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.
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.
When you unconsciously clench your glutes (butt muscles). Do you have nice little scoops or “pockets” on the sides of your glutes/behind the head of the femur? Do you ever get a pinching in your groin when you squat or bring your knee to your chest? Low back pain? Flat butt syndrome getting you down (aka “mom butt”)? Can you get a really good squeeze of both sides of your glutes on command or is it hard to do? One side easier to contract than the other? Then you likely favor one side.
These are some signs you may be a butt gripper!
What to do? Start by noticing it. Check in frequently and do your best to just relax those glutes. Notice when you are doing it and how you are feeling. Tied to stress perhaps?
Usually, you don’t need those glutes working so hard during normal, low load activities, like standing around :) Do you frequently find that you shift your weight to one side in particular? Notice this and start shifting to the other side! Or, better yet, place your weight evenly over both feet!
Chronic butt gripping can lead to chronic fatigue (i.e. weakness) of those enormous glute muscles, of which we really do need for things like walking, running, jumping, squatting, pelvic floor health, etc. There is a saying that “your glutes ARE your pelvic floor.” So, is your pelvic floor flat, weak, and hard to engage when you need it? Or is it strong, resilient, ready when you need it without having to think about it?
Ab gripping. It is way too common, especially in women. AKA “sucking in.” It is something we do so much that we stop even noticing we are doing it.
Are you doing it right now? Take your had and place it on your abdomen, close to the ribs and gently jiggle the abs. Feel relaxing? Or was it hard to do? Probably gripping. Check out your abdomen in the mirror: is there a cinched in area at about the level of the belly button, looking from the side? Gripping/sucking in. Are the top abdominals more defined than the lower half? Gripping. Can you "zip up" your abs from the pubis/crotch without those upper abs firing? Gripping. Looking from the side, does it look like your lower abdomen sticks out farther than the upper half? Gripping and lower abdominal weakness.
It is constant, long term tension in a group of muscles (usually upper rectus abdominis/"six pack abs" and upper transverse abdominals (TA)) and over time, those muscles adapt to what we ask of them and shorten/weaken so when you go to ask something of them (a heavy lift, core exercises, weight gain, pregnancy, etc.) they have nothing left to give and the pressure has to leak out somewhere, soooooo...yea, diastasis recti (abnormal separation of the abdominal wall) prolapse, leaking of urine or feces, inability to control gas, disc herniations, herniations of the abdominal wall, hemorrhoids, etc. Fun, huh?!
Imagine flexing your biceps muscles all day every day. You wouldn't really be able to use your arms very effectively if your biceps were constantly flexed, ha! What would you expect to happen with those muscles? They would shorten and become very tight. Same idea with your abdominal wall. This sort of abdominal weakness is perfect staging grounds for lots of fun stuff, as mentioned above.
Men, too! Women are by no means the only ones suffering these issues. Men are just as likely to develop these kinds of problems via means other than pregnancy. Obviously :)
If you can’t just relax your abdomen on command (one way to tell you REALLY need this!) then get down on all fours and allow gravity to assist you. Let your belly relax down toward the floor gradually. I know, it feels really weird at first and you will likely be able to feel your body tensing against it, but work through this. Try to keep the shoulders engaged and don’t sink into them. Keep your spine as neutral as you can, trying not to let your low back curve too much. Focus on breathing deeply and slowly, in and out🧘♀️
If you can get in the habit of checking in throughout the day and seeing what your abs are doing (particularly in times of stress) make note of it and try to relax. Hate having your belly "pooch" (terrible word, but everyone can picture it!) out? I get it! But that is what loose-fitting shirts are for in this stage of the game, right?!
All sorts of things improve when we stop holding tension, particularly in our abdomen. Digestion, breathing, stress response, constipation, you name it. Try it out and I hope you find some relief!
Henry Ford gets credit for this one (though it is a shortened version of the original). And it is completely true. Don’t forget about the ‘mind’ part of the mind-body connection. They work in tandem. You train your body to do all sorts of things but if you don’t mentally buy-in then stop wasting your time. So which will it be today?
I often find that the right track can be the hardest to commit to mentally. Maybe it seems to easy, too tedious, too boring, too hard, too annoying, too whatever! No one can make you do the thing, only you can decide to do it, whatever it is. When I was told I was going to have to start from even before square one (square 1/2?) I felt mentally crushed and was almost tempted to try something way "easier" (but ultimately would have been a short term boost with very long term negative consequences). But then the rational mind took over thankfully and I decided to buy in. I could do this, I will do this. And so, I started to rebuild my body and my mind and started down the path that has ultimately led me here, to The Pelvic Underground.
Maybe today isn't your day, and that is totally fine, normal in fact. But the key is believing that maybe it will be tomorrow and trying again. Believe in yourself, believe in the process, then so it shall be. Postpartum rehab is hard when you want to do it the right way. I guarantee is is worth every single tear, expletive, setback, crappy day, and boring workout at the beginning (because, seriously, it can be SO BORING, but SO WORTH IT!).
So, again, which will it be today? I can or I can't?
Every happy pelvic floor starts with good breathing habits. If you aren’t being chased by a lion then you don’t need to be stress-breathing into your chest and shoulders. Breathe deeply and slowly into your belly, back, and sides 3-5 times as often as you think of it. Reconnect that diaphragm with your pelvic floor. This goes for men, too. Are you a runner? Try this out on your next run. It is magical!
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot