fitness, motherhood, nutrition, Self Care

How I Revolutionized my Diet to Lose Weight and Love my Body

I’m a woman. I’ve always been tall (I was 5’6″ in 6th grade, at 12 years old), I have broad shoulders and wide hips. I take up space. I always have, I always will.

I haven’t always been okay with it.

I spent a lot of my adolescence wanting to be smaller. I was never the girl who could be at the top of the cheerleading pyramid, or the one the boys would pick up and spin around, because I was big. My bigness came with strength, I was always the one doing the lifting or carrying, at the bottom of the pyramid, the backbone of the red rover team. As a young girl, I felt self-conscious about this. Girls are ‘supposed’ to be weak, and tiny and need big strong boys to take care of them.

I was also lucky to have parent’s who didn’t care about what girls are ‘supposed’ to be. My dad taught me to chop wood, and fish and hunt. My brothers and I almost always had the same expectations when it came to chores and helping out. At home, my bigness was never an issue, my strength was something to be proud of. I never once felt like my parents or extended family judged me in that way, and for that I am thankful.

But I didn’t live in a vacuum, I saw society’s expectations, I felt the burden of being bullied. I was reminded regularly that being big and being a woman is a problem. I tried a few diets here and there, but honestly I love food too much to ‘stick’ to anything. I went through a phase of following a hit-diet that emphasized no carbs, and cheat days, and very fucked up views on food. (the diet actually suggested increasing the number of bowel movements on ‘cheat days’ to minimize the number of calories absorbed – um, pretty sure that’s a version of bulimia). I lost a reasonable amount of weight, for me. I remember my mom asking me if I was eating. She was worried. I felt proud. Hey, everyone was noticing how ‘small’ I was, that had never happened to me before!

Looking back on that time, I cringe. I thought I was doing things ‘right’. After all, people are praised and put on pedestals when they ‘stick to’ their diets and lose a significant amount of weight. We don’t talk about how obsessed with food they are, or if they can function outside of planning their meals, or if they can enjoy day-to-day things because it may or may not be ‘on plan’.

So what changed?

I had a baby. I had a newborn to take care of, I had to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, and all on broken sleep. I was exhausted (who isn’t in that stage) and I could feel my emotions so much worse some days than others. There were days when I could feel myself getting frustrated with Nugget so much easier, and I started to analyze why. Yes, sleep was a factor, but that was mostly out of my control. I started realizing when I ate poorly, I felt awful. My patience was thinner, and I was quick to snap on my husband. And it wasn’t like I was eating fast food everyday or ordering pizza, it was just whenever I was out of balance, I felt it.

So I started paying even closer attention to how each food I ate made me feel. Too much bread? Made me so bloated and uncomfortable. Lots of green veggies? So much energy and my digestion felt like it was humming along. Not enough protein? I would get hungry and cranky within hours of eating. I started getting more in tune with my body’s needs. I started craving ‘healthy’ foods. My daily choices started balancing out.

I used to forbid my husband from purchasing any ‘bad’ foods because if it was in the house, I would eat it, and I would eat it all. I would think ‘oh man, I can’t have that, I should eat it all so it’s gone so I don’t have to worry about it anymore’. But now? I know I can have chocolate, or cookies, or ice cream whenever I want, and I do! But I don’t feel the need to polish off 10 servings, because I know that it’s always there whenever I feel like it. I don’t feel deprived, therefore I don’t need to binge. I try to live in an abundance mindset. All the foods are there all of the time whenever I want. There are no ‘bad foods’, nothing is ‘off limits’. There are some foods that make me feel crappy, so I don’t eat them as often, because I don’t like to feel like crap. There are some foods that make me feel great, so I choose those more often.

It’s as complicated and as simple as that.

So I bet you’re reading this and thinking, well shit if I ‘ate whatever I want’ I’d eat the entire pantry and gain 500lbs. Listen, I thought that too. And to be honest, when you start shifting your mindset, it’s totally normal to swing the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum and go overboard for a while. Your body will be so used to being deprived perpetually, that it will take some time to re-calibrate your thinking to eat without eating all the things, all the time.

