Part 2 of my Postnatal Exercise Classes lowdown

What some of the most popular disciplines and classes will do for your baby belly… and what they won’t, as well as things to look for when going to any of these types of postnatal classes. In case you missed last week on Postnatal Pilates, you can view that here.

This week, an exercise class format that has taken the workout world by storm in recent years: Boot Camp

What Is It?

Boot camp refers to fitness training performed in groups, often outdoors, based to lesser or greater degrees on military fitness training. This means running, sprinting, pull ups, burpees, squats, push ups, lunges, and plyometric exercises (intensive, explosive movements usually involving jumping, where the muscle is stretched before it is contracted to build power and strength).

Boot camp sessions are promoted as, +  focus on, fat / weight loss, as well as the camaraderie and motivation of a group.  The instructor may dress and yell like a military drill sergeant, but usually they won’t, and always the emphasis is on encouraging  and motivating participants to push themselves ‘to their limit’. Classes vary in terms of difficulty and strictness, with more female or ‘new mum’-targetted classes  becoming increasingly popular. Formats vary, but you will probable do timed, circuit training style routines, possibly in pairs or small groups and with a fun competitive element.

What Can It Do?

A well run bootcamp exercise class will boost postnatal fat loss and improve cardiovascular fitness and strength. Intensive bursts of exercise, based on interval training principles will result in fast, efficient weight loss, provided they are combined with a nutritional plan, and of course, performed consistently.  The strengthening exercises tend to be large muscle group, functional moves which are great for all over toning and fat loss. If you enjoy a group class +  a fun, fast paced competitive environment and you find the drill style motivational – you’re going to have a blast.

Limitations / What To Watch Out For

The downside is that this type of workout can be a minefield of potential injury risk for a postnatal woman. As always on this blog, I use the term ‘postnatal’ liberally. If you have had babies, however many months (or years) ago, and your abdominal muscles, pelvic floor and posture have not been correctly put back together, then you count as postnatal!

Boot camp postnatal exercise may cause or worsen back pain (upper/shoulder or lower) as a result of  performing high intensity exercise with poor posture and lack of  core strength or stability.

Continued pelvic floor problems or even prolapse can be a probelm. This can be due to either a complete lack of abdominal / core recovery, or the type of core work that neglects the pelvic floor… it is not uncommon for these classes to include planks and other theoretically sound core strengthening moves, but with no instruction or education of the pelvic floor as part of the process. It’s all very well ‘switching on’ the abdominal muscles but as explained in the MUTU System, the pelvic floor is an integral and essential part of this.

High impact work too early after childbirth can cause knee or other ligament problems, as well as worsen pelvic floor weakness. This is related to the presence of the hormone relaxin in the body.

I have seen a Diastasis Recti significantly worsened by the abdominal crunches and oblique twists often included on boot camp programmes. Chances are your drill sergeant didn’t check you for a diastasis recti (a gap in your abdominal muscles) before you started the session… and chances are also that if you queried it, they wouldn’t be a specialists in correcting it or adapting your session. Straining and inappropriate abdominal work can worsen or contribute to a weakened area or abdominal / umbilical hernia.

Mums who suffered with Sypmphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) in pregnancy, are susceptible to a recurrence of  pain, due to strain, poor posture and lack of core stability.

Wendy’s Expert (Personal ;)) Opinion

OK, enough of the doom and gloom already! Of course you’re not going to (or if you did, you’d be bloody unlucky) suffer from ALL of the above. But they are very real potential consequences if your body is either not ready for, or not correctly instructed in, these type of exercises.

Those of you reading this who are already familiar with the MUTU System will probably be thinking ‘but lunges, squats, intensive interval training and even some plyometric work are all very much included in the programme! What is she on about?’

But (and it’s a big BUT) none of these movements are recommended before the foundations have been laid, and correct abdominal and pelvic floor stabilising movements have been integrated into EVERY ONE of those moves. Of course mums want fat loss, but they also need stabilising realigning, and repairing.

Boot camp has a lot of good points, not least that it is  a fun, sociable, intensive, fat burning workout. But it also has great potential for injury or unsatisfactory results for a postnatal mum. Get the right class, that understands all of the above issues, and that you combine with specific postural realignment (remember a mum isn’t necessarily quite straight when she starts..) and above all with repair of your abdominals and pelvic floor… (and so long as you like being shouted at ;) it can be a great workout!

What do you think? Are you an instructor, particpant, enthusiastic fan or ‘wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole’?… Do leave a comment and let us know!