Your obstacles are what will make you better than EVER

DSC_2131-2.jpg

Hi there!

If you’re new here, I’m Sarah Smith and I’m a mom.

I have three boys all born over the course of 5 years.
From 2010 to 2017 my life was COMPLETE chaos in SO many ways.

But what’s interesting is that I have accomplished more in the past 8, 9 years than I ever did before I had my kiddos.


The reality is that having children is a blessing and I am so thankful to God that His plan included my becoming a mother to my three boys.


BUT if we are being realistic about children and the work that they require, they are VERY much obstacles to accomplishing things.

I don’t care if we are talking about your “to-do” list for the day, a project at work, cleaning the kitchen floor, or simply just getting a shower.

Kids are MAJOR hurdles that you have to get over in order to “accomplish” things.

But there’s the thing.
In our culture, we think too much about obstacles as bad things.

What I have learned in the past decade of my life is that OBSTACLES and how we respond to them, is actually what shapes us!

They carve out the path for our lives FAR more than all of the successes and wins ever will.

And so today, I want to share three major obstacles that I’ve faced in the past 10 years, and how while unpleasant at the time, even painful trying or devastating, they were tObstaclehe best things that could have happened to me!

So keep reading!



Obstacle #1 Grad school with a baby

Ok, so this is not as major and devastating as the other obstacles, but this particular obstacle sets the stage for what I’m going to be talking about.
I was pregnant and then had a baby while pursuing my MS in Soil Science.
NOT the end of the world! BUT the problem was that I came to NC State University as a qualified microbiology and genetic researcher with years of experience during sophisticated lab-based research at the National Institutes of Health and University of Arizona’s grant with the Dept. of Homeland Security.
I had peer-reviewed publications. I was a “scientist”
Except that once pregnant, I didn’t want to work in the lab anymore and expose myself to various chemicals and once I had the baby, I barely wanted to leave him. Like ever.

I almost quit! Because I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile my new life with my past career and reputation.

I took a semester off to stress about giving up on a dream vs. leaving my kiddo to do long hours of lab-based research and what happened was something beautiful really.

I created a WHOLE new project that was research based on teaching cultural competence in urban community garden settings.

I even published an 4H Manual that is being used now to train agricultural students and people working in community gardens how to teach and collaborate with under-served populations comprised of a diversity of people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

I had the opportunity to work on a project with Will Allen

If it wasn’t for my pregnancy and my first born and ALL the limitations he placed on my life, I would never have had such a creative and unique Masters project and learned all the incredible skills that I did.
The restriction of not being able to be like EVERYONE else, which often made me feel inferior, ended up setting me a part and making me great!!

Obstacle # 2 Working out at home with kids.

Kids are a blessing and I feel honored to be a mama.
Having kids is not some horrible ordeal, BUT it is mega challenging.
Children can be an obstacle that we have to contend with when trying to take care of ourselves.
They force us to go back to the drawing board when it comes to accomplishing even the simplest of tasks, NEVER MIND getting in a workout.

For a few years I fought back against my life as a stay-at-home mom.

I tried to pretend that it was realistic for me to routinely get out of the house to exercise and take care of myself.
And while this might be possible for you (yay!) it was NOT for me.
My husband and I were running a fast growing family business and both time and finances were TIGHT.

I finally realized that taking care of myself in movement, exercise and quiet moments to myself needed to not always be an ESCAPE from my life, but had to be inserted into my day.

Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 4.12.31 PM.png
  • I decided it was good for my kids to learn to be independent.

  • I decided that I wanted to focus on growing muscles and strength and stop chasing skinny.

  • I decided that if prisoners could get in incredible shape in prison (I’m not even kidding, I thought this!) then I could do the same in my gross basement.

It’s a long story and I’m sharing some if in the POP Challenge, but I got innovative in my movement and training practice.
I started figuring out how to build muscle, lift weights and use bodyweight exercises with my kiddos around and built my body stronger and more capable than it had EVERY been before!


_DSC0014.jpg

I found a new strategy for training that I would NEVER have found had not had the restrictions in my life that I did with kids!
I become more efficient, created programs and workouts that work in all sorts of time frames, situations and with different equipment.

I ended up creating an entire business around the skills that I was cultivating!









Obstacle # 3 Pelvic Organ Prolapse

So this might be the most devastating obstacle that I talk about openly.
Being diagnosed with POP three years ago was a HUGE blow to my mind and ego.

Here I had done ALL THIS WORK and innovation to create a business and cultivate a movement practice that made me feel great, confident and I was told that I had to give all that up.


I could no longer exercise, run, even stand or walk for long periods of time without feeling lots of pressure.

Every time I could feel my bladder prolapsed into the vaginal cavity I felt such shame, frustration and sadness.

I felt like a fraud, coaching women to strength train and exercise when I could no longer do it.
I felt broken.
I felt regret, something I had done had caused this injury and had I known better, I could have prevented it.

For months I wallowed in sadness until one day, I couldn't take it any longer!

I decided to take action.
Prolapse was NOT the first obstacle that I had ever faced-like you I have encountered MANY (not mentioned here) over the course of my life.
I believed that there MUST be a way to work around or through it.
And so I fought.
I researched.
I tried new approaches to movement.
I found people that could help me.


And it worked!
While prolapse never fully goes away and I am FOREVER changed, mine is no longer symptomatic or detectable.



But what the obstacle of prolapse did for me:

  1. Helped me realize that how we move matters for our health. It’s not just enough to exercise. IN FACT, exercise can cause pain and problems if we don’t learn some basics about breathing and movement mechanics.

    Too much of a good thing is too much. Over-exercising can cause damage to our guts, thyroids, adrenals, and MINDS. I developed prolapse right around the time when I was becoming a little too obsessed with exercise. So I am thankful for that obstacle and limitation because as bad as POP is, I think I have avoided some far more devastating health challenges by shifting my relationship with exercise.

  2. Because I had to REALLY get in tune with my body to pay attention to symptom increase and because I could not longer rely upon the same old movement in exercise, i became creative and efficient with my movement. Once again, my training changed and made me BETTER, stronger, wiser and more interesting.

  3. I have become a spokesperson for pelvic health and am helping women every day all over the world, understand and rehabilitate their pelvic floors.



My question for you is what limitation or obstacle is keeping you accomplishing the goals that you have for yourself.

Have you ever tried adopting a new and different perspective about it?
Maybe it is pushing you in a direction that you would never choose otherwise and maybe while unpleasant, it can create positive change in you!

What about accepting that limitation as it is right now and figuring out how best to work with it?

Want help with this? Join the 2019 POP Challenge!! It’s a free 5 day coaching club where I’m sharing MY TRAINING TOOLS for being persistence and innovative.

We will train our minds and bodies to ADAPT to our limitations and get AMAZING lasting results!! You gotta try it!!

Click the image below to learn more sign up!!































Christian women, are you paying attention to your pelvic and sexual health??

Attention Married Christian wives and mommas!

Are you uncomfortable discussing incontinence, painful sex or lackluster sex, pelvic or what feels like bladder pain?

Have you accepted pressure in your vagina and the possible protruding of organs as just, “part of mom life” or the “aging process”?

Are you afraid to ask your girlfriends, “Is this normal?”

Are you nervous that your spouse might consider you “broken”, “damaged”, “old” or “defective”?
Do you accept these discomforts as part of the sacrifice of motherhood?

Are you afraid that as a Christian woman, wanting to actually enjoy sex is wrong?

Let’s talk!

Many married women that are not mommas experience pain during sex and are afraid to discuss it with or even admit it to their partners, but it’s preventing them from fully enjoying and being comfortable with sex. 
Culturally, it’s not always talked about and so they are avoiding intimacy and quietly wondering, What’s wrong with me?

Many married mommas are uncomfortable having sex after baby or uncomfortable in their bodies (not knowing when you are going to leak. ) which also makes them reluctant to engage in intimate activities. 
Sometimes because sex isn’t enjoyable for them or their sexual needs have changed after babies.

Pressure in the vagina caused by organs can shift after pregnancy and birth and this can make sex uncomfortable OR can make one uncomfortable, leave you feeling less than sexy. 
It can also make certain positions less enjoyable than they used to be.

If this is you, YOU’RE NOT alone!


I write this article because sometimes in Christian culture we don't hear enough about women’s health.
Sure there are conferences that are focused on helping couples re-connect, spice up their love life, prioritize intimacy, BUT how often are women coming into your women’s group and saying,

”Let’s talk about your pelvic floor health and how it’s impacting the quality of not just sex, but your life!??”

