Things that told me I desperately needed to start thinking about my post-partum health and fitness (10 months down the line, so about time):
- I ate so many Magnums, and banged on about my Magnum-eating so much on Twitter, Magnum actually sent me a whole box filled with loyal-Magnum-eater chocolate stuff
- I almost had a heart attack running to catch my train when pre-baby I would have sprinted up the escalator without even flinching
- the baby had started to bury her little hand inside the fat roll at my waist when I was breastfeeding her. An odd sensation, especially when the burrowing goes on for quite a few seconds, as though to say, “hold on, I’m almost there…still going…ok I’m there.”
Very kindly, Graham from Pura Vida Fitness, who is the brother of a good friend of mine, got in touch to say he’d love to help me to get me back on track with regards to fitness and health. I thought that it might interest you all to follow my progress right from the start – and I mean right from the start, because as I write this I am yet to do any proper exercise. I’m building up to it. As soon as I’ve finished this Mint Choc Magnum.
Before starting any kind of fitness regime, Graham was very adamant that we have a full consultation. Now I have to admit that I did something of an internal eye-roll at this (sorry Graham!) because every single time I’ve joined a new gym (many times) or done any kind of fitness trial or journalist event I’ve had to have a consultation. And they’ve all gone pretty much the same way – height, weight, some kind of heart monitoring, a chat about lifestyle… What I didn’t think about, this time, was the fact that a consultation was actually really important; my body has gone through the most monumental change, and not only are my fitness levels rock-bottom, the very structure of my body has altered. Bones have shifted and perhaps not really gone back (I could swear that my pelvis is bigger from knobbly bit to knobbly bit and my ribcage is most definitely wider), muscles in the pelvic floor have been weakened and – most disturbingly – I have a big split down the centre of my abs, something called Rectus Abdominis. *UPDATE: as many have pointed out (thank you!) it’s called Diastasis Recti and not Rectus Abdominis.
Apparently this splitting of the tummy muscles (vertically, by the way, not horizontally) is very common and happens when your muscles are overstretched during pregnancy. I had no idea that I had it until we checked (you can check yourself – see link below, but back it up with a doctor’s check if you’re not sure) and it wasn’t something that the GP even mentioned when I had my six week post-partum appointment. Which is odd, really, because you can make the split so much worse if you don’t do things properly (lifting, sitting up, even rolling out of bed) and you’d think it would be on their checklist…
If you want to find out more about Diastasis Recti there’s an NHS online pamphlet – it tells you how to check and what to do if you can feel a split. For some reason I can only find the one from NHS Wales online, but it’s the same as my printed one: here it is.
So yes: unbelievably fortunate outcome of the consultation number one, discovering split muscles. Had I not discovered these, I probably would have gone full-pelt into some crazy boxercise-rapid-toning-regime and done myself damage. Fortunate outcome of the consultation number two was that Graham kept stressing the utmost importance of taking my return to fitness really slowly. And I mean really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. Like, my first two weeks exercises consisting of just very gentle core exercises – no cardio. This is not an approach I’ve experienced before and – again – I wouldn’t have ever thought of taking things slowly and building up core strength before starting anything more strenuous. But it makes sense. Pre-Graham I was all prepped and ready to go jogging or do my 30 Day Shred DVD and get “back in shape” for the summer, but working up slowly seems like a much better idea, not least because I’m incredibly lazy and I like the idea of doing things with a normal heart rate for just a while longer…
Graham set me a list of short exercises to repeat for two weeks – three rounds of each exercise, increasing the duration every day. When I saw the durations I did another internal eye-roll – fifteen seconds? What the hell can you do in fifteen seconds? But here I am, about to embark on my first set of gentle mini-crunches and actually, fifteen seconds suddenly seems like quite a long time…
I shall let you know how I’m getting on after I’ve done my first week. Once I’ve conquered my moves, I’ll post the routine so that you can do them along with me if you fancy. I’ve posted the results of my consultation below just in case you want to have a nose – I’ve just seen that I have a terrible waist-to-hip ratio! I think that’s the first time ever that I’ve been told that. Must be all the Magnums.
Ruth’s Health MOT:
You can find Graham at Pura Vida Fitness here – he offers personal coaching with 4, 8 and 12 week programmes and has one of the most sensible and balanced approaches to fitness I think I’ve ever come across!