#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, June 17th, 2024 – HEP for the new mom

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic faculty member Heather Salzer discusses tips for designing home exercise programs for newly postpartum moms, including removing barriers to movement, being smart with the structure of the HEP, and encouraging habit stacking.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes or check out the full show notes on our blog at www.ptonice.com/blog.

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Good morning, PT on ICE Daily Show. I’m Dr. Heather Salzer and I’m here with the pelvic team at ICE. And today we are going to be talking all things home exercise plan for the new mom. I think this is an area where we can do better as clinicians. Oftentimes I hear, man, my postpartum population just really doesn’t do a good job doing the exercises I give them. This is a group where they have a lot going on, right? So oftentimes we just assume, okay, well, they don’t have time to add in these extra things. And that’s where we’re wrong. I think if we meet them where they’re at and set them up for success, not only will they have small wins of being able to accomplish, that part of their rehab plan, but also we’re going to see better results with our care plan from there. This is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. In clinic, I treat about 70% pregnant and postpartum individuals, so I’ve had a lot of time to help these people figure out how can we best increase compliance and set them up for success with their exercises. Additionally, I am about four months postpartum with an adorable little daughter at home, but she certainly takes up a lot of my time. And so in the last few months, I’ve had some experience using some of these same tips and tricks that I use with my clients for myself to be able to get in some of my rehab as well. So this is a topic that’s fresh on the mind for me. We’re gonna divide this up into about four different sections of tips today. So we’ll be talking about workout structure, removing barriers, habit stacking, and managing expectations and how you can use these areas to help set your clients up for success. Let’s dive in.

So first of all, workout structure. I am a huge fan of using time-based workouts or home exercise plans for this group. And the reason is then they know, man, I only have five minutes, but I can sneak that in right now. And so within that, I like to keep it 10 minutes or less. And if it’s somebody who’s wanting more, you can give them several segments of five minute or 10 minute things, but that way you at least know like, okay, let’s at least try to get these five minutes in. So what does that look like? I will use a lot of remands, so rehab every minute on the minute, and set them up with maybe three exercises, and we’ll do that two times through, or three times through, and so that gives them either a six minute or nine minute workout. Another thing in this postpartum population that I’m a big fan of is the Tabata, so 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. One specific example of something I give people a lot is some variation of that hollow hold and Superman hold. I’ll set this up, what this looks like is eight rounds, so four rounds of hollow hold, four rounds of Superman hold, and we’ll do that for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, and you can scale it up or down. So maybe that hollow hold in the beginning is just lifting one leg and focusing on kind of finding that core tension. Maybe we’re progressing it all the way to a hollow rock. Similarly with the Superman, we can lift just the arms, lift just the legs, and then talk them through what are the progressions across this. And then four rounds of each, flip-flop back and forth or do all four hollow, all four Superman, and in less than four minutes, like three minutes and 50 seconds, right, they’ll get a really effective both core workout and some blood flow to that posterior chain, which can be both important areas with this group. If you’re like, man, I don’t know, Heather, I don’t know if that’s really enough of a workout, I challenge you to try it today and choose a level that feels difficult for you, wherever that may be along that spectrum, I bet by the end of four minutes, you’re gonna be like, oh, yeah, okay, I can see how that could work. So using those time-based intervals can be huge in this group to help set them up for success when we’re thinking about workout structure.

Second, we’re gonna be worrying about removing any barriers to set them up for success for getting their workout done. A big piece of this can be equipment or space. So if all of their equipment is in their garage and they have a garage gym set up, but it’s hard for them to hear their baby from the garage, they may be avoiding going in and using that space. So can they bring their dumbbells in, maybe just one set of them, program everything with one weight to start, and put them by the couch? Make that more accessible. Maybe we’re using baby for weight instead. Little one doesn’t want me to put her down. So instead, let’s hold her. Let’s see what we can do with that baby, using the baby for our weight instead. Another thing, if you’re a new parent or have been around new parents at all, I’m sure you’ve heard the words tummy time. So I love utilizing this time that mom is going to be on the ground with her new baby as a way to get in some of our exercises as well. So we’re kind of removing that barrier of like, all right, you’re already going to be there. Let’s set this up. So what this could look like is maybe we’re working on some C-section scar tightness. So while baby’s on the ground, working on baby’s tummy time, mom can do the same. She can be down there doing some gentle Cobra stretching. Maybe we’re taking that opportunity to slow down, take some deep breaths, get into happy baby, child’s pose, do some side planks, get creative with it. What does your patient need? But tack it onto that time. And yeah, tummy time is a great opportunity to sneak that in. So really think about what’s their setup at home? How can, like ask them, where do you envision yourself getting these things done? what will make space or what will make sense with your space and then work with them with that.