PS-I will come and talk to them !


29873263_10156338033018343_3747885930580449275_o.jpg

Well I’m here, a Christian momma of three kiddos, married 10 years and a strength coach and pelvic health advocate that THERE ARE SOLUTIONS!!!





What you are experiencing are symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and possible pelvic organ prolapse. 

These things are extremely COMMON!

corefloor.jpg
Pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic floor muscles


Pelvic floor dysfunction means that the core/foundation of your core is not activating and relaxing in the ways that it’s meant to. 

It maybe TOO active. 

It maybe TOO inactive.. 

But with breath work, shifting in movement mechanics, and practice, we can change that!


pelvic-organ-prolapse.jpg

Pelvic organ prolapse means that one or more of your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and rectum) have shifted out of place due to lack of support by the muscles the pelvic floor and stretching of ligaments, etc.

There are different degrees of this shifting, but all forms of prolapse can be improved with pelvic floor physical therapy, and again changes in the breathing and movement patterns we use throughout our day!



If you have symptoms of an OVERACTIVE, pelvic floor-

  • bladder pain

  • pelvic pain

  • constipation

  • gripping of the abdominals

  • gripping of the glutes

  • shallow chest breathing

  • pain during intercourse

  • difficulty achieving orgasm

  • difficulty inserting tampon

  • incontinence-especially stress (leaking during a sneeze, jump, cough)

  • tight, immobile hips

  • hypermobile hips



Then you MAY need some manual release by a pelvic floor physical therapist.

  1. You may also need additional foreplay, lubrication, relaxation, communication and the building of trust (so you can relax) during sex. 

  2. You DEFINITELY need to spend time breaking the habit of sucking in your belly. 

  3. You need to work on your breath and practice nice full deep diaphragmatic inhales. 

  4. You may also need to take a second look at your diet and gut health-inflammation and a history of Candida overgrowth can cause the pelvic floor to tighten.




If you have symptoms of pelvic floor that does not activate as needed OR prolapse

  • incontinence (stress or urge)

  • leaking

  • frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate

  • incomplete voiding of the bladder

  • a weak feeling, lack of support at the bottom of your core

  • low back pain

  • pressure in your vagina

  • difficulty fully eliminating stool or contipation

  • shallow chest breathing

  • feeling like you’re sitting on a ball

  • something protruding in your vagina

  • uncomfortable sex

  • difficulty achieving orgasm




Then you should see a pelvic floor physical therapist to be evaluated! 

If any of your organs are prolapsed, it’s good to know what you’re dealing with and how you need to progress activities. 

If you’re struggling to ACTIVATE your pelvic floor, having a PT palpate the muscles and teach you a full pelvic floor contraction (not just squeezing your vagina) can be very helpful!


And here’s the kicker, you can have BOTH prolapse AND a hypertonic pelvic floor.
Trust me, I know from personal experience and so therapy and rehab needs to account for BOTH these conditions, but don’ t worry, we can work with that!


Keep reading!



Let me caution you!

Going to see your OB and chat with them about these issues is in most cases NOT the best course of action. 

OB GYN’s are neither trained to diagnose prolapse or pelvic floor issues, NOR are they often aware of the most progressive information available on pelvic floor dysfunction or prolapse!


IF your OB insists on ONLY sending you to a URO-GYN, that is a surgeon that surgically repairs pelvic floor and bladders, etc.
They often do NOT understand the benefits of PT and are very surgically minded.
Not all of them, but MANY of them.

Even some pelvic floor physical therapists can sometimes use language or methods that are OUTDATED. 

They can prescribe kegels alone (not good enough) or be insensitive in explaining to you the changes that have occurred in your body.
They aren’t always the best about delivering messages of hope.



But all that being said, we have to make the most of the system that is at our disposal.
Getting an evaluation from someone in person can be very helpful. 
You can ask your OB to refer you to a PT, you can Google a local one yourself, or you can reach out to me and I will do my best to find you one.

Just remember:

  • A diagnosis is not a static thing. 

  • Bodies change. 

  • With awareness, intentional practice and training, symptoms improve. 




And if you don’t like the PT or feel like they are not serving your needs, you have other options!

I for example, teach women how to rehab their pelvic floors and create healthy pelvic and breathing habits for daily life and in fitness!




But trust me, you need to take some action and NOT settle for a subpar quality of life because…

-women around you are settling/ignoring

-you feel guilty about spending time and money on this

-no one you know is talking about it

-ignorance isn’t bliss, but it does feel safer today than finding out what is actually going on

-you think this will eventually go away or you’ll adjust.




DSC_3472-2.jpg

I am a mom of 3 and was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic floor dysfunction 3 years ago. 
I did not have a positive experience with my physical therapist (but there are MANY wonderful ones out there, don’t despair). 

After a few sessions she decided I wasn’t making enough progress and began talking about surgery. 

I left that appointment and never looked back, not because surgery is the worst thing in the world, but because I KNEW that there must be other options for my healing than what was being provided there. 



dj.jpg

And so I spent a year studying the pelvic floor, trying all sorts of strategies and working to improve my pelvic floor health, reduce my prolapse symptoms. 

I even figured out how to train for a VERY challenging and physically demanding kettlebell certification (RKC) after being told that I probably wouldn’t be able to lift more than 10lbs. 

I have since spent 2 years educating women about their pelvic floors and how to have healthy pelvic habits.

I want you to have access to the BEST information about your pelvic floor. 

I want you to find healing. 

And I’m sorry to say that many medical professionals are NOT going to always give you the best information. 

BUT there are many many many physical therapists, coaches and pelvic health experts out there like myself, that can support you!



What you need to do FIRST is ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I have any of these symptoms or thoughts that Sarah is describing?

  2. Do I trust that there are solutions?

  3. Am I ready to take action?

Next! If you need to work on RELAXING or ACTIVATING your pelvic floor, I recommend starting with daily diaphragmatic breathing. 

Really focusing on that full inhale and exhale. 

Check out my 3 video series on this!

https://youtu.be/WmCVlXC3Rc0

Screen Shot 2019-01-30 at 8.04.48 PM.png







I can’t not stress this enough, your OB is NOT a substitute for a pelvic floor physical therapist. 


Reach out to me with questions!

I have BARELY scratched the surface here. 

You can search also my page for other articles on the pelvic floor!

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
Sarah specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

She is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. Come follow her on Instagram or Facebook.







Stay in your own lane

Amidst the noise of everyone else working on themselves and their goals, how do we stay in our own lane? Social media is PARTICULARLY problematic for remaining focused on ourselves. You go on there for a few minutes, “just to check” and 45 minutes later your watching some stranger sort through her sock draw in Des Moines because HER resolution is to de-clutter her home and while a totally worthy goal, you realize that you’ve been sucked into valuing and prioritizing everyone else goals while ALSO wasting your own precious time. 

Read More

PMS and Digestive Distress, What's the deal and what to do about it!

Do you experience excessive bloating, constipation and or diarrhea when you’re about to get your period?
Does this aggravate your pelvic organ prolapse?
Cause you to lose confidence in your body?
Do you avoid activity?
Or maybe just get SUPER annoyed with your unpredictable digestion and elimination?
Well let’s talk about why this happens and what you can do about it!

Read More

Managing pelvic floor symptoms this holiday!

I know it can be frustrating when you have to do EXTRA things just to feel normal like everyone else, but there are MYRIAD reasons why your body is asking for extra attention in this context, so just give it what it needs. 
Breath.
Accept that this is a challenge for you RIGHT NOW and it's not necessarily forever. 
Be present in your body. 
Consciously use your breath to relax every bit of your body all the way down to your toes!!

Read More

The solution to that holiday season downward spiral

One of my favorite ways to maintain balance (aka, avoid a downward spiral) during the holidays is through an approach called, "Competitive Exclusion." 

Sounds complex and scientific, but hold on! 
It's actually a super simple concept that just happens to come with a fancy descriptor that the biologist in me, LOVES!


Competitive exclusion is a concept in ecology whereby species A is either introduced OR suddenly grows to OUT-COMPETE species B. 
Species A consumes all the energy and space required by the species B, therefore, species B is either kept in check-it's population remains the same, OR it shrinks and dies. 


