Post baby flat abs without the crunch!

Crunches

Before I had my second son, I was a push up machine.  A normal workout would be sets of push ups in different variations for almost an hour.  I was up to 25 push ups in a row without stopping.  Then I had my monster baby.  9 pounds, 1 ounce of giant baby boy.  I remember he was so big in my stomach I could not sit normally, I had to lean back to give him room to move.  Needless to say, my abs took a beating.

I began working out at 6 weeks postpartum trying to get back into the swing of things.  Of course push ups felt extremely awkward that soon after having a baby and I avoided trying to do them for five or six months.  When I finally began trying, however, I would end up with terrible lower back pain.  After several months of trying, my push ups were not getting easier, no matter how often I tried to do them.  There were times I could only do a few before my abs were tired and I had to stop.  Ab focused exercises were another time when I hated doing my workout.  Crunches, v-ups, flutter kicks – I struggled through everything.  My abs would actually dome if I contracted them to lift my legs and head off the ground.  Eek!  There was also a lot of stress on my lower back and it didn’t seem natural.

It was then I discovered I had diastasis recti, which is a thinning of the linea alba (the tissue which holds the abdominal muscles together.)  Every woman experiences this beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy and continuing into the postpartum phase.  For many women, the split between the abs does not close again on its own.  This is why many of us mothers feel we still look pregnant due to a belly bulge many years after having our babies!  The abdominal wall is not able to hold everything in place when it is separated.  And men, don’t stop reading!  This can happen to everyone for all kinds of reasons, especially exercising the wrong way.

It turns out that crunches are terrible for abs, especially in post baby recovery!  Doing conventional ab work (sit-ups, etc.) after having a baby will never get rid of your pooch, or suck back in the sides of your waist.  According to this great article from the trainers over at TheDiaMethod.com,

“…many conventional abdominal exercises strain the connective tissue in the abdomen, which widens your waistline and creates or worsens an existing pooch. The list of offenders includes crunches, bicycle crunches, sit-ups, and even a few moves in yoga and Pilates. The very exercises you might be doing to ‘get your body back’ can actually exacerbate the problem you’re trying to fix. To state it as simply as possible: any movement that bulges the abdominal wall forcefully forward will further separate the abdominal muscles, making a post-pregnancy pooch worse. Always engage your abdominal muscles in a flat-to-flatter contraction. Never allow the abs to bulge forward.”

How to test for diastasis recti at home.  I am no expert, so here is a video from an expert explaining how to check for diastasis recti.  If you think you have a serious problem, please consult a doctor!

Healing diastasis recti through exercise.

You can get your stomach and waist back!  Before I even knew about diastasis recti I had thrown normal ab work out of my routine because it just didn’t feel right.  (And my dome abs freaked me out.)  I started doing a variety of modified planks and other exercises which engaged my core in ways which did not feel uncomfortable.  Slowly my old waistline began to re-appear!  Unbeknownst to me, I was working my transverse abdominis (TA) which is the body’s natural girdle, holding in the stomach and allowing a leaner appearance.  Working the TA is a crucial step in getting flat abs, and doing exercises like crunches and sit-ups will not work this muscle.

Many experts on diastasis recti state that normal planks are bad for the condition, which explains why I had problems with push ups.   If you have diastasis recti or have recently given birth, gentler exercises should be focused on which will assist in pulling the linea alba back together.  Here are two great resources on exercises designed for diastasis recovery:

5 Exercises to Heal Diastasis

TS – Totally Transverse

Once you feel you are ready for more advanced activities:

Side plank dips from my knees is one of the most effective exercises I have used to regain my core strength.  Here is a video:

Side plank leg raise is another great side plank exercise which I found challenging but very rewarding.

The best way I have found to strengthen my core without doing ab work is boxing.  I have had great results from this activity.  If you get a chance, try it!

Remember, it is all about listening to your body and doing what feels right.  When in doubt, seek a doctor or guidance from a trained professional.

Crunches can further separate the linea alba, making it impossible to get a flat stomach.  Try these moves instead! #postbaby #workout #flatabs

Sources:

http://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/lose-your-mummy-tummy-and-why-crunches-are-bad-for-you/

http://fit2b.us/2011/02/16/when-crunches-make-your-pooch-worse/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leah-keller/tips-for-flat-abs_b_3715475.html

http://inspiredrd.com/2013/10/diastasis-recti-fixes.html

http://www.leanitup.com/plank-your-way-to-better-abs-with-these-5-variations/

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Workout Wednesday – Outdoors HIIT Routine – No Excuses!

