Today I want to feature Claire Martin-Royle. Claire is a personal trainer in Berlin, Germany who is originally from the UK. She has two children, the youngest of which has some of the best hair I have ever seen. Claire runs a boot camp in Berlin, as well as does one-on-one training. She is certified as a pre/post natal specialist and is my go-to for all things Diastasis Recti. Read what Claire has to say about repairing the damage done to your pelvic floor and how to stay active and healthy throughout pregnancy and after!
Yes, it really saddens me that more medical professionals do not discuss DR with moms. Many midwives do not even discuss it or test for it post birth.
Your core includes your rectus abdominis muscles (“RA”)(otherwise known as your “six-pack”). Your RA has two halves – the left RA and the right RA. The left and right sides are joined in the middle by a connective tissue called your linea alba. DR occurs when the left and right RA move further apart from the linea alba causing the linea alba to be stretched and weakened. It is not a tear of the RA, which is always separated into two halves – it’s the weakening and widening of the linea alba. Technically (mainly for any insurance claim!) someone has DR if the gap is more than 2.5 finger widths apart (around 2.7cm) and it is considered potentially problematic if it is more than 2 finger widths apart. (If you are wondering how to test – you can see a video on how to test yourself for DR on my website on The Fit Moms Core Plan page).
Can you describe for us your background? What qualifications do you have that keep you so informed and knowledgeable?
I am a qualified personal trainer and a qualified pre and postnatal fitness specialist. My qualifications to become a pre and postnatal specialist included learning about the physiological changes that happen in women as they go through pregnancy, childbirth and post birth and how to adapt and modify workouts at each stage.
To stay on top of what is happening in this field I read articles, guidance notes, research and views that are published by governing bodies such as the ACOG, and from other distinguished trainers in this area. I believe you can never stop learning and growing and improving. Even if you don’t agree with all the views it’s good to read them.
But, on top of my formal qualifications I am a mom to two, which means I go through a lot of the issues that other moms are dealing with. There is nothing quite like learning from a real life experience! If I have a condition, an issue or a concern, I tend to look in to it and share my views so that others can hopefully be helped too. My experiences have taught me a lot about how (and how NOT) to do things. Just like other moms I am far from perfect and I think we often learn more from our mistakes than when we do it right!
I had many friends and clients who stopped exercising because they did not know which exercises to do during pregnancy and/or post birth. There is so much information out there, but it can be really confusing to navigate! There are far too many trainers out there that are selling and marketing programmes for moms, and even for healing diastasis recti, or telling pregnant moms they can do their plans when they do not have pre and post natal qualifications or proper modifications. I wanted to make sure I had all the right qualifications to give women the right advice. My mission remains to help women to continue to stay active, be healthy and happy and get results during pregnancy, as a new mom and throughout motherhood the right way.
Being a mom only further re-enforced that this was an area I wanted to work in. Even with all my knowledge when I was pregnant with my first I was still nervous about what I could and could not do. I think that is a natural mothers instinct. My real life experiences further add to my advice and help me to give practical advice as well as what the text books say!
When it comes to first trimester and DR, should people already be taking precautions? If so, what types of precautions?
Every person is different. Every pregnancy is different. What you can and cannot do in pregnancy will depend on your fitness level pre-pregnancy and whether your pregnancy is a high-risk pregnancy or not.
Generally, with doctor consent, moms can continue to exercise as normal during their first pregnancy. BUT you MUST LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Fatigue and nausea can really hit in the first trimester and if your body is telling you to slow down then slow down! Many moms find they do less in their first trimester, pick up again in their second trimester and then slow down again in their third!
In your first trimester you might want to start to make your workouts lower impact, avoid any jerky or sudden twisting movements and once your bump starts to show I advise that if you are doing crunches you stop and start to do any of the many safe core pregnancy exercises instead. Why risk it?
My key advice for all moms is to remember that staying active in pregnancy is about maintenance not achieving personal bests and that you have to listen to your body because you know it better than anyone else. Even if you were extremely fit pre-pregnancy you will need to make modifications as your pregnancy progresses.
In terms of DR you can get DR at any time – men and babies can have it! So you should always (pregnant or not) make sure you have control of the weights you lift, you breath correctly on exertion and always concentrate on good form when completing abdominal work.
Do you feel you were better informed about DR during your second pregnancy versus your first pregnancy?
Yes, because I had been through it once before and you always learn from your experiences. You can read lots and lots about a topic, but going through something yourself is when you really learn!
When I was about 8 months pregnant with TJ I was lying in bed and my phone rang. I quickly turned and stretched over to grab my phone and felt a piercing pain in my stomach around the belly button. A huge bruise quickly came up all around the belly button and above and below it! I’d been so careful about which core exercises I did and then one quick careless movement and I had hurt myself! In my second pregnancy I was much more careful not only about my core workouts, but how I moved in everyday life. That helped my diastasis recti post birth. The way we move, sit and stand every day is actually in many ways more important than the exercises we do, which we generally think about and make sure we execute them correctly.
Have you found that you approach exercise differently now than you did before your first child? Was the change more apparent after your first child, or second child?
Yes! I did a mix of cardio and resistance training pre-pregnancies, but I used to work out for much longer! After my first baby, TJ, I began doing shorter HIIT workouts, but I still managed to go to the gym in the early morning or late at night. With two I have even less time so I tend to work out less and I do more of my workouts at home.
It’s interesting though because I am now in better shape than I was before my pregnancies! All those hours running and at the gym were wasted! My babies caused me to re-think my workouts, but actually I have just become much more effective! It’s this new approach that I teach to the moms on The Fit Moms Plan programmes because no mom has time for hours at the gym (and why would you if you don’t need to!).
Is it sad to say doing my workout???! Seriously though, my workout is my “me time”. I concentrate on my workout for 30 minutes and do not fret about all the other things on my to do list. Working out is not just about health and fitness for me its also about a mental release! In my crazy busy life it is the one thing I am able to fit into my days for me!
I really love all of the videos you post on Instagram of different exercises and how informative you are about safety during pregnancy and modifications. What is your FAVORITE current exercise and what was your favorite exercise during pregnancy?
This is hard to answer!! I really mix my exercises up all the time! It’s rare that month to month I do the same exercises.
I love hybrid exercises that work your upper and lower body at the same time to really scorch the fat in the minimum amount of time.
If I had to name my favourite move at the moment I think it would have to be deadlift to hammer curl and shoulder press. I love how this is such a full body set of moves and anything that works my glutes and hamstrings is a win!
One of my favourite moves in pregnancy was superman extensions on all fours. This is a great core exercise during pregnancy and just feels so good for any lower back pain.
Any last words of wisdom for the readers?
Think about the exercises you do and do not just follow workouts on social media, or YouTube or online exercise programmes even if they are marketed as for moms. Sadly, many “mom workouts” are not suitable during pregnancy or if you have diastasis recti or if you are new mom that needs time to heal and strengthen. Check that the trainer is pre and postnatal qualified.
Even after you get doctor sign off to recommence physical activity you should not immediately start with high intensity workouts or any exercises that stress your pelvic floor or core. You need to ease back into your fitness regime and complete a programme that is designed for new moms. Don’t let marketing fool you. Listen to your body and only do what feels right for you after some consideration of what is right for you.
You can still be safe and get fantastic results! If you rush your return with the wrong exercises you may actually have to rest up completely and stall your progress.