Can you lessen the chances of your pregnant clients getting abdominal separation?
In a simple answer: yes.
Yes, you can.
Very easily indeed.
I’ve worked with over 1,000 pre/postnatal women, and over the past 3 years, I’ve seen a lesser incidence of abdominal separation in the clients who train with me during pregnancy, and return to exercise after birth.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s certainly the odd case of a client who meets me in her second or third pregnancy, having had no exercise history with me previously, who presents with a diastasis post-baby.
Was she certain she rehabilitated herself in between pregnancies?
Possibly, yes, possibly not.
And, sure you might have been taught to only teach your pregnant clients to follow a ‘maintenance’ program only.
That’s fair enough.
That’s the safe and effective answer.
Pregnancy isn’t the time to try something new.
Or is it though if it’s going to prevent someone getting abdominal separation, pelvic floor dysfunction or back pain?
Is pregnancy the time to build muscle, release tension, alter alignment and build better habits?
I’d say yes – yes it is.
Something I said in my pregnancy class just this week was:
“How your body copes with pregnancy, really depends on how much baggage you come to pregnancy with.”
Pregnancy doesn’t really cause abdominal separation…
…although it’s often seen as a postnatal ‘injury’.
I’m going to be talking a lot about pressure and the linea alba today.
Anatomically speaking, ALL of the core muscles connect indirectly to the linea alba.
This means that repetitive motions or chronic tension in ANY of these muscles (the obliques and transverse abdominals included) – can slowly deform the linea alba.
What habits should you be teaching your pregnant clients to enable them to avoid getting a diastasis?
Well, here are 5 ways pregnant women can deform their linea alba.
When it comes to pelvic floor rehab, I follow a super simple, basic protocol of exercise prescription.
Clients have to be able to do exercise 1 through to exercise 9, before they can progress onto anything else in my repertoire.
This way, I cover ALL of the basic stuff, discover where there’s potential dysfunction elsewhere that’s affecting their pelvic floor further up/down the chain, and really sow the seed that “it’s all connected”.
A new client just this week affectionately touched my forearm at the end of her appointment with me and said: “That was super, Claire – you’re brilliant at what you do, and to understand how it’s all connected is just amazing”.
I humbly just shrugged it off at the time, but on reflection, to her it was a pretty special moment *pass the tissues*
Today, I’m going to spell out 5 areas of the body you’re probably neglecting in your quest to rehab clients with pelvic floor problems.
When it comes to rehabilitating clients with pelvic floor dysfunction, the one thing I avoid in all of my marketing literature is the claim that what I do is a quick-fix.
Class participants see me once a week over a course of 6 weeks for a 45 minute session.
Individual clients come into my clinic for an hour, at 3-weekly or monthly intervals (depending on the issue they have, as sometimes I’ll see someone fortnightly, but that’s quite rare).
1. TIMESFRAMES ARE KEY
To be quite honest, I’d prefer it if I could sign my class participants up to a 6 MONTH course rather than 6 WEEKS…
…but, they wouldn’t do that because there’s a reason (usually financial) as to why they have chosen my group exercise class, over coming to see me 1-2-1.
In a previous blog, I listed a number of exercises that WON’T fix abdominal separation.
One of the movements I would’ve most definitely AVOIDED in my early days of training pre/postnatal clients was ROTATION.
Maybe you still do, and that’s fine. They’re your clients. It’s their welfare. I get it.
It’s just that in the whole grand scheme of rehabilitating a diastasis, I can tell you now…
…you will absolutely, most definitely, want to add some unloaded, non-dynamic, static hold, twisting movements into your clients’ program, to help release out the oblique muscles.
‘Release’ and ‘stretch’ are 2 separate things, in my language you see.
One’s active. The other’s passive. I’ll let you decide which one’s which.
Quite honestly, I think I surprised myself with how quickly and successfully I filled the places in my new “Your Pelvic Matters” exercise class…
…and that’s why I’m going to share with you today, exactly how I did it.
I’ve done a heck of a lot of 1-2-1 and small group personal training sessions over the past 2 years using the techniques I’ve developed to help women rehabilitate their pelvic floor, but never advertised a live session for 12 participants.
Due to timetable constraints and a venue not being available, it’s been a long time coming, but it’s certainly paid off.
Let me share the tactics I used to sell out my pelvic floor exercise class in just 10 days!
