Fitness

Essential Daily Exercises for Moms

How many times do we need to hear that exercise is good for us? We get it. But how do we make time for it? As I juggle the responsibilities of having 2 children, I find myself sometimes pondering what I did with all the time I used to have… or what it felt like to have 8 hours of sleep…

Being a mother is a sport in of itself; it starts out with the awkward carrying of a newborn with a floppy head, then the awkwardness of carrying and lifting a carseat, and then the bending down to pick up toys, do laundry, clean...and then the sudden bursts of energy (we’re not quite sure where it comes from) to save your toddler from plummeting off the couch. All this awkwardness can be reflected by aches and pains in the body. And we want to be spry on the dance floor when our kids get married, so I was thinking about the key exercises that can prevent injury from these repetitive activities.

1. DeadLift
Good for: picking up toys, kids, bags, etc.

Here is a simple video, just in case you have never done one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG-Stc3c7N0


2. One-Leg Balance
Good for: Keeping muscles around vertebrae and pelvis that control fine movement strong


3. Stretching
Good for: Maintaining healthy Range of Motion for joints, reducing development of painful trigger points, releasing fascia.
Instead of trying to do a full body regimen of stretching, I find it more productive to identify a few areas that are chronically contracted, and spend your time there.
Also, these are my principles for stretching (used from Aaron Mattes method for stretching)
Never stretch to ‘100%’- your body is smart and wants to avoid injury via overstretching. You will have much greater success taking your ROM to about 70-80%.
Once  you identify where that is, hold until you feel a small change. This is usually about 30 seconds. Incorporate breathing, you need to learn how to remember to breath when doing something new. Then bring your joint back to ‘normal’ to replenish blood supply (think of your muscle as a sponge being wrung out when stretching).
If you feel tingling, you most likely have gone past 80%, or you need to shorten the time of your stretch. Avoid holding a position for longer than 1 minute.
Repeat this about ten times for each side if bilatteral.

4. Deep Breathing/Relaxing
    Good for: staying sane. Also helps body flush out toxins, utilize oxygen better, and who doesn’t like an oxygen high?
    It’s my personal opinion that the diaphragm is the most neglected muscle in the exercise regimen, and perhaps the most important. Your body starts doing all sorts of strange things when it becomes stressed out, so it’s worth it to carve out time for this.
    Here’s what I do: first make a decision that this is something you want to do- being an exercise that doesn’t have the confirming results as a six pack and steel buns (still waiting for my confirmation), it takes extra commitment to keep this going.
     Preferably choose a dark, quiet space. If not, use something like I do below. Blanket, earplugs, face mask.       
    Your job is to just observe your body at first. How deep do your breaths go? What parts of your rib cage move freely or feel locked up? How fast? Any aches or pains? Spend about 1 minute doing this.
    Then, instead of taking forceful deep breaths, imagine your ribcage as a balloon, and with every breath you are going to fill it up about a millimeter higher- don’t look down, just imagine. Do this until you feel you reach a point where it is a little bit of effort. You can continue to do this, or proceed to the next step.
     Once you have identified your ‘high’ point, instead of letting the natural vacuum effect of your diaphragm, let your breath out in a slow, controlled manner. You be the judge of how slow you want to go. You may feel a little shakey in the ribcage if your diaphragm is weak.
    You can do all these steps, or just practice one. But I would spend at least 10 minutes, or get to that feel-good place. 


5. Journaling/Reflecting/Goal Setting
 First off, encourage yourself. What were you successful at this week/month? Why did it work so well? 
What things would I like to accomplish this week? What are practical steps to get them done?
How am I feeling? How is my love tank? It's common for relationships to be neglected when we are taking care of babies, but the healthier you are, the better you are going to be for your kids. Do you need a date night with your husband? Or maybe a girls night out, or some alone time at the beach? Check in with yourself every few days.

4 Essential Strength Exercises for Moms

Pregnancy. Childbirth. There are entire occupations designed to help you through these special stages of life. People seem to bend over backwards to give you advice, materials, money, encouragement, physical touch; sometimes unsolicited.


