As an elite distance runner, Stephanie Rothstein Bruce has always had her eyes on the Olympics—and has done everything in her power to ensure success. However, after having two children with her husband Ben in the span of 15 months, Rothstein Bruce develop diastasis recti (DR), a condition that causes the tissue that holds the abdominal walls together, called the linea alba, to actually separate. "Over two-thirds of women who've had children have had diastasis recti, but just never know it," says Sara Haley, a personal trainer and creator of Expecting MORE a series of pre- and post-natal workouts.
Instead of keeping her post-partum struggles to herself, Rothstein Bruce has chronicled the roller coaster of getting back into shape and recovering from diastastis recti through her Instagram account. She captions one close-up photo of her stomach, "The strength and stability is coming back steadily, but the appearance of abs and stretch marks remains the same. The not so glamorous part of getting strong post baby."
Her real talk is helping to educate women about an otherwise relatively undiscussed health condition. Because so many women go undiagnosed and brush diastastis recti off as "mommy tummy," Haley shares what the average woman should keep in mind when looking for and bouncing back from the condition. "It's important to know that it doesn't matter if you're obese or ridiculous fit, like all things with pregnancy, [the commonality and severity of DR] often depends on the size of your baby, how it's growing, how many babies [you've had or are pregnant with], and more," she says.
While Rothstein Bruce's Instagram account is certainly inspirational, it's important to recognize her training routine will likely vary greatly from your own—especially post-partum. The best offense, in the case of DR, is a good defense: Strengthening of the abdominals. Targeted ab exercises can both prevent DR and help from making already-diagnosed DR worse. (Try: The Power Abs Workout.)
Likewise, it's also just as important to know what not to do if you have DR. "You want to avoid movements like extensions of the spine (think Updog, Camel and Locust poses), twists and any exercises—especially high impact ones—where you can't maintain the interlocking of your TVA (or transverse abdominis)," she says.
It goes without saying that seeing an athlete's body so unfiltered—and a body that closely mirrors reality for many women—is incredibly inspirational. And while you may not have a ticket to Rio, perhaps it will simply make you feel more comfortable running in sports bra this summer. If she can show off her stomach, why can't you?