How To Activate The Deep Core & Pelvic Floor

Happy Monday!! I have been wanting to post about this topic for a while because it is a HUGE part of exercising during pregnancy and postpartum, if not THE most important part. Activating and connecting the deep core and pelvic floor muscles is essential, because if you don’t know how to activate those muscles, how do you plan on strengthening them? It seems like a stupid question when phrased like that, but it’s so easy to just go through exercises without properly thinking about what you’re doing. I know I've done that before!

I often get asked, “should I feel a burn while doing pelvic floor exercises”, and “it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything, am I doing it right?”, and “should I breathe a certain way while doing these exercises?”. The answers are 1) no, you should not feel a burn, but you should feel a connection. 2) You may not be doing it correctly. You won’t get breathless or feel muscle fatigue, but again, you should feel a connection, and 3) YES! You should absolutely breath a certain way! The information below should answer these questions a little further, and hopefully help you effectively work the pelvic floor and reap the many benefits that it brings!

***I plan on posting a video to demonstrate this, but HERE is an amazing video of a 39 week pregnant woman properly activating her deep core.

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WHAT IS THE DEEP CORE:

All of the deep core muscles function together, and everything is connected. EVERYTHING! The main muscles to know are:

Pelvic Floor: This is a hammock of muscles that connect the pubis bone at the front to the tailbone. The pelvic floor supports the bladder, reproductive organs, and bowel and forms a figure 8 around the urethra, vagina and rectum. They also work with the multifidus and transversus abdominis to stabilize the spine, pelvic joints, bladder and uterus properly.

Transversus abdominis (TVA): This is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and wraps around the abdomen between the lower ribs and top of the pelvis. It acts as a corset that holds everything together.

Internal Obliques: This muscle is a little closer to the skin than the transverses abdominis, and supports the abdominal wall.

Multifidus: This muscle is located around the back of the spine, and functions together with the transversus abdominis & pelvic floor muscles to stabilize the low back and pelvis.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT:

Strengthening the deep core muscles through movement and exercise improves overall strength, energy, decreases low back pain, hip pain, neck pain, and incontinence, minimizes diastasis recti and prolapse, and sets her up for potentially easier, and quicker labour and recovery– all while decreasing the chances of an emergency c-section.

Most women struggle with at least one of these issues, if not many of them, and properly activating and strengthening these muscles during and after pregnancy can help minimize, and sometimes even prevent these problem. That’s huge!!

STEPS TO CONNECTING DEEP CORE MUSCLES:

1. Relax the deep core muscles on the inhale. You should feel a heaviness, and a pressing down sensation. If it helps, it’s the same type of relaxation you make while urinating. If you are unsure what it should feel like, trying sitting on a stability ball. You can actually feel the relaxing of the deep core and pelvic floor muscles this way!

2. Exhale to initiate light contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. This is a LIGHT contraction. You don’t want to grip the muscles, or strain in any way. Particularly make sure you aren’t contracting the glutes. Imagine you are lifting the muscles all the way to the top of your head, and really focus on lengthening. **Tips on how to lightly contract are below!

3. Once you have contracted the pelvic floor muscles, move into the exercise. This is why each exercise should always be done slowly and intentionally. Breath out and relax the muscles - then inhale, connect the deep core and pelvic floor muscles, and do another rep.

4. You want to breath diaphragmatically breathe throughout each exercise by inhaling out to the sides and back of her ribcage, and then exhaling as you lightly contract the pelvic floor. Feel the lengthening as stated above while also adding a light wrapping “down and around” of her lower ribcage. **I will do a separate post about this later.

TIPS FOR ACTIVATING DEEP CORE & PELVIC FLOOR:

This sounds incredibly confusing at first, and honestly feels very foreign. It can also be mentally draining too because it’s a lot to think about while also trying to exercise. I get it! The best thing to do is practice this before exercising. Take a few minutes to work on feeling these muscles and activating them. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at sensing them, and the easier it will become. Practice, practice, practice!

The most difficult part is figuring out how to lightly contract those muscles, especially if you’ve just learned you even have a pelvic floor!

  1. When making that light contraction, think about lifting up a wet towel from the corners. You want to pull the muscles together, and then up. Imagine you are lightly zipping up the pelvic floor, and really think about lifting up the way to the top of the head. That lengthening is key!