Try this fat MELTING HIIT Routine next nap time.  Take it outdoors and get a tan at the same time!Let me just preface this post with saying that I am not a personal trainer, nor am I certified in any kind of fitness related fields.  I have, however, been working out almost daily for the last six years, and some of that time was spent under the guidance of different personal trainers.  I love working out, have tried many different methods of staying fit, and what I share here is simply my personal opinion on what is effective, fun and amazing!

For me, a steady workout routine is necessary to live a clean and healthy life.  It keeps my appetite healthy, my mind and body feeling great, and most importantly helps me be patient with those around me.  Anything that helps me be a better mom is a staple in my daily life.

Having kids makes it tough to get a workout in.  Previously, I belonged to a gym and would take over two hours everyday to drive to the gym, get a good workout in (which usually took over an hour), drive home and shower.  Honestly, what mom has that much time to dedicate to fitness every day?  I think a lot of moms feel guilty and give up with their fitness routines even though it is something they enjoy.

Well guess what.  I found a solution!

QUIT THE GYM.  You don’t need it!  In the summer months, I absolutely love working out in the sunshine.  I can go in my backyard, spend twenty or thirty minutes jumping around while getting a great dose of Vitamin D, burning off a ton of calories, melting away stress and getting a pretty good tan!  Working out in my backyard cuts out driving to and from the gym and also increases the intensity of my workout without the downtime of waiting for machines or free weights to become available.  Work hard, finish up and get on with your day!  The best part is you don’t need a babysitter.  I go outside with a baby monitor and get my workout in during my toddler’s nap-time.  I also manage to workout with my older son outside, as long as I set him up with enough to keep himself busy.  Give him some toy tractors and dirt and he will be busy all day.  🙂

I know it can be hard to get started in a new routine, but how amazing you will feel afterwards is entirely worth it.  This workout uses a jump rope and an interval timer.  If you don’t have a jump rope, substitute with high knees.  If you don’t have an interval timer, download the app here for iPhone and here for Android.

On to the workout!

This is a twenty-minute high-intensity interval workout.  Set your interval timer for two intervals, the first ten seconds rest (0:10) and the second fifty seconds work (0:50) for twenty repetitions.

Perform one workout in each fifty-second work interval.

  • Jump rope or high knees.  (See how to do high knees here.)
  • Mountain climbers.  (See how to do mountain climbers here.)
  • Jump rope or high knees.
  • Competition Burpees.  (See how to do competition burpees here.)

Repeat this set five times to complete your twenty-minute HIIT.  Push as hard as you can during the work intervals.  Also, make sure you do a light five-minute warm up consisting of jumping jacks and other light cardio.  Cool-down is also important, so stretch out after your workout is complete!  Check out FitnessBlender on YouTube for warm-up and cool-down ideas.

Looking for more HIIT workout ideas?  Check out my favorite YouTube trainers, FitnessBlender or Melissa Bender.  They have hundreds of free workouts you can do from home.  Many days I stream the workout real-time and do it with them.  It makes it easier to keep myself motivated that way.  Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

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6 steps to look and feel GREAT this Summer!

Read more at Mommylivesclean.com

There is officially less than three weeks until the first glorious day of summer!  The days are getting longer and we are pretty much living outside.  That means its crunch time to get ready for the first trip to the beach or pool!  By making these six easy adjustments to your daily routine, you will amp up your efforts to look and feel your best when swim time arrives. Are you ready?

#1  Drinking lemon water daily.

  • Lemons are antiseptic, they are great for your liver and promote detoxification and healthy digestion.
  • The pectin contained in the lemon is also assist with weight loss by creating a feeling of fullness.
  • Lemon water has fewer calories than any alternatives you might be drinking, with the exception of plain water.
  • Lemons help maintain a healthy pH level in the body.  Most foods such as meat, dairy and grains are highly acidic.  A balanced diet must include foods with an alkaline pH, which surprisingly lemons have.
  • Lemons are filled with a plethora of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B-complex, calcium, iron, potassium… the list goes on.

#2  Adding REAL, GRASS-FED gelatin to your diet.  Like this brand! 

