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How To Release and Relax Through Your Core

Learning how to release and relax through your core during pregnancy is extremely important for properly strengthening your deep core, preventing diastasis recti and preparing your body for labor, delivery and recovery postpartum. 

I see women all the time trying so hard to activate their pelvic floor that they end up gripping in their glutes or sucking their belly to their spine. These actions shut off the pelvic floor and can cause more harm than good (think incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction + more).

Instead, I want you to embrace the idea that less is more. When you go through this exercise, I want you to listen to your body and not force anything. If you don’t feel the connection right away, that is completely ok! Visualization is a powerful tool because once the mind understands what the body should be doing, the body is quick to follow!

Breath Exercise

I want you to sit up tall and take a deep breath into your belly, pelvis and pelvic floor.

On your exhale, let your ribs, hips, pelvis and pelvic floor relax as you are finding space in your body with your breath.

If you are tight in certain areas (ex: obliques), breathe deep into those muscles and tell them that it’s okay to relax.

Feel connected with your body?

Good! Now, let’s dive into some movement. Here are two exercises you can do to help create space in your body, lengthen that fascia and begin strengthening your pelvic floor.

Arch + Rounds

You are first going to want to get on your knees and double up your mat or put a towel underneath your knees if needed.

While on all fours, send your sitz bones back (boney part of your bum) and remember…DON’T tuck your pelvis.

Place your heels together while reaching your arms forward and letting your head just hang.

On your inhale, do a pelvic tilt as you slightly round your back and then on your exhale, go back to neutral.

As always, keep a light pelvic floor connection as you move through this exercise.

Mermaid Stretch

Place one arm behind you as you activate your glutes and lightly zip up from your pelvic floor.

Press up and extend your arm if that feels good for your body. On your inhale, you’re going to visualize your breath going down the sides of your body.

Stay in that position and take a few breaths before you come back down. Repeat this movement 3-5 times on each side.

Learning how to release and relax through your core during pregnancy can not only help you during pregnancy, but postpartum as well! For more information, workouts, nutrition information and more, check out my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership!

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What Your Mucus Plug Has To Do With Labor

As a Birth Doula, I love a well-timed call to let me know that my client has lost her mucus plug!

Just, me? Okay moving on!

This is one of the first signs of true labor and a great indication that the baby will be arriving soon. However, I use the term “soon” loosely as it can still be a few hours or days.

Here’s What A Mucus Plug Is:

According to AmericanPregnancy.org, a mucus plug blocks the opening of the cervix to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus.

As the cervical blood vessels rupture and the cervix begins to thin and dilate, the plug will fall out, ideally, between 37-41 weeks. If you think your plug has fallen out early (before 37 weeks or full term) make sure to notify your care team. 

The mucus plug will either come out in pieces or one large chunk and can be various shades and colors. Pink, yellow, white, and brown-tinged mucus is considered normal. If you are experiencing any bleeding, red-colored mucus or a big increase in discharge along with or in addition to the plug, I recommend you call and send a picture to your care team. 

Here’s How Your Mucus Plug Relates To Labor:

The time between plug loss and active labor will vary from mother to mother. Some mamas can lose their plug, their water breaks and then they can deliver the baby within hours. Some will see weeks pass from plug loss to labor.

If you experience a large time frame from when you lose your mucus plug to your due date, you’ll want to ask your care team a couple things: 

  • Is it safe to bathe after plug loss?
  • Is it safe to have sex after plug loss?
  • Is it safe to swim after plug loss?

Some providers do not recommend these activities because of the risk of infection. 

In general, after plug loss, it’s a good idea to stay released and relaxed. Make sure your bag is packed and your birth ball is inflated because baby is coming soon!

Is there anything else you’d like to learn more about from me? Let me know on Instagram or in the Knocked-Up Fitness private members community!

To learn more about our monthly membership that helps pregnant mamas prepare their bodies for pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery, click >>HERE<<.

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Side-Lying Leg Lifts

Ladies, I am a huuuuge fan of mixing up your movement practice during pregnancy.

I mean we all know how pregnancy goes, one day you want to eat the whole jar of pickles and the next you can barely stand the smell of them!

What I’m saying is our body craves variety when it comes to movement and during pregnancy, it’s no different.

So today I want to show you a hip strengthening exercise that I LOVE.

These side-lying leg lifts are great because they are great in helping to minimize (and even prevent) back pain + hip pain. Even better news is that this movement can be done throughout your ENTIRE pregnancy as well as postpartum.

