Parenting the early years - Nick's response
(Posted by Nick)
Thanks Amy Well done for fitting the exercises into what can only be a hectic schedule. You have raised a lot of really interesting and important points and I would like to comment on a few.
1. I think there is a general perception amongst mothers that pain, discomfort, weakness and tiredness are in the job description (and they are, but how much is not clear). It seems to me when you are preparing for your first child there is some shared experience from other mothers, but a lot is left unsaid. Older mothers, like expectant grandmothers, have not had the recent experience to remember the day to day pains, and they come from a different era with different cultural norms. For example, they didn’t have to bend, twist and reach over the back seat to put the kids’ seatbelts on. I think most women probably accept more PDWT than they should simply because they have no idea how much is normal and no one has explained that it doesn’t have to be this way. I can’t think of too many families who wouldn’t function better if Mum was feeling good. Some time for yourself to do some strengthening or fitness is a must. Everyone will be better for it.
2. Amy is right on the money with Pilates. The scientific evidence supports the principles of Pilates. Pilates is a low grade core strengthening programme. By low grade what I mean is gentle – the optimum contraction is around 30% of maximum. This is important because you are trying to condition the deep support system of your abdomen and pelvis and the muscles you are targeting are endurance muscles. Endurance muscles contract over a sustained period rather than short quick bursts. You want to train these muscles to retain some activity in the background which gives the spine support to move more easily. Pain, poor posture, fatigue, injury (as in a surgical cut) will inhibit the function of this system. Repeat pregnancies (4 children you must be crazy Amy!), especially if not fully reconditioning between them, will also impair these muscles performance and as with Amy increase your chances of having an unstable back.
3. The daily tasks Amy describes are all awkward and necessary. They are challenging normally. The only advice I can give here is to understand how you are feeling and when you are tired or sore take short micro-breaks, have stretch, do the opposite of the posture you have been in, and perhaps take a moment to plan how you are going to complete the task. One simple thing you can do is to tuck your tummy in – or tighten your pelvic floor – whilst you are completing the task. Again you are thinking about 30% of the hardest contraction as an indicator. For example if you are bending, emptying the washing machine, you can turn these muscles on as you start the task and keep them engaged until you have finished the task – don’t forget to breathe though. With a 30% or less contraction you should be able to breathe freely and easily using your diaphragm.
4. One thing I spend a lot of time working with patients on is posture. With Pilates there are three basic ingredients: breathing, gentle contraction of the core muscles and working around neutral postures. A muscle works best in its mid position. If a muscle is stretched there are few individual muscle units overlapping and they muscle fibres cant develop a lot of tension. When they are compressed the individual units are so overlapped they have no room to contract. It’s a bit like a bell curve where most strength (the high point of the curve) occurs when the individual muscle unit is in the mid-position between fully stretched and fully squashed. In practice this is having good posture. The best way to start to fire these muscles is to stand, sit and live in better postures. When you stand in a nice tall position you can feel some abdominal muscles. Try standing side on to the mirror. Most people will see their tummy protruding forward of their chests (breastfeeding mums might have to adjust this a little). To resolve this tuck your bum under – or rotate you pelvis backward. At the same time lift your top button up and forward. You should now see your chest and tummy in the same line or your chest forward. Now this usually feels incredibly strange but if you look in the mirror for a moment you’ll see that it actually looks quite smart and you can feel your tummy working away. Try to do this using the least amount of effort.
As Amy has highlighted ,every mother is time-poor. It isn’t easy and your body does face big challenges. But Amy also highlights nicely that little strengthening steps completed daily will take a few short weeks to improve conditioning. I think we all need to face the fact that maintaining a level of fitness is just part of life and during some periods we need to prioritise it more than others.
Anyone for more kids……..
Posted by Nick Conn on 17th April, 2012 | Comments | Trackbacks
Tags: parenting, back pain, pilates, core stablity, post-natal stomach exercises, posture, strengthening, reconditioning, unstable back
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