The same phenomenon exists with our habits. 
Maintaining or introducing habit A can help to prevent habit B (C, D, E, F....) from swelling and taking TOO much of our time, energy and resources, aka, too much space in our lives!


For example, if habit A is routine exercise and movement, -that requires something of us. 
Right?
Habit A requires adequate

  • sleep

  • nutrition as fuel

  • time

  • discipline

  • and energy 
     

We have to manage how much we give to our other habits in order to maintain habit A, but more importantly, maintaining habit A as best we can, regardless of our circumstances, will automatically keep habits B (staying up late), C (drinking wine), D (saying yes to too many holiday commitments) and E (eatings foods that make us sluggish and lacking in energy) from taking up too much space. 

Because you see, habits B, C, D, and  E, they are NOT intrinsically bad. 
In fact, they can totally be joyful and fun parts of our habit eco-system. 
But when we remove A, they often grow to an unhealthy scale. 
They eat up MORE time, energy and space than is beneficial to the whole system that is your body. 
They are no longer hindered by restriction of resources-so they can take over!

Check out the drawings below!

See how growing habit A keeps all the other ones in their place!!!

IMG_3003.jpeg

But remove A and look how either immediately or OVER time it's much easier for these other time, energy, resource-requiring habits start to occupy a larger niche!

For me and for most of my clients, habit A is MOVEMENT. 


Having a routine exercise and movement practice keeps us disciplined and vigilant in the other areas of our lives. 


We sleep better. 
We're more intentional about our eating habits-and quite frankly need a little additional fuel for our workouts. 
We trade staying up late drinking wine for early morning or late afternoon workouts. 
We choose not to let screen time prevent us from being active. 
Our metabolisms, digestion, hormones and cravings are balanced and supporting rather than derailing us. 
Our moods are also improved, which makes life FAR more enjoyable. 


And it makes perfect sense, because human bodies are meant to MOVE. 
We are designed to walk and stretch, lift, roll and skip. 
Physical activity promotes health and health supports our happiness!


So this holiday season, rather than devoting energy to the list of things you are NOT going to do this year, instead focus your energy on GROWING your movement practice. 
Prioritize it, no matter what. Get some form of DAILY MOVEMENT in. 

Need ideas on how to make this happen?


1. Commit to daily leisure walks 30 minutes or more. Grab a friend, pet, partner, kiddos and make it happen as often as you can!

2. Press reset! I'm a HUGE fan of Original Strength resets, especially on days when you can't get outside. 
Here's one!


3.Start doing Highly Efficient kettlebell workouts 2-3 times a week! 
Join Kettlebells For Cool Kids and get three 20 minute workouts per week to help you get in a FANTASTICALLY challenging, but totally DOABLE muscle and fitness -building workout!!

There are only TWO spots left for people to join this round!

The program is 10 weeks long and comes with 90's hip hop and dance-themed PLAYLISTS!
You can learn more, see what members are saying about their experience and sign up here:
https://sarahsmithstrength.lpages.co/kettlebells4coolkids/























Gut health struggles Part 2: Solutions for postpartum mommas

So you read Part 1 and all about WHY we may struggle with gut health and digestion after baby, but now let’s talk about solutions!

These suggestions are for educational purposes only and should NOT be considered a substitution for advice or diagnoses from a practicing health care professional!


fermente-gida-nedir-hangileridir-zararlari-faydalari-fermantasyon-274274-730-480.jpg
broth.jpg

Nutrition. Prioritize fiber, healthy fats , vegetables and protein in your diet as best you can! These are going to help regulate hormones, nourish the gut microbiome and improve regularity and stool formation.

Believe me, I KNOW that when we are overwhelmed it ain’t easy to make “nutritious meals” happen daily.
So pick what you CAN make happen!
Maybe a daily smoothie that gets you a bolus of good nutrition?
I’m a big fan of the #bigasssalad movement and like to throw as much veggie, fat, and protein goodness I can find in a bowl mid day to make sure I get at least ONE nutritious meal.
Or maybe you’re struggling to digest raw veggies (like salads) right now, in which case, roasted veggies (literally throwing whatever veggies you like or have in the fridge in a pyrex dish, pouring salt and olive oil over top and roasting at 400 degrees until they look ready) is the better option for you!

In Ayurvedic medicine food after birth is reintroduced SLOWLY for the mother, beginning with the least complex/most easily digestible foods like broth and gradually moving towards more complex ones like dairy, green vegetables and eventually meat.

The mother’s Agni and ama is routinely checked to see if she is digesting the food fully or if the body is holding onto anything undigested and therefore toxic. If there is a white coating on the tongue, any bloating or cramping, and or if the baby shows any of these symptoms, then the diet is NOT progressed.

***Side note: BROTHS!
Historically in the US and still all over the world we nourished new mommas with broths.

Broth is filled with easily digestible nutrition

It’s devoid of allergens (unless you are histamine sensitive)

Broth contains collagen, gelatin and amino acids to help seal your gut, and restore and rebuild your tissues. 

Check out my post on how to make bone broth, the way I do it is SUPER simple).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) broths are used HEAVILY for the first 40 days after birth. The Chinese believe that birth makes us more “yin” or cold and the warmth of the broth helps to balance that. Giving broth as a source of nutrition, requires little digestive work for the body and therefore allows our immune and digestive systems to rest while we recover.
Even in non-pregnant women, often in China people will start a meal with a cup of both to stimulate digestive enzymes and help the body better break down our food and extract nutrition.
If you can’t already tell, I’m a fan and if you read my post on broth you’ll learn how it brought me back from the edge of sickness that was induced by a poorly healed postpartum and over-taxed body.

When should follow these nutrition recommendations?
Anytime! If you’re 1 day, 6 weeks, 6 months, 9 months postpartum, doesn’t matter, these recommendations still stand.
It’s important to remember that the process of digestion does take WORK and in the early days of postpartum, your body is still recovering from all it’s hard work!
Eating simply and eating a low-inflammatory diet of easily digested foods is a preventative measure that serves most women that observe it well!

**There is a chance that you could have developed some food sensitivities during your pregnancy and postpartum experience (there are multiple explanations for why that could be to be addressed at a later time!). If you suspect that’s the issue, I would HIGHLY recommend getting with a licensed practitioner (like Laura, here) that can help you sort through that.

I’m partial to a registered dietitian and nutritionist OR an ND or MD with functional medicine training.

fermente-gida-nedir-hangileridir-zararlari-faydalari-fermantasyon-274274-730-480.jpg

Probiotic foods or supplements. Remember when we talked about the effect of antibiotics and stress on the gut and its community of microbes living in it? If you did receive antibiotics or are struggling with digestion, probiotics are a GREAT solution! There are different strains for different problems and different bodies/guts prefer different types. If you think about tit, there is already a community of bugs living in your gut and probiotics are additional bugs that you are now adding.
Unfortunately they sort of have to “duke it out” in the beginning and you can experience some die-off, worsening of symptoms or other discomfort in the first week, but it’s usually short lived, ESPECIALLY if you SLOWLY introduce small dosages.
Consult with your health practitioner about what probotics would be best for you!


I like the Gut Institute’s Bifido-Max-it’s allergen free and contains the keystone species/gut gatekeepers that we were supposed to get from our mommas. They help decide what goes out and what stays in the intestines and improve digestions AND elimination.
It comes in powder form, so it’s easy to SLOWLY ramp up the dose over time. It’s also kid-friendly!

My second favorite right now is MegaSpore probiotic-which has been toted to fight inflammation and seal the gut.

I am not affiliated with these companies in any way, they are just what I use personally.


If you’re not ready to try a probiotic supplement, how about some foods?
There are LOADS of them out there! I love Farmhouse Culture brand and I don’t love spicy varieties for nearly postpartum moms or anyone struggling with digestive struggles!

**Some probiotic strains or probiotic foods MIGHT be better tolerated by a nursing baby than others, so introduce them SLOWLY and pay attention to how you and your baby’s body respond!





happy-woman-t.jpg

Spend time moving, especially outdoors! This will get you your daily requirement of Vitamin D, help you inoculate your gut with microbes, and lower your cortisol (stress response) to improve digestion. Movement ALONE has been shown to increase the robustness and diversity of the gut microbiome and let’s face it, the more sedentary we are, the longer it takes for us to excrete waste.
Movement makes you poop more regularly!

I’m not a big fan of new mommas jumping right back into a challenging fitness routine.