1. SET UP A “HOT LIST”
For at least a month or so before your cart opens, start collecting emails from people who are interested in your new offering.
These prospective clients are “hot” for you right now. You’ve obviously done something to either pique their interest, or you’ve put out some great content already that’s instilled some trust.
2. INTRO VIDEO
It took me 17 takes (har har!), but I can’t stress the importance of filming a “to camera” 2-3 minute video of you introducing what your product/service is, and specifically who it’s for.
This video can be used again and again in future launches, and it needs to be shared out to the masses, as often as possible.
When it comes to training the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and after birth, I’m here to tell you, things in the ‘downstairs’ department in recent years have most definitely changed.
I use a full-body approach to rehabilitating pelvic floor dysfunction.
You can find out more about what techniques I use here
When I see a new client with front or back bottom issues, the first thing I ask them to do as they enter my treatment room is take off their shoes.
The next thing I invariably say is:
“No, no, DON’T sit on the chair! I’ll explain why in a moment. For now, let’s pop you down here instead…”…
…and I proffer her a a Yoga bolster or big pile of firm cushions to sit on on the floor instead.
She’s generally confused. But compliant.
I then let her lead the next 5-10 minutes of conversation, where I gather information and note down any relevant history of her pelvic floor symptoms.
I listen. I write. I observe.
By the time the verbal health screening segment is over…
…I’ve already done a pretty thorough physical client assessment (with just my eyes).
When it comes to training the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and after birth, I’m here to tell you, as a trained Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert who keeps her education and skills fresh and up-to-date, things in recent years have most definitely changed.
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles for postnatal women should be of paramount importance. No news there.
Keeping the pelvic floor muscles in check during pregnancy is vital too. Again, no surprises.
Stress incontinence (that’s where you when you laugh, cough, sneeze or do exercise and a bit of wee or poo comes out too), is quite common with 30% of new mums suffering with the condition for up to 3 months after birth.
It’s actually probably higher than that figure truthfully though.
In one recent study, it’s predicted that up to 80% of women in the US will suffer with some form of pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives, unless something is done pronto!
I think you’d agree – Houston, we have a problem!
The good news is though, extensive research and testing has been done in recent years to find out more about how the pelvic floor functions; how it becomes weakened; and what causes dysfunction within it.
Let me explain in a little more detail why my approach to pelvic floor education is different, and why you need to change yours too:
1. WHEN CLIENTS LEAK, IT’S OFTEN ON MOVEMENT
When someone suffers the embarrassment of leakage of urine or faeces, it’s also often associated with movement.
This could be just in day-to-day activities:
- when you run up/downstairs without thinking,
- you chase after your toddler/baby,
- you pick up a heavy object too quickly,
- you do exercise and notice you leak etc
Nowadays, we train the pelvic floor muscles WITH movement.
I entered the fitness industry via the jumpy-jumpy aerobics, personal trainer, fitness route, then soon got injured and realised that Pilates enabled me to understand the body a little better…
…and it really helped me take a step back from hi-impact to take the load off my poor painful feet.
Pilates is actually a great form of exercise for both our pregnant and postnatal clients and Pilates forms the basis of a lot of my education, training and background.
The slight issue I have nowadays with Pilates is the pre-teaching of the ‘core’ engagement stuff that I’m no longer down with.
It took a lot of resistance for me to stop saying ‘now draw your tummy in’ or ‘engage your core’ in my classes.
Way back when I first started teaching exercise to pregnant and postnatal women I had no idea what I was doing.
When YOU first started out your career working with this niche population, did you have any clue either?
Fortunately, by the time I had this photo taken with me and a group of my pregnant ‘bumps’ I did though. Don’t they look great?
Ok, ok, so we get the basic qualification, we educate ourselves, we read research articles here and there, buy a few books/DVDs to get some ideas, go on training courses, attend conferences, trial and test out some stuff we absorb and just get stuck in, don’t we?
I once met a client who came to my postnatal Pilates classes who had all 3 of these issues:
1) Abdominal separation (3 finger width gap above and below the navel)
2) Pelvic floor weakness (she was wetting herself on impact), and
3) An umbilical hernia (diagnosed by her GP)
I’ve rehabilitated and lessened the symptoms all of these 3 conditions in a lot of women (and men) over the past few years.
And, what’s surprising is: they’re all linked.
Let me explain a little further:
TOO MUCH PRESSURE