fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Pregnancy

Pregnancy is Temporary, but Your Choices Last Forever

Being avidly interested in perinatal fitness & a new mom myself, I come across a lot of advertising and social media posts about exercise in pregnancy and postpartum. I often find myself scrolling through the comments to see what the general consensus is on the latest (usually controversial) video or message is.

One comment that almost always crops up is:

“I did crossfit/ran marathons/did crunches/did what I always did when I was pregnant and my baby turned out perfectly fine”

And all I can think is you just don’t get it!

While there are definitely recommendations for exercise in pregnancy circled around maintaining baby’s health, Mom’s health is just as important!

(I know, groundbreaking stuff, right?)

When I (and many other well-educated fitness professionals) say maybe it isn’t the best idea to do crunches, or run long distances, or lift super heavy, I’m not saying this because I think you are putting your baby’s health at risk. I am saying these things because you are putting yourself, your body and your future function at risk!

Yes, you can powerlift (or sprint, or do jumping jacks, or whatever) when pregnant, and baby will probably be fine, and it might feel okay for you at the time, but should you? Probably not.

Something one of my idols in the fitness industry, Brianna Battles says regularly about exercise in pregnancy is:

Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
~Brianna Battles, Everyday Battles

It all circles back around to training with intention. When pregnant, a lot of women fear losing themselves when the baby comes (I know I did. I so did!) so they try to keep doing what they’ve always done and enjoyed through their pregnancy, as if to prove to themselves that they are the same! But, as much as you are the same, you are so not the same during (and after) pregnancy. You are growing a human! That is a big-freakin-deal! You need to respect that. You need to surrender yourself to the fact that as important your personal goals are, the priority should be keeping your body healthy and strong in this (so very short) chapter of your life.

There are so many more factors at play in the perinatal period when it comes to exercise and fitness. Hormones influence your connective tissues. A growing uterus influences center of gravity, balance and movement patterns. Diastasis recti influences core function and strength. The weight of baby on the pelvic floor influences it’s ability to respond appropriately (hello, pee sneeze – not normal!). So we need to take all of these things (and more) into account when training in pregnancy.

Yes, we can program exercise along the same lines you are used to and enjoy, they just might look a little different. The how of exercise is often more important than the exercise itself. It’s about strategy rather than just do’s and don’ts. If you follow Brianna (mentioned above) Jennifer Cambpell of Mama Lion Strong & Healthy Habits Happy Moms, or Jessie Mundell, or Julie Wiebe or Katy Bowman, they all preach ‘ribs over hips’ and keeping your ribs, spine and pelvis neutral.

[Side note: I would be literally nowhere if it wasn’t for all I have learned from following these amazing women and for their trail blazing in this field]

So, can you complete a heavy overhead press while 30 weeks pregnant? Yes. Okay, but can you do it while maintaining your ribs over hips, without your diastasis bulging, and without holding your breath? No. Then that exercise isn’t the best choice for you in this chapter of your life. If you say you are just going to do it because it feels fine to you, my next question is why? What is the value of continuing to do an exercise that maybe isn’t the best for your body at this point? Is it because you think you should be able to do it? Is it because you’ve seen other pregnant women do it and you want to look ‘badass’ like they did? Is it because you’re afraid of looking like a weakling or a failure who didn’t have the guts to go for it? Take a look inside yourself, and analyze why you feel you need to do a specific exercise or program. Is it worth the risk? Spoiler alert: putting your glory ahead of your future function is not badass and doesn’t take guts. You know what takes guts? Putting yourself first. Saying no when someone challenges you. Looking within yourself and standing up for your own values. That’s badass. That takes guts. Going with the flow because everyone is doing it, that’s cowardly. Having the courage to stand out on your own is the pinnacle of strength.

Now I’m not saying you can never do your favourite not-so-ideal-in-pregnancy exercise again. That is definitely something you can return to. However, it’s something you need to work up to, and be mindful of how your body is functioning, and be ready to maybe take two steps forward and one (or two or three) steps back along the way. It’s about checking the ego, and respecting where your body is at during this very important period and allowing yourself to surrender to it. This chapter in your life is temporary. Eventually it will end, but the choices you make within it can have lasting consequences if you aren’t smart about it. In closing, I’d like to bring it back around to another quote from Brianna;

Pregnancy is temporary, Postpartum is forever.
~Brianna Battles, Everyday Battles

Try not to forget that, because your body won’t.

having-the-courage-to-stand-out-on-your-own-is-the-pinnacle-of-strength

Birth, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 3)

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2

After seeing Kristen, I felt so much better. I wasn’t worried about picking up and carrying Nugget around, I wasn’t worried about carrying laundry up from the basement or hauling in groceries. I was able to actually live my life.