I think traditional exercise (like group fitness and CrossFit!) is a reserved for rested, recovered bodies.
But MOVEMENT and movement training can be immensely helpful for re-building strength, core and pelvic floor responsiveness and coordination! I have a movement protocol that isn’t specifically for mommas, but can be a great way to get started with movement! I also recommend working with a postnatal fitness specialist AND doing Original Strength resets.



mom-crawling-on-floor.jpg



Prioritize sleep over screen time-just lay down, close your eyes.
I started wearing headbands over my eyes so I could fall asleep more easily.
Believe me, I get it.
You’re tired, you’re stressed. Your body and life have just been hijacked by this cute little baby that needs you all of the time.
Escaping with some screen time after a long day can feel SOOOO good.
And I’m not saying that you should never do it.
But take it from someone that learned the hard way, your body can NOT afford to lose any more sleep than it is already.


eye_mask_sleep-better.jpg

Sleep deprivation is an issue for a health gut microbiome.
Remember in Part 1 when we talked about “rest and digest”?
The gut does a LOT of digestion and repair work at night while you sleep.

Additionally the microbial “rhythm” of your gut impacts your circadian rhythm and vice versa.
One study showed that just two nights of only 4 hours of sleep dramatically altered the subjects’ microbiome-in favor of reduced insulin sensitivity. Other research show that consistent lack of sleep creates stress in the body that will over time eliminate your good gut bugs.
Lack of sleep also causes us to reach for quick forms of energy, often sugary carbs which ALSO select for negative changes in the gut microbial landscape.


Naps can help mitigate the unavoidable challenge of diminished sleep in lives of new parents, but so can grabbing it as often as you can and NOT allowing the blue light of screens or story line of your favorite show to keep you up when you could be grabbing some Zzzzzz’s.

Sleep deprivation is part of our new reality and it’s worse for some people than others.
I personally had RUBBISH sleepers for babies and I know how it feels to just give up even trying to grab sleep whenever possible, but here’s the thing, the laundry, the on-demand TV, the dirty dishes-they ain’t going anywhere and even if you make it through, there will always be more.

During this season of your life and ESPECIALLY if you struggle with gut distress, you need to prioritize sleep WHEN you can. You don’t have to stress about it or be perfectionist, but you do have to persistently pursue it and make the most of what you goT!

toilet-stool-guide-pic-1.png

Squat to poop. Constipation is NOT an uncommon occurrence after baby. Our hormones, pelvic floors and alignment are all VERY different from what they once were before baby.
NOT routinely eliminating waste causes the toxins and expired hormones in the stool to be resorbed into the blood stream.
This can be taxing on our immune system and gut health and can also cause imbalances in our hormones-which will negatively impact sleep and gut health too!
Eliminating waste once a day is ideal and getting in a squat position to do so is VERY helpful for ease of doing so!

You can buy a squatty potty or fashion some other foot rests that work best for you!
To be totally frank, the squatty potty isn’t a deep enough squat for everyone, so if it doesn’t exactly work for you, that doesn’t mean that squatting isn’t best.
Play around with positions! I talk more about all this in another article here.

Squat-muscle.png
Why-You-Should-Squat-To-Poop-1170x500.jpg

It’s so very trying to be taking care of a new baby, trying to meet their needs and meet the expectations you and your life could be putting on you, but I can tell you from my own experience, IF your body is sending you signs that something isn’t right, DON’T IGNORE IT!
Do what you can to address it.
Don’t be afraid to invest resources, time and energy in a practitioner to help you, if necessary! Just be frank with them about your financial situation and time limitations and ask them for guidance in helping you choose the MOST impactful changes for you, your life and your body!

DSC_4238-1.jpg

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
Sarah specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

She is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. Come follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Gut health struggles for postpartum mommas Part 1; No matter how far postpartum, this could still be you!

photo credit: Dr. Lia Andrews

photo credit: Dr. Lia Andrews

I hear it all of the time.

”My digestion was just never the same after I had the baby.”


Many a woman is struggling with digestive distress after birth and their lives are so full that they don’t always have the time to acknowledge it to themselves, never mind address it.

But it’s not uncommon and unfortunately, it probably isn’t going to resolve on it’s own, UNLESS it’s strictly due to hormonal changes, which is possible, but even then the recommendations in this article will help you survive digestion and elimination experiences in the meantime!

Let’s talk briefly about the reason why our digestion and elimination experiences can be different after birth.


Antibiotic treatment
Many hospital births require the administration of antibiotics during labor. When warranted, this intervention can prevent systemic infection, but unfortunately it can significantly alter your gut microbiome by obliterating many of the beneficial organisms that live there, leaving space for the flourishment of some not-so-beneficial organisms like Candida (yeast). You can read more here from Dr. Amy Myers!


Hormonal changes
Your digestion processes as well as elimination (pooping) is effected by various levels of hormones (progesterone and estrogen) in the body and as you probably know your hormones are still in flux for a little while after baby.


Possible increase of inflammation and intestinal permeability
There is preliminary evidence that pregnancy alters the barrier integrity of the intestines and increases low levels of inflammation in some individuals, depending on their microbiome and weight pre-pregnancy (Kerr et al. 2015) . And there is loads of evidence that individuals engaged in long endurance exercise events (ahem-birth) temporarily experience increased intestinal permeability that leads to diarrhea, cramping and digestive distress (Cronin, 2017). While labor fits this description, research being conducted on how labor and delivery impacts the mom’s intestinal lumen is NOT readily accessible or visible in the peer-reviewed literature-and so I looked to Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine to see what those vastly under-used resrouces thinkMore later!

Unintentional shifts in diet
If you’re breastfeeding and or recovering from birth, then you need to consume more calories than you are probably doing so. Additionally if you’re tired and don’t have time or energy to prepare meals or are just looking for easy snacks, then you most likely consuming a higher amount of starchy carbs (they are the convenientist!). This which will in turn change the landscape of your microbiome (in high quantities, it can cause bad bugs to proliferate) and can make digestion/elimination move a little bit more slowly.
Forgetting to chew your food, or eating faster
Digestion begins with the teeth and enzymes in the saliva! A habitually fast eater pre-baby, I was SHOCKED to see how much faster at eating I became after having kiddos. When we get a moment to eat, we are often famished and or pressed for time and so we tend to eat FAST! But there is a communication that must happen between the mouth, brain and gut in order to ready our body for digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system slows heart rate, increases intestinal activity and opens gastric sphincter in order to facilitate the NOT uncomplicated process of digestion.
Precision Nutrition has a great synopsis on this topic:

“Think of digestion as a chain reaction. As soon as we see, smell, or think about food (step 1), we start salivating to prepare for putting that food in our mouth (step 2). Saliva contains enzymes that break the food down, and moistens the mouth for easier swallowing.

Meanwhile, digestive steps 3, 4, 5 etc. have to get ready to go to work. Our stomachs start to secrete more acid. Our small intestine starts to get ready for some peristalsis. And so forth.

If we rush this process, we force our GI tract to deal with stuff before it’s fully prepared. Surprises are great on birthdays, not so great during digestion.”

Trying to digest food that has NOT been properly broken down by the stomach acid and enzymes can be really hard on the gut AND it can cause us to OVER-eat. While over-consuming calories is NOT something I want you to stress about, eating too much, too fast can be uncomfortable and cause bloating, cramping and other forms of digestive distress, ESPECIALLY if it’s foods that are difficult to digest like protein and fibrous veggies.


Stress and lack of sleep
Motherhood is stressful. New babies are a lot of work, I don’t care if this is your first or your fourth, a new person in the mix always changes the dynamics and routine of the household. That coupled with lack of sleep can TOTALLY lead to stress mental, emotional and mechanical stress on the body. Stress slows things down. It kills your good bugs. It diverts blood away from our gut so that we can’t digest and absorb nutrition efficiently and over the longterm the gut becomes MORE permeable to toxins and food particles. When these guys get in our blood stream they can make us food intolerant and cause all sorts of negative responses to foods, including rashes, bloating, cramping, diarrhea…
Stress is also part of life!
It’s fine, don’t stress about it, but keep reading about ways to help MANAGE these changes.Ok, well this is the situation we find ourselves.
ONE or possibly ALL of these variables are messing with our digestion and causing bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation or a little bit of EVERYTHING.


So what can we do about it?