  2. Avoiding sucking the belly to spine. This is a VERY common tip I see on Instagram, but it restricts deep core activation and proper breathing. It also puts force on the pelvic floor and hinders posture.

  3. Lengthen tall through the torso and top of the head to positively affect posture and deep core strength. This also stimulates connective tissue which wraps around all of the muscles, and is what brings the abdominals back together.

9 Months Of Jack

Jack will be 10 months old in a week, but better late than never I guess!

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He is the SWEETEST little guy. I think all babies have a sweetness, but he has this special, calming presence about him. He’s been such a gift to me.

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He used to be a HARD, HARD baby (which was probably because he had open sores all over his body thanks to eczema), but he’s really mellowed out and is generally a chill little chap. He only really cries when I leave the room. We’ve entered the separation anxiety stage, and it’s a hoot!

He is ALL over the place, and climbs onto everything. He pulls himself up and walks around all the furniture, and climbs on top of anything that’s low enough to get his little leg up on. He’s still a speedy crawler, and has started letting go of furniture and trying to stand up by himself (he’s lasts .01 seconds haha). It’s crazy to think that Piper was already walking at this age!

With that, changing his diaper/getting is ready is the most frustrating job in the world. He’s so wiggly and contorts his body is the most bizarre shapes to get away.

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He hasn’t had any more teeth come through this month, so he still has 8. He bites me at least a couple of times a day when we’re nursing, and it’s SO painful. We’re still going strong with breastfeeding though, and I don’t have plans to stop anytime soon. I’ll wean whenever both of us are ready.

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He squeals and kicks his legs with excitement when I put him down for naps, and goes right off to sleep. He has been waking up at 8am recently, and then goes down for his first nap around 9:30am. He sleeps for 1-2 hours, and then goes back down for another nap (timed for the same time as Pipes) around 2:00pm. He sleeps for another 1 1/2 -2 hours, and goes down for the night at 7pm. His sleeping habits have been a struggle up until this point, but we’re finally in a good routine again and him sleeping through the night is the BEST THING EVER.

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He’s a tiny bub and only in the 7th percentile for weight He’s following the growth curve perfectly though, and his pediatrician isn’t concerned at all, he’s just little for his age. He eats 500x more than Piper, so I have no idea where he puts it all. He’s a great eater, and because he has a lot of teeth, he’s eating pretty much any solid food. He likes to only feed himself though which means we have lots of bath times around here.

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He lights up and kicks his legs when he sees Piper after his naps, and tries to do whatever she’s doing. I’m still working with her on being soft and sharing (“careful” is the most used word around here), but they have such a special bond and I swear I could cry every time they just look at each other. He’s always by her side and tries to copy everything she does.

 Not their best picture haha, but this is their favourite thing to do lately. They’re the best duo.

Not their best picture haha, but this is their favourite thing to do lately. They’re the best duo.

Pelvic Floor Workout

Happy Monday!! I post a lot of pelvic floor workouts on my Instagram, but I wanted to post a little workout, along with some images, on my blog today!

These exercises help build new connective tissue, which is crucial for a strong pelvic floor and deep core. They rebuild the connective tissue between the abdominals, and bring them back together (or minimize the separation during pregnant). They are SUPER important if you have diastasic recti. They also reduce lower back pain, hip pain, and neck pain during and after pregnancy. They minimize incontinence which is the most common postpartum issue. They help the body recover better after delivery, and actually help you during delivery! Needless to say, pelvic floor work is very, very important and very beneficial!

***please excuse my very serious face in these pictures haha. They were taken for a project and the images are much, much smaller haha *face palm*.

PELVIC FLOOR WORKOUT - repeat 3-4x

  1. Glute bridge marching x 24-30

  2. Reverse plank heel slides x 16-20

  3. Zippers x 24-30

  4. Stability ball wall squats x 10-12

  5. Stability ball hips thrust x 10-15

GLUTE BRIDGE MARCHING

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REVERSE PLANK HEEL SLIDES

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ZIPPERS

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STABILITY BALL WALL SQUATS

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STABILITY BALL HIP THRUSTS

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Day Of Eating

Happy Tuesday!! I haven’t posted a full day of eating in a while, and I want to get back into consistently posting them because I know I get lots of ideas when others post theirs. To be honest, It’s been hard finding my groove again with nutrition since going through the divorce.