I started doing the ab work Kristen suggested, and I was absolutely astounded at how effective they were! Who knew such tiny movements like lifting your foot off the ground could have such a dramatic effect. The first day I did the exercise for a total of 6 reps. I know, barely anything, but I wasn’t able to maintain proper technique after 6 so I stopped. The next day I was blown away by how sore I was. We went grocery shopping and I was waddling around like I was 9 months pregnant because my TA was so sore! It was a total lightbulb moment for me. It made me realize just how much your TA functions in supporting your pelvis and trunk through every day movements, like walking! It made me understand further how diastasis recti can influence your movement and why it is so important to keep it in check if you have one.

I did the PF progressions she suggested. I was surprised to hear she suggested going PF contractions with a full bladder, but if you think about it, that’s like an internal load on your PF, and it’s like adding plates to the barbell! I was able to get even more in tune with my body, and really feel how and when my PF was contracting and monitor the forces at work.

I went back to see Kristen a month after our initial appointment feeling great. I informed her that a lot of my symptoms had subsided and other were explainable by reasons besides prolapse. She laughed “well you can go home now!” she said, jokingly, but I probably could have. She reassesed my abs, alignment and PF. After she was all done she said “Well you’re boring! There isn’t much going on here! Your PF is strong and contracting reactively and is well coordinated with your TA. Your anterior wall is ‘stretchy’ but I wouldn’t say you have a prolapse!”

I wanted to cry, again. But this time tears of joy.

But I hesitated. I was worried. Nugget was my first baby and I definitely had plans of having more, and hopefully sooner rather than later. So I asked Kristen what to do. I was nervous another labour and birth would do even more damage. Should I come see her in pregnancy? How does she recommend labouring and pushing from the perspective of a PT? Can I prevent prolapse with future babies?

So many questions.

We had a lengthy discussion about labour, pushing and delivery. It was so nice to talk to someone openly about birth who was about the function and physiology of the female body, and she gave me tools to go into my next pregnancy & birth feeling strong and confident.

And that’s how I want you to feel. Strong & Confident

Not broken, or fragile, or sad or depressed.

Strong.

We are all strong, we just need to see it within ourselves.

Now if you have read this series of blogs, hoping for a how-to list of things to do to heal your prolapse, I am sorry that I didn’t deliver.

However, I will give you this one To Do.

Find a pelvic floor physiotherapist. A good one. One that supports your goals and lifestyle. Not all physios are as open and supportive as Kristen, and you don’t have to accept that. If your physio refuses to give you progressions, or only tells you your options are to swim and walk, never lift anything over 5lbs (that’s realistic) and never spread your feet wider than hip width, find a new physio. There are good ones out there. If you don’t leave your appointment feeling confident you know how to live your life without fear and anxiety, you need a new physio. They should support your goals, not crush them.

 

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Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 2)

Continued from this post.

Luckily, I was able to score a cancellation with Kristen, otherwise I would have to wait months agonizing over my broken body. I was able to get in to see her two days later.

Now, I have never met a physio I didn’t like (true story), but there was something about Kristen. We just clicked. Our personalities were totally in sync and we had the same values and beliefs. She started the session by reassuring me, she could tell I was nervous. She said she knew many, many women who had a similar diagnosis to mine, and who live complete and normal lives, that I shouldn’t let this hold me back.

She assessed my alignment, my musculature, had me squat and stand while feeling my back and sides to assess how my muscles engaged. She had me lay down and assessed my abs and glutes, and informed me that my transverse abs aren’t as strong or coordinated as I thought, but gave me exact steps how to correct them.

She then did an internal exam (which I describe for you here), which I was most worried about. You see, the physician who had diagnosed me with prolapse had informed me that my pelvic floor (PF) muscles were extremely weak. She had rated them 1.5 on a scale of 5. She described it as barely perceptible with no endurance. The problem I had with that assessment is she didn’t allow me to coordinate my contraction with my breath, it was more “aaaand GO! NOW!” and I was a bit caught off guard. When Kristen assessed my strength, she allowed me to exhale with the contraction and take my time. She almost laughed when I told her the doctor told me my PF was weak, she rated me at a 4 out of 5!