Head on over here to read Part 2

References

Armstrong LE, Lee EC, Armstrong EM. Interactions of Gut Microbiota, Endotoxemia, Immune Function, and Diet in Exertional Heatstroke. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2018;2018:5724575. doi:10.1155/2018/5724575.

Benedict, C., Vogel, H., Jonas, W., Woting, A., Blaut, M., Schürmann, A., & Cedernaes, J. (2016). Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Molecular Metabolism, 5(12), 1175-1186. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.10.003

Cronin O, O'Sullivan O, Barton W. Gut microbiota: implications for sports and exercise medicine Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 11 January 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097225

Kerr, C.A., Grice, D.M., Tran, C.D., Bauer, D.C., Li, D., Hendry, P., and Hannan, G.N. (2015). Early life events influence whole-of-life metabolic health via gut microflora and gut permeability. Crit Rev Microbiol. 41(3):326- 40.

DSC_3472-2.jpg

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
Sarah specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

She is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Are you a yo-yo fitness dieter?

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 9.53.09 AM.png

All exercise is healthy. Right?

Not so much.

While there isn’t anything wrong with any one training modality, form of exercise or exercise class, per se, the mindset and practice we cultivate around it can be damaging, for sure, toxic even.
It can foster feelings of hatred, resentment, failure, and frustration towards physical activity and exercise and therefore becomes a TOTALLY counterproductive thief of our joy!


Come see what I mean!



Raise your hand if you’re someone that is either “On the exercise wagon” or completely 100% off of it.


Do you have a rigid idea in your mind of what exercise needs to look like?

Does it need to take a certain amount of time? Occur in a specific place in certain clothes?

Does it have to look exactly like what your peers are doing? What celebrity “X” is using to get her amazing body?


Does it always have to leave you pouring sweat and gasping for air?

Do you believe that if you miss a day you will fall behind? Lose momentum? Lose results? Gain weight? Backslide into old habits?



This is the sort of mindset that I used to have around exercise and just like with dieting, I was TOO restrictive and so I never found my groove. I would binge, restrict, binge restrict, overdoing it with BOTH sedentary AND active phases-never finding the balance between training, moving and resting.



I never could figure out how to make my fitness and movement practice just a part of my life because I had REAL rigid ideas of what I needed to do in fitness in order for it to “count.”

runner.png

Can you relate?

I was either running 6 miles a day 5 days a week, or nothing.
I was sticking to a strict schedule, attending a certain class, consistently using only one training modality or I was doing nothing.
And I wasn’t “healthy” when I was exercising hard and constantly.
I became injured, I was tired. I lost my appetite…



Just like when we are on a diet, I felt locked in by “the rules” .
Whose rules? I have no idea.
I’m sure they were a combination of

  • what I saw others doing

  • what fitness culture was telling me was “effective” and

  • whatever routine was JUST enough out of reach that striving for it made me feel like I was really accomplishing something-making up for lost time. I mean if it didn’t sort of feel like punishment, would it even work? Was it enough?




Consequently I was happy for excuses to skip out on workouts, miss runs, take it easy.
And when I was “off the wagon” I missed how exercise made me feel but I NEVER actually missed the exercise itself.
I didn’t miss the pressure, the feelings of failure, the guilt when I “skipped” a workout.
And the more I grew accustomed to this cycle of inactive vs. super active , the more I had to REALLY PUMP MYSELF UP to want to get back into the active part of the cycle, because I didn’t enjoy it-even if I felt there was an aspect of it that did make me feel better.


Du7J4zS.jpg

But my sedentary habits weren’t make me feel great either.
My mood and digestion would suffer. My body was achy and I felt like I was craving movement!

So I would find something new- a new class at the gym, swimming, training for triathlons, lifting weights and that worked for a while, but I finally realized that it wasn’t the exercise itself that was the problem, it was my mindset.

I was too restrictive.
I was dieting, white knuckling it, so super perfectionist and holding myself to standards that I thought were what I needed to do in order to get results!





It wasn’t until I had my second baby that out of necessity, I began to change my mindset and FINALLY found my groove with training and movement.


Here are the guidelines that I used to cultivate a consistent and life nourishing relationship with movement and exercise! THESE ARE NOT RULES, but simply a framework that I used to integrate movement and fitness into my lifestyle and get out of the cycle of fitness dieting!





  1. Move daily-no matter what it looks like, and do it outside when you can!

    1. I knew that movement made me feel good. I knew that getting outside in the sun and fresh air was good for my mental health, vitamin D and my babies, toddler and infant at the time.
      So I made a commitment to move every day in one respect or another, no matter for how long or how it looked.

    2. Movement took place in a number of different forms, but it happened.
      Often it was a leisure walk around the neighborhood with kids in the stroller.
      Sometimes it was yoga in the living room with them close by.
      Other times it was just crawling around in the grass in the backyard or doing some raking or simply doing yard work while the littles were hanging with me outside.
      And several times a week, when I could make it work, it would be some version of a short workout.

    3. Moving daily in all the different ways helped me to maintain momentum. It made the hurdle of getting up or getting out to move, far less intimidating and when I had the time and energy to do so, it made it FAR easier to get in a real workout, because I was already used to moving, and now I just had to move a little more intensely for a period of time.

    4. Yes there were days when no intentional movement happened either because I was tired, the kids were sick, or whatever, but on those days, I missed my movement practice and because I had such lax requirements for what movement needed to “look like” it made it easier to get back to it!



  2. Strength train your body-

    1. I transitioned away from an “exercise” mentality and gradually started to train my body. I trained for strength, resilience, body composition changes and endurance.

    2. I realized that part of my problem with exercise was that there was never any clear goal. For me, exercise was largely about showing up to burn off calories or fat, lean out…and those are such nebulous goals that are not always appropriate for new nursing mommas (which I was at the time), are difficult to measure, and impacted by our hormonal cycles. I needed a clear bullseye, I wanted something to work towards, so strength and endurance because my new targets.

      1. This was awesome because regardless of how many calories I burned doing one set of pushups in my kitchen while emptying the dishwasher, I knew for certain that I was building strength and getting better at pushups.

      2. Maybe sprints in the driveway didn’t take the full 60 minutes that I had believed and exercise class needed to take, but I could feel my legs, core and reflexes growing stronger, my speed and lung capacity were increasing and I didn’t need more than 10 minutes for a sprint workout.

    3. Besides, strength training was convenient for me. I could leave weights in any room of the house and do a few rods of weighted squats while the kids played on the floor. I could throw a kettlebell in the bottom of the stroller, walk to the play ground and work on my swing. I could bring bands to the park or out in the backyard to do some presses or pull aparts while the babies napped in the stroller.






  3. I learned to view rest part of my process-

    1. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a total amateur momma just trying to hold it together while you care for two young kids, you need REST and RECOVERY! I had totally bought into the mindset that we are supposed to exercise almost EVERY DAY, 5 to 6 days a week for sure! And if we didn’t, we weren’t doing enough to get good results. But there is no science to support that this approach over time is the best option for all people and there is PLENTY of science that shows if we don’t rest, recover, sleep and move gently between training sessions, we will get hurt, we will create loads of chronic inflammation, we will NOT get good results.

      So I started to make rest part of it!
      I even learned about some of the hormonal benefits of resting in my life, between rounds, between workouts, or whenever I needed it. Rest was intentional.
      Rest was strategic.
      Rest was what was going to keep me consistent with my fitness and movement practices!



  4. #persistenceoverperfection became my new motto for life-

    1. Moving away from rigid expectations and approaches to exercise helped me to finally get consistent.

      Movement and training because actions that NOURISHED me. I wanted them to be a part of my life, so I began to prioritize them.
      I also knew that if I was tired, training wasn’t going to be good for me, that movement was OFTEN the key to feeling better about my day, even when everything felt like it was falling apart and I was constantly failing,
      And I saw the value of rest because resting one day almost ensured that I would get back into my training or movement practice of BOTH the next day.

    2. The more lax I because in my expectations, the more disciplined I actually wanted to be.
      The more I gave myself a pass to shorten my workouts, or not train at all, the easier it became for me to make them happen. Sure maybe it would take me ALL day to get in 4 rounds of a simple 5 minute circuit consistent of 4-5 exercises, but I would do it! And because I did, I became more consistent, got the best physical results I have ever gained form exercise and I finally had a relationship with fitness and movement that wasn’t one of obligation and guilt.
      It was there FOR ME to make me better and when I was rested and had the time I would use it to the best of my ability that day, because I was PERSISTENT in my pursuit of movement and fitness practices, but I was NO LONGER perfectionist about what it needed to look like.




