and work until you cannot work anymore! No wonder the mere thought of it can give new parents nightmares.

There is another way

Intense exercise causes energy expenditure, hence the term: work-out. As I will talk about in a future article in this series, during child birth your whole system goes through a tremendous amount (obviously a woman’s far more than men’s). So tough work outs i.e. expending more energy, aren’t always appropriate.

What we found to work well for us were work-in movements. These are gentle movements that don’t raise the heart rate or get you breathless (so you are not expending energy). Yet the movement still improves blood flow, which helps to restore the body, so you actually gain energy. You can read more about work-in and work-out exercises here.

Movement is always helpful. What movement is appropriate at any given time should be the question. So whilst you are still reeling from the dramatic shift in your life (or anytime when you are under a lot of stress and feel a work-out would make you feel worse) work-in exercises could be the key. Here are three simple examples:

1) Gentle walking. Ideally outside so you can get the benefit of fresh air. Start with 5-10minutes/day, see how you feel afterwards and adjust the time accordingly

2) 5 minutes of slow, deep breathing. You can either do this lying down or standing up accompanied by rhythmic arm movements (as if you have a paint brush in each hand and are painting the fence)

3) Play. Pick activities you really enjoy but don’t normally get a chance to do.

See these less as a chore and more like you are giving yourself the gift of movement. You deserve the benefits they give. After a while, you may feel like you would like to do something a bit more

energetic or feel the need to strengthen your body (back & core etc.) due to the new strains. This is what we’ll talk about next week.

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Fatloss Tips – Exercise

Last month we put together a list of short and sharp fat loss tips. They were so popular that we’re going to put together a couple more lists. And to hopefully further help, we thought we’d categorise them so you could work at one thing at a time (which seems to be the most effective way at approaching a new task, from a results and sustainability point of view).

This week – Exercise

  • Resistance training (either using external resistance like a weight or just your bodyweight) improves your body’s ability to handle sugar, therefore is a fantastic way to get leaner and improve the way your body looks and functions.

Work with someone who knows what they’re talking about (i.e. they’ve got a proven track record) to develop a resistance program you can work on 2-4 times/week.

  •  To further the point on resistance training, the exercises the get the biggest bang for your buck when fat loss is concerned are the ones which use lots of different muscles at the same time. For example, deadlifting (lifting an object off the floor), squats, pull ups, press ups etc. burn far more calories and will get you leaner a lot quicker. Try a circuit of the above 4 exercises, performing 12 of each exercise at a weight where you can just about do the 12th rep with good technique, with no break in between exercises, e.g. 12 deadlifts straight into 12 pull ups (or assisted pull ups), straight into 12 squats, straight into 12 shoulder press (or press ups). Rest for 60 seconds then repeat 3 times. If you do it properly, you won’t be doing much else!
  • One of the most effective forms of exercise to burn fat is interval training. This involves carrying out an exercise (walking, running, cycling, squats, anything!) at a moderate to high pace for a short time, have a little breather then repeat.

Example interval training session:

Walk as fast as you can for 1 minute, walk slowly for one minute. Repeat for 20minutes

  •  Try something new. Apart from the new activity forcing the body to move in different ways, the brain LOVES learning new things (which also helps keeps it young and sharp as well), especially when it comes to exercise. It’s called novel movement. And when you first crack whatever it is your trying, for example a forward roll, your body releases chemicals that provide that lovely sense of achievement which can propel you to carry on and explore the next adventure.
  • Everyone asks: What is the best exercise to lose weight? To start off, the best exercise is: the one you’ll do. Following a good program is better than not following a perfect program. So if you’re new to regular movement, pick activities you enjoy doing
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New Year Starts – Exercise

New Year Starts – Exercise: #TIPS on How to start, make it safe, fun & effective

With many of us wanting to shed a few pounds after the Christmas break; exercise can help tremendously to get you where you want to be. Although not essential for weight loss (other factors like food and mindset are far more important), exercise is crucial for aiding with health issues like heart health, mood, joint pain, diabetes, strength, balance and many more.

