Well, these past 12-14 days have been pretty interesting on this journey of overcoming diastasis recti naturally. If you’ve missed post one, I would go over to that one here and start there, then you can come back! 😊
I’ll say this, when I realized that I had diastasis recti (here on out referred to as DR), I was honestly super relieved to have an answer as to why that one spot on my belly wouldn’t “go away”. It wasn’t fat, it was, well, an injury I guess you could say.
Over the past several weeks, I have had to push myself a bit in ways I haven’t had to before.
What I mean by that is, that this process is super hard for me from a mental perspective. I am hyper aware of the way my body looks and sometimes I am harder on myself and the way I look physically than I should be.
This is why I post in my Instagram stories sweaty post workout selfies because I’ve gotten so much feedback that gals are encouraged to know that a fitness professional doesn’t look cute post workout.
It’s true, there’s nothing cute about my post workout selfies!
Before I had my sweet baby boy, my abs were one of the things I was the most proud of, and in all honesty, since I’ve had him, I’ve had a hard time being a two piece bathing suit.
I’ve still worn one, but I wasn’t as confident as I had been. This process of overcoming diastasis recti has humbled me and made me realize that I’m not only doing this for me, but if it can help you, then that’s all the better.
Taking pictures of my belly in what is considered an unflattering way to show the realness of overcoming this injury, is not exactly the most comfortable thing!
This process has pushed me to get outside my comfort zone to be of help to mamas that want to try to overcome this injury naturally.
Remember, I’m not a doc, I’m simply a trainer and coach doing an experiment on myself and sharing my results. Sometimes DR needs surgery to be fixed, it’s up to you and your doc to decide what’s best for you.
Let’s start off with my progress through the past two weeks and then we’ll dive into what I’ve been doing.
This is me on day one of starting this experiment and on day 12. If you follow me on Instagram, you have already seen this picture, but I’m sharing again for those that don’t follow along with the fun on the Gram.
You’ll notice that there is already more of a flatness to my stomach like those muscles are “sewing” themselves back up.
I can definitely tell a difference in my ab strength in this process just 12 days in.
Now that you’ve seen my progress, let’s dive into what has been going on the past 2 weeks.
First thing I did to start this experiment, so that I could start as close to the solution as I could, was think about those muscles, how they operate, what they are supposed to be able to do, etc.
Then I went through exercises in my head that would target those muscles and here’s what I came up with to start:
- Heel drops
- Bird Dogs
- Supine Hip Abduction with Band
I’m only sharing these first three as these are the only three I have been doing over the past few weeks that are specific to overcoming diastasis recti.
I have a list of exercises that I will be working in as the strength of my abdominal wall increases so that I do a gradual increase of intensity.
3 Things I’ve found that are specific to my experiment with DR:
- Slow and controlled is better – this means that with every single rep on these exercises, my focus is not on just getting to my target number of reps, it is focusing in on those muscles and going nice and slow to keep them engaged. Going quicker caused me to let go of those muscles more easily.
- Twisting exercises did nothing to target that lower part of the belly – what I mean is, an exercise like a Russian twist, I could not feel in my lower abdomen. Those I could feel in my obliques and my upper core. Which means I will not be including any twisting exercises in this experiment
- This is not going to happen overnight –as with all things health and fitness, there is no quick fix. Even if you made the decision to go to your doctor and have him or her perform surgery to fix your abdominal wall, you would still have the time of prepping for surgery, the surgery, and the recovery time. It takes time. So, this process of working to fix it naturally will take time and effort. Not only that, I will need to continue to put things into my workout routine moving forward that will continue to strengthen and form those core muscles.
Let’s start with heel drops
Here is an example of what a heel drop looks like. Legs straight, feel flat, legs together, and lower your heels to the ground while keeping your core pulled in and together.
Remember, work on pulling your abdominal muscles towards each other and not just “sucking in” towards your back.
Only lower your heels as far as your abs will let you before they release from the braced position.