I left the appointment feeling so much better, relieved that my PF wasn’t weak, and looking forward to moving on with my life. I booked another appointment for a month out, just to follow up with the ab work she gave me and the PF progressions she had suggested. Kristen encouraged me to call her with any questions, and unlike some professionals you speak to, with her I knew she really meant it.

The next day I had a thought. She never gave me any limitations for movement or exercise? Everything I have ever read online about prolapse is a list of don’ts. So I sent her an email, and fully expected it to take a week or two to hear from her, if at all. A few days later, she phoned me at home. The first thing she said was, stop Googling. She doesn’t consider postpartum prolapse in the same category as post-menopausal prolapse because there is so much at play postpartum. Your body has so much healing to do, and especially if you are breastfeeding, that can take a really long time, and to be patient. She told me to not limit myself at all because I have a strong PF and to trust myself, use good form and breathing and listen to my body. She suggested I do what I would normally, ease back into things, and if something exacerbates my symptoms, to maybe back off a bit next time. She didn’t see the value in restricting a young mother like myself.

This was the best thing I could hear. Instantly vanished any fear I had about carrying Nugget around, about doing daily activities, going for long hikes, or getting back into weight lifting.

I was happy again.

~Stay tuned for my progress with the exercises Kristen gave me, and how our next visit went and what she told me~

how-i

pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse, Self Care

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 1)

So I mentioned in previous posts that I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse. This is a really common disorder in women, who have or have not had babies, though it is more common after vaginal childbirth.

I am sure mine was caused by 2+ hours of active, hard, hold your breath and bear down pushing, like I talked about in my post Hold Your Breath, Count to Ten, Push Your Baby Out and Your Uterus Too. Now, I’ll admit, I still struggle with my birth. It was not the birth I had planned for. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the smooth, clean, athletic event in the way I had envisioned. That was all compounded 100x when I was diagnosed with prolapse.

After I left the doctors office who informed me my bladder and uterus had fallen, I cried.

You guys, I cried so hard. I couldn’t even make it to my vehicle in the parking lot. I was actively sobbing walking across pavement.

I couldn’t help it. I was thinking, how could I let this happen to myself? I knew better! (or at least I thought I did) I trusted my midwife and she let me down.

Listen, I know thoughts are illogical. But I was devastated. I felt broken. The doctor gave me absolutely no guidance as to whether or not I needed to alter my lifestyle. She told me my pelvic floor was super weak and basically told me I needed to do kegels, 10 x 10 seconds, twice a day. That’s it. I was terrified. I was scared to pick up my 21lb baby. Do you have any idea how awful it feels to be scared of picking up your infant when he needs you? I’m sure a lot of you do, and can agree, it’s fucking terrible.

I went home, drank some wine, and told my husband. We tried to move on with our lives, but it kept creeping up on me. My husband wanted me to go get tires put on some rims for my car. I had that gross, helpless, sinking feeling, as I told him he would have to put them into the car for me, since women with prolapse aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy (or so the internet told me).

Luckily, the doctor had suggested I return to physio. She gave me a list with some suggestions, she said I could try and return to Michelle, but since I (apparently) didn’t have success with her, here are some other recommendations.

I liked Michelle, but there was something missing in our relationship. She didn’t seem all that comfortable guiding me back to the types of exercise I wanted to do. I wanted to lift heavy things, sprint, jump, and do the things I loved. She didn’t have much experience in that area, and to her credit she tried her best to guide me, but she didn’t give me much confidence.

I went over the list that the doctor gave me, and found one of the physio’s was based out of a sports medicine clinic. A light bulb went off, that’s exactly what I needed! I called the clinic, found out that Kristen had a cancellation in two days, and booked myself in!

~Stay tuned for my experience with Kristen, what I learned and how I healed myself, both physically and emotionally from my prolapse~

how-i-healed-my

pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Your Vagina Needs Therapy

It’s true.

I’ve said it time and time again. Maybe in nicer words, but I’ve said it. If you’ve had a baby (vaginal or otherwise), you need to see a physiotherapist (PT). And not for your back or your shoulder or your knee. For your vagina. More specifically, your pelvic floor (PF), or the muscles that surround your vagina and hold up your bladder, uterus and rectum. Those muscles that are *supposed* to stop you from leaking urine when you run, and are *supposed* to help you hold in a fart, and are *supposed* to relax and contract when you have sex and reach orgasm.

