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The Focus

How is exercise different between prenatal, postnatal, chronic pain, and post concussion syndrome? Your goals and focus. I know, that’s obvious. What’s not so obvious is where the individualization comes in. Individualization is where you may consider working with a personal trainer or health practitioner to meet your needs.


Trying


Although this population doesn't make up the majority of my clients, women who are trying to get pregnant have some areas they can start focusing on before conception. Our bodies like to be healthy in order to get pregnant. We naturally want to produce healthy offspring, and typically in order to do that, at least mom needs to be relatively healthy. Common focus includes:

  • Achieving a healthy weight (this does not mean a certain BMI number, a certain body fat percentage, the best shape of your life, a certain physique etc.). If you are underweight or overweight, you may have trouble conceiving.

  • Having good cardiovascular health. Good blood circulation and the ability to withstand cardiovascular stress tells your body you’re in a healthier state and ready to conceive. Working on this before pregnancy can also help you to increase or maintain your cardiovascular health while pregnant.

  • Working on muscular strength and neuromuscular connections. Once you get pregnant, ligament laxity sets in. If you already have some decent strength, your muscles are in a better place to remain strong while your joints start drifting away from each other to allow a baby to grow. Knowing how to activate muscles and being able to feel them working is a simple way of saying you have good neuromuscular connections. As your body grows and stretches during pregnancy, you naturally start to alter your movement and lose those neuromuscular connections. One of the most common areas to lose connection? Your transverse abdominals (most commonly referred to as lower abs) and external obliques. These muscles are so helpful when it comes time to push during labor. If we can keep these muscles showing up for your entire pregnancy, you may have an easier time giving birth and with recovery.

  • Proper breathing techniques. Knowing how to breathe properly can help you all the way through your pregnancy, with birth, and with recovery. Proper breathing allows the right muscles to contract and retract together, encourages muscles to lengthen where they need to allow room for a growing baby, and feel like they’re in the right place to grow and recover postpartum.


Prenatal


You’re pregnant! Congratulations! Welcome to a world of rapid change and new experiences! During the prenatal stage, we put a heavy focus on the following:

  • Maintaining proper breathing. Proper breathing allows for muscles to lengthen and contract to their full, healthy abilities. It also allows for muscles to work together to maintain optimal function. Keeping your optimal function during pregnancy can make for a less complicated recovery. (The key word here is “can”!).

  • Maintaining neuromuscular connections. We want to keep all of your muscles working properly throughout your entire pregnancy. This means focused attention on recruiting the right muscles for your everyday movement, recognizing if we’re allowing other muscles to take over for the muscles that should be working, and addressing muscles that are tight and in pain.

  • Fixing and maintaining proper posture. Whether pregnant or not, we all slip into poor posture and movement patterns. During pregnancy however, there is often a lot of discomfort and instability that is relieved by adopting poor posture(s) and moving incorrectly. Although it may feel better to move in this way, it often causes more harm than good. To work through this, we want to keep strengthening and using the proper muscles and discourage those poor postures.

  • Developing strength. Healthy pregnancies require a lot of strength! Giving birth, taking care of a baby, and eventually taking care of a toddler requires a lot of strength! To make sure you’re up for the task, we work on building and maintaining the strength needed to get through all of these stages with as much ease as possible.


Postnatal


Your body isn’t occupied by a growing fetus anymore. How does this make you feel? Happy? Empty? Scared? Sad? Overwhelmed? Excited? Weak? Strong? There are so many feelings that come with being postnatal, and even though you’re not occupied by another human being now, your body doesn’t feel like it did before. You’ve been stretched out and your body needs a minute to decompress. Please, give it that time to simply be. Even if you’ve been able to maintain neuromuscular connection with all or most of your muscle groups, you’ve still experienced a huge change, a huge stretch, and need to move forward with grace and acceptance of where you are. At this stage, we want to get you feeling as normal or close to normal as possible. Here we focus on:

  • Recovering your core strength and function. We start by assessing for a possible diastasis recti, discuss pelvic floor issues (pain, discomfort, leaking), and test your ability to stress your abdominal region through various exercises. As we work to strengthen and recover this area, it may feel as though we’re moving at a snail’s pace.

  • Building functional strength and movement. Now we get to relearn how to move without a baby inside! You may feel like you should be able to just get back to exercising like you did before the baby, but that’s not how our bodies work. Think of relearning how to move as a positive thing; you’re very close to being a clean slate that can now focus on moving functionally instead of moving with compensations.


Chronic Pain


Living with chronic pain is incredibly draining. You may have constant pain, fluctuating degrees of pain, or sudden pain for no reason at all. To deal with this, you may stop moving or exercising altogether or maybe you find yourself pushing more and trying to ignore the pain (even though we all know that doesn’t help you in the end). Whether you’re afraid to exercise, you’re pushing too much, or you’re just trying to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, I’m here to help. A lot of this process is trial and success with various tricks and modifications that I can help you with. The best thing we can do for our chronic pain is to move. I will help you do this safely and sustainably.


Post-Concussion Syndrome


PCS can be similar to living with chronic pain. Symptoms can be there all the time, sporadically, or go up and down throughout the day. Numerous studies show, however, that exercise can help you heal after a concussion. Does this mean the symptoms will go away completely? Not necessarily, but you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by starting to exercise as soon as you safely can post-concussion. For my PCS clients, I work to help them get back to exercising at an intensity that they can handle while working with their symptoms. If a certain movement causes too much dizziness, we figure out a way to work that same muscle or system while eliminating or decreasing the cause of dizziness.


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