I used to be big into core work. Lots of planks, crunches, you name it. I was all about having the coveted six-pack abs.
Then I had kids.
My abs went missing.
And instead I was left with a saggy stomach that pooched up in the center like my skin was pitching a tent. If I touched said tent, I could feel a big gaping hole separating my abs. Not pleasant. Here’s what it looks like:
It’s not uncommon for women to have Diastasis Recti after having babies. In many, it resolves on it’s own, but in my case, it never did. I tried wearing a brace, a girdle, anything to try and coax those pesky muscles back together. My core was weak and by the end of the day, my stomach looked like it was pregnant all over again because I didn’t have the core strength I needed to hold my inner organs in. After a few months of feeling very self-conscious and being afraid to do anything that might make the separation worse, I consulted a pelvic floor specialist. She diagnosed me with Diastasis Recti and we spent the next weeks working on building up my core strength. Not the six-pack abs that we all try to get but rather, strengthening the muscles underneath (the transverse abdominus). I went from having a separation that was 4 fingers wide to just under 2. Not healed but a drastic improvement that helped not only my self-confidence but also my posture.
Right now, I have a separation that is 1-2 fingers wide. I avoid traditional “core” work (i.e. crunches) because they are some of the worst things I can do for my core (even people who have never had babies can develop Diastisis Recti if they do intense core work incorrectly). I am much more aware of my posture and my core which I translate into everything that I do. I’ve also discovered the Mutu system which has done wonders for helping strengthen my core. It’s a great system that focuses on strengthening the core, not by using crunches or braces or wraps but by strengthening all the muscles surrounding the core, working on proper alignment and posture. If you want to check out the program for yourself, go here.
It’s not ideal and I wish I didn’t have this but by the same token, it’s hardly preventing me from living the active life I want. Because I am much more aware of my posture and core, it’s actually made me a better runner because I don’t let my form go lax when I’m running. Though I have to be conscious of what I take part in, my form and not to push myself by lifting weight that might cause my form to fail (and put undo strain on my core), it’s hardly stopped me from being as fit and active as I choose to be. If anything, it’s made me a better overall athlete because I’m not getting injured as frequently, if at all.