Side-Lying Leg Lifts
  • Lay down on your mat
  • Relaxing your head and neck
  • Your bottom knee is bent
  • Your top leg is out
  • Do your best to keep your hips stacked
    • If you are in your third trimester, you can put a pillow under your belly (make sure you are still connecting through your deep core)
  • Lightly zip up through your pelvic floor and deep core
  • Reach long through your heel
  • Reach out and lift
    • ONLY work through a range of motion that feels good for your body
    • If you feel ANY stress in your low back, decrease your range of motion
  • Control your movement on the way up as well as the way down
    • Controlling your movement on the way down is an excellent way to get stronger, faster!
  • Do 10-12 reps and then switch sides 
    • When you come up, make sure you use your arms to push you up! 

Make sure you are staying connected through your pelvic floor as you move through these side-lying leg lifts. If you feel any tension creeping into your back, take a break and then do a couple more. 

Side-lying leg lifts are a great movement for increasing stability, strengthening those outer hips and preventing any hip or back pain from creeping in! 

For more exercise breakdowns, easy to follow workout schedule and more, join us in our Knocked-Up Fitness® Prenatal Membership >>HERE!<<

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Everything You Need To Know About Using Coffee As A Pre-Workout Supplement

I get a kick out of working out and I love it – who’s with me?

From weight training to running outdoors, you just can’t beat the endorphin hit that follows a great training session.

Without giving it much consideration, my morning routine has always been: wake up, cup of black coffee, then off to the gym or out for a run – the buzz it gives me takes me from a groggy, bleary eyed mess to energised and ready for action.

As my fitness journey has progressed, I’ve often looked into pre-workout alternatives but continued to wonder: is coffee actually a valid choice before a workout?

Can you use coffee instead of pre-workout? Is coffee a healthy choice?

Well, I’ve done my research. In this article, you’ll find out why and how coffee could help you secure those sought-after gains.

What is pre-workout?

The first thing we need to address here is:

What actually is pre-workout? What is it made of?

Pre-workout is a dietary supplement you can take to help aid your performance in the gym, out on a run or before any exercise you enjoy.

The idea is that it gives you a powerful energy boost to kick start your activity, and helps you to perform at your best, every time.

Pre-workout, like most supplements, generally comes in powdered form or in capsules. It’s usually best to take them about an hour before your workout to receive all the benefits. But what’s the magic ingredient that supposedly gives you all this energy and performance power?

The truth is, there isn’t one.

That being said, there is a core list of components that are often found in pre-workouts, although the amount of each varies. These compounds are: caffeine, creatine, amino acids, and B vitamins.

Oh – and, if the product is powdered, you’ll likely find it contains artificial sweeteners so that it doesn’t taste awful.

Why coffee works as a pre-workout supplement

The most useful ingredient in coffee for using it as a pre-workout is – you guessed it – caffeine. Let’s dive in a little deeper.

How much caffeine is in coffee?

A typical cup of filter coffee contains, on average, 120mg of caffeine. Instant coffee pulls this figure back to around 75mg and an espresso shot is only around 63mg (but that’s in a much smaller volume of water!).

What does caffeine do to the body?

Focus shot of a man with pliers on his tongue with a caption, When you run out of pre-workout and have to improvise, useless suppliements

Caffeine works at a cellular level, interrupting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase, which normally breaks down cAMP (Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate).

This means you end up with more cAMP in your cells, which leads to increased activity in heart muscle cells, more activity in brain cognitive processing, increased muscle glycogen breakdown (delivering more energy to your muscles) and it even promotes enzymes that break up fat tissue.

How does this relate to my workout?

As you know, caffeine causes your heart to beat faster. This allows oxygen to travel around the body quicker for energy metabolism wherever it’s needed. You also think clearer, sharper and react faster.

You feel like a superhuman.

Your muscles are able to use stored energy from food (glycogen to work harder. Your body breaks down more fat tissue for energy during the workout, which is great for athletic performance and weight loss.

For all intents and purposes, you are kinda superhuman, temporarily.

Are there any other health benefits in coffee?

Short answer: Yes, loads.

Diterpenes

Cafestol and Kahweol are two diterpenes found in coffee – and the former has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, by increasing cells’ sensitivity to insulin and improving cell uptake of glucose. This lowers blood glucose and, therefore, the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, an epidemiological study has also proposed Cafestol and Kahweol are protective against cancer.

The studies they looked at showed that these diterpenes help produce enzymes that support the body in producing protective antioxidants. They not only protect the cells but also play a role in repairing damaged DNA and killing off defective cells that can’t be repaired.