That’s what they are *supposed* to do.

I am putting *supposed* in between asterisks because they don’t always do these things, in all women. And that, my friend, is why your vagina needs therapy.

If you saw my previous post about PF dysfunction, and you are maybe having some issues, you’re maybe considering going to see a PF PT (first off, yay!). But maybe you’re nervous, ‘what exactly do they do at PF PT?’ you ask? Well that’s what I am here to tell you.

First off, most physio’s will have you fill out a questionnaire, so they can get a quick grip on your symptoms, your obstetrical history, and what your goals are. Most often the start off with an initial consultation, that is longer than your regular visits, so they can get to know you and do a thorough interview to assess where you are at. They want to know how many babies you’ve had, how you had them (vaginal or c-section), whether or not you’re currently having issues with leaking, discomfort with sex, and any pain or heaviness.

Then they will most likely assess your posture or alignment, movement patterns and sometimes feel the muscles on your back or sides while you move, like squatting up and down. They may also pay attention to your breathing while you move, or have you pick something up to see how you do it. They may even just assess your movement patterns without you even realizing, they are professionals and have a keen eye, and a lot of people move differently than they usually do when they know someone is watching! Then they will assess your abs, have you lay and lift your head and feel your belly to see if you have a diastasis recti (separated abs) and have you contract your transverse abs to see how well you are able to connect with them and how strong they are.

Then comes the fun part.

Okay maybe not fun, per-say, but the meat and potatoes of the visit, so to speak.

The Internal Exam.

This is probably what most women are nervous about, but I promise you, it is nothing compared to a pelvic exam by a doctor, a PAP or, hello, giving birth. I’ve been to two different PTs and both of them made me feel so comfortable, it didn’t feel awkward at all. They assess your tissues from the outside, get you to cough and bear down before they even touch you, then they touch the outside to see if there is any tension or tenderness anywhere. Then they insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the vagina and have you cough and bear down again to see if there is any prolapsing organs. Then they feel all of the muscles in your pelvic floor from the inside if your vagina, and assess them for tension or tenderness again. Then they have you do a pelvic floor contraction (or kegel) and assess how strong your muscles are and how coordinated they are with each other. They may also use their other hand to feel your abs to see if they are coordinating properly with your pelvic floor.

At this point it varies between PTs, but some may do some myofascial release, or scar tissue release or massage. Then most will work on teaching you how to do a PF contraction properly (if you don’t already, which most women don’t if they have been to PT before). Then they will work on improving your contraction, maybe positioning their hand in different orientations to assess how all of the different muscles are contracting. Depending on where you are at in your rehab, they may have you do some minor exercises (think lifting one leg up, or lifting your hips, no jumping jacks!) while laying on the table and assess how well your PF responds to the movement.

After that, they will conclude the internal,  and leave the room to give you a chance to get dressed. Then they will come back and discuss what they thought of everything, give you some exercises as homework and discuss whether or not you need to schedule another visit (or two, or more).

That’s it! It’s really not as bad as you may have thought (I hope!) but I promise you will leave with a whole new appreciation and understanding of your pelvic floor, and your body as a whole! The pelvic floor is an integral part of how your entire body functions, and supports some very important organs, I hope you plan to take care of it the same way you’d take care of any other muscle in your body if it were to go through a trauma like the PF does in bearing a child.

Don’t neglect the pelvic floor!

Birth, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum

Don’t Put up With Leaking During Exercise

I’ve written a lot about my experience postpartum, and care I believe women should receive in the immediate postpartum period, but what about down the line?

What if you are 1, 2, 10 years out from your most recent birth?

What if I told you, once postpartum, always postpartum?

Growing a birthing a human fundamentally changes our bodies for the rest of our lives.

sneeze-and-pee

Do you relate? You would not believe how many women I’ve heard from who describe symptoms of pelvic floor (PF) dysfunction years after their last baby.