What about you?
Are you stuck on the “on again, off again” fitness dieting cycle?
Do you feel locked into a specific approach to exercise?
Are you consumed with the message that exercise needs to kick your ass and burn ALL the calories in order to be of value?


Share your thoughts in the comments below!


IF YOU WANT TO TRY A NEW AND DIFFERENT APPROACH-you can download my Strong Guts n’ Butts movement protocol AND or my 5 minutes circuits that can be done at home with MINIMAL equipment!

Sign up below!

DSC_3755.jpg

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian  Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Write here…




How I make bone broth

I make bone broth on a routine basis because we eat a lot of pasture-raised organic chicken and there’s NO WAY I’m letting those precious drippins and bones go to waste!

Also, bone broth is an old, trusted friend of mine.
Its nutrient, gelatin and collagen content is the reason I recommend it to my clients suffering from pelvic organ prolapse, chronic inflammation and joint pain, gut dysbiosis and a history of restrictive (under-eating) and malnourishment as well as my pregnant and postpartum mommas!

Five years ago when I was SUPER sick with three parasites and Candida overgrowth, my body couldn’t tolerate many foods.

I was malnourished and had horrible stomach pains more often than not.

I had heard of bone broth and it’s ability to sooth and heal/seal the gut, so I decided to give it a shot.
It sounded warm, soothing and easy to digest, so why not?


I can still remember breathing a sigh of relief when I drank my first mug.
The salty, nutritious goodness of gelatin, collagen, and amino acids from the chicken meat and bones PLUS the vitamins and minerals from the veggies I had used, it was bringing me back to life.

Finally I had something that I could consistency eat that didn’t make me feel terrible.
PLUS it was also sealing my leaky gut, helping me heal a bit.
It was giving me nutrition at a time when I was struggling to eat enough food to sustain my body and had dysbiosis that mades it difficult to sufficiently extract nutrients from the food that I was eating.


“Good broth will resurrect the dead,” - South American proverb.




We easily eat a roasted chicken once or twice a week so I pop the bones, carcass and drippings in a ziplock bag and throw them in the freezer.
I typically wait until I have two birds worth of bones before I made a broth.

Even when I have grass-fed beef bones, I STILL make add in the chicken.
Beef broth is a lot of nutrient bang for your buck, but chicken broth has a milder taste, so mixing the two is my preferred broth.


If I make the combo, then I start the roasted beef bones FIRST for 12 hours and then add in the chicken.
Chicken doesn’t need as long of a cook time as the beef bones do, and I don’t love the flavor of a bone broth that’s been cooked for too long.

Ok, so here are my super simple directions for making bone broth.

Stephanie Gadreau of Stupid Easy Paleo has recipe for making it in the Instant Pot.

I don’t go that route, but if you’re into your Instant Pot, then try that version!




IMG_1555.jpeg

Chicken Bone Broth Instructions (not a recipe) -easiest done on the weekend if you work a traditional work schedule, since you have to monitor it for 24 hours.

1. Take two-three chickens worth of bones (I usually have them frozen from previous meals) and pour 1/4 cup of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice on the bones and let sit for 5 minutes.



2. Cover the bones with filtered or spring water (fluoride and chlorine-free if possible, but do what you can, #persistenceoverperfection!)


3. Bring water to boil.


4. Throw in 1-2 organic onions (whole is fine) and 2-3 cloves of garlic.


5. Add in any other veggie scraps that you have hanging around! I frequently use celery stalks or hearts, carrots, or sweet potatoes. I do not respond well to nightshades, so no potatoes, peppers, tomatoes or eggplant.

6. Allow to continue to boil with the veggies for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. You can transfer to a pre-heated crockpot if you feel safer, but I leave mine on the stove, because I live on the edge. **Making sure there is nothing flammable nearby.

7. Simmer broth for 20 hours (anything between 12 and 20 is fine, but I like to check the bones and make sure they are easily crushable before taking the broth off the heat). Keep an eye on the water level and add more water when necessary. I top it off before I go to bed.

8. Don’t add any water (unless absolutely necessary) in the last 5 hours because it dilutes your rich broth.

9. Turn off the heat and let broth cool a bit.

10. Strain veggies and bones! I use something like this to scoop out the bones and veggies, DO NOT THROW THEM OUT!

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 7.36.34 PM.png

If you miss a few bones, it’s not the end of the world, IF you checked to make sure the bones were easily crushable and not choking hazards.



Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 7.45.11 PM.png

11. I freeze extra broth-or broth I don’t want to use immediately, in bags and distribute the rest into jars.
It’s best to divide it up according to how much you will use in one sitting.
When the broth cools, if you included skin or gelatinous fat from when you cooked the bird, a layer of fat will form on the top. This will ESPECIALLY happen if you included beef bones.
The fat layer helps keeps the bone broth by sealing out bacteria, so leave it on there!

DSC_4206.jpg

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian  Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Are you qualified?

Injuries sustained in pregnancy or postpartum, can plague clients for decades after the fact.
I have clients in their 50’s just NOW healing their diastasis recti and pelvic floor problems sustained 20, 30 years ago.
And you know what.
They’ve been to a lot of gyms and no one told them that leaking, and persistent back pain, chronic shoulder injuries and hip problems were related to their diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction.

Read More

Why I created Kettlebells For Cool Kids and why YOU should do it!

1. People need access to more kettlebell training that doesn’t just whip them into shape, but ensures longevity and enjoyment in their fitness practice (aka doesn’t hurt them).

From breathing patterns to pelvic position, core muscle development and alignment, WOMEN ESPECIALLY need education and support on how to train SMART to prevent weakening or over-training their cores and pelvic floors.

Read More

You Compare Yourself

IMG_0189.jpeg

Over a hundred women signed up for the #topdowntguchallenge  this week.

Every day we learn a tiny piece of the Turkish get-up and practice ONLY THAT ONE PART. 
 

It's been SO AWESOME to see all of these women working on learning the Turkish get-up OR working on improving their technique. 

They are slowing down the movement. 
Taking time to breath and become more aware of how their body moves. 
They are becoming acquainted with the get-up on a WHOLE new level. 
And you know what?

Because of all that, their technique is damn good. 

 

When you’re doing a challenge like this, it’s easy to get caught up in the game of comparing yourself to others. 

With social media, we can check and see how other people are doing and WHEN we see someone that we perceive to be “doing better” than us,  we can’t help but feel discouraged. 
Same goes for ANYTIME we begin a new fitness practice. 

If we are going to the gym or a class, we look around and observe where other people are. 
We begin to size them up and then move on to ourselves... 

“I’ll never look like that.”

“I’ll never be that good.”

“I’m too old to do this.”

“I’ve had too many [babies, injuries, too few years in fitness], etc. to ever be that fit.”


 

Personally, I look at people online ALL OF THE TIME and accidentally put them on a pedestal. 

I look at their level of fitness or business success (in the video of photo posted online, which isn’t always the whole story…) and I make judgementsabout themabout myselfabout my process

 

And SOMETIMES that briefly stops me from progressing. 

Sometimes that makes me feel bad about where I am and discourages me from continuing to work.

 

But over the years I have learned that EVERYTHING I WANT OUT OF LIFE is on the other side of those feelings. 
 

I HAVE to break through them, if I’m ever going to get anywhere. 

I have to mute the messages in my head or online that tell me, “I’m not good enough.” OR “I can’t be me.”

 

With the #topdowntguchallenge, we are seeing lots of different people moving intentionally, beautifully, and I’m telling you, I am SUPER impressed by what you all are doing. 

 

I especially love the posts that say, “I didn’t think I could do this, but I did it!!”

I mean, that’s what this challenge is all about. 

That’s what strength training and kettlebell work is all about!

Learning to see ourselves as capable people that can grow and challenge ourselves, improve and do amazing things. 

 

And our process won’t look like anyone else’s. 

Our bodies aren’t going to look like other people’s either. 

My geometry is not your geometry, so my movement will take a different shape than yours and yours will take a different shape than someone else’s. 

Yes there are fundamental guidelines that we follow for technique and safety, but the body interprets these things in it’s own unique and beautiful way. 

 

Practice is practice. 

Progress is progress. 

And people are people. 

 

We are all different. 

Always, always let your process meet you where you are TODAY and lead you to where YOU WISH TO GROW. 

