Happy Hump Day! Strong arms AND belly.

by Stacey Jayne


Baby Ivy in her daddy's arms.  This was our Moby wrap, which was basically the only place she wanted to be. I can't believe I have another baby coming... Looking at this picture brings me happy tears and anxious heart flutters. So much ahead of us. 

Baby Ivy in her daddy's arms.  This was our Moby wrap, which was basically the only place she wanted to be. I can't believe I have another baby coming... Looking at this picture brings me happy tears and anxious heart flutters. So much ahead of us. 

Your changing body! 

During pregnancy the weight of the belly and growing breasts makes for extra strain on the spine and neck. Mamas shoulders often become rounded forward, especially once we start nursing and constantly holding our babes. After my daughter was born I was recovering from a week of labor, and a Caesarian section. On top of that she had colic and wouldn't calm down anywhere but in our arms. The physicality of life when your baby arrives is at times overwhelming. My postpartum recovery was very much like many of yours: stressful, painful, confusing and at times also very lonely. I of course felt blessed to have my little Ivy, but I was lost and amazed by how much my body had to adjust. 
With this pregnancy (over four years later) I realized how important it was to get my body ready for the journey. The journey of the forth trimester and beyond! Last week I posted some of the exercises I do to strengthen my legs and tush, this week I'll go over what I've been doing to keep my upper and middle body in shape. The great news is that you don't need a gym for any of these! I use either 3 or 5lb weights, or cans of food.

Top picture is your posture as your begin: stand tall, long neck, feet hip width apart. The bottom right picture is the WRONG posture! Don't slouch! As Mamas we do a lot of rounding forward, avoid that and save your shoulders!  How to?  1. Start with a tall frame and your belly drawn in, and your arms long by your sides. Lift your arms up as if you were the letter T, then return back to start position. Repeat ten times. 2. Lift your arms out front directly in front of your shoulders. Repeat ten times. Do this in front of a mirror if you can so you can watch your posture. Correct posture is the MOST important thing here- these moves not only strengthen your arms, but also your spine! Mamas we need this so badly especially after baby comes. 

Top picture is your posture as your begin: stand tall, long neck, feet hip width apart. The bottom right picture is the WRONG posture! Don't slouch! As Mamas we do a lot of rounding forward, avoid that and save your shoulders! 

How to?  1. Start with a tall frame and your belly drawn in, and your arms long by your sides. Lift your arms up as if you were the letter T, then return back to start position. Repeat ten times. 2. Lift your arms out front directly in front of your shoulders. Repeat ten times. Do this in front of a mirror if you can so you can watch your posture. Correct posture is the MOST important thing here- these moves not only strengthen your arms, but also your spine! Mamas we need this so badly especially after baby comes. 

Using cans of food instead of weights is a great idea for those of you who don't want to clutter your home up with extra stuff. I sometimes use two jars of tomato sauce when I'm visiting my MIL's house. No excuse to miss a workout!  How to? 1. Start in the position of the top left picture and extend arms up toward the ceiling, then back to start again. Repeat ten times. 2. Notice in the bottom pictures that my shoulders are away from my ears, and I'm also relaxing my jaw. Start with cans or weights just above the nape of your neck, and extend up, then back to start. Repeat ten times. 

Using cans of food instead of weights is a great idea for those of you who don't want to clutter your home up with extra stuff. I sometimes use two jars of tomato sauce when I'm visiting my MIL's house. No excuse to miss a workout! 

How to? 1. Start in the position of the top left picture and extend arms up toward the ceiling, then back to start again. Repeat ten times. 2. Notice in the bottom pictures that my shoulders are away from my ears, and I'm also relaxing my jaw. Start with cans or weights just above the nape of your neck, and extend up, then back to start. Repeat ten times. 

I aim to have a lifted long spine. My shoulders are away from my ears and my belly is lifted.  How to? 1. Start in a squat position with your arms bent and shoulders pulled up into your ribs. Keeping your frame still, extend the arms back till they are straight. Squeeze the shoulder blades together a bit then return to bent arms. Repeat ten times. 2. Push ups can be done in a few different ways. Against the wall, on your knees, here I decided to be outside enjoying my deck before it gets too cold. No matter where you are make sure you are in a stable place, and keep your body long and completely straight! Try doing a set with your elbows out to the side, and then a set where your elbows are pulled in towards your ribs. You will find that they work different places. Keep you belly pulled in and your neck long. 

I aim to have a lifted long spine. My shoulders are away from my ears and my belly is lifted. 

How to? 1. Start in a squat position with your arms bent and shoulders pulled up into your ribs. Keeping your frame still, extend the arms back till they are straight. Squeeze the shoulder blades together a bit then return to bent arms. Repeat ten times. 2. Push ups can be done in a few different ways. Against the wall, on your knees, here I decided to be outside enjoying my deck before it gets too cold. No matter where you are make sure you are in a stable place, and keep your body long and completely straight! Try doing a set with your elbows out to the side, and then a set where your elbows are pulled in towards your ribs. You will find that they work different places. Keep you belly pulled in and your neck long. 

