About 9 months after having my last child, I was standing on a crowded train on my way home from work. At the first stop, a woman got up from her stopped, stopped in front of my and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Had I known you were pregnant, I would have given you my seat.” I don’t know who felt worse, her for putting her foot in her mouth once she learned I wasn’t, or me for looking pregnant almost a year after having a baby.
I think it was me.
I learned shortly after that I had a common postpartum condition known as diastasis recti, or “split abs.” My gargantuan children who I birthed over 3 years all via C-section had effectively separated my abdominal muscles creating the well-known “mummy tummy.” Figuring out how to reverse it wasn’t just about my vanity—I’d noticed that my back was killing me all of the time and my posture worsening because of my lack of core strength.
Through research I learned that crunches were probably the worst thing you could do to fix the problem, which left me a little unsure as to how to fix the situation. With the help of Google, I discovered a 12-week program known as MuTu, specifically designed to help women reverse their diastasis. Desperate, I decided to take it for a test drive and see if it helped.
But first, a little background on the fitness program: Wendy Powell, a personal trainer from the UK focused on pregnancy and postpartum fitness designed the program, which is web-based. It includes gentle core exercises that are done everyday, along with intensive exercises that are done 4-5 times a week. The website offers a lot of information on the subject of diastasis recti as well as scientific explanations for Powell’s theory behind her workouts. She also emphasizes eating a Paleo-like diet and correcting your posture and alignment. And, since her workouts focus on rebuilding your pelvic floor, they go along way to helping you avoid any embarrassing “leakage” issues (as well as having conversations with your kids about why mommy sometimes pees herself when she sneezes).
What I really like about the program is how manageable it is for someone with small children. The core exercises total about 16 minutes a day, but you have the option of doing them all at once or splitting it into two 8-minute sessions that you fit in when it’s most convenient. The more intensive workouts are about 20 minutes each, and can be done with the core exercises or on their own.
I also like that it requires little equipment—some free weights, resistance bands and a small and large exercise ball—but if you don’t have them, she’ll often make suggestions for things around the house you can sub in.
Lastly, the program is great for new moms looking to ease themselves back into an exercise routine. Given how beat up your body can be from delivery, nursing and/or lack of sleep, MuTu isn’t intimidating and it’s easy to follow along.
On the down side, MuTu is not meant to replace your normal workout, and Powell actually suggests walking at least 30 minutes a day. When you start to add it all up, it can start to feel like a large time commitment—and few moms today have a ton of free time to throw around. However, I’ve come to learn that I can squeeze core exercises in when I have a free moment—I’ve successfully done it in my work clothes just before heading out the door and in my office without feeling sweaty or disheveled.
Also, the program isn’t free. There is a one-time fee of $97, and you’ll probably want to invest in weights, resistance bands and balls. The company now offers a mini program that focuses just on the core and alignments for only $67, leaving out the more intensive workouts.
In the end, the question is does it work. I haven’t completed the program, but I do feel as if it’s helping me develop more core strength, and my stomach is looking a less squishy. In addition, there are a number of squats and lunges in the workouts, and I can absolutely feel it in my thighs and butt. So do I recommend it? If you can swing the $100, I would definitely say yes.