 

Don’t get distracted when you see other people potentially progressing faster than you, or looking more “perfect” than you. 

Keep your head down. 

Maintain your focus. 

 

I promise you, all those people you compared yourself to will start to fade away into the background and you will like where you end up.

You will feel proud of yourself.

 

If you want to learn more about the Top Down Turkish Get-Up Challenge OR get on the waitlist for my upcoming 10 week Kettlebell Instruction and Workout course,  Kettlebells For Cool Kids! 
Head to this website now! www.kettlebellsforcoolkids.com
 

DSC_3780.jpg

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian  Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Healing the gut with movement and exercise to STOP chronic disease

DoctorTalkingToPatient.jpg

Due to their positive effects on clearing inflammation in the body and improving the health and diversity of the gut microbiome, movement and exercise are recommended as some of the most effective tools for healing and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

But in this case, NOT all forms of exercise are beneficial to everyone!
SOME forms of fitness will actually:

  • INCREASE the body’s stress response
  • create inflammation
  • cause leaky gut syndrome and consequently, associated health conditions, you will learn them soon.
     

So let's talk about:

  1. Inflammation, what it is, why it's problematic and what causes it.
  2. How the nervous system AND gut play a role in creating and clearing inflammation.
  3. How movement and exercise INCREASES the health and diversity of the gut microbiome, BUT also has the potential to harm it and why that matters for chronic disease.
  4. What forms of fitness are BEST for beginners and those struggling with chronic disease and how probiotics can also help!

 

I feel very strongly about this topic and feel that it's important for you to know that all the claims I'm about to make are supported by the peer-reviewed literature.
But if learning about that is NOT your jam, you can skip to the summary at the bottom. 
It won't hurt my feelings. 
Here we go!


What is inflammation? 

Image credit: Innovation Toronto. 

Image credit: Innovation Toronto. 

  • Acute inflammation is a natural, healthy immune response that helps your body heal.
     
  • Chronic inflammation is associated with many modern diseases, including obesity, diabetes, Alzheimers, coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease, cancer, chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, fatigue and a whole host of other conditions! (Harvard Health, 2006)
     
  • Chronic inflammation occurs when the body creates an inflammatory response to a non-specific, perceived threat.
    “The white blood cells swarm, but have nothing to do and nowhere to go, and they sometimes eventually start attacking internal organs or other necessary tissues and cells”. -Dr. Scott Walker, Gunnison Valley Hospital in Utah.
     
  • Chronic inflammation negatively impacts the central nervous system whose job it is to help clear inflammation. When left unchecked, the sympathetic nervous system has to work overtime, all of the time, which leads to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, muscle and body wasting, and cardiovascular mortality (Pongratz and Straub, 2014)
  • When chronic inflammation is suspected, doctors can test for C-reactive protein levels (CRP), which increase when the body is inflamed.
     
  • Gut distress and chronic inflammation are related for a number of reasons, largely the gut is home to the enteric nervous system AND 80%  of the immune system.

What are common signs of chronic inflammation:

1. Lots of belly fat-I’m not talking gentle relaxed, soft bellies here-which I love (folks are too obsessed with six-pack abs), but rather growing fat storage around the middle.

2. High blood glucose levels-blood sugar imbalances, loss of insulin sensitivity.

3. Digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, bloating, or constipation.

4. Chronic fatigue or exhaustion.

5. Skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, or your skin is red and blotchy.

6. Allergies.

7. Puffy face, or puffy bags under your eyes.

8. Gum disease-see Dr. Lin’s The Dental Diet-FASCINATING!

9. Depression, anxiety, brain fog

10. Erectile dysfunction in men, pelvic floor dysfunction in both men and women.

 

The gut and its relationship to inflammation


One extremely common source of inflammation that is being linked to more and more chronic health conditions  (diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, PCOS, autism and more!) is gut dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad microbes) of the gut leading to erosion of the mucosal lining of your gut, aka-leaky gut syndrome. 

The intestinal epithelium is the largest mucosal surface in the body.

OralWellness.com

OralWellness.com

It is the barrier between the rest of the body and the food, fluid and air that comes in from the external environment.

This barrier’s job is to be selective about what it allows to pass through into the blood stream and internal environment of the the body. 

Image credit: goodfoodeating.com

Image credit: goodfoodeating.com

When the epithelium is compromised by toxins in your environment AND food, stress, gut irritants, antibiotics that kill good bacteria, other pharmaceutical drugs, pathogens, etc.,  it erodes (leaky gut syndrome) which allows toxins, food particles, etc. get into the blood.

These toxins and food particles (that often look much like our own proteins) can be attacked by the immune system causing a chronic immune and inflammatory response in the body, like food sensitivities and eventually the many chronic diseases filed under autoimmunity. 

Our gut microbes are also in strong communication with our nervous system.

In 2017, Zhu et. al., reported that ,

“Disorders in the composition and quantity of gut microorganisms can affect both the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system (CNS), thereby indicating the existence of a microbiota-gut-brain axis. Due to the intricate interactions between the gut and the brain, gut symbiotic microorganisms are closely associated with various CNS diseases.”

The microbes living in our gut talk directly with our nerve cells to control the brain and it's response to NUMEROUS stimuli. 

Since the gut, immune system and nervous system are intimately involved in mediating chronic inflammation and also profoundly effected by fitness and exercise, let's talk about the how to use fitness training to HEAL and nourish the body WITHOUT pissing off the immune and nervous system, shall we?
 

Movement and Exercise Piece



Research shows that the health of the gut AND reduction of the inflammatory response can be improved with certain types of routine movement and exercise.

American adults who engaged in frequent physical activity are better able to clear inflammation than adults who live a more sedentary life.

Kettlecise 

Kettlecise 

For example, a 2010 study with eighty-two patients found that in type 2 diabetics, (key term coming up) long-term high intensity resistance and aerobic training reduced inflammatory markers over the course of a year (independent of changes in body weight, meaning activity was the key factor). (Balducci et al, 2010

Numerous studies have shown that sedentary individuals have a different gut microbiome than active ones (Allen et. al., 2017, Cronin 2017) and that routine exercise modifies the composition of the gut microbiome creating significant differences in the community of microbes of active individuals vs. sedentary. 

In fact, Bressa et al. 2017 found a significant correlation between the presence of specific species of microbes, fat-loss, body composition, and physical activity!

This means that there are certain microbes that live in the guts of leaner more active individuals AND that by growing our daily movement practices we can affect what bugs are there AND increase the diversity of the microbial community that lives in us and helps us maintain our health!
 

But what kind of exercise is best for the gut?

1200px-Charlotte_Morel_Lausanne2012b.jpg

This seems to vary somewhat with the individual.

For example, a highly trained athlete or individual with lots of exercise experience is better able to recover from the stress of high intensity and strenuous exercise. They can routinely attend Crossfit, HIIT, participate in Triathlons and providing they consume enough nutrition and take time to recover, they will not experience negative health effects.

A beginner, on the other hand, someone that has historically been sedentary, individuals with over-taxed immune or adrenal system and leaky gut, or is sporadically consistent with exercise, will not respond well to fitness that is too intense and does not allow for adequate recovery time. (Barton, 2017)


These folks are better off turning to more from moderately challenging exercise like weight training, movement and mobility training and routine walking. 

If they desire to be able to engage in high intensity fitness classes like HIIT, Crossfit or Metabolic Conditioning, then they should TRAIN for that slowly and give themselves adequate time to recover between intervals AND workouts. 
 

You see,  strenuous (relative to the individual) exercise diverts blood flow away from the gut and can increase leakiness of the gut lining, immune system activation, stress the kidneys and other forms of stress on the body. (Clark and Mach, 2016).

Unfortunately, the popularity of high intensity fitness classes for beginners or individuals that have been sporadic in their exercise practice or are already struggling with chronic inflammations can be counterproductive and harmful. 

While initially folks will perhaps see an initial drop in pounds, this is often followed by a strong inflammatory stress response that leaves them susceptible to injury, fatigue, and experiencing STRONG cravings, gut distress and a frustrating lack of physique change.

If you struggle with symptoms of leaky gut syndrome (food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.) then you are going to want to be vigilant about your workout intensity AND recovery time. Prioritize STRENGTH training to increase your fitness and gradually work to improve your conditioning and cut down on your recovery time. 


