How about a fun workout challenge??
How strong are your calves? Not, how large and/or tight and “ripped” do they look, but how *strong* are they *really*?
Calf raises. How far forward is your body translating when you raise up onto your toes? Check yourself against a wall (have something to hold onto!) or up to the kitchen counter.
Calf raises are a great way to strengthen not just your calves, but also your feet and ankles. There are so many ways to make them more challenging. Usually, people sway forward quite a bit and use the anterior (front) chain rather than the posterior (back) chain to create the movement. Cheater cheater pumpkin eater 🎃
Using the wall takes that cheat away and all you’re left with is foot/ankle, glute, and core strength. A.K.A. being faced with the truth of your back side.
The first time I tried these I couldn’t raise up a millimeter without holding on. Seriously. It was a gradual progression (mostly due to inconsistency) but the last couple weeks I have worked in a set at the wall each day and now it’s getting much smoother and I no longer have to hold onto anything.
Also, my calves were very unhappy initially. Clearly, I had never used them correctly before. When stationary, you should move basically straight up and down. When walking, calves work in concert with everything else to move you forward. Two different tasks with different demands. Work the isolated strength then move into dynamics and see how much better things feel.
Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it’s the foundation of basically every function of the human body. Yes, it’s harder than it looks. And, yes, it’s almost always overlooked because of its simplicity; we are already born “knowing” how to do it. Right?
You’d think. But life circumstances often conspire to affect our breathing patterns in myriad ways. Not the least of which is pregnancy and the hormone bomb-drop of the early (i.e. first 12 months) postpartum period.
The good news is we have a *lot* of control over how we breathe. And learning to recognize patterns and their triggers is very valuable information. Manipulating your breathing can prevent/stop/reroute just about any circumstance imaginable. Seriously.
Today, play around with directing your breathing to different areas. Think of, or physically place your hand on, a spot and send it there. It starts out that simple. Can’t do it? Keep creating the intention and keep practicing. You just need to wake up a forgotten skill. Most likely. Barring extenuating circumstances, of course.
Here, I’m playing around with one-sided lateral rib expansion. Fun little party trick! 🤓
I know, I know, there is some lingering upper ab gripping. I am, *we* are, a constant work in progress, should you choose to seek the path of self-improvement. It’s a fun one!
Walking. Seems so innocuous, no? Notice how you walk throughout your day. Feet, arm swing, spine, hips/pelvis, breathing. The whole nine yards.
Here I first demonstrate the gait I see frequently, in women AND men. Lumbar (lower) spine rotates, thoracic (mid-upper back) spine stays still, arms going bananas in an attempt to create forward propulsion.
What we would like to see is some lovely cross body rotation (second demo), with shoulder rotating towards opposite hip as you step forward. A nice, relaxed, fluid motion. Of course, this can take some work to achieve, not the least of which is midback mobility (see my post on this from last August/September). But, in the meantime just notice what you feel and see. This is just a fun little test to see where you are at right now.
One of the things I see most often in women experiencing prolapse and diastasis recti is this lack of cross body rotation and general stiffness. And walking is the quickest way to spy this deficit. Complaints of low back pain are also often accompanied by the stiff upper body and overly-mobile lumbar spine.
The last part is a fun drill to do throughout the day to encourage more rotation. Exaggerate the rotation, and wiggle! Shake those sillies out!
Habit stacking with crawling because...why not?! I have been doing a lot more crawling lately to mix it up, work on serratus strength, core stability, and to keep my brain guessing by introducing novel stimuli every so often. Plus, it’s fun! Double plus, you’re already down on the floor with the kids, so get after it!
My pelvis used to rotate and rock side to side no matter what I tried, but once I stopped my reductionist approach to...everything...and started looking at the whole picture things started falling into place. Enter: the sippy cup. I can keep it standing and as close to motionless as I’ve ever gotten. Hooray!
It’s been good for my brain and body to get creative during this quarantine madness. Play, have fun, mix it up.
Squeeze in your workout Wednesday ! I lovelovelove to stack my habits and my exercise throughout the day. It’s laundry day (wait, with two toddlers isn’t every day laundry day?!) so how about squeezing in some extra squats and hip hinge work?
Bridges! Probably the second most prescribed exercise in physical therapy clinics across the U.S. Second only to clams. So much going wrong with them basically every time I see someone do them. And they are a great exercise for hip extension and building those #glutesofglory so today’s post is a quick tip on using better form.
Feet closer to bum = more glutes, further from bum = more hamstrings. Make sure to get a great 360 inhale first then exhale and use your lower abs to tilt pelvis posterior, pushing low back into the floor. Hold a nice brace at the end of your exhale and inhale again, still maintaining a gentle abdominal brace. On the exhale, tighten your brace slightly and push the ground away from you, contracting those glutes.
Remember 1.0: pubis in same plane as lower ribs, and ribs knit down with a nice abdominal brace. Breathing 360 under a brace is a skill and you may need to practice this. A lot. No breath-holding here, please!
Remember 2.0: don’t make your back work to create the movement. Keeping good core control will help keep the paraspinals soft so you can focus on using those glutes appropriately.
