Meet the Stix Tests
Guest post by Calia Zappala, an all-star women's fitness trainer who focuses on exercising while pregnant. Caila's technique empowers women women gain strength, prepare for childbirth, and transition back after giving birth. Learn more at her website.
These are just some of the many comments & questions I get from women who are just thinking about starting a family, but terrified of the inevitable changes that occur in the body.
But that’s the point! If growing another human inside your body does not change you in any way, then I’d be concerned. We are meant to grow from this experience as we make that major shift into motherhood. However, the physical changes vary from person to person and that is where I step in as a pre and postnatal exercise specialist, to help educate and empower women.
I find that a lot of the fears and concerns come from a lack of information and lack of conversations and knowledge sharing on this topic. But the good news is that this is changing. Women are more curious about how their bodies work. Holistic approaches to our cycles and fertility are becoming more popular.
In 2020 we have more to consider than ever before. Many women are career focused, perhaps having children later in life. Many of us are dedicated to personal fitness goals whether that is running, spinning, or just sticking to consistent workouts. Generally, we want to be healthy both mentally and physically. Many women have demanding jobs in cities and use public transportation up until the day before they deliver. There are SO many aspects of pregnancy these days.
Maybe you see where I am headed here...maintaining your strength and fitness routines during pregnancy becomes more important than EVER given the demands on new moms.
I teach all my clients the Fit For Birth Core Breathing Belly Pump™, which is a breathing technique that helps pregnant women learn to use their inner core unit in a safe way. The inner core unit consists of deep core muscles - the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, and pelvic floor. Yes, using your core is absolutely necessary throughout pregnancy (gasp!) and can be learned through proper diaphragmatic breathing. A common myth you may hear is, ‘don’t do ab exercise during pregnancy’. This usually comes from fear of Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation). However, the truth is you must use your abdominals during pregnancy, with proper engagement.
As soon as you learn how to use your core properly during pregnancy, the fitness world becomes a whole lot less scary.
To try this breathing technique, lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
First, slow down your breathing and take a few really deep breaths. Notice where the breath is and which body parts are moving. Chest? Ribs? Belly? Next, place your hands over your belly - pinkies on top two hip points and thumbs on bottom two ribs. Can you redirect your breath so that your belly moves into your hands on your inhale and then falls back on your exhale? Practice this a few times until you can actually start to feel your abs turn on with the exhale. PRO TIP: Push the air out (slowly) and feel your hands move towards one another - ribs knit together and right and left hip points drawing towards one another. And then inhale to release...AHA!
Once this lightbulb goes on, the possibilities are endless:
Bonus fact - this works for ANYONE and everyone! My dad was my first non-female test case. He had chronic back pain, constantly ‘throwing his back out’, and experienced many days not able to leave the house. One weekend when visiting, I saw what was going on and gave it a shot. I taught him to belly breathe and properly engage his core. I gave him a few exercises that he now practices daily - he remains pain-free.
I truly believe that we are our own best teachers. And as a fitness professional, I provide tools, guidance, and proper queuing which allows for women to have the “aha” moments within their own body and continue the practice when I am not by their side to guide them through these mindful moments.
If you are concerned about your fitness routine during pregnancy or exercising while pregnant, first check in with your provider and make sure you have medical clearance. Second, look to work with someone who is trained and certified in working with pre/postnatal women! If 1:1 is not in your budget, there are many group classes offered. I promise, you will not regret it. Knowledge is power and just like anything, becoming in tune with your body takes time, practice, and patience. With this approach, I witness women feeling more empowered to make decisions based on what’s right for them [and their baby]. What more could we ask for?
We need to continue to guide women back to being their own best advocate and the fitness industry is no exception. So the next time you google your way into a long list of do’s and don’ts for exercising while pregnant, my friend, be skeptical and don’t settle for fear. Seek to learn!
In the end, the solutions to prenatal fitness anxieties are, unfortunately, not black and white. My best recommendation is to learn how to properly use your core sooner than later. When used correctly, the inner core unit allows you to breathe deeper, relieve stress, and find calmness in a chaotic world. This core connection allows you to feel balanced within your own body, move functionally and pain-free, and will protect your tiny human when pregnant.
Listen and trust your body. Do research and ask for help when needed - the kind of help that empowers you to become smarter within your own body.