But nobody tells you about how fast everybody clears town once you actually give birth.
Once you exit the tunnel of cheering onlookers to the finish line, the energy fades away, and most people return to the normalcy of their lives. Except you.

Your world is turned upside down. Sleepless nights. Cracked nipples. Sudden bouts of crying; you, not the baby. Doctors' appointments. Waits at the Social Security Office. Pressure to take sides on whether to vaccinate, circumcise or practice Attachment Parenting. It was only 2 months ago you were talking about data reports and PowerPoints, now it's mustard seeds, remembering the 4 S’s, and counting diaper changes. Change indeed.


Before you know it, 3 months has passed. You are amazed at despite how much moving around the
house meeting constant demands of your infant has only resulted in a jello-y mass around your waist. And your back hurts. And your neck. Your life hurts. In fact, you start to wonder if every nursing session it is not milk your baby is extracting, but your life force.





OK, you get the point. One the the biggest life shift is when you have your 1st child, and getting your fitness back on track is very difficult. I am being slightly dramatic for effect, but some of it is spot on. Take heart if you have a new baby- nobody enters motherhood knowing how to do much, and you will find your groove in due time. I know. I have been there. I am very determined and was set on making things work. I don't necessarily endorse being so hard on yourself, but you can benefit from what I have learned.
Losing 'baby fat' is emphasized in our culture, so routines using large muscles that burn fat are glorified. Aerobic exercise has its place in fitness, however, the smaller more humble muscles are usually the heroes in preventing injury and pain, which can be a roadblock to working out in general. I have provided hyperlinks to videos. Here is my list of Essential Mom Strength Exercises:


1. Plank
This is an isometric (static) exercise that will strengthen the tiny muscles supporting the movement of your spine. The movement of your spine is primarily controlled by hundreds of tiny muscles on each vertebrae, not the large muscles. Many back injuries occur because of an imbalance of large to small muscle strength. The plank will help you maintain a healthy spine, AND it will TONE your abdominals, which will prevent your intestines from spilling out and increasing pull on your lower back.


One major cause of back injury is improper lifting. Proper lifting from the ground means getting close to your object, squatting down into the knees, and keeping your back straight. The idea of this exercise is to prepare your body to handle a little bit of IMproper lifting. I am not saying the Superman is an improper technique, however, it brings the weight (your upper body) farther away from your body, increasing pressure on your lower back. Lifting carseats or jerking to catch a falling baby- you will not have time to maintain proper form.

CAUTION: I would like to make a modification to this exercise if you are either a novice or have experienced back pain. Practice this exercise with just the balance portion first. Proceed to do the Superman carefully; Notice how John's arms and leg are parallel with the ground. Test the waters by simply starting this movement. Think 1 inch at a time. When you begin to notice your body working to hold form, practice this position for a couple weeks at a time before you move out 1 more inch.


3. Single-Leg Deadlift
Similar to the Superman, the Deadlift's intention is to prepare your back to do heavier ‘picking up’ activities (and believe me, you’ll be doing some picking up for the next few years). Ideally, you would utilize a proper squat position for picking up baby or heavier items. But again, it is good to train your body for the unexpected.


Oh, don't be scared. :) Your diaphragm is the almost untouchable muscle that lies underneath your ribcage and uses vacuum pressure to draw air into your lungs. You obviously need this muscle to get oxygen. Breathing is automatic, but stress can draw our shoulders into our necks, overworking the neck muscles and underworking the diaphragm; leaving you with shallow inhalation. If you haven’t noticed, having a new (or old) baby can be stressful. Strengthening your diaphragm will help you regain energy during the day, think more clearly and make you a happier mom.
I add an emphasis on the Eccentric aspect of Exhalation- meaning, training your Diaphragm to release slowly. When you take a nice slow deep breath down, don't let your abdominals snap the Diaphragm back up- slowly let your Diaphragm return to a rested position. Do a test to see what your breathing is like- how many seconds do you naturally inhale and exhale? Where do you feel tightness? Do any muscles feel shaky or weak? Pin point what is challenging and focus on that, and breathing will be a breeze!


End Notes: Even if you do a few of these a few times a week, I believe you will have positive results. I hope these quick exercises brighten your day and give you fitness inspiration. Feel free to post questions or comments!

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