The Thing About Jack

Me pregnant

Today’s post is about Jack. More specifically, Jack’s abs or ab area. As a mom and personal trainer I know a thing or two about abs and ab training.

As a mom, pregnant with my first bundle of joy I watched in somewhat disbelief as my 26″ waist transformed into a robust 42″ within 9 months! Maternity clothing was so expensive back then, we didn’t have the specialty stores that are prevalent now. I was grateful to have a job that didn’t require a lot of exposure to the public so I could get away with wearing larger sized t shirts over maternity pants.

My wardrobe didn’t improve much with baby number two but the old abs knew exactly what to do! This was familiar territory and they almost immediately expanded, much like the bellows of an accordion! I had a maternity jumper sewn to get through and although super roomy for my belly it was a pain for all the bathroom trips, I don’t recommend them.

We moved into a new house right before baby two was due to accommodate our growing family, or maybe it was my growing belly! On a trip to The Brick I waddled down the aisles in search of new living room furniture. Turning sideways to look at a particular couch, a fellow walking behind us gasped “that has gotta hurt!” as he got a look at my belly. His wife swiftly smacked and shushed him, bless her heart, some things are just better left unsaid!

I worked hard at getting the strength and tone back to my abs after both pregnancies; reading, researching, talking to others, talking to doctors, experimenting with movements and cardio. But there are some things that just can’t be ‘fixed’ the traditional hard work way and I personally had to accept that things had changed and were going to be a little different than before. The trade off was priceless in those two cutie pies of ours and I would do it again in a heartbeat…two heartbeats to be exact.

I found the key to abdominal training was…variety but we also need to be realistic in our expectations. Countless times as a personal trainer I’ve had people ask me to help them achieve flat abs. Here’s the thing though, we are not two dimensional. Our bodies are naturally cylindrical in a sense so we cannot expect that something naturally rounded be flat. Also, as in my case, if your ab muscles have been overstretched they can actually separate and while you can still strengthen and tone those separated muscles, bringing them back in alignment requires the help of a surgeon.

Outside of pregnancy there are cases where abdominal protrusion is excessive and requires attention, I lovingly call this Dunlops disease. Dunlops disease can be internal, where the belly protrudes but there isn’t as much to pinch on the outside of the ab muscle wall. Or it can be external, where there is a lot to pinch on the outside of the ab wall (Dunlopping over your belt). Remember the phrase ‘can you pinch more than an inch?’. Sometimes it’s a combination of both of these.

Excessive external OR internal bodyfat in the abdominal area poses very high health risks and needs an approach of nutrition and activity to reverse; clean up your food intake and turn up your energy output by moving your body more than you already do. Be realistic though, this is not a quick fix so you will need to be patient and consistent to see changes. When the going gets tough you must keep going, just distract yourself with anything other than excess calories and inactivity.

As I mentioned, a variety of movements from a variety of angles is key. If you are doing 200 sit ups you will have a super strong 6 pack (rectus muscle) but your other ab muscle groups will be weaker. Add in some static moves, some rotations, some lateral flexions, and now you’re talking! Tackle your nutrition and you’re well on your way to reversing or preventing Dunlops disease.

So what does all of this have to do with Jack? And who the heck is Jack anyways??

Jack is our rescue cat and has been a part of our family for fifteen years. He seems to add sprinkles of chuckles to life simply by being…well…Jack!

One of those chuckles is Jack’s abs. Our son calls this a primordial pouch. A fancy term for a saggy layer of skin typically covered in fur. It apparently adds extra protection for the abdominal area during fights, insulates and protects internal organs, facilitates easier stretching and allows him to store extra food in his belly. Holy cow, who knew??! I sure could’ve used the easier stretching part way back when!!

This explains everything…Jack protects his yard fiercely, always ensures he cleans up our other cats food dish before finishing off his own, and can perform an unbelievable lying spinal twist! And all this time I have worked feverishly with this cat…monitoring his food intake, adjusting his cardio, adding in more rotational moves, less static moves, more static moves…and it remained; that pouch that sways side to side as he trots down the sidewalk. Who knew it was a genetic characteristic?…besides child number one! I have been redeemed as a personal trainer!!

That is the good news, for Jack at least. For the rest of us mere mortals please reread this post; you are not a cat! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but we all must face our reality. For those of you ready to do this here’s an outline of Jack’s regime, it works well with humans!

Cardio: 30 minutes daily maintaining a heart rate above your resting heart rate. Do something you enjoy and can do easily; easily meaning you have less excuses and obstacles in doing it! But please avoid killing birds as Jack did, mice are much more preferable.

Strength: Static or moving Planks, Crunches on a bosu or stability ball, Ab Rotations (bicycles), Lateral Flexions (sidebends); performed from lying, sitting, standing and moving positions…think 3D!!

Nutrition: avoid added/simple sugars, saturated/trans fats, and watch your starch intake. Keep a food journal, it’s a great way to monitor your intake. Photos are a quick and easy way to food journal, Jack was terrible at this lol.

Good luck, keep on moving in a variety of ways from a variety of angles and mind your nutrition. Remember…you are not Jack!

Jacks spinal twist

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