In Pursuit of a Flat Tummy
There you are in the labour ward. Nine months and 17 hours later you have produced a beautiful baby, who lies next to you peacefully sleeping. You look down at your stomach – and there is a large jelly belly to greet you - horror! Gone is the kicking, squirming, tiny baby, but in its place is a wobbly tummy covered in stretch marks! All too quickly you realise that those gorgeous jeans and that seldom-worn bikini are going to have to wait.
Wrong I say. You can have a tight flat tummy again. You will get into those jeans you love. All it takes is a huge amount of effort (let’s face it, if it was easy, wouldn’t everyone look amazing) and the right advice.
It is possible to do a very simple abdominal crunch 2-3 weeks after you have your baby (providing you have had a regular birth and have been given an examination by a doctor). If you have had a C-section it is advisable to wait at least 6 weeks.
Your abdominal muscles have been stretched during pregnancy to allow the baby to grow, and may have split down the middle. Therefore you need to check if they have split and how big the split is before you begin any exercises.
How to check if you're ready for exercise
Lie on your back with your head on the floor or bed. Place your hands behind your neck and slowly lift your head toward the ceiling. Holding that position, place a finger just above the belly button and press down gently. You will feel a gap in between the muscles; now see how many fingers (if any) you can get into the space between the abdominal muscles. This is your gap - if it is one finger then you may do all the exercises - if it is two or more you need to be really careful. With a two or more finger gap you can try the exercise above whilst holding on to your abdomen with your hands. Place your right hand on the left side of your tummy area and your left hand on the right side with your arms crossed over one another, slowly do the above exercise whilst holding your abdominal muscles as you lift your head.
Simple post-natal abdominal crunch
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly lift only your head off the floor, pulling your abs towards your spine and exhaling as you do so.
At certain times during the day (make a regular time when you are doing something like sitting in a chair or in the car) contract your abdominals in towards your spine for two seconds and then release. Do this at least 20 times a day every day, and soon you will begin to feel your abdominals getting stronger.
By now you would have had your six week post natal check up with your Doctor. Assuming you are fine and have the all-clear to exercise, you can move into phase two. You should now be doing at least 30 reps of the above crunch and up to 3 sets, every day.
Post natal sit ups
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Holding your head in your hands, slowly lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for two counts and slowly lower back to the starting position - remember to exhale as you lift and inhale as you go down. Try 30 reps and do 3 sets a day, increasing the reps by 10 each week.
Those flat abdominal muscles are not so far away now, but one thing is for certain - they will not tone or get stronger without any exercise. It is also important to bear in mind that to shed the spare tyre around your middle or indeed any excess fat on your body you need to do cardiovascular exercise and increase the amount of muscle on your body.
Muscles are active and need energy to survive, but fat is inactive and uses very few calories. Therefore in order to increase your metabolism and burn more calories, an increase in muscle mass is needed. Muscles can be gained using resistance bands or weights.
Good luck and keep healthy!