Diastisis Recti: What is it? Do I have it?

Hey, y'all. 
On the last blog post, a question was asked about what the best exercises were for post partum Mamas wanting to get back into the core training game. Before you begin a program, you have to do a little recon. Check for a split in your abdominals, aka Diastisis Recti, and that will determine your direction. 

But first...what is Diastisis Recti, anyway? 

Basically it is a thinning of the linea alba, or the flat tendon that connects the cans in your 6 pack. Common areas of thinning are around the belly button, but some people can have thinning all over the place. This doesn't only happen after pregnancy, either. It can happen from weight gain of any kind, and even weight lifting or vigorous abdominal exercise. And men can have it, too. So check yo self before you begin any core work to get the best results and avoid injury. 

Here's how:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Use one hand to support your head, and with the other hand on your abdomen, place your fingertips across your middle (about at the waist line) at the level of your belly button.
  3. Take a deep breath and relax your belly.
  4. Gently press your fingertips into your abdomen, and roll your upper body off the floor like you're doing a crunch. Aim like you're trying to touch your nose to your knees.
  5. Move your fingertips around, feeling for the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis (6 pack) muscle. Test for separation at, above, and below your belly button.
  6. If you find some, measure it with finger widths. It may be different in certain areas, so really poke around and write down your findings so you can track improvement.

Once you have your information, you can select the right movements (and know the wrong ones) for your particular situation. 

I'll get into the specifics in my next post, but for now I'll drop a bit of science and quick tips to get you started...

Crunches are whack. They can be fun sometimes (I don't never do them) but they don't get you much bang for your buck. They are not helpful with D.R., and in fact make it worse. 

Activate the glutes. You must (must) get the buns on track before your abs will be happy. They're our dream team. They love each other. And notice I said activate. If you can't isolate your glutes and know when and how they are moving...start there.

Ab exercises are more effective when you get the glutes and delts involved. What? Yes. For reals? Mm hmm. You can even try it right where you are: squeeze your buns and push back on your shoulder. Your abs say, "hello", don't they? Getting those limbs involved increase the abdominal involvement and are far more impactful. 

In the case of a D.R. diagnosis, you're going to bring up the strength in the supporters of the rectus abdominis first with exercises like glute bridges, squats (unweighted), Australian pull ups, wall sits, side plank, and wood chops. (Again, more on the specifics of those later, so stay tuned!)


Y.A.S.S. Teen Empowerment Program


Heads up...I'm going to give you a lot of details here, so it will be a little long. Thank you for reading, and for your interest in lending your time to teen girls!

A little about me: (since I was totally overwhelmed with that mic in front of my face at the event...) I am a wellness coach that specializes in fitness and nutrition coaching for women, and I have had my practice, FemmePower Fitness, in Austin for 10 years. Last January, I opened TRAVA, a fitness and personal training studio that provides a welcoming space for women to move their bodies, learn about health and wellness, and connect with other individuals who are working to better their lives. I live in South Austin with my three daughters, husband, and two lady-dogs. 

Enter the project...

It all started when my oldest daughter started getting boobs. (Do not tell her I said that. She will die.) When she started getting boobs, I thought, "Ok, now is the time that I introduce all of the topics that pertain to teen and then womanhood." And I got stuck. My daughter and I have a great relationship, but I was petrified of saying the wrong things to her, and scarring her for life. Whether or not this would actually happen didn't enter the picture. Only my dread of a statement I made about her body looping in her head for the rest of her life in a negative way. And this is, literally, what I do all day. And for the past 10+ years. And if I was over-thinking my strategies of preparing my kid for what was to come...what were other parents doing? 
So I decided to speak candidly with my daughter about it. I told her that I was worried about saying the wrong thing, because I have dealt with various body-focused commentary replaying in my head for most of my life. While I have done hard work to silence the bits that don't serve me...I didn't want her to have to go through the same process if I could avoid it. 

That conversation changed our relationship for the better. 

And after more talks with her, and with her peers, I realized a few key points: (some of these you'll already know...)
* Teen girls aren't living in some alternate technological universe. Even though they're the natives and we're the immigrants...they crave in-person connection just as much as their adult counterparts. Read: they're still normal kids. 

* Teen girls want strong female role models that they can know in real life. Teen girls have access to youtubers that preach positive body- and self-talk, and there are more and more messages reaching them about love and acceptance of their physical selves. But they also want human beings that they can know and interact with that will provide positive influences for their lives. 

* Teen girls are super smart and self-aware. They know that photographs are altered, and that people only post flattering images of themselves. They know the difference between real life and digital fantasy land. But they have to live in both. And they'd really like their adults to understand that. 

*Teen girls want the truth, and know when you know your shit and when you don't. They value expert opinions and advice, and are more prone to take information in when they feel like they're a part of the learning process, not just being told what to do. 

*Teen girls want to learn. They want to know about their bodies, what's ahead for them, and how to take care of themselves. Anecdotal and scientific evidence are craved, and these girls are laying the foundation for how they'll view, love, and maintain themselves forever. Exciting (and terrifying), right? 

So while this series will focus most specifically on body image and self-care, more broadly (and perhaps more deeply) it will touch on cultural influence, both current and historical, and our relationships with our female caregivers and role models.

That's where you come in...

I'm looking for women who can be mentors to these girls through a series of events that will take place late Spring through early Fall. The goal is to empower young women by offering real life stories, factual and scientific information, and an elder perspective that they can take with them as they build their relationships with their bodies. The girls will make topic selections, and the experts will be organized to help give the girls perspective and clarity, as well as food for thought. 

