During my training for the Dublin City Marathon, I go for a long run on the weekends. This weekend, I wrecked my hip. During the week, I could feel it niggle so I rested, but after 8 miles on my long run, I had to pull up, make the call and get a lift home. I'm very peeved about it, but also, it actually happened on the other hip the last time I trained for the marathon. As with all challenges in life, I need to listen to the lesson in this! I'm sharing this as I know it will help a lot of women, regardless if you are pregnant, had a baby a few months or a few years ago!
I know myself I need to incorporate more glute (butt) strengthening work into my routine. I'm fairly flexible, so often what happens in the body is if someone is really flexible in some part of their body, they need to build strength or stability. And the reverse is also true. You'll often see very strong guys in a yoga class who are really inflexible. Finding the balance is key, particularly as you increase mileage when you are doing marathon training. Now, I fully appreciate many of you are not currently training for an endurance event (or are you?! Birth can be a long process at times!). However, having weak glutes (your buttock muscles to be specific!!) can lead to so much pain in the body - pregnant or not. It can lead to back pain, hip, knee, pelvic pain...all of which can MASSIVELY affect a pregnant mama, and any other mama too.
If you happen to be reading this blog when it's released, I'm committing to sharing 5 days of 'butt strengthening' exercises, starting on Monday 19th August! I'm going to go live each morning at 6.30am on my Instagram account and do 5-10 mins of ass strengthening poses. I hope you'll join me! My details are: https://www.instagram.com/nurturemamas/.
If you can't join me each day, here are some of the exercises I'll be sharing. Please note, all are suitable for all stages of pregnancy, but omit the weights where necessary:
Bridge Pose - feet facing forward, knees pointing to the ceiling. Start lying on your back and pretend you are squeezing a ball between your knees. Lift your pelvic floor up towards your heart and start to peel your back up off the floor. Slowly lift up, squeeze your butt at the top and lower down with control.
Bridge Pose with weight - same as above but place a weight onto your public bone. *Note - no weight if you are pregnant.
Bridge Pose with resistance band - make sure the band is super tight around your knees. When you get to the top, pulse your knees away from each other, then lower back down with control.
Single Leg Bridge Pose - this is challenging! Make sure both hips are lifting up and down with control at the same time. Try 8 reps per side.
Reverse Lunge - a firm favourite of mine. Ensure your hips are facing forward and lift your back heel off the floor. If you are feeling wobbly (particularly if you are pregnant), spread the distance between your feet. Keep your shoulders on top of your hips.
Reverse Lunge with weights - as per above but add weights. If you are heavily pregnant, you already have a nice weight inside!!
Squats - the classic butt strengthener! Feet wider than hip width and sit back into your seat. Your weight should be back into your heels. As you come up, thrust your hips forward and squeeze that ass!
Single leg squat - this is definitely my weakness! Your knee should go straight over the centre of your foot here. Hold on to the wall for balance if you need to. Make sure to lift the pelvic floor up and the tummy muscles in as you perform this exercise.
Clam - a runners nightmare! Don't collapse into the shoulder which is holding you up. Stack one hip directly on top of the other one. The tendency is for the top hip to want to roll back. Keep your ankles glued together. Open and close your knees together. You will feel this right into your top butt cheek! Ooowie.
Clam variation - if you feel your hip flexor (the muscle running from your thigh up to your pelvis in the front) aching in the Clam exercise above, do this one instead. Leave the bottom leg flat on the ground, and open and close the top leg.
Side-to-side step with bands - your resistance band needs to be very tight. Slightly bend the knees and keep walking over to the right side for 8-10 reps, then walk to the left side for the same.
You should aim for between 8-15 reps of each exercise; incorporate 5 of these exercises in one round, and do each round 3 times. Check out my Instagram each morning this week when I'll be demonstrating them all in the #5daystoastrongerbutt challenge! I hope you'll join me for the challenge this week on Instagram! My handle is @Nurturemamas.
Here's to strengthening our touchies together, getting strong and preventing pain in the body!
Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Yoga Instructor, working with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, birth and Motherhood. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com.