I hear it all the time: “I love my kids, but I *hate* my stomach!” I’m frequently asked about the hows and whens and how much-es of abdominal exercises by moms, regardless of the age of their kids. I have several tips I like to share.
First, stop and think about the amazing work your body has done if you have gestated and birthed a baby. Be mindful of the awesome changes that your body undertook to sustain a developing new life. Be grateful for the power of your body to labor and birth your baby. Once you give your body the respect it deserves, you can work from a positive starting point.
Next, you must acknowledge that ab flab has two components: one has to do with fitness, and the other has to do with nutrition. You can do all the crunches you want, but until you’re giving your body the proper nutrition, you’ll likely have a layer of fat over your gorgeously toned abs so that you can’t appreciate them.
As for ab exercises, moms can begin nearly immediately after delivery doing work to tone their tummy. By taking a deep breath and then hissing on the exhale, the deep abdominals contract. Just watch out you don’t make yourself light-headed! I like to encourage new moms to do the hiss and compress each time they sit down to feed the baby, about 10 repetitions per set.
It is essential for new moms to test themselves for diastasis recti before beginning any type of crunch. This separation of the abdominal muscles is quite common, but with proper technique and the right exercises, it can be lessened and neatly repaired. Once you know you’re not at risk of causing further separation, crunches and other traditional ab exercises can be resumed.
The key to effective abdominal crunches is to pull the navel in toward the spine with each contraction. This is not natural for most people, who forcefully exhale (and push the belly out) as they crunch. But by moving the navel toward the spine, you teach the muscles to pull in as well. If you’re going to do crunches, you may as well do them so you achieve the results you desire!
While you may not feel bikini-ready this summer, by changing your mindset, refining your nutrition, and performing a few simple exercises, you’ll gain a new appreciation for your powerful body.
Good health and great happiness to you.