Postpartum Fitness: Stretching with Your Stroller

In continuing our discussion on fitness in the new year, we present a step-by-step piece on how to stretch your body while out and about with your baby. Christine Krauth, a pre- and postnatal Pilates instructor, shows us how to achieve an all-over body stretch using simple movements.

 

By Christine Krauth

I recently taught a “Pilates and Running” workshop to some members of Moms Run This Town: a very cool group of gals who run. A lot. With strollers. I am also a stroller runner and I think that if you run with a stroller you are a) a rock star and b) should be given extra mileage credit: like, 3 miles with a stroller is the equivalent of 4.3 miles without.

So, with that figured out let’s learn some cool stretches you can do WITH your stroller at anytime: before, during, or after your run or walk.

Lower Back and Shoulders Stretch

This first one is great for a tight lower back (lumbar spine) and tense shoulders ( ’cause you know as you are pushing that thing up a hill you are using your shoulders, girl):

  1. Stand with your arms long out on the stroller handle bar, your feet in a parallel position, hip width apart and in line with your knees.
  2. Gently lower your chin and engage your abdominal muscles (think belly button to spine!), keep your shoulders down and round over your hips extending your torso out from your hips. Try and keep your hips over your ankles.
  3. Get a nice lengthening in your spine by sinking your weight into the stroller bar and reaching your arms as long as you can.
  4. Round your spine (imagine you are a Halloween cat!) and roll up one vertebrae at a time back to your starting position.
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Hips and Lower Back Stretch

The second part of the Stroller Stretches is specifically for your hips but also feels good if you feel tight in your lower back. Honestly, it feels good regardless! If you feel a little pain in your hips while you run or walk, take a moment and try this stretch:

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart, hands on the stroller, feet parallel.
  2. Lift your right leg off the ground and cross it over your left leg (like a man would sit in a chair). Make sure your right leg crosses above the knee on top of your left quad.
  3. Bend your left leg watching the alignment of your knee and foot. Do not let your knee pass your ankle!
  4. You will feel a stretch in your gluteals and hip on the right side. Try and keep your right leg as open as possible. Count to 10 as you breath deep (slowly. sometimes it’s hard to count slow if you are in the middle of a run).
  5. Repeat on the left side.
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Calf and Hip Flexor Stretch

The third installment is a calf and hip flexor stretch. Your calf muscles induce foot flexion AND help stabilize your ankles. Your hip flexors are a group of muscles whose primary action is to lift the upper part of the leg to the body. If you are walking or running, you use your hip flexors and your calves.

  1. Stand with your feet parallel, hip width apart.
  2. Lunge your right leg forward. Remember: your knee should be directly on top of your right foot and your foot should still be parallel.
  3. You will feel a stretch in the hip flexors on your left leg at this point. If you want more of a stretch, try pulling your left hip forward a little. Be subtle; it won’t take much.
  4. Lift your left heel and press into the ball of your foot.
  5. Lower your left heel slowly, pressing the heel into the ground. This is your calf stretch.
  6. Switch sides by bringing your right leg back and lunging out with your left leg.
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Christine teaches Classical, Prenatal and Post Natal Pilates at ProHealth, a Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio. Christine practiced Pilates throughout the pregnancy and after the birth of her first child in 2009. She found that Pilates helped her body tremendously to adapt, support and facilitate the work of carrying and birthing her child. This revelation motivated Christine to empower other women through Pilates during their pregnancies.

How Pregnancy Taught Me to Trust (and Like) My Body

 

The following is a guest post from Christine Krauth, a certified Traditional Authentic Pilates instructor and Prenatal and Postnatal Specialist certified by The Center for Women’s Fitness, who practices at The Pilates Loft in Newnan, Georgia. To find a certified prenatal Pilates instructor near you, visit  www.thecenterforwomensfitness.com.

 

When I found out I was expecting a baby in the fall of 2008, I remember feeling so thrilled and terrified at the same time. I was beginning the Traditional Authentic Pilates (TAP) certification program and was now faced with a difficult and unique set of problems: How would I complete such a physically and mentally intensive program with a pregnancy? How would I stay connected to my own body enough to dictate movements to clients? I remember confiding in my boss, Mary Ann, telling her “Please don’t be upset with me…I’m pregnant.” She looked at me as if I had two heads and said “Why on earth would I be upset with you?” She listened as I proceeded to tell her my fear of not being able to get certified and then she gave me some wonderful advice. She said to be patient and learn about how my body would change so I could work with my body rather than against it.

As I thought about what Mary Ann said, I began to realize that pregnancy for me was going to not only be a huge physical change but an enormous mental one as well. I had spent the better part of my life trying to work against my body; trying to lose weight here, to trim this, get rid of that, to look better there. To be honest, my body and I weren’t the best of friends. In fact, it is safe to say we were enemies.

Pregnancy forced me to embrace changes in my body I never would have condoned before. As I watched my belly grow, my hips widen and my feet swell, I continued to teach and practice Pilates. We modified and created movements to accommodate my body. I learned that strengthening my pelvic floor was an investment in the future…especially if I wanted to laugh uncontrollably or jump rope again! Although my abdominal muscles had opened laterally across my belly to make room for the life inside me, I could still do things to strengthen my oblique abdominals. I strengthened my arms, my inner thighs, my behind, and practiced walking without pronating. All the while I was still getting bigger (and bigger) and for the first time in my life I was able to embrace it! Gaining weight didn’t make me want to cut the calories, instead it made me smile and think about how my baby must be eating really well.

After I had my baby girl, I began exercising slowly. Once I received permission from my doctor, I started strengthening my abdominals gradually with the tiniest movements. Then I began taking a class at my studio again. I will never forget my first class back. It was one of our beginner classes and I thought I would breeze through it… man, was I wrong. Needless to say, I was humbled. But I stuck with it, and before I knew it, I was back to where I started before my pregnancy and felt even better than I had before. I completed my certification in the spring of 2010, nine months after I had Grace.

The thing is, I learned that my body was capable of something amazing. I gained respect for what I was naturally given and learned to embrace change that I couldn’t control. I learned that to be “connected” could be taken literally in the sense that you “connect” your abs while you do your Hundreds (a Pilates practice), but also figuratively in my daily life. I believe the lesson of working with your body rather than against it is perhaps the most important thing to remember while practicing Pilates, and applies equally to pregnancy and birth. I feel so fortunate to have had the tandem experience of pregnancy and Pilates because it taught me something priceless: work with what you have to make your body healthy and strong. Now my body and I are close. I might even call my body my best friend. Unless I eat too much cheese…then, unfortunately, we are at odds.

With all we are going through in the world, we need to remember some very important qualities of life. We are given one body, one brain, one heart, one soul. It is our job to take care of it. If we neglect our body, we are not true to our inner self. The SELF that makes us… us. Be true to you, take care of you and connect your mind to your body.