This is hugely significant as DNA damage is the first step towards cancer developing in the body.

Melanoidins

Melanoidins are large, deep brown coloured molecules found in coffee and have been linked to tons of positive health benefits.

Similar to diterpenes, they help contribute to antioxidant cell protection. They act in your gut to help maintain the balance of good bacteria and help prevent harmful bacteria growing.

In laboratory studies, melanoidins have been shown to suppress cancer cell growth. If all this isn’t enough already, they also help modulate your body’s detoxification system to remove harmful substances.

Trigonelline

Convinced yet? Here’s another one for you.

Trigonelline is found in lots of different plants, veg and grains (like fenugreek, peas, oats) but most importantly it’s found in coffee – of course.

It’s been shown to protect against diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity-related ailments, by lowering blood glucose and blood triglycerides. As with diterpenes and melanoidins, it also displays plenty of antioxidant properties.

How do antioxidants help my workout?

These components might not directly affect your workout capacity.

However:

We’re playing the long game with these benefits.

In order for your muscles to grow, when you work out, they have to suffer lots of impact and microdamage so they can heal stronger than before. Your body works hard to repair your muscles post-workout and needs plenty of supplies in order to do so.

This is where antioxidants help.

They prevent the negative effects of cell damage and remove toxic by-products from your system. Alongside a healthy, balanced diet, a cup of coffee can give you that much needed antioxidant boost to help you recover faster and get back in the gym again.

Can you drink too much coffee?

Caffeine causes a temporary increase in blood pressure, which was once thought to be negatively associated with cardiovascular disease. However, this effect seems to have little impact on cardiovascular health.

Caffeine is a mild stimulant, so if you suffer from insomnia then coffee certainly won’t help.

Caffeine normally takes five hours to clear from your system but, for some people, it can take up to nine hours – so maybe go easy on the lattes if you find it difficult to nod off or, at least, stop after 2pm.

It’s also an important watch out that most pre-workout mixtures contain higher levels of caffeine than your average cup of joe too, so bear this in mind if you’re trying alternatives.

Another issue with caffeine is anxiety. The jittery, stimulant effects of caffeine can worsen symptoms associated with anxiety and, in rare cases, can lead to panic attacks. If you suffer with these symptoms, then a pre-workout is probably not ideal for you.

Finally let’s discuss digestive upsets. Coffee is a diuretic but also has activity on your guts. If you neglect to drink enough water with coffee you can become dehydrated which can lead to constipation. Not ideal for overall health and certainly not helpful for exercise performance.

The point is that diuretics do not cause diarrhea, they cause excess urination, which can lead to dehydration. So I recommend saying either “coffee is a diuretic so can lead to you needing a wee during your workout” or “coffee has activity on your guts so, yes, it can lead to the runs” and just leave out the diuretic part.

Not ideal for overall health and certainly not helpful when you’re in the middle of benching your PB.

How much coffee is best before a workout?

So, we’ve discussed all the benefits and potential risks of introducing a cup of coffee prior to a workout. The next point to cover is how much coffee will give you the optimum caffeine boost without risking the jitters.

As this study suggests, 300-400mg of caffeine per day is the safe upper limit. That’s just over three cups of filter coffee (at 120mg per cup), just over five cups of instant (75mg per cup) or 6 espresso shots (63mg caffeine).

That’s your total consumption for the day – but, remember, people metabolise caffeine differently so higher levels can be safer in different people. The type and brew of coffee can also affect these values too.

Generally, you can follow this rule for drinking coffee before a workout: 3-6mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. So, for a 68kg individual (150 pounds) 200-400mg is ideal.

It also normally takes about half an hour for the caffeine in coffee to be fully absorbed in your system, but can take up to 90 minutes. For the best results, drink a cup about an hour before you plan to start working out.

How should I take my coffee?

The answer here comes back to personal preference. How do you like your coffee brewed?

Whether it’s freshly ground and made into an espresso or quick and instant, just monitor how much caffeine you’re drinking and you’re good to go.

As for adding extras, it’s generally considered that black is best. Pure, unadulterated coffee contains all the benefits you need for an energetic workout. If black coffee just isn’t for you, then adding a dash of milk shouldn’t have much of a negative affect – just don’t turn it into a big, creamy latte.

And that’s it, all you need to know about using coffee as a pre-workout supplement. Experiment with what works for you and your body – then go forth and use it to go hard at your workouts. Enjoy the ride.

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