What do I mean by PF dysfunction?
Well there are varying degrees, but symptoms can include but are not limited to:

Peeing or leaking urine when you sneeze, jump, run, laugh or cough.
Feeling like you always have to pee, no matter how long it has been since you last went
Dribbling urine after you get up from the toilet.
Feeling like there is still urine in your bladder after you finished peeing.
Feeling like you have to bear down or push on your abdomen to fully empty your bladder.
Feeling like you have to push on your perineum in order to fully empty your bowel.
Pain in your perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) with activity or prolonged standing.
Unexplained lower back pain.
Painful sex or decreased sexual pleasure.
Feeling as though the vagina is too tight or small for sexual penetration.
Feeling of laxity in the pelvic area.
Inability to consciously contract (or Kegel) or relax the pelvic floor .
Inability to distinguish between a bowel movement and passing wind.
Inability to control passing of wind or bowel contents.
Protrusion of internal organs out of the vaginal opening.

If you can relate to any (one, or more than one) of the symptoms listed above, it is possible you may be experiencing some degree of PFD.

mom-wet-pants

I know what you’re thinking; ‘But I’ve had babies, don’t all women just pee themselves after they have babies? Isn’t this normal?

The answer is a resounding NO!

If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would.

But what about all of those Poise, Always, and Depends commercials? They make it seem like it’s just something we have to accept.

mjaxmi1kmte3ytdmndfmotm2mtuy

Better buy some diapers, because you’re never going to keep your pee in again.

No.

No. No. No. No. No!

While urinary incontinence (one of the most frequent symptoms of PFD) is common it is not normal!

Some of you might now be saying “Well, that’s what I thought, and I told my doctor and he/she said ‘Just do your Kegels, you’ll be fine.

There seems to be a huge disconnect in the medical/obstetrical world when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction. A lot of physicians and midwives seem to think that as long as your organs aren’t falling out, you’re doing okay.

This is not the case! There is help!

Can I get a Hallelujah?

So what can you do?

Do I really have to say it again?

I will. Because I can’t say it enough.

Pelvic Health, or Women’s Health Physiotherapy!

You’re thinking “But how? If my doctor doesn’t think anything is wrong, how can I get a referral?

Most Pelvic Health Physios don’t require a referral*!

Now you’re asking “How Do I find a physiotherapist?

Here is a list of websites that offer search within Canada to find local physiotherapists who specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor:
Pelvic Health Solutions
Pelvienne Wellness
Physio Can Help**

Once you’ve worked with a physio to determine where you are at, in addition you can work with a personal trainer who specializes in postnatal training to get your strength back! That’s what I am here for! I am now taking on a few clients to start building my personal training career and experience! Feel free to contact me for more information, either through this website, or on my Facebook page or Instagram page.

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And please, please, do not think you have to live with wet panties for the rest of your life!

*some benefits/insurance plans do require a physician’s referral to pay for the service
**General physiotherapist lookup – not specific to PF
fitness, postpartum, Self Care

My Favourite Fitness Gear – Postpartum Edition

We all know the postpartum period has it’s own set of special challenges. I am not just talking about the first few weeks, I’m talking months, because we all know postpartum is forever. After I gave birth to Nugget, there were a few things I could not live without when it came to my fitness and regaining my strength. Here is a list of my faves

lulus
#1 Lululemon Hi-Rise Wunder Under Pants
I cannot say enough good things about these pants. I bought them pregnant, wore them until I gave birth, and continued to wear them immediately postpartum and still wear them today. The high rise waist stays up nice over a pregnant belly, and feels slightly supportive on a soft postpartum belly.

 

 

VS bra
#2 The Ultimate by Victoria’s Secret Run Sport Bra
I was so happy when I found this bra! It’s so supportive, and it has clasps on the front of the straps so it can easily be undone to breastfeed. I probably wear this bra 5/7 days a week! Plus they have super cute colours and it’s relatively inexpensive.

 

 

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#3 Old Navy Fitted Rib-Knit Tank
This tank is the perfect layering tank for underneath any shirt when breastfeeding. It is extremely stretchy so you can use the two-shirt technique to breastfeed with minimal exposure. This was key for me as Nugget was a January baby and it was cold!

 
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#4 Nalgene 32 ounce Water Bottle
Those early weeks, I had a bottle of water within arms reach at all times. Between breastfeeding, night sweats, constant peeing. I was continuously parched. Having this easy to use, large bottle was a lifesaver.

 

 
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#5 Fitbit Charge HR Activity Tracker
I am a data junkie, so I loved having the Fitbit to keep track of my sleep, activity, walks and weight with. It also inadvertently helped me keep track of Nugget’s feeds because I could see how often I was awake at night with the sleep tracking technology.

