Back To Flat, Part One
See that picture of me up there? That was me back in April, 2012 on the Sea Of Cortez during my honeymoon. I was doing my “normal” back then which was eating fairly well and running at least four times a week. I even took my running shoes on my honeymoon so I could log some miles in Mexico! 22 months later I would be celebrating the birth of my son and figuring out what to do with my new-to-me post baby body.
I topped out at 160 pounds on the day my son was born—40 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. Not only did I have a c-section after 16 weeks of bed rest (a topic for another day) but I also ended up with diastasis recti, a stomach muscle separation condition that affects many women who, mostly like me, know nothing about the condition until we have it. To put it mildly, my core was non-existent. I was restricted to lifting things no heavier than the baby which pretty much meant I could hold the baby and nothing else. I had to lay low. The problem is, laying low isn’t really a part of my working vocabulary, especially since I was used to being so active. The picture below shows what diastasis recti looks like. My before-baby stomach muscles looked like the left image; my after-baby muscles look like the right image:
There are many things that can cause diastasis recti. My cause was I am petite inside and out. Large babies and multiples are also factors but I only had one child and he weighed under seven pounds. I remember being on the operating table when the doctor was sewing me back together; she was marveling at how I had “just nothing in there. I mean, you have NO fat in there!”, and the OR nurses were asking me what I did to keep in such great shape. While. I. Was being. Sewn. Back. Together. I emphasize that because it’s freaking surreal to be having a normal conversation during major surgery.
Moving on….At my eight week post-partum check, my doctor cleared me to resume my regular activities. I went on a run that afternoon—it was the slowest mile I’ve ever run but I was ELATED to be running again. I made a goal to run a race within a year of giving birth. I almost made it: my first race post-pregnancy was a 12k 15 months after the delivery. The problem with diastasis recti is that, unless you find the correct core exercises that are safe for this condition to literally bring those muscles back together, you will always have what I call the mummy pooch. No amount of any other exercise and no fad diet known to man will get rid of it—trust me, and look at this next picture to see what I mean:
That picture was taken on the afternoon after that 12k race. You can see my pooch is minimal, but I was still breastfeeding at the time and had also trained for that race pushing my son in a jogging stroller while running. I was extremely fit but still had the pooch.
Some women decide to embrace the pooch as a new part of their bodies, kind of a “that’s just how I look now” attitude. I see them when I’m out and about running errands on weekends not even faking or trying to hold it in and I think to myself, wow, I wish I could just not care like that. The thing is, I’m kind of vain. The industry I’m in helps to perpetuate my vain attitude, but it is what it is. I like to wear dresses and dress-up for work. I think that when I have makeup on my face I look finished and polished, and I don’t think a pooch goes with my finished and polished look. I usually don’t wear makeup on weekends but I do like to look what I call Mommy Fresh; I do not wear yoga pants and sweat shirts for errand running. I still like to wear bikinis to the pool and beach (and have, when my pooch is suck-in-able or in its least bloated state) but it’s time for it to go away for good. I want to get my stomach to as flat as it can be without having surgery.
Enter Natalie Hodson’s method for correcting diastasis recti—Abs, Core, and Pelvic Floor.* I stumbled upon it online. The price was right for an instant downloadable copy of her four week plan. I have started and stopped the plan a few times before, usually not making it past week one. Because, life. I think the timing is right for me completing it this time because I’m also training for my first race of this year which takes place next month. Going for a run and then completing these exercises is going well so far. I am also blogging about it this time—knowing I have people following my progress is an excellent motivator! Below shows what the pooch looks like now, taken before going on a run:
The exercises are easy to do and can be done anywhere on your own time. As I type this, I’m on day three of week two. I finally made it past week one! Both weeks have consisted of eight specific core-centric exercises. The plan includes some backstory on Natalie’s own journey back to flat, positive affirmations for your mind and body, descriptions with pictures of the exercises, dietary recommendations, and space to write your own personal weekly goals. The plan has you doing the exercises four days a week and going for a ten-minute walk afterward. Since I’m a little more advanced in my post-partum exercise recovery journey, I’ve been doing the exercises six days a week and skipping the ten-minute walk since I’m already running four days a week.
As of today, I’m at 125 pounds and down almost a quarter inch in my waist. I’m eating sensibly as always; trying to limit sweets, fried food, and alcohol to weekends only and making myself stop eating when I feel full. Looking forward to seeing what my progress is when it’s time for my next post.
*At the time this blog is being posted, I am not being paid to mention Natalie Hodson nor her core exercise program. However, I will reach out to her when I’ve completed this series to hopefully tell her how successful her program has been for me and invite her to view my posts about my progress. If she ends up endorsing me in some way, I will update this entry at that time.