Strengthening my German Core

One of my earliest challenges of post-partum life in America was searching for an equivalent of Rückbildungsgymnastik here in America or post-partum pelvic floor training. (There’s no easy translation.) The likes of Stroller Strides and specialized pre- and post-natal personal trainers who could help burn all of that baby fat were easy enough to find, and while I wouldn’t mind losing the 3-month bulge which might raise an eyebrow of “is she or isn’t she” to a stranger, the only similarity that these exercises share to Rückbildungsgymnastik is the post-partum descriptor. 

I got to thinking about how an already widespread method of core training with German origins shared similarities to what I was looking for: pilates. Some time shortly after yoga became mainstream and well before zumba started shaking American hips, pilates became a fixture in American gyms in the late 90s. The Pilates method was developed in the 1920s in New York City by a German immigrant named Joseph Pilates. For the sake of my husband’s love of Borussia Mönchengladbach, I have to clarify here that Pilates was born in Mönchengladbach, not in Düsseldorf as some sources in both German and English have stated.

My search here in America led me to explore pilates as a possible substitute for Rückbildung. Although pilates is based on strengthening the core, American modern-day practice of it is quite focused on the belly part more than the pelvic floor. I wasn’t so sure if the pilates trainer I found would be able to help me with the pelvic floor strengthening I was seeking. A big hint that she wasn’t able to was when she just kind of poked at my abdomen once or twice in a weak attempt to check for any diastis recti or abdominal separation. Also one sound piece of advice I received from my wise massage therapist, who literally wrote the book on pre- and perinatal massage, is that I shouldn’t do any exercises that work against gravity as this could aggravate any separation that I had. Since that could lead to difficulty and sometimes impossibility to remedy, I quickly discontinued working with her after we did some fat burning abdominal repetitions that made me want to brace myself (another tip which my massage therapist had given me in case there were any such gravity defying exercises).

The yoga instructor I had also tried working with had little to no experience focusing on a postpartum pelvic floor.

Finally, the perfect solution fell from the sky: a former physical therapist turned personal trainer from Germany. Thanks to chitchatting with a fellow mother  from our German preschool who is German, I learned about her friend who was trying to offer Rückbildungsgymnastik more widely but found little to no interest here in the States.

In San Diego, I got lucky once again discovering and drawing from my German resources. But in case you don’t have the same luck, here are some of the sources I did find along the way that may serve as a possible Rückbildung ersatz. I hope you find them helpful, and I hope that no matter where you are, that you do your Rückbildungsgymnastik!

  • YouTube “Abdominal Separation”
  • YouTube “Rückbildungsgymnastik” and if you are a pilates or yoga type, you can add that to your search combination.
  • BeFit CD and book. The information is good, but the author’s presentation skills are painfully stilted.
  • A friend also recommended Hab It.