 

 

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#6 Kushies Washable Cotton Breastpads
Cotton breastpads were a godsend. I found that the disposable ones made me really sweaty underneath and that did not help my already tender and chapped nipples. These cotton ones wicked sweat and milk away and allowed my breasts to stay dry between feedings and during any activity that made me sweat.

 

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#7 Mini Bands
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my mini bands! They are such an easy way to add resistance to any glute exercise! There are so many variations of their use, I could write an entire post about them!

 

 

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#8 WOSS Suspension Trainer
Another great tool for home workouts, an awesome way to increase the variability to body weight workouts, which are the best type of workouts to be doing in the early postpartum period. This trainer comes with an anchor to put through a door frame rather than having to screw it into the wall or ceiling.

 

 

I’ve used all of these products almost every single day, or at least with every workout since having Nugget. I found they made my life easier or more comfortable as it related to being a new mom. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

 

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fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Let go of the Ego

Let me tell you a story.

Doing my personal training classroom training, included a ‘fitness class’ for one hour at the end of the weekend. Our ProTrainer had the intention of teaching us some lessons beyond ‘how to exercise’ and she certainly did.

Now to clarify, at this point I was 3 months postpartum, had only had one session with my physio and wasn’t really supposed to be doing any sort of intense exercise. However, I love intense exercise, I am supremely competitive and cannot stand the thought of others thinking I was lazy or not ‘fit’ enough.

Before the class began, we were told ‘bring something with sugar in it, like fruit or juice. Do not bend over so your head goes below your heart at any point during the class, do not let your feet stop moving, and above all do not leave the room alone’.

I knew things were about to get serious.

I was excited. I hadn’t had what I would define as a ‘real’ workout in months. We get through the majority of the class, lot’s of squats and lunges and such, nothing I couldn’t handle. Then our instructor says “If you’ve had a baby, you’re going to hate me”.

Oh shit.

I literally JUST had a baby. This isn’t going to be good.

She coaches us to skip (without the rope). Continuously. For what seemed like forever.

Now for most of the class, this was an intense physical workout, that challenged their body and fitness.

For me it was mental.

I nearly broke down in tears during the class. She had taught us earlier in the course to ‘check our ego’. To not focus our training on ‘being the best’ or comparing our clients to anyone but themselves, and train them at the level they are at, not the level we think they need to be. It took every ounce of me to listen to that message for myself during that class.

You see, physically I definitely could have kept up with the class, no problem.

At the expense of my pelvic floor.

That could have easily been one of those moments you hear about where the woman leaves with soggy underwear, or worse, my uterus getting ready to fall out. But no one in the room knew that, all they could see was that I appeared as though I wasn’t trying. From the outside it looked like I didn’t care enough to push through the class, because I definitely wasn’t tired, and it was obvious.

This killed me.

I always prided myself on at least giving it my all. Busting my ass, so at least if I didn’t ‘win’ or keep up, at least I gave it my all when it came to anything physical. But this time I was faced with limitations. I had to have a frank discussion with myself:

Is this worth it?
Is ‘pushing it’ in this class with a bunch of people you may or may never see again worth potential life long damage? 
Is it worth sacrificing your body to prove something to these people who probably don’t actually give a shit?

And the answer was, obviously, no.

But it killed me. I hated that I couldn’t push through the discomfort. That I couldn’t just ignore what my physio said and jump until my calves gave out.

Eventually one of the assistants to the instructor came over and asked me if I was okay. “Are you leaking?” she asked. She knew. I explained I wasn’t but I was in physio and not willing to risk it, she understood and showed me some modifications to help me continue to participate without risking injury. It was at this point that I realized in my own embarrassment I had slowly moved to the back of the room. I was almost against the back wall, unconsciously hoping that no one would notice that I wasn’t fully participating. Trying to shrink back into the shadows and not allow myself to be seen as ‘unfit’ or not trying.

That was the moment I vowed to never allow any of my clients to feel like this. To never let them feel like they weren’t good enough to participate, or that their level of participation was inadequate. It was a terrible feeling that I hope I never invoke in anyone I am hoping to help. It was in that moment that I learned that training isn’t about the ego. It’s about where are you are here and now. Not where you were 6 months ago, where you were before you got pregnant, not where you were when you were 18. Right now. It’s about maximizing the abilities of your current body, today, in this moment. Some days, you might be able to bang out a circuit and feel like a rock star, other days the baby may have kept you up half the night and all you’ve managed to eat is a toaster strudel and a litre of coffee, and that same circuit feels impossible.