Once they release, the exercise, in my opinion and experience, is considered mute. It will not have done you any good. So, take it right up to the edge of those muscles releasing, and then pull your legs back up.
Next up – bird dogs
This exercise looks very unassuming, but when done properly, I assure you that you will feel it all through your abs.
Get down on the floor on all fours and put a mat underneath your knees for comfort.
Make sure that your shoulders are directly over your arms and hands and your back is flat and not arch or dipped.
Engage your core by “buttoning up” your abdominal muscles just like we talked about for heel drops. Then take your right arm and reach it straight out in front of you while simultaneously reaching your left leg out behind you (pictured below). Reach that hand for the wall in front of you and push your leg away from you towards the opposite wall.
Hold for just a few seconds while breathing through this.
Then come back to starting position and repeat on the opposite side, left arm/right leg.
Like I said, this exercise is very unassuming and doesn’t look like much, but it will surprise you at how you can feel it through your abs.
Here’s a quick tip –
If you are unable to keep your core engaged raising both your arm and your leg at the same time, then don’t sweat it. Do your arm only, then your leg only, and repeat for all of your limbs.
Once you get the hang of that, work up to doing both your arm and your leg at the same time, even if it’s just for a few reps at a time; then, as you get stronger increase your reps.
Supine hip abduction with band
Now, this one might have you wondering what it has to do with DR and I’ll admit that this exercise was truly an experiment.
Allow me to quickly explain my thinking, mama.
The supine hip abduction with band works on the glute and the outer parts of your legs and hips. Which are sister muscles to the lower abdominal wall. If my hips and glutes (which are highly effected during pregnancy from stretching out and a growing baby), are strong, then that would inadvertently effect my lower abdomen.
I think I’m onto something because as you saw from my progress picture, there is progress being made.
I’ll report back in post three in 2 more weeks on if I still think this exercise is relevant.
For this exercise, sit down and put a band around your legs, right above your knees at the curve of your quad muscle. Then, lie flat on your back, engage your core, and press your legs out against the band and back in.
That’s it. That’s the extent of that exercise.
Now, you’re probably wondering about sets and reps, right?
Personally, I have been changing it up to see what works best. I’ve done 4×10, 3×12, 5×8, etc.
Here’s what I have concluded that is specific to this experiment:
Your rep number and set will depend on the strength of your abs and the ability to do the movements well and efficiently.
Example: on the heel drops, if you can do 6 solid heel drops, but you start to lose form on that seventh rep, then do several sets of 6.
As you feel yourself getting stronger, increase your reps and lower your sets.
Example: 3×12, 3×15, 2×20. Once you reach a 2×20, I would say that we could increase difficulty of exercises, which will be talked about in post three.
Taking these exercises and either swapping them out for something more difficult, or making a few changes to these to make them more challenging.
But… More to come on that.
These first two weeks have been tough. I haven’t really done these while I’m at the gym, I have been doing them right before I go to sleep at night because I will do them, then stretch and foam roll and get right into bed.
They have not been easy and in all transparency, there were days that I didn’t want to do them because they are so difficult.
I can lift heavy weight and push myself super hard through a circuit or a run, but these exercises have been brutally hard.
Why? Well, first, I’m working on a weakness and this right now is the weakest part of my body which makes it even more hard.
Secondly, I think I was afraid it wouldn’t work. Translation? Afraid of failure, which, is something I work on overcoming every single day.
Failure means that you’re trying and you’ve simply found a way that didn’t work.
What’s awesome is that so far, I’m seeing that what I’m experimenting is working.
Alright, mama. There ya have it. That’s the update on the DR experiment and post #3 is in the works.
If you want to know exactly when it is posted, throw in your email below, and I will not only let you know when post number three is up (which will be in the weekly Coach Amber’s Fit Mama’s newsletter on Fridays), I’ll send you my top three tips for understanding your body type to reach your goals for free.
Don’t worry, I don’t spam and I’ll keep your email safe and will never ever sell it to someone.
Yes, this journey will be tough, but from what I’m seeing so far, it will be totally worth it!