Women from all walks of life can lend experience from so many different angles to help these young women avoid (or at least minimize) the body image issues that we all have dealt with through our lives. It also provides us an opportunity to bridge the gap between generations, and give the young people access to strong, passionate role models that will inspire them.

So let's talk about what we'll be doing...

First, the ACTION: The events will include movement opportunities from local and National experts, specializing in different types of activities from yoga to dance to tai chi to ballet to traditional fitness and will give the girls opportunities to move their bodies and see what's available and what resonates with them. 

We'll also be focusing each event on a particular cause or topic, and using our discussion/interaction time to make useful art: such as making postcards to send to our Congressional leaders, making animals to take to children at Dell, and making art to send in care packages to our deployed troops. Busy hands can make conversations not so awkward, and less "lecture-like". And they'll come out of it with a finished project or two that will benefit others. Win-win!

Next, the SUPPORT: I find myself saying "now more than ever" so much lately...but NOW MORE THAN EVER do we need to support each other. Our endeavors, our beliefs, our hearts, our minds, our boundaries, our communities, our dreams. We'll create a safe space where young girls can come together, free of stereotyping, bullying, and judgement, and be themselves. They can feel what it's like to engage with other girls and their elders in a satisfying way while being gently guided in self-care topics that will impact them for a lifetime.

And finally, the SISTERHOOD: Developing long-lasting relationships with each other and with their elder counterparts is an important piece of the puzzle. Knowing that there are people who love and value you is key to the human experience, and while our families provide that in different ways and capacities, we know how valuable having non-familial sisters is. Through technologiocal and in-person connection we'll be able to bridge the gap between generations, learn from each other, and create relationships that can last a lifetime. It's like the Girl Scouts of self-care. ;)

Thank you again for reading through my novella. 

Now if you're down, please click here and fill out this questionnaire. I will use this information to learn more about you, pair you with other mentors, and to schedule your participation dates.

You'll notice that there's a poll in there that will give options for a mentor-only event that will get us together so that we can mingle and collaborate. Be sure to get back to me as quickly as you can so we can get that on the schedule. 

Thanks again for your willingness to participate. I look forward to creating something magical with you!


Happy Spring! Let's pick a sunscreen.

We have heard over and over again that daily sunscreen use is a must, and it's even more on our minds now that Spring is here (finally.). Sunscreen is recommended to help prevent skin cancer and block the UV rays that give our skin signs of damage like wrinkles and age spots. But do you know what's in those creams and sprays that you're using? While you're working hard to put only the best stuff in your body, remember that your skin provides a direct line in to your bloodstream. You're not only what you eat, it so happens.

So, wear your sunscreen. But keep the following in mind:

Client Question: How Much Protein Do I Need?

A client asked a very common question yesterday. She was wondering about her protein requirements. "How much do I really need?", she asked.

Blanket advice? It's in the numbers. If you like math:
1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

If you're not into math, I love the adorable little calculator at Kashi.com, actually. To take age into account, check out the table put out by the Food and Nutrition Board.

Once you have your number range, use the low end when you're sedentary, and the higher end when you're exerting a lot. Or if you're growing a baby, have been sick or are healing or have any other stressy stuff going on. If you're working on ridding yourself of some stored fat, drop that protein number down into the range you would be in at your healthy weight.
(Oh, and every day is different. It's not for the faint of heart, but eating for your activity level does make a slight change in the numbers overall. Stay focused on the big picture at first. Step up to being specific when you can take it to the next level and work on eating more intuitively.)

Now that you know what you need, and understand that it varies, you have to figure out what to eat! Knowledge is power, y'all. The more you know about the foods you consume, the better (duh) but in this case it comes down to knowing the saturation of macronutrients in the foods you eat.
Plainly: how much protein does your chicken breast have? Your serving of quinoa? Your fancy greek yogurt snack? (For your reference, 3 oz. of chicken holds about 27g of protein, 1 cup of quinoa has about 8g,  and 1 cup of greek yogurt, about 20g.) When you know what you're eating and how much you're getting, you can know how to pair things, when you need more, and when you may be overdoing it.

And the body can process protein more efficiently if it is consumed throughout the day, rather than all at once. So, you'll get more bang out of 25g of protein over 4 meals than 100g. of protein at one meal.  (Look here for a nice breakdown from The American Diabetes Association on our friends the  macronutrients.) And you don't have to consume meat for protein, either. Legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains are the most popular sources of protein for vegans and vegetarians, but they often have to be combined to get the full range of amino acids (though not necessarily at the same sitting. More on this to come!)

When planning your meals, if you focus on consuming quality protein, leafy greens, an assortment of vegetables, and healthy fats, you're going to find that your nutritional and caloric needs are met, and you're satisfied and energetic. Now, go do some math and eat some protein, you crazy kids!

So, duh, but I have to say:
There is no one plan for every body, so get a consultation with a professional to discuss your individual needs. Use common sense, and do your own research before making decisions regarding your health. And feel free to contact me for a plan made just for you!

Ten at-home exercises you should be doing

Ten at-home exercises you should be doing

A zillion years ago, I put up the post Bodyweight Wizardry guide to creating your own home workouts. A zillion years later, I would like to put forth version 2.0. Here you go. First, some guidelines. Do them right. Only perform exercises after you've practiced them and have mastered proper form. You're not going to get any closer to your goals if you try burpees for the first time with improper form and tweak your shoulder. Or worse.