  • Gelatin is derived from collagen and improves skin tone and elasticity.  Dietary collagen, aka gelatin, is the best way to go if you want to increase the amount of collagen in your skin. Collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin and therefore expensive makeup or wrinkle creams containing collagen are pointless.    Because wrinkles are a result of the breakdown of collagen in the dermal layer of your skin, you need to replenish that collagen to reverse them.
  • Gelatin is great for healthy hair and nails.
  • Gelatin contains 19 of the 20 amino acids, which are necessary for building and maintaining muscle tone, as well as keeping a good metabolism.  Humans cannot make 10 of the amino acids, and gelatin is a good way to make sure you are getting a good dose of those.
  • Gelatin improves digestion by protecting and lining the mucosal lining of the digestive tract.  This is great for those of us with leaky gut!

#3  Eating raw WHOLE carrots every day.

  • Just a precursor – never ever eat baby carrots.  They are dipped in a chlorine and water solution to prolong shelf life.  Organic baby carrots are dipped in a citrus based solution called Citrox.  As if that wasn’t gross enough, the peel of the carrot is the part which contains antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds it needs when it is growing under ground.  When you purchase baby carrots with the peel removed, you can just assume what kind of bacteria is growing on them.  Have you ever opened a bag of baby carrots that felt slimy?  Skip the babies and go for the real, beautiful deal.

I love this carrot picture.  Mr. and Mrs. Carrot!

  • Carrots are the best and simplest natural tool for balancing hormones.  They contain a unique fiber which does not feed bad bacteria (as most undigested fibers do) and therefore lowers inflammation.  These fibers can also bind to excess estrogen and other hormones and remove them from the body.  This is important because most of our society has too much estrogen due to dietary intake of soy, stress and exposure to pesticides, plastics and other chemicals in our environments.  Excess estrogen causes weight gain, migraines, weakened immune function and disease.  So eat your whole, raw carrots!

#4  15 minutes of exercise a day

  • Studies have shown that just 15 minutes a day of  exercise a day can increase life expectancy by three years.  Other studies show that 15 minutes is just as effective as 35.  What ever the studies say, I know that I feel better after I’ve moved a little.  Even if it means going for a leisurely walk, get out there and move!

#5  Drink more water!

  • The rule of thumb for water consumption is drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces.  Stick to this rule, because drinking too much water can burn out your adrenals.
  • Drinking water makes you less hungry.  Have you ever thought you were hungry but realized you are actually thirsty?  That happens to me all the time!
  • Drinking water keeps skin clear and healthy by flushing toxins out and maintaining moisture.
  • Drinking water prevents headaches.  Next time you have a headache, try drinking a glass of water instead of taking a pill.  It really helps!
  • Drinking water can replace a soda, coffee or an alcoholic beverage, saving you some calories and stress on your body.  This will save you money, too!

#6  Eliminate inflammatory foods – e.g. gluten, processed sugar, pasteurized dairy and processed food.

  • This step is a little less simple than the others, but one I think is necessary to look and feel your best!  Inflammatory foods are foods which cause the body to send immune cells via increased blood flow to the site of irritation.  Constantly eating these foods will cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to weight gain, allergies, depression and disease.  Eliminating these foods will give you increased energy, better mental state and probably lose weight too.
  • An elimination diet is a powerful tool to determine which foods your body is sensitive to.  Here is a link to Dr. Oz’s instructions for a proper elimination diet.  I was able to determine sensitivities to gluten, dairy, processed sugar, red wine, cantaloupe, bananas and avocados by doing an elimination diet.   If you are constantly flooding your body with things that make you feel not so great you will not be able to tell which exact foods are causing it without doing an elimination diet.  I highly recommend this process in order to look and feel great!

What steps are you taking to get ready for summer?  Please share in the comments below!

 

Sources:

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/natural-estrogens.shtml

Brady, Krissy.  “11 Benefits of Lemon Water.”  Lifehack.org.  31 May 2014 http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/11-benefits-lemon-water-you-didnt-know-about.html

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/treating/naturally-boost-collagen.htm

http://www.greatlakesgelatin.com/business/nutrition.htm

http://wellnessmama.com/3380/why-ive-been-drinking-green-jello-well-almost/

http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biochemistry/problem_sets/aa/aa.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/28/Chlorine-in-Your-Baby-Carrots.aspx

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/15-minutes-exercise-day-adds-years-life/story?id=14307995

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/inflammatory-foods-worst-inflammation_n_2838643.html