For a lot of people, and this is the view of so many I’ve talked to, the thought of exercise conjures up horrid images of lycra clad women and muscle bound men, strutting around a gym giving you evil looks for even stepping a foot in ‘their domain’! Firstly most gyms aren’t like that, and secondly you can get all the health benefits you want from exercise and not even step foot in one.

So here are a few tips to help get you started:

  1. If you’re brand new to exercise, or haven’t done it for a while: take your time. It’s very easy to dive in head first and do too much, resulting in extreme muscle soreness, drop in confidence or even injury. And of course none of these help the feelings you associate with exercise. So start gently and build up slowly
  2. Get advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. I remember trying to fix my own car once (and I know nothing about cars!), not only did I waste my own time and not solve the problem but I actually made it worse and ended up taking it to the garage anyway! Your body is the most complicated, amazing piece of creation you will ever own and the people who know what they’re talking about can not only get you to your goals quicker but it will be a lot safer.

Quick tip on how to find a good trainer/therapist: I have found it is much more reliable to go by good recommendations from friends you trust than fancy advertising

  1. Find something you enjoy. If you hate exercising alone and you hate the gym, then don’t exercise in the gym alone! This may sound like a silly statement but I see it ALL the time. You guys are clever enough to guess how long these people’s exercising career lasts! Do you prefer exercising with friends? Then maybe find an exercise class you can all go to. Do you prefer playing a sport? Look for a local club. Do you prefer to be outside? Research and arrange outdoor activities to have a go at, or simply just start with short walks around our gorgeous countryside and coastal paths. Do you like listening to music while you exercise? Load up your music player with music you absolutely love and go for it.
  2. Monitor what you do. If you do go to the gym get a program from someone who knows what they’re doing. IF you’re walking outside, note how long you walk for and/or how far you go. Following a designed program instead of aimlessly wandering around the gym dramatically increases your results. Make sure to change it up every 4-6 weeks, otherwise your body will get used to it and your results will decrease.
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Festive Fitness

Festive fitness – How ten minutes can keep the weight off this Christmas

Celebrations and holidays are usually great times. We often get the chance to spend time with people we don’t often see, relax from our daily work and more often than not, eat lots of our favourite food! If you’re anything like me however, you may have experienced over the years that with all the good points, it is all too easy to indulge a little too much, and for our health to be put off track just a little too far.

Can anything limit the damage of our indulgences?!!

Exercise is superbly good for us, helping our heart and lungs stay strong, our weight in check, and it can even be a good stress reliever. But I was taught a saying that is very useful to keep in mind: “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. Meaning, even if you exercise all day, if you ate takeaways every night you wouldn’t see many inches falling off round the waist.

But eating and drinking is all part of the fun isn’t it?!! Is there anything we can do?! 

Be realistic with your expectations. If you are anything like I used to be; house stocked full of treats and attending more parties than Paris Hilton, you can’t expect much weight loss. With so many things on at this time of year, finding the time to exercise can also be challenging. So with this in mind here are a few ways to use exercise that can help curb the damage:

  1. Get outside whenever you can. The fresh air will make you feel better and get the blood pumping.
  2. If you know you have a big meal or night out coming, exercise just before eating. Exercise helps your body to deal better with the large sugar intake that a big meal or alcohol usually brings.
  3. If time, space or equipment is at a premium, use a few body-weight exercises performed one after another, with not much rest in between. This helps to maximise the time you do have. Below is an example of a circuit you could use. After a good warm up (a 5minute walk for example) perform as many of the exercises as you can in 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then move on to the next exercise.

Beginner / Not so beginner!

  1. 10 Squats / Jumping squats
  2. 10 Kneeling press ups / Full press ups
  3. Walking up a hill / Running up a hill

Once you have performed each exercise; that is one circuit. Build up slowly until you can perform as many circuits as possible in ten minutes. This short sharp burst of intensity, even though it is only ten minutes long has an amazing impact on your health and can really curb the damage done by our holiday excesses!

With all this said I wish you all a fantastically peaceful, fun and blessed festive time. I’ll see you in the New Year!

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