Remember 2.1: breathe throughout the entire exercise. NO BREATH-HOLDING!
Try it out and see what you think!
When you are growing some #glutesofglory they sometimes need us to show them some myofascial release love.
Here is an easy one you can do without having to flop around on the floor or get awkward with a foam roller. But that is fun, too!
Grab ye a small ball. I have a tennis ball and a racket ball that is slightly smaller and less squishy. Lean against the wall with the ball placed in the glute area. Roll around until you find some hot spots and hang out there some and see what you can work out. Breathe into the really sticky spots.
Make sure to also spend some time in the gluteus medius which is along the upper rim of the pelvis. Stay OFF of the outside of your hip (greater trochanter). That’s a no-fly zone due to the feisty bursa there.
After 30-60 seconds on each side, jump into your glute strengthening and you’ll reap much greater rewards. What you release, you must then teach. Otherwise you’ll just keep losing the gains.
And remember...your glutes ARE your pelvic floor and vice versa.
It’s hump day so how about some more stretches for a tight pelvic floor? Sure!
Now, I say "hypertonic" because that is unfortunately the verbiage used most commonly, but it implies something neurological in nature and generally that is not the case. What we should actually be saying is a "tight/weak pelvic floor." Because, anything that is tight is also weak, just as anything that is loose is also weak. But loose is also a terrible way to describe a hypotonic pelvic floor (which is less common). I digress...
Back to a tight pelvic floor! Happy baby pose is another favorite of mine. Bottom photo is the typical way it is performed. Hold your legs so they feel relaxed and shins (anterior tibialis) are relaxed as well. Breathe deeply and slowly into your belly/back/sides (360 breathing!) for up to two minutes. Note: don’t send your breath down *past* your bum, but aim *for* your bum. Breathing so far down actually puts too much pressure down and out. No need to go crazypants on us here.
Top photo is a modification in a more prone position. I bolster under my bum so that my hip flexors can relax and my back stays long and relaxed. Too much rounding of the back and your canister (i.e. your core) isn’t aligned appropriately. Breathe deeply and slowly into your belly/back/sides and down to your bum. Really try to feel your rib cage expanding in your back and imagine that pelvic floor expanding more and more with each breath.
Midback rotation! One of my favorites. I always thought of myself as being pretty mobile, and then a PT I was working with asked me to rotate my thoracic spine (mid and upper back). Um, barely anything. I cheated 💥big time💥with my lumbar spine (low back)...which is a no-no.
As I watch other humans in nature moving and doing (I can’t help it!), I see a lot to be desired in the midback rotation department, especially us mamas. When you walk, do you feel your hips swishing like the agitator in a top load washing machine? Do your arms swing? If so (yay!) does your upper body (ribs and up) move any? Take a video of yourself walking and see what you see! (Little insider info: swishing hips might look sexy, but they are really not good for you in the long run.)
I will save walking mechanics for another post (it’s a lot!) but for now, here is a great little mobility exercise you can do before you even get out of bed in the morning. Hold your top knee down and don’t let yourself cheat by allowing the pelvis to rotate. How far down can you get your top elbow at first? Breathe into those top ribs and on each exhale sink a little farther into the stretch. Do a few breath cycles and then roll forward. Repeat a few more times and then switch sides.
Note: bend at the elbow and hold your hand behind your head for the most accurate rotation. A straight arm allows you to cheat with your shoulder complex and make it seem like you have a lot more range than you actually do have.
Is one side harder? How much can you get your elbow down towards the floor without forcing but by using breath work to ease it down? Any pain or discomfort? This should be a very gentle and easy exercise. Listen to your body and only do what you can do comfortably and pain free.
Part 4 of Car Seat Calisthenics!
This one will help wake up that core! I want you to think TALL, chin tucked slightly, abs engaged from the bottom up, ribcage down, and hip hinge from the glutes/hips. Only go as far down as your hamstrings allow in order to keep that good hinge. Set the car seat on something to make it higher if needed.
Push through your pinkies to engage shoulders and serratus anterior (remember her? She is besties with external obliques). Don’t sink into your shoulders, engage them!
Keep that core engaged throughout and move mindfully.
No bearing down my ladies with prolapse...none. Do what you can, skip what you can’t for now. If walking out and back with bent knees helps, do that.
Note: I have *no* baby in the car seat, which would have been helpful to keep it more stabilized. Empty made it a LOT more challenging!
Note again: This is sped up 2x so take it slow, breathing through the movement! Again, think: mindful movement, exhale on the effort.
Oh wait, another note: if these are too hard, modify!
~If hamstrings are a hindrance for hinging, put the car seat up higher.
~Bend knees to start and work up to straight legs if too challenging at this time.
~Hip hinge, hip hinge, aaaaaand hip hinge!
~Walk out as far as you can while keeping core engaged and without any doming/bulging/pooching.
~KEEP YOUR RIBCAGE DOWN! Yes, even in standing.
~Use a mirror or video yourself and see what is going on so you know what to fix or high-five yourself for doing well 😎
Well done 🙌 You now have a quick, four part, car seat workout that you can squeeze in without even having to wake up a sleeping babe 😁
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot