So, hands up if you saw the NPR interview (what felt more like an infomercial) last week, “Flattening the ‘Mummy Tummy’ with 1 Exercise, 10 minutes A Day.”
I first heard about it when I was at a fitness supply store doing some pricing for the new studio. When learning of my fitness specialty, the sales manager excitedly exclaimed, “Hey, did you know that there’s one exercise that can totally fix that pooch moms have after birth? I was listening to an NPR interview on my way to work and apparently it really works.”
Ugh. My heart sunk and I knew I had work to do. This week has been an effort to share information with clients, colleagues and to learn from other women’s health and fitness professionals in response to this claim and program.
First of all. Let’s get one thing straight. There’s NEVER a one-size-fits-all prescription for exercise, especially in pregnancy and postpartum.
And, in my opinion, anyone who promises a quick fix for what we know is a more complex issue likely has another agenda, i.e.: making money.
For example, “lose ten pounds in one week with this one pill!” “Reverse signs of aging and look 20 years younger with this simple exercise. All it takes is…” “Flattening the ‘Mummy Tummy’ with 1 Exercise, 10 minutes A Day.” See what I mean? All sound similar and feel false.
Naturally, I gave the exercise a try while on my drive home. I practiced the exhale breath and repeated holds for ten minutes and honestly, it felt pretty terrible. Despite the discomfort, I could feel my core engaging, could feel the transverse abdominals and the muscles of my back firing.
I also felt immense pressure within my core…and we know that pressure has to go somewhere. So, there’s great concern as that increased pressure bears downward on the pelvic floor.
Having completed women’s health physical therapy for my core and pelvic floor and being nearly four year postpartum, this pressure might not cause issues for me personally (at least not right away). However, imagine this pressure…daily…for a newly postpartum individual with prolapse, pain, incontinence.
Beyond this, I have lots of thoughts on the effectiveness of this particular program as while it may “close the gap,” what does it do to restore overall core function?
No one is talking about alignment or how to use the core effectively to brace, to move, to pick up baby, to lift the stroller and car seat in and out of the car. This is about losing inches from your waist line and approximating the tops layers of abdominal muscles in an effort to “look better” ”different” “thinner” “more fit”…in short, less like you’ve had a baby at all.
And does closing the gap equate to a core that functions well? Not necessarily! There’s new research coming out all the time on diastasis and it seems unclear as to whether having the gap closed leads to greater function in the end…
How does it effect the pelvic floor and the synergy of the core as a unit as we know it’s not as simple as belly button to spine?
Is diastasis always the root cause of a rounded lower abdomen or could there be other things to consider as well? Exercise, nutrition, muscle imbalances etc.
You can see, it’s far more complex than “just do this one thing, for ten minutes per day…and voila!”
The idea of a quick fix and the desire to obliterate the “mummy tummy” offends me (and I’ve learned this week, many of my clients as well).
I understand wanting to look and feel good, but this particular interview and article “feel” to me as if it’s taking advantage of the audience.
It preys on postpartum individuals during a particularly vulnerable time, suggesting that the lack of a pooch is more important than functionality or that the lack of a pooch is better or more desirable.
And here we are again, subscribing that we beat our bodies into submission, squeezing the core to exhaustion daily in an attempt to leave no sign of a body that has grown and birthed life, to minimize, to shrink and to become smaller still.
Where’s the acceptance and communion in body and mind that allows us to work with a body that has changed, to show grace and patience as we heal?
I understand why this is certainly on the minds of many postpartum individuals. It was on my mind as well.
Unfortunately, no one I asked knew how to help me get back to the activities I loved. This was another driving force to create Bodies for Birth as I experimented, struggled and risked injury in the early days postpartum to return to fitness.
I’m grateful that no one knew how to help me as it set me on a quest to help myself and to help others. I’m grateful for this NPR article and interview as it has led to some powerful conversations and educational opportunities.
I’m also REALLY grateful and excited to announce the launch of the first ever Bodies for Birth Return to Fitness Program! The first group will launch in late September and a second, in October.
This program has been in the works for some time now and after experimenting with a variety of group classes and workshops, I’ve developed a comprehensive eight week program to help you return your beloved activities. The program is based on seeing great success in the one-on-one setting with postpartum clients; and it is my hope that the group setting provides an additional layer of support, community and accountability.
With that said, it will require commitment on your part! Each week, we will progress your training in-person and you will go home with a new series of exercises to complete on your own. You will receive a PDF of this new routine following each class and will have access to a video library in case you need reminders along the way!
My aim is to help you gain strength, confidence and knowledge so that you may return to your beloved fitness activities safely and with greater ease.
So, if you’ll be at least six weeks postpartum by 9/28 or 10/21, consider grabbing your spot for a weekly dose of support, movement and motivation! I’m so excited to get started. You can learn more about it here and register through MindBody! Please feel free to reach out with any questions!