To see an example of a training program appropriate for someone that wishes to build strength, increase their fitness, and improve their metabolic flexibility WITHOUT stressing their body, get my gut-nourishing Strong Guts and Butts Movement Protocol here

 

Using probiotics to aid recovery and fitness

While exercise has been shown to improve the health of the gut, probiotic supplements and probiotic foods are ALSO important for recovery and health!

Intestinal microbes reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Individuals with a more diversely populated gut are better able to recover from exercise and manage stress.

 

Research is now being conducted on how the use of probiotics (good bugs for your gut) and prebiotics (food for your good bugs) can be used therapeutically to aid athlete’s  nervous systems, mitigate their stress response, decrease inflammation and in some cases even avoid harmful conditions like exertion heat stroke! (Armstrong, 2018)

“Preliminary experimental data obtained from studies using probiotics and prebiotics studies show some interesting results, indicating that the microbiota acts like an endocrine organ (e.g. secreting serotonin, dopamine or other neurotransmitters) and may control the HPA axis [THIS IS YOUR CENTRAL NERVOUS RESPONSE] in athletes.” (Clark and Mach, 2016).

 

“In athletes, the administration of different Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains might help maintain a state of general health, enhance immune function, improve gut mucosal permeability, reduce oxidative stress and obtain energy from plant-carbohydrate sources.”  (Mach and Botella, 2016).

Summary time...

Movement and improved fitness are the keys to reducing your risk of developing or recovering from many chronic diseases because of its positive effect on the immune and nervous systems stress and inflammatory response.

The key is to choose the BEST forms of movement and training for your current state of health and fitness ability.

The lowest risk forms of training that will increase health and fitness are leisure walks, mobility and natural movement coupled with routine strength training.

Supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics is being shown in the literature to aid recovery and reduce inflammation because of it’s positive effects on the gut, nervous and immune systems. 

In short, if you are “out-of shape” or battling chronic disease, start walking, lift some heavy objects, move all of your body in all the plains, eat probiotic foods and give yourself adequate time to recover between training sessions.

Grab my MOVEMENT protocol, complete with daily natural movement training AND strength training!
 


 

Also, I read a ton of science to write this article. References below. 

 

DSC_3955-1.jpg

Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian  Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 
Check her out on social media
here or get on her email list!! for more content!

 

 

Allen, J.M. , L. J. Mailing, J. Cohrs, C. Salmonson, J. D. Fryer, V. Nehra, V. L. Hale, P. Kashyap, B. A. White & J. A. Woods (2017) Exercise training-induced modification of the gut microbiota persists after microbiota colonization and attenuates the response to chemically-induced colitis in gnotobiotic mice, Gut Microbes, 9:2, 115-130, DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1372077

 

Armstrong LE, Lee EC, Armstrong EM. Interactions of Gut Microbiota, Endotoxemia, Immune Function, and Diet in Exertional Heatstroke. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2018;2018:5724575. doi:10.1155/2018/5724575.

 

Barton, Wiley & Penney, Nicholas & Cronin, Owen & Garcia-Perez, Isabel & G Molloy, Michael & Holmes, Elaine & Shanahan, Fergus & Cotter, Paul & O'Sullivan, Orla. (2017). The microbiome of professional athletes differs from that of more sedentary subjects in composition and particularly at the functional metabolic level. Gut. 67. 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313627.

 

Barton, W. et al. The microbiome of professional athletes differs from that of more sedentary subjects in composition and particularly at the functional metabolic level. Gut, doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313627 (2017).

Bilski J, Brzozowski B, Mazur-Bialy A, Sliwowski Z, Brzozowski T. The Role of Physical Exercise in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. BioMed Research International. 2014;2014:429031. doi:10.1155/2014/429031.

Bressa C, Bailén-Andrino M, Pérez-Santiago J, González-Soltero R, Pérez M, et al. (2017) Differences in gut microbiota profile between women with active lifestyle and sedentary women. PLOS ONE 12(2): e0171352. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171352

 

Clark A, Mach N. Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2016;13:43. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0155-6.

Cronin O, O'Sullivan O, Barton W, et al Gut microbiota: implications for sports and exercise medicine Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 11 January 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097225

Harvard Health Letter, Inflammation: A unifying theory of disease. April, 2006. (Link

Núria Mach, Dolors Fuster-Botella, Endurance exercise and gut microbiota: A review, Journal of Sport and Health Science,Volume 6, Issue 2,2017,

Zhu X, Han Y, Du J, Liu R, Jin K, Yi W. Microbiota-gut-brain axis and the central nervous system. Oncotarget. 2017;8(32):53829-53838. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.17754.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About that extra weight....

The majority of folks that I talk to these days believe they are carrying some extra weight. 

They will often even tell you exactly how much "extra" weight they are holding and often even what weight they are supposed to be. 

But the interesting thing here is that while THEY might believe that they are holding onto "extra" weight and their doctor or society might be telling them the same thing, their body has no idea what they are talking about. 

You see the body doesn't grow your fat cells, store more fat or more efficiently extract nutrition from food for no good reason. 
It does it because it believes that it NEEDS to. 

The information that you are sending it on a daily basis via your nutrition practices, your sleep, your movement habits...THIS is how it's gets ideas about what you need with respect to fat. 

For the human body FAT is a resource. 

I know that in our culture it's demonized because, yes, high percentages of fat storage in the body can cause some health problems and make it more difficult to lose weight.
Fat cells produce cytokines-which create inflammation/stress in the body  and fat cells also release estrogenwhich in high levels signals to the metabolism-"SLOW DOWN!" 

But fat itself is an amazingly beautiful resource. 
It's your body's,"Break glass in case of emergency" life-saving way to quickly provide you with energy and fuel IF you need it! 


And if your biology is responding to your lifestyle in a manner that communicates to your metabolism, "Things are bad here, we need more emergency resources!!" then all the diets and stressful exercise programs in the world are probably NOT going to work for you. 

In fact if you are age 35 or older, then you REALLY can't look to conventional weight loss programs.

Why? Because your body is stressed.It's inflamed. It's hormones are imbalanced and most importantly, its gut is not populated with the microbes that you need toONLY extract the calories that you NEED from food, the microbes that fight off organisms that make you crave sugar and lack energy,the bugs that help your body create dopamine and serotoninso that you feel GOOD!


Under-eating, cutting carbs, and stressing your body with long periods of exercise just ain't gonna cut it, because these strategies DON'T address the root issue. 

These approaches don't tell your body, "Hey-things are cool here, you can chill out and stop clinging to those fat cells like it's the end of the world."

So what DO YOU DO to alleviate the body's stress and help to balance it's hormones, metabolism and gut to get it to reduce holding onto unnecessary fat stores? 

Well I'll tell you!

 

  • Sleep
  • Move
  • Manage stress-not just emotional stress, PHYSICAL stress (we talk about this in the program!)
  • Heal the gut
  • Cut out toxic hormone-mimicking substances

If you do all of these things in an efficient manner that jives with your lifestyle, then your body is going to chill out. 
It's going to become more balanced and less stressed. 
It's going to let go of the "resources" it no longer needs. 


These are the strategies that I have used with over 100 women to help them feel more vibrant and confident in their bodies!
These are the strategies that I use in my own life to help keep my body balanced and minimally stressed!

And these are the strategies I will be introducing to you via my Get Up And Go With Your Gut Program!!!! 


Registration closes tomorrow, June 17th,but IONLY have a few spots left, so grab yours NOW!!! We start Monday, June 18th!!

Click the image below to learn more about this 4 week program to nourish your gut, alleviate digestion and consequently leave your body feeling more balanced and less stressed!!!

Poor Potty Habits for the Pelvic Floor

Preemptively peeing. This is a poor habit because it trains the body to need to go more often. I know it starts out with just you being anxious that you’re not going to have access to a bathroom and God-forbid have to pee in public, which by the way I think is why women were long skirts for so damn long in history. I mean how much easier is it to relieve yourself without a bathroom if you’re donning a long privacy curtain,  but I digress….

Read More

Digestive distress when traveling??!! Check out my strategies here!

The reason why these tips work so well to keep me feeling good and vibrant when I travel is because they are imitating the pattern of my real life at home!
This is how I live to maintain good gut health and feel vibrant and mostly good in my body!

At home to care for my gut I move often! I mostly eat foods that feel good, don’t create a lot of inflammation or irritate my gut, these are my staples!
I routinely take probiotics and magnesium and I get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. 

Read More