The key is to eat mindfully. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after you eat. Before – are you eating because you’re hungry? Bored? Sad? All perfectly okay, just acknowledge it and sit with it. During – are you enjoying what you are eating? Is it making you feel good? Are you full? Do you actually want that next bite, or are you just eating because there is some left? That last one is hard for me, I feel guilty leaving a bite or two behind, but one of my role models (Jennifer Campbell) said in a group we’re members of (I’m paraphrasing) ‘If you eat something, because you feel bad throwing it away, you’re just making yourself the garbage can.” That resonated with me. If I am eating something that I don’t want or need, then how is that any different than throwing it in the garbage? It’s not. And After – an hour or two later, are you feeling stuffed? Bloated and gross? Tired and lazy? or energized and happy? These are all things to help you guide your choices.

Now, this isn’t to say you must always, only eat foods that make you feel perfect, all of the time. No. That’s not the point. The point is balance. So you go to a birthday party, and there’s cake, and you want a piece. You like cake, you want to participate in the event, and it looks tasty. So have a piece! Acknowledge that maybe the cake might make you feel not so great later, so maybe only have one piece. But, consider while you’re eating the cake – is it good? Are you enjoying the cake? Does the serving size feel okay? Are you satisfied after 3 bites? Then stop. If the cake is bloody delicious, and you’re still feeling okay after you finish – then have another piece!

Like I said, complicated, but simple.

Your body is this funny thing. It has these cues that are there for a reason. Hunger, fullness, bloating, energy levels, constipation etc. They all work together to help you decide what to eat.

And you know what? The funny thing is, 14 months after having my first baby, I weigh the same as I did when I was doing that ‘crazy diet’ a few years ago. Except I am so much healthier. I have more muscle, more energy, and most important of all, I don’t obsess about food, like, at all and I love the way my body looks, but I also love the way it feels.

And the best part? I get to eat hot dogs with my son, who absolutely loves hot dogs, every week. And I don’t feel one single ounce of guilt over it, because I am balanced.

How

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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

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.

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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
nutrition, Self Care

What to do About that Dreaded Winter Cold or Flu

Here in YYC, the weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, there’s a nip in the air. As much as we’d like to deny it for a few more weeks months, winter is coming.

[cue Game of Thrones reference]

I live in Canada. There is absolutely no question we get full blown, many feet of snow, frigid cold, arctic quality, winter.

I actually love winter.

I know, I know. I’m crazy. But the truth is I just love the changing of the seasons, I love all of them. The short period of each allows me to appreciate the next. If I were to live somewhere where it was always hot, I would probably get depressed because I would not be able to snuggle up in a cozy blanket by the fire and sip on hot cocoa and watch Christmas movies. That would make me sad.

What do I not love about winter?

Flu season. Cold season. General increase in communicable illness in the whole of the population.

Not fun.

You know what’s even less fun? Being sick when pregnant – you can’t take anything! You know what’s even LESS fun than that? Being sick while caring for a newborn! Downright awful! Add onto that the stress and worry that your tiny human will also get sick. It’s the literal worst.

But there are things you can do that can help you stay on the healthier side of things and give your body the best shot at avoiding, or in the very least minimizing the sniffles, sore throat, cough, body aches and general crappy feelings that go along with viral infections.

Now if you ask your friends and family, ‘how do I prevent/get rid of a cold’ you’ll probably be greeted with a myriad of ridiculous sounding suggestions, for example:

‘take a shot of whisky and wear a toque to bed’
‘rub your feet with vicks and wear socks to bed’
‘gargle salt water’
‘take garlic pills’
‘drink a hot toddy – with extra toddy’
My personal favourite – ‘put wet socks in the fridge, then before bed, put them on then cover with wool socks’ – supposedly called ‘warming socks’… Oh Lord… *eyeroll*

I mean, I’m not complaining about the fact that the majority of the suggestions involve alcohol and sleep. But they probably aren’t doing much to support your immune system (well except maybe the sleep, but we’ll get to that).

Most of these claims are based on anecdotal evidence. “Well my mom used to always do XYZ and I always felt better within a few days” or “I always take ABC supplements and I never get sick”.

Let’s look at the first one – most colds last 5-10 days. Usually most people are in denial of their illness within the first day or two, then they acknowledge it, but don’t feel too bad, then they feel worse and finally start looking for a ‘cure’, they try XYZ and miraculously they feel better! Well did XYZ cure them, or did they just happen to try XYZ right before their virus was due to run its course?

Ya, think about that one.

So what can you do to help with the cold or flu?

What does science say?

