If you have diastasis, prolapse or other core or pelvic floor issues you might be worried to do anything – especially exercise – because you don’t want to make it worse.
You don’t want to lift that weight because “What if?”
You don’t want to do that thing that you used to love doing because you’re not sure if your body can handle it.
You don’t want to sign up for that rock climbing class, say yes to the salsa dancing, run after your kiddo…
You don’t want to even try because you’re just so darn worried that something will go horribly wrong.
But here’s the truth.
Not doing the things doesn’t have to be the only option.
And I actually think it shouldn’t be an option at all – especially if those things are a part of who you are (or who you want to be).
It can be scary, frustrating and overwhelming when you think or know you have core and pelvic floor issues after baby.
But there are plenty of options and you don’t have to wait until your core and floor are perfect before you get active and actually enjoy your life.
You just need the right approach.
And you can get started today with these 2 must-dos that will be your ticket to feeling stronger and more capable again:
- Smart Strength Training
- Mobility Training
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Jenna, how can I strength train with a weak core and floor? Won’t that make things worse?”
But actually the opposite is true.
If you don’t strength train, your body is just going to get even weaker and you’ll have even more issues – especially because you need strength and stability to be able to do all the things you need to do in motherhood (like balance a Costco-sized box of diapers in one hand, while you carry baby with the other, with your toddler clinging to your leg).
Think of it like this: If you broke your leg you wouldn’t say, “Well I broke my leg so I probably shouldn’t move too much, or lift heavy, or really do anything that might impact my leg for the rest of my life.”
How awful does that sound?
What kind of life would that be?
You’d end up getting weaker, and weaker, and even more likely to get re-injured in the future.
And you’d miss out on a ton of fun things.
No. You need to recover, rehab, rebuild and rebalance the muscles in your leg so you can feel good again.
The same idea applies to your core and pelvic floor.
If you don’t challenge the muscles – in an appropriate way – your body will just keep getting weaker. And that’s the last thing we want.
You need strength.
You need to not miss out on life.
Now I’m not saying go deadlift your bodyweight right now.
No one with a vulnerable core and pelvic floor should start there.
And where you start depends on your unique situation and where you’re at in your postpartum healing journey.
If baby is only a couple weeks old get all the rest you can. Allow your body to help you recover well by giving it the time and space it needs to heal as well as possible on its own.
Maybe you’re beyond those early weeks and you’re ready for some rehab-y kinds of exercises with the help of a pro (like a pelvic floor physiotherapist and well-trained postpartum fitness coach).
But then this is where a lot of women get stuck. They rest (as much as you can as a busy mom). They do some simple core and pelvic floor exercises. But then they’re not sure how to take the next step. They’re scared to even try because they don’t want to push it too far.
But we need to go beyond rehab.
We need to get into the rebuild and retrain phase where we start working on keeping your tissues mobile and challenging your muscles even more.
Because you don’t want to stay stuck doing simple core workouts and being afraid to move for the rest of your life, do you?
You want to lift, and play, and not have to think about whether your core and pelvic floor can handle whatever you want to do.
And the only way you can make that happen is by doing smart strength training.
By “smart” I mean exercises that are appropriate for you with an emphasis on great form and strategy.
I also mean that we’re not going to just do some core-focused exercises. We need to focus on your entire body because everything is connected.
We want the muscles surrounding your core and pelvic floor to be strong and flexible as well.
Because the truth is that the best thing you can do for your core and pelvic floor health is work on strengthening the muscles within your core system and surrounding it. You want your entire body strong so it can help support – and take some pressure off – your core and floor system.
And of course, the goal when you’re strength training is to work within your symptom-free zone.
That means that you’re challenging your body without pushing it to the limit where things like pain, pressure, or feeling like you’re gonna pee yourself start to creep in.
But don’t worry, if symptoms do come up, that doesn’t automatically mean you can’t do whatever brought on the symptoms.
Maybe you just need to adjust your strategy (like trying to breathe differently).
Or adjust the exercise (maybe it’ll work better on an incline instead of being parallel with the floor – at least for right now).
Or try a different day (maybe you usually can do that thing symptom-free but you’re on your period right now and it’s impacting how your body handles things).
Getting symptoms – like feeling pressure in your pelvic floor – is simply a sign that something needs to change. You need to pause, re-group, and try again.
It’s feedback. It’s like you’re a scientist testing a hypothesis. “If I do __________ , in this way, with these strategies, what will happen?”
You don’t have to be terrified to try.
I don’t want you to be terrified to try.
And you don’t have to feel terrified if you start slow, are smart with your choices, and stay aware of how your body is responding.
The best thing you can do when you have a weakened core system is to get stronger.
Because the last thing that weak core system needs is for you to get even weaker so you have even less support and stability for those compromised muscles and tissues.
But don’t forget about the mobility part too.
We need to do some mobility work too because your entire body has to be able to move through a wide range of motion on a daily basis just to function well.
Something as simple as having mobility through your ribs is extremely important because your diaphragm – which hangs out in your ribcage area – is a key part of your core system. And in order to do it’s job well it needs to expand and contract.
But it can’t expand very well if your intercostal muscles – the muscles in between your ribs – are so tight that your ribcage can’t really move.
Wanna see how this works? Let’s give it a try.
Put your hands around your ribcage – four fingers in the front and your thumb in the back. Focus on breathing into the back part of your ribcage. Can you feel your ribs expand? Or do your hands barely move?
If there’s no, or very little movement don’t stress.
That’s simply a sign that it’s time to work on your breath and definitely work on your mobility throughout your back and your ribs so that your diaphragm can move in the way it’s supposed to move to help support your entire core and floor system.
So you can see how this works, right? Why mobility is as important as strength? And this is just one example – of dozens of areas of your body – that you need to focus on in order to support your core and floor.
In order to get and stay strong we need to challenge our muscles and allow them the space to move through a wide range of motion.
So don’t be afraid to properly train your body in a way that’s supportive of your core and pelvic floor.
In my books this is absolutely a must-do if you have core or pelvic floor issues.
It’s not a suggestion. It’s a prescription.
You rest, rehab, learn the best strategies and techniques for moving, engaging, breathing, and work on making your body as strong and mobile as possible so that your core system has the support it needs to allow you to do the things you really want to do.
Because piggybacking your kiddo, doing a pull-up, or being able to snowboard again is absolutely something you can do (with the right training). And something you deserve to be able to do.
Even if your core and pelvic floor aren’t perfect.
You’re not quarantined to a life on the sidelines.
Improve your mobility.
Improve your strength.
It won’t be an easy, quick fix but it can give you lasting results that will allow you to enjoy your life and feel strong and capable in your body again.
P.S. Have a friend who’s worried about exercising because she doesn’t want to make her core or floor issues worse? Send her this post. She needs to see it.