Number three is going to be habit stacking. So this ties a little bit into what we were just talking about tummy time, doing their exercises while they’re already doing something that they’re doing that day. I first kind of heard the term habit stack from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. And I love this concept where we take something that we are already doing across the day, and then we add our new thing that we want to do on top of that, and it’s gonna help increase our ability to get that new thing done because we already have established that other habit. So in the postpartum population, there is a lot of things that happen routinely across the day, and so let’s take advantage of that, right? Tummy time was one example. Another example of something that I give a lot in clinic is when we’re dealing with like shoulder tension, maybe we’re spending a lot of time breast bottle feeding, holding baby, coming forwards, and I want just more blood flow to kind of open things up and get them moving across the day just to get them out of that position. We always say your next posture is your best posture, right? So Can we figure out where they’re spending the most of their time nursing or bottle feeding or whatever that looks like? And can we set a heavy resistance band by that? And every time they do that, which is probably gonna be every one to three hours in the beginning, that’s a lot of times, can we do some banded pull-aparts just to get increased blood flow to their shoulders, neck? with that. Maybe we’re not doing this in the midnight feedings. Maybe we’re just encouraging like 50% of them, but that’s one example of how we can get that in. Some other things that I like are adding things on with diaper changes, another thing that’s going to happen routinely. If you’re wanting that person to work on kind of establishing connection with pelvic floor and you think that doing some pelvic floor contraction Kegel work is appropriate, you could time that with a diaper change. So every time you change a diaper, give me 10 to 20 pelvic floor lifts. Another example I’ll use is every time you make coffee or go to heat up your coffee in the microwave because it’s gotten cold and you are now heating it up for the third time to hopefully drink it, can you do a set of lunges or squats in the kitchen while you’re making that coffee or heating it back up? Get creative, ask your clients what are you doing across the day And if I give you this to try to do on top of it, do you think you’ll have the time and space for that? Use habit stacking to your advantage. Lastly, and I think most importantly, is managing expectations. These people need wins. They need to feel successful. And they need to know that it’s okay if they’re not hitting this every day. So I talk a lot with these people in this group about consistency over time. That if you miss a day, if you miss a week, if life gets in the way, let’s talk about what happened where we weren’t able to get to it, but also let’s not worry about it too much. Let’s jump back on it. Because in the longterm, over the next few months, if we can be doing this a couple times a week, even for five minutes, three to four times a week, we will see change. So first of all, just setting them up for success, knowing that they do not have to be perfect with it, but then also kind of managing how fast they expect to progress with how much time they’re able to put in. Because in reality, if we are doing five minutes a day, four days a week, can we expect really quick progress? Maybe not. Again, I would argue the exercise that we’re getting done is always better than the one that’s not happening. However, let’s talk about what our realistic expectations of what we’re kind of what we expect out of it based on what we’re putting in. And let’s really help these people have these small wins, feel confident with it. And oftentimes what’s going to happen is you give them like four or five minutes of something to do. They’re able to be consistent with that. They come back feeling great because they were able to do what you asked them to. And maybe they’re already starting to notice a little change in their ability to contract the core again or connect with those muscles. And they’re gonna come back and they’ll be like, okay, I want more. How can we carve out more time? How can we make this maybe a little bit longer? Okay, now I think I’m ready to add a little bit more weight. So get that win, and then you can stack on. Always meet them where they’re at. If they want more from the beginning, great, go for it, give it to them. But also, have a conversation, figure out what that looks like, and then from there, really kind of help work with them to figure out what the best plan is. Awesome.

So in summary, we’re thinking about our workout structure We are removing barriers to help them get it done. We’re gonna give them opportunities to habit stack so that we can take advantage of the things that these moms are doing across their day already. And we’re going to help them manage expectations, talking about consistency over time, and really setting them up for success. If you would like to learn more about working with this population, we would love for you to join us in one of our pelvic courses We have our next online cohort for level one starting July 8th. That’s filling fast, so if you would like to get in on that, make sure you get grabbed your spot soon. And then we have two opportunities to join us on the road before long here. July 20th we will be in the Cincinnati area in Loveland, so jump on that course. And then we also have an L1 pelvic course or sorry, a live course July 27th in Laramie, Wyoming as well. So would love to see you online or on the road soon. And thank you for joining me here this morning. And I hope you have a lovely rest of your day. Happy Monday.

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