There were days I didn’t have much of an appetite and also days I was like “X, Y, and Z just happened, so I’m getting ice cream” haha. I’m starting to get my footing again, and feel more like a consistent, functional human being. This is just how I’m fueling my body right now, not what everyone should be doing. I believe “healthy” looks different on every single person. This is just to give some ideas, and help if you feel like you’re in a slump!

PRE-BREAKFAST

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Normally, I have my warm water with apple cider vinegar drink (posted HERE), but I’ve been using these Flora Healthy wellness shots instead lately. They have the same type of benefits, and I love starting my day off with a little somethin’ extra.

BREAKFAST

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Overnight oats, as per ushe. I post this recipe a lot on my Instagram, but I just do 1/2 cup of oats, 3/4 cup water, a sprinkle of pink salt, and 1 scoop of IdealRaw chocolate peanut butter protein in a jar. Mix it together and store overnight. I add hemp seeds, natural peanut butter, and some type of berries in the morning! **Use SWOLE for 10% off IdealRaw products.

SNACK

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The kids and I headed to the park once Jack woke up from his morning nap, so I grabbed a Square Organics (you can use “goodfortheswole” for 20% off) and some baby carrots for the road.

LUNCH

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Leftover salsa chicken (just throw chicken and salsa in the crockpot, and cook on high for 4 hours), with spinach, cherry tomatoes from the garden, green onions, avocado, and cheese on corn tortillas. Probably the least Mexican tacos ever made, but they hit the spot!

SNACK

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Iced crio bru (I posted about the benefits HERE), and 2 rice cakes with cottage cheese and avocado.

DINNER

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Turkey taco soup! I’m so ready for fall and all the good food that comes with it.

SNACK

This was after a leg workout, so I had 8 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 scoop IdealRaw chocolate peanut butter protein, 2 scoops of IdealRaw superfood blend, and 1 scoop Collagen For Her collagen peptides. **Again, you can use SWOLE for 10% off any IdealRaw products!

Friday Favourites

We got back from a family vacation to Newport Beach yesterday evening, and there is a true MOUNTAIN of clothes on my bed just waiting to be sorted and put away. Holidays are the best, but unpacking is the worst, especially with little kids stuff too. 

We're easing back into our regular routine today, and I wanted to throw up this Friday Favourites post because it's been a minute, and I have a list of things that I love/have found really helpful lately. I hope you find them helpful too! HAPPY FRIDAY!!!

LOOPY CASES

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I bought this Loopy Case back in February, so I'm not sure why I'm only sharing it now, but it's amazing! I used to drop my phone at least 10x a day (triple that if we're counting how many times Piper dropped it a day). I think I've only dropped it like...maybe once since getting this case. It has a loop at the back for you to hold onto it, and it makes it so nice when I have my hands full with Jack, bags, keys, toys, etc. because I just loop a finger through and I'm good to go. It's honestly been a game changer since having kids, and I'll never go back to a regular case. 

I don't have a discount code with them, but I follow someone who does! Hers is "SWENSON10" and gets you 10% off if you're interested! I have the White Marble Original.

NATIVE

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My sisters all use Native shoes for their kids, and I finally got some on Amazon a couple of weeks ago for Piper. THEY ARE THE BEST FOR TODDLERS! They are waterproof, easy for them to put on by themselves, lightweight, and they don't rub. Piper's been wearing them non-stop since I got them. They have a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, with over 2,300 reviews...so you know they're leeeegit!

VROOM

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Someone on Instagram posted about this app, so I downloaded it and LOVE it! They post a different learning activity to do with your child each day (you can add multiple kids and each has a different activity based on their age). I love doing this kind of stuff with my kids, but I run out of ideas, so this is really helpful, and you can set a reminder too!

ART SMOCK

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I took the kids to Ikea a couple of weeks ago, and saw this smock in the kids section. Piper is probably THE messiest toddler in the planet. She is a true savage when it comes to eating, colouring, and painting. Need I remind anyone of her painting a few weeks ago (see picture below). I never want to limit her creativity, but also...can you not, Piper. It was only $4.99 at Ikea (I don't know why it's more expensive on Amazon), but either way, it's been perfect to let her create, but also limit the clean up. She calls it her "painting dress", and it goes all the way down to her toes!

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Piper has the best curly hair, but it always has to be tied or clipped back otherwise she can't see a thing haha. I LOVE these headbands from Why Knot Bows because they are soooo cute, and also do an awesome job at keeping her hair back. They come in the best colours too! I love all the neutral and fall colours.