Postpartum recovery is like running a marathon. Except that you had no idea you would be running a race until it started. And you’re sprinting the entire time. READY SET GO.
Funny that I would use a running analogy, since I have never claimed to be a runner. I cannot understand the burning desire to strap on shoes and just run, Forrest, run.
If I’m running, you should be, too. #danger
That’s the best way I can explain how ill-prepared I was for the postpartum period. I knew there would be a steep learning curve, but I had no idea just how hard it would be to climb while severely sleep-deprived. I give my body major props for the healing it was able to do while I utterly neglected it.
At some point after my first baby was born, after she started sleeping occasionally and we were starting to see the light at the end of “survival mode”, I started forcing myself to do exercise videos even though it didn’t feel good. I wanted the residual pudge around my middle to disappear, so I ran myself through such wringers as Six Week Six-Pack and Killer Buns and Thighs.
Funny, I ended up with killer pain in my knees and a more distended stomach instead.
In my frustration, I turned to the interwebz to figure out why. (It’s what I do.)
I stumbled across the concept of diastasis recti (DR) and had a lightbulb moment. Ding!
DR is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscles, the proverbial “six-pack”. It is common. Very common. Studies have found it to occur in up to 100% of women in the third trimester.
Which leads me to the question:
WHY DID NO ONE KNOW ABOUT THIS??
Most mainstream medical professionals will tell you that there’s nothing to be done about DR. Possibly surgery, possibly mesh if there’s also a hernia. Maybe exercise modifications to not make it worse.
Support garments. Yikes.
I didn’t like those answers. I kept looking.
I’m guessing there won’t be any huge awareness campaigns for DR and pelvic floor dysfunction until there are big-ticket, marketable products for it. Better yet, a pill. You can bet your boots every other commercial and side of a bus would feature a frowning mama with a split down the middle.
Thanks to the Google gods, I found Mutu System—a program especially for postpartum mamas with an emphasis on DR and pelvic floor recovery.
(Fun Fact: Mutu stands for the phrase “mummy tummy”, which, yes, I do feel a little weird about.)
The idea is to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles (and allow them to relax where necessary), improve whole body alignment (a foreign concept to me), and regain overall function through exercise and daily movement—both using beneficial movements and avoiding those that would perpetuate damage.
As luck would have it, I found Mutu while I was expecting my second baby. Though I read a few recommendations to start it (or at least read through the initial info) while pregnant, I didn’t. Bad decision. I really wish I had started earlier. BUT, I had a plan to buy it following the birth of my son, and I did.
Once I did start moving and learning, I realized just how much I didn’t know. It could have been overwhelming, but the program made this knowledge seem accessible.
A few of the things that blew my sleep-deprived mind:
- That wearing not only heeled shoes but ANY shoes with a positive heel (aka higher than the toes) can throw your entire body out of whack, from your toes to your neck and your DR in between.
- That doing exercises specifically designed for a postpartum body CAN improve function, but that virtually no one knows to do this in the first place, much less how.
- That I made my situation worse by forcing myself to do the “wrong” exercise than if I’d done nothing at all.
What the program is like: There are Core and Intensive (HIIT) videos and a schedule of how to implement them along with walking and food changes. If you need a lot of guidance as far as exactly what to do, this program delivers. The “new” version (I used mostly the older version that was similar overall but laid out differently) is user friendly and nicely explanatory.
I admit I stopped and started the program several times. Something always got in the way of finishing the twelve weeks, as life does. I was pretty low energy from both sleep deprivation and my own autoimmune/nutrient depletion/mitochondrial issues.
I pushed through and eventually completed 16 consecutive weeks of Mutu. I felt like a rock star. Wendy, the founder and star of all the old version videos, was my new BFF.
I wasn’t where I wanted to be as far as form (I hung on to a lot of second baby weight from sleep deprivation–another discussion), but I saw loads of improvement in function. LOADS.
I could lay down in bed without my back hurting. I could wear my baby in a carrier without my body aching. I could walk and jump without feeling like my insides might fall out.
Success! So where did I go from there?
I intentionally stepped off the Mutu wagon because it was too much for me. Instead of increasing my energy, I felt depleted. Exercise in chronic fatigue and autoimmunity is a can of worms I’m not going to open here (yet), but suffice it to say that I knew I had pushed my limits for too long, especially with the poor sleep I’d been getting for my kids’ entire young lives.
I started only doing the Core portions of the workouts. I kept hoping Mutu would come out with a DR safe yoga program. I really wanted to move mindfully, but I was afraid of undoing all my hard work with one cobra pose or bulging plank.
When I was searching for information about safe yoga poses, I ran across another highly recommended program called Restore Your Core by Lauren Ohayon. I joined the Facebook community, learned a bit about her yoga-based, whole-body approach to core restoration, and I was sold.
RYC is more my speed, and Lauren’s knowledge and ability to directly help her clients is amazing. She gives in-depth information and shows personal attention to her group members on the regular.
What the program is like: The videos are divided into Core and Flow videos, with four levels of each. There are also many helpful foundational videos to get you started and/or troubleshoot specific problems. The interface seems user friendly so far, but it isn’t quite as structured as Mutu. I prefer it this way, with guidance but a little more room to breathe.
I love the pace of the course, the focus on breathing, and that I’m not exhausted when I’m done. I used to think that if I wasn’t bone tired and sore after a workout that I was wasting my time. I know better now.
The stretching, psoas release, and resting portions of the program were just the restoration my tired body AND MIND needed. Still need.
If I want a little extra oomph in my workout time, I do a warmup from Mutu. Maybe one round of an Intensive workout. THAT’S IT. I recently purchased Lauren’s follow up course to RYC, Challenge Your Core, but I haven’t tried it yet. My thoughts to come!
For now, I’m going to go strap on my zero drop shoes and take a little walk. Both programs highly recommend that!
Postpartum core issues are super common, including diastasis recti.
Pick Mutu if you want more of a traditional, HIIT-based program.
Pick RYC if you want a more gentle, mobility-focused, yoga-based course that lends itself well to troubleshooting specific problems.
I like both and use them for different reasons.
With love for your core function,
Lindsay, the Rogue Pharmacist
P.S. I bought these both with my own hard-earned cash. My high opinions of these programs are legit. I get nothing if you decide to purchase them. (For now—have your people contact my people.)