And that’s okay.

We have to learn to accept the here and now and forget about comparisons or being good enough. We can find balance between challenging ourselves and feeling inadequate because someone else can do it better.

We are strong even in our weakest moments.
We are enough today, tomorrow and every day.

 

Let Go of the Ego

fitness, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Why I’ll Never Tell You to do Crunches

When I started my PT training, I learned that one of the exercises I needed to  perfect for my practical exam was the crunch (or abdominal curl up).

I was annoyed.

I hate crunches, doesn’t everyone?

But I hate them for reasons other than they suck to do. I hate them because they aren’t very functional, and they usually do more harm than good. And guess what? They probably aren’t doing anything to help you flatten your stomach, especially if you’re postpartum and have a diastasis recti (DR). They also can wreak havoc on your spine and your pelvic floor. Bet you didn’t know that either?

A lot of women with DR experience a ‘belly pooch’ or feel as though they still look pregnant weeks (or months) after birth. So they think, I just need to train my abs to suck that tummy in, so they get on the floor and crunch, crunch, crunch until they cannot crunch anymore. And they still  have a pooch, or sometimes it even gets worse! This is because DR is the thinning of the linea alba down the middle of the abs. The linea alba is the line of connective tissue that all of your abdominal muscles attach to, and it runs vertically from your ribs to your pubic bone, between the rectus abdominus, or 6-pack muscles. When you crunch, you increase your intra-abdominal pressure, pull on all of those abdominal muscles, and increase the tension on the linea alba. If it is already weakened, such as in DR, then you are just adding to the damage. If you’ve ever done a crunch and noticed a bulge in the middle of your belly, that’s your linea alba failing to support the pressure inside your belly.

So if this pressure can affect the linea alba, it only makes sense that it also affects the pelvic floor. In my previous post I talked about the pelvic floor being a trampoline that is stretched out postpartum. Which means, if your pelvic floor is already stretched and weak, then it will have a difficult time supporting the increased abdominal pressure created with crunches and it will delay the healing of the pelvic floor. This puts you at an even higher risk of incontinence or prolapse.

Now, my goal is to encourage women to focus on rehabilitation and training their body postpartum to be as highly functioning as possible. But, I know realistically, a lot of women will also have goals relating to their appearance, and that’s okay. The good news is repairing a DR will help in both because not only will it help your core function better, it will help reduce waist size, or that ‘mummy pooch’, which I know a lot of women struggle with.

I know I felt like my whole life changed so drastically after nugget was born, all I wanted was to feel normal in my body, to have that be one thing that was the same. So I get it, I understand wanting your clothes to fit and wanting to feel attractive to your partner. It doesn’t make you vain to feel this way. What I don’t agree with is sacrificing function in order to look a certain way, I believe we can have both! It might take a little more time and we have to let go of that ‘training ego’ that says we have to do crunches or whatever, because there are better ways of doing things.

The key to tummy is the transverse abdominus (TA), or the deepest ab muscles and learning how to engage them properly. Most people have difficulty connecting with these muscles without engaging their more superficial core muscles like the obliques and the rectus. But if you’ve ever ‘sucked your stomach in’ the TA is what you are using. It is also important to engage your pelvic floor when you engage your TA as they work together, which I learned from The Pelvic Floor Piston: Foundation for Fitness when I did the program. The core muscles are a team and you have to train them together in order for them to function well.

Now you don’t have to be training to practice working with your core. The core is always on, always part of your daily movements. If you didn’t have your core, you wouldn’t be able to stand up or lift anything, or breath or cough. In fact, once you’re a mom, it’s even more important that you learn to engage your core through your daily activities. Think about how much you lift in a day, your baby, laundry, groceries. That’s all lifting! These are perfect opportunities to practice engaging your core and sneak little workouts in throughout the day. Think about lifting your PF and bringing in your TA every time you pick the little one up & every time you carry a load of laundry. Pretty soon you’ll get better and better at being able to feel those muscles and engage them appropriately. If you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and can’t connect with those muscles no matter how hard you try, I encourage you to seek out a pelvic health physio in your area who can help you learn to use them properly.

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While I am in the process of obtaining my PT certification with prenatal/postpartum specialization, I’m not quite there yet. Even then, I won’t be able to help everyone, but I don’t want that to hold you back from reaching your goals. My lovely friend Lorraine Scapens over at Pregnancy Exercise has most generously offered to give my readers a 10% discount on her programs that I used when pregnant and still use postpartum; Fit2BirthMum & Birth2FitMum as well as her other programs Super Fit Mum & No More Mummy Tummy Challenge. Simply enter the discount code ‘HMHB‘ at checkout to get your 10% off!

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Pregnancy, Self Care

Why the 6-week Clearance Isn’t Enough

So you’ve had your 6-week postpartum check-up with your doctor, OB or midwife. They say ‘All is good, you can resume exercise’. You think ‘Awesome! I’m going to go out for a run tomorrow!’. Then tomorrow comes, you start running, and you feel like a bowling ball is bouncing inside your vagina, you leak, or worse you lose control of your bladder or bowels.

No one wants this. Why didn’t they warn you?

You’re not alone. The fact is, it takes a lot longer than 6 weeks for your pelvic floor, abs and uterine ligaments to return to normal. I am 5 months postpartum and still only feel maybe 90% normal. I can’t tell you why doctors and midwives don’t talk about this, but I’m hoping by reading this you’ll have a little bit more insight into postpartum exercise.

I talked about relaxin and pregnancy before, but did you know relaxin influences you for up to 3 months postpartum? And other hormonal changes will influence the laxity and strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments as long as you are breastfeeding?

True Story, Bro.

Let’s look at this logically though. Even if we take the scientific mumbo jumbo out. Your uterus was just huge (relatively speaking), then within the span of 6 weeks (or less) it shrank back down to the size of a pear. All of those ligaments, tendons and muscles that were holding that giant uterus up for 9 or so months have been stretched and loosened to accommodate it. They are going to take time to get back to where they were before. Here’s some perspective, if you had your leg in a cast for 9 months, then got the cast cut off, do you think you could go out and run a marathon 6 weeks later? Doubtful. Why do we treat all those very stressed ligaments inside our abdomen and pelvis any different? They’ve gone through massive changes and we need to respect that. We need to slowly and gently start adding exercises back in to allow those structures time to re-adapt back to their former glory.

Think of your pelvic floor like a trampoline. Now imagine a 400lb sumo wrestler sitting on that trampoline. That’s what your pelvic floor is like at the end of your pregnancy. Trying desperately just to keep everything up. Now imagine that sumo wrestler sitting there for a few months. How stretched would that trampoline be?

Ya, let that visual sink in for a moment.

We want that PF to bounce like trampoline, and be taught enough to resist the pressure of the organs it’s holding up (uterus, bladder, bowels) but flex with breath and impact. If you were trying to fix that stretched out trampoline, and someone kept jumping on it while you were working, it wouldn’t be very effective, would it? This is how it works with your PF and impact postpartum.

So what do I mean by ‘impact’?

I mean jumping, skipping, running, jogging, box jumps, jumping jacks, basically anything where there’s a period of time where both of your feet are off the floor, no matter how short the period of time is. Yes, even if it is a split second. Yes, even if you land gently.

Now, this isn’t to say you can never do these things again. This is definitely something you can work your way back to eventually. But you have to take your time, be careful and do it right. If you want your body to be functional well into old age, it’s important to take care of it now. If you want to have more children and want your body to support those pregnancies well, it’s important to respect this postpartum period and recover appropriately.

So the next question is how?

Well first, go see a Pelvic Health Physio (do I sound like a broken record yet?). Then work with a personal trainer who specializes in postpartum (like me, soon!) or purchase a program that is designed for postpartum women, like Birth2FitMum.

The most important thing, though, is to be mindful of your body. If things don’t feel right, don’t do them! Let go of your ego, and just be proud of where you are at currently. Just because you aren’t in the same place you were months ago, doesn’t mean you are broken, it’s all part of the journey! You grew a human! Go You!

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While I am in the process of obtaining my PT certification with prenatal/postpartum specialization, I’m not quite there yet. Even then, I won’t be able to help everyone, but I don’t want that to hold you back from reaching your goals. My lovely friend Lorraine Scapens over at Pregnancy Exercise has most generously offered to give my readers a 10% discount on her programs that I used when pregnant and still use postpartum; Fit2BirthMum & Birth2FitMum as well as her other programs Super Fit Mum & No More Mummy Tummy Challenge. Simply enter the discount code ‘HMHB‘ at checkout to get your 10% off!