I like to use the ball to help stretch out my side body and my back. You can even do your stretches while your dogs play around you!  How to? Top left pic I stand tall and gently stretch over toward the wall. It's hard to get those side stretches in and this is a gentle way to do it. Top right pic I keep my hands on the ball and reach up through my fingers. I am NOT shrugging my shoulders, they are relaxed and down, but I am using my arms against the ball like this to lift upward focusing on the spine. Imagine in this position that gravity is lifting up through your spine instead of down. Breathe and enjoy this for a few deep breaths. The bottom two pics are really just a downward dog against the wall. Hands are flat against the wall, feet flat hip distance apart. I look to feel as if my tush is reaching out and my belly is lifted up. My shoulders are relaxed and my jaw is released. Breathe and enjoy this for a few deep breaths. 

I like to use the ball to help stretch out my side body and my back. You can even do your stretches while your dogs play around you! 

How to? Top left pic I stand tall and gently stretch over toward the wall. It's hard to get those side stretches in and this is a gentle way to do it. Top right pic I keep my hands on the ball and reach up through my fingers. I am NOT shrugging my shoulders, they are relaxed and down, but I am using my arms against the ball like this to lift upward focusing on the spine. Imagine in this position that gravity is lifting up through your spine instead of down. Breathe and enjoy this for a few deep breaths. The bottom two pics are really just a downward dog against the wall. Hands are flat against the wall, feet flat hip distance apart. I look to feel as if my tush is reaching out and my belly is lifted up. My shoulders are relaxed and my jaw is released. Breathe and enjoy this for a few deep breaths. 

For Mama's belly: Diaphragmatic Breathing. 

(This information is taken directly from Anne Martens Prenatal Pilates Book.) Diaphragmatic breathing will not only support your overall well-being, but also promote core conditioning. This exercise can typically be practiced during pregnancy and immediately after birth. In fact, practicing this exercise directly after birth will help the uterus contract, help manage the pain of these post delivery contractions and help the body rid itself of medication. Incorporate this exercise into your recovery routine directly after birth by practicing 5 deep breaths every 30 minutes- 1 hour. 

Why does the diaphragm weaken during pregnancy? 

As baby/babies grow during pregnancy the diaphragm becomes compressed within the base of the ribcage, making breathing more difficult. To breathe, the body requires recruitment from the muscles within the upper shoulders and upper back. The recruited muscles often become tight and may contribute to a kyphotic posture, one where the shoulders are rounded forward. Also the diaphragm shortens and stiffens, the quadratus lumborum (QL), a muscle that anchors the rib cage and aids in diaphragmatic breathing, becomes tight. As the QL muscle tightens it spreads the ribcage laterally and puts greater lateral force on the rectus abdominus, contributing to a diastasis within the recti. 

How to promote core strength with breathing exercises? 

Diaphragmatic breathing stretches the diaphragm during the inhalation and contracts/ tightens the diaphragm during the exhalation. During the diaphragmatic breathing the diaphragm will work synergistically with the core muscles, especially the TVA, obliques and rectus abdominus. A stretched and strengthened diaphragm will promote optimal breathing capabilities, proper posture and strong abdominal support.  

How to?

Start seated with your back against the wall or a straight comfortable chair. Place one of your hands on the bottom of the ribcage, and the other hand on your naval aligning the hands over the midline of the body. Begin with a deep exhalation and empty the lungs keeping your shoulders and chest relaxed. Notice how the muscles underneath the top hand tighten the ribcage, pulling both halves of the ribcage together and down. Notice how the muscles underneath the bottom hand pull the navel in toward the front of the spine, and up closer to the heart. Notice how these muscles narrow the abdomen (front, back and sides) as a corset would. Inhalation: Keeping the shoulders and chest relaxed and still, take a deep breath in and fill the lungs up. Don't force it, just imagine they are filling up completely. Now notice the muscles underneath the top hand streching the base of the ribcage and abdomen in all directions. Notice how the muscles of the bottom hand realx and passively allow the naval to float into your hands. Gradually as you progress, focus on breathing lower and deeper. As your strength grows be aware of the navel moving further back to the front of the spine and and then slightly up closer to the heart. 

To conclude...

You could sit back and let your exhaustion get the best of you. Some days I do. But having gone through this once I will suggest you find time and prioritize the exercises that are right for you. You and I are different, and you know what is best for you and your growing baby. I urge you to listen to your body, but also to not entirely give in to it. If you keep a consistent and gentle but lively exercise routine during your pregnancy, you will be very thankful you did. It's much easier to get back on track after baby comes if you have never truly gotten off track. 

If you have any questions about any of this information, or if you want to share something that is going on in your body and mind, PLEASE do. We are in this together, and know that I am always here with open ears.

Best to you this week Mamas!

XO

Stacey

ps I made pumpkin almond muffins twice in the past couple of weeks- I am going to share MY recipe and also the original. Enjoy!! We did for breakfast, snacks and fun. 

Ingredients for Pumpkin Almond Muffins!

1 cup almond meal/flour
1 cup canned organic pumpkin
2 eggs
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tbs vanilla extract

1 tbs maple extract

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp of chia seeds

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well by hand.

Use paper liners and divide muffin mix among 10 cups.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until muffins are cooked all the way through.

Cool and then serve, and eat with a smile.