  1. Take Probiotics
    There’s a lot of information out there about probiotics and the human microbiome right now.There’s been a recent shift in thinking to ‘germs are bad’ to ‘too many of the wrong kind of germs are bad’. You see our entire body is covered and filled with germs, and the majority of those germs live within your digestive tract, and help our bodies break down the food we eat. Recent research has found that a good balance of bacteria within the body can even help support our immune system. A 2014 study showed that taking probiotics allowed participants to decrease the frequency and duration of viral illnesses. The participants reported that although they still felt sick, when they got sick, it lasted a shorter period of time, and they reported illnesses less frequently than the group that did not receive probiotic therapy.
    Now I personally take a probiotic supplement daily, and give a baby version to Nugget, there are also many dietary sources to get beneficial bacteria through the food you eat. Things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut (make sure it’s fermented) kimchi and, little known, honey (make sure it’s unpasteurized)!
  2. Don’t fight the fever*
    Ever wonder why we get a fever when we get sick? Well it’s not what you think. The most commonly held belief is that it helps basically ‘cook’ the virus or bacteria that is causing the infection, and this is not true. If that were the case, you wouldn’t have to cook your food to kill bacteria! Fever and increased body temperature actually improve your body’s immune response buy allowing certain types of your white blood cells to become more efficient at attacking the infection. Hyperthermia, while it doesn’t kill the viruses, does inhibit their replication, or ‘viral shedding’, which can help limit the duration of the cold or flu symptoms.So while it’s perfectly reasonable to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve symptoms like aches or pains, it’s not necessary to bring down a fever just for the sake of it. Mayo Clinic suggests that a fever less than 39.5C (103F) is not worrisome in an adult, so if you’re temperature is less than that, leave it alone!

    *The exception to this is if you are pregnant – fever in pregnancy can potentially harm the developing fetus – please treat the fever with acetaminophen and speak with your care provider!
  3. Eat chicken soup
    You probably thought this one was filed up there with the ‘old wives tales’, but there is actually science behind it! One study showed that the combination of ingredients in chicken soup limited the inflammatory response of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), which is responsible for most of the unpleasant symptoms of a cold or flu. Also, inhaling the warm vapours and drinking the warm fluids associated with chicken soup help loosen mucous in the nose and chest, making them easier to clear (which is why your nose runs when you eat soup).
  4. Eat nutrient dense foods
    It’s no surprise that our bodies require nutrients to function. Our nutrition needs to consist of more than just fats, carbohydrates and proteins. There is a plethora of micronutrients that our bodies require in order to function properly, like vitamins and minerals. The best source for these is through the food we eat, fruits and vegetables, no or low processed foods. The more a food is processed, the less nutrition it contains.
  5. Sleep
    Sleep is how our body recouperates. It kind of seems obvious that it would be even more important when our body is fighting off an infection that sleep would be even more important. Animal studies have shown that all animals engage in more sleep when they are ill, it is the natural thing to do. Sleep also helps reduce stress, which contributes to improved immune system function. So rest up!

So now you know. When you are feeling ill, and someone suggests you put on cold wet socks (still laughing about that one), you can retort with science. The actual facts about what to do when you are feeling ill, and how to minimize the likelihood that you will become sick in the first place!

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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!

 

The

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

Birth, fitness, Pregnancy, Uncategorized

What I Learned From my Labour & Birth

They say hindsight is 20/20.

39 weeks
Me in early labour at 39 weeks pregnant!

I thoroughly believe that is true. Looking back at my labour and birth of nugget nearly 6 months out, there are a few things I would have done differently, if I had the chance. This doesn’t mean I regret anything. I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time, but I also believe that it’s smart to take every experience you have and try to learn something from it.

  1. I wouldn’t have pushed so early
    As soon as I felt the urge, I pushed. It felt good, so I kept doing it. Looking back now, I think I was just over excited and should have let my body and my uterus do more of the work before I started actively participating. Even when a woman is not actively pushing, your uterus is still working to bring baby down with each and every contraction. I would have focused more on ‘breathing baby down’ or breathing through contractions and allowing them to do their work and conserving my energy for the work of actively pushing later on.
  2. I would have squatted more during labor
    I honestly have absolutely no idea why I didn’t do this. Squatting during labour helps open the pelvis and relax the pelvic floor, allowing baby to come down more easily. I prepared by squatting throughout my pregnancy, I knew that squatting in labour was beneficial, but for some absurd reason it did not pop into my head once to squat during labour. I think maybe I had it in my head that squatting should be reserved for pushing, but even then I didn’t think of it.
  3. I would have paid better attention to my posture
    All day in early labour I was so keen. I stayed in alignment, made sure I was giving my baby the best passage through, until I got into the birth tub. For some reason as soon as I got in there, I sat back on my sacrum (re: slouched) and I believe that influenced nugget bumping into my pubic bone on his way out. I also started out pushing in this position, which when I think back was actually a terrible idea!
  4. I would have slept!!
    Man, I wish I had slept more in early labour. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and stayed awake until 9 the next morning after he was born, with the exception of a few very short naps. I had it in my head that labour was going to be quick and didn’t let myself relax. I was also worried if I got too relaxed, labour wouldn’t start and I would have to be induced. Being induced terrified me, so that was always in the back of my mind.
  5. I would have paid closer attention to my body
    Going into labour I thought I was very body-aware. Now, thinking back, I don’t remember feeling the baby move down. I was shocked when my midwife told me how low he was because I didn’t feel it. I don’t remember feeling my contractions move him down until he was crowning. I don’t remember feeling my pelvic floor, whether it was relaxed or not. I would have put more mental effort into concentrating on how everything felt and how it was changing as I progressed.
  6. I would have seen a women’s health physiotherapist prenatal
    Now this isn’t essential, however I believe it would have dramatically helped me connect with my transverse abs and pelvic floor while I was pregnant to better prepare them for labour and postpartum. It probably would have also made me realize that I had a tight pelvic floor and allowed me to work on releasing that tension before I went into labour.
  7. I would have moved more in the later stages
    If I had known how much of a difference getting up and walking out to my car and contracting in those awkward positions would have made, I would have done it so much earlier! If I had known possibly hiking up and down the stairs even one time would have helped nugget sneak past my pubic bone and stop that excruciating pain I would have done it in a second. My midwife said later she thought about suggesting it, but didn’t think I would have been very receptive to the suggestion, which may or may not have been true.
  8. I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself
    As soon as my water broke, it was game on. I was raring to go. I’ve never been much of an endurance athlete and that was totally reflected that day. I wanted things to happen and I wanted them to happen NOW. I happened to be wearing my FitBit and I recorded nearly 60 stories of stairs walked that day! Looking back, instead of basically climbing a mountain worth of stairs, I should have rested, relaxed, and let my body do it’s thing.


I hope you can learn a bit from the things I would do differently if I had the chance. I’m hoping I will remember this when it comes time for nugget #2 and I can have the homebirth I dreamed of the first time around. I can only hope that my words and experience will help even one other woman takes steps towards having the birth that she hopes for, whatever that looks like.

 

what I learned

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!

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

My Core & Floor – The Never Ending Saga

I am so thankful I was lucky enough to learn about diastasis recti (DR) and how it relates to pregnancy early on in my pregnancy. So many women I talked to had no idea what this is, how it develops and how it affects their lives going forward. Even some OB/GYNs are poorly informed on what DR is and what it means for their patients. One of my good friends was telling me about the coning in her belly while she was doing crunches in her 3rd trimester and how her OB just told her ‘oh that’s normal, don’t worry about it’ so she didn’t think anything of it and just pushed the coning down while she continued doing crunches! What her OB SHOULD have said was, this is DR, this is what it means, these are the exercise you should not be doing as they will aggravate it and make it worse.

DR is the separation of the abdominal muscles to accommodate the growing uterus, and it happens to up to 66% of women when pregnant. In order to heal this separation, you first need to reconnect with your deep core muscles, the transverse abdominus (TA) and your pelvic floor (PF) and re-learn how to engage them appropriately.

I had a DR at the end of my pregnancy, even though I worked to prevent it. Looking back now, I think poor posture was to blame, but we all know hindsight is 20/20. At birth my separation was about 2 1/2 finger widths at the widest. I was lucky in that simply following my training program, Birth2FitMum, I was able to heal it within 6 weeks. However, once I began seeing my pelvic health physiotherapist (PHP) I realized that it was probably my over-active TA that helped more than I realized. The problem was, even though my TA healed my DR quickly, they further delayed the healing of my poor stretched out PF.

See, the core muscles work in symphony, and when one component is over or under-active, it throws the whole system out of whack. Julie Wiebe does an excellent job of explaining this in her video here. I love her model of the piston system of the core muscles. I experienced the issues she discussed in this video. I was tensing my PF in hopes of counteracting my strong abs. Before visiting my PHP I found Julie’s program The Pelvic Floor Piston: Foundation for Fitness extremely helpful. I’ve since learned through visiting my PHP that I hold a lot of my tension in my core, through holding in my abs and PF and taking short small breaths (because you can’t really hold your diaphragm taught and stay alive!). I’ve been learning how to allow my abs and PF to relax and how to take bigger breaths, and it’s still a work in progress 2 months later. It seems once I get one issue sorted out, another pops up, and after visiting my family doctor today, it seems I am on my way to the pelvic floor clinic in my city.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get in for another 3+ months. In the meantime, I will continue doing my exercises prescribed by my PHP, the pelvic floor piston exercises, as well as a few other exercise I’ve found help me personally connect with my PF and breath. One of my favourites that I’ve been doing since I was pregnant is just sitting in a squat. And no, I don’t mean those awful hover squats like you’re trying not to sit on a public toilet. More like you’re squatting in the forest having a pee. I relax, and it really helps me feel my breath through my pelvic floor. If you are having a hard time understanding how your breath and your PF are connected, try this. I also like to flow through cat-cow poses while controlling my breath and PF contractions. I think the reason these exercises work for me is because it takes my TA out of the equation, because they always want to kick in and take over.

I’m hoping I can re-learn how to use my core effectively before it comes time to work on nugget #2, and I think I am on the right track. However, some days I just feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle, and I’m hoping the pelvic floor clinic can help me with that. I encourage you, if you feel like something just ‘isn’t right’ to go to your doctor, or find a PHP near you to help you sort things out. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time, and multiple tries to figure out what’s going on and how to fix it. You don’t have to just deal with a dysfunctional body because you had a baby!

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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!

pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Strength Training and the Pelvic Floor

This week I finally kicked my own ass into gear and started gathering practice hours to prepare myself for my practical exam to finally get my Personal Training Specialist certification from CanFitPro. I sent out a plea on Facebook for anyone who would be willing to submit themselves to a session with me. I was thankful to have 4 wonderful ladies step up and come join me in my little home gym!

One thing that came up over and over again was the pelvic floor. I just always seem to find ways to work it into the conversation! I think it is because I was so blown away by the knowledge I have gained since become pregnant and giving birth that I just feel the need to share it with the world!

Did you know you can have pelvic floor dysfunction without having a baby?

Did you know you can induce stress urinary incontinence (SUI) through weightlifting?

Did you know most women don’t know how to properly connect with their pelvic floor?

Did you know a pelvic health physical therapist can help with all of these things?

Did you know that I think every single woman who has given birth should see a pelvic health physical therapist? (I hope you know this, from reading previous posts!)

It felt so good this week to share my knowledge of the pelvic floor with some lovely women, even though none of them had given birth, and some of them never plan to. The information was so well received by all of them! I think maybe they can feel my passion shining through.

One eye opening moment I had was watching this video by YouTube Vlogger Meg Squats. She and a fellow powerlifting friend discuss their issues with stress urinary incontinence and how it related to their weightlifting. I had never thought about the pelvic floor in this context, but it totally makes sense. The anatomy of the female core has the opportunity for weakness if the pelvic floor isn’t adequately engaged, thanks to the vagina. The vagina is essentially a hole in your core, and when you are exerting the levels of intra-abdominal pressure required for powerlifting, if you’re not functionally engaging your pelvic floor, it becomes a point of weakness, leaving women vulnerable to SUI or worse, prolapse.

I brought this up with the ladies I trained who are into power lifting or lifting heavy and they were blown away by the idea. I feel like every trainer who trains women needs to at least take the pelvic floor into consideration, especially when they start introducing concepts like using intra-abdominal pressure to brace for lifts. They were also surprised when they tried to engage their pelvic floor, they felt like they had no idea what they were doing! Which is a very common occurrence. I thought I was a champion at Kegels until I visited my pelvic floor physio postpartum and she helped me see that I was clenching so many unnecessary muscles when I thought I was only engaging my PF.

When I left my physio after my final (so far) visit, I took a handful of her business cards and have been handing them out to my post-partum mom friends like candy! We had a mom’s get together the other day, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that every single one of us had some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. And we are all fit, healthy women who were avid athletes and hit the gym regularly before we had our babies!

We need to talk about this more, ladies. Rather than ‘just wait until you pee every time you sneeze’ how about we say ‘have you made an appointment with a pelvic health physio yet?’