Just to warn you, this is going to be a good old fashioned rant, but it’s not all negative, so please read through to the end!
I keep seeing pregnant AND recently postpartum women online, in gyms, engaging in exercise that is putting the health of their cores and pelvic floors at risk and coaches and trainers PRAISING THEM.
Using the “no excuses” hashtag, even.
I 100% respect the woman’s right to choose what exercise she does, when she does it and to handle the positive or negative consequences of that decision.
BUT I do not support the idea that coaches WITHOUT education or certification in pre and postnatal fitness should be coaching and instructing these women and I definitely don’t support them putting these women on a pedestal and setting their exercise practice as the standard for everyone else, but that’s a whole other discussion….
UNLESS the coach is working alongside a pelvic floor PT or a pre/postnatal fitness specialist that has educated the mom on what’s taking place in HER body and how to train accordingly and prudently, then HOW can they really know how to coach them?
Women can absolutely “train” and “exercise” throughout pregnancy and shortly after having a baby.
But the HOW they train or exercise and what those terms MEAN to them and how their bodies are actually (not just subjectively) responding to the training and exercise is really the issue here.
Training with lighter weights, avoiding crunches or planks, and listening to your body, these are not sufficient guidelines for pregnant and postpartum mommas that are exhausted and living in bodies that are multitasking and changing on a level we can barely even comprehend.
Sometimes it’s not the weight, but a pre-existing pelvic floor dysfunction or diastasis recti (this is NOT uncommon) that is going to be the problem.
Sometimes it’s not THE EXERCISE, but how you do it that is the issue, For example, are you modifying it for the manner in which your alignment and morphology has changed during pregnancy? Do you know how to?
Often we don’t know how “listen” to our bodies, because we don’t know what to listen for! We can attribute changes and signs that our exercise practice ISN’T working for us, to just natural changes in pregnancy (e.g. leaking) and believe that we should just “push through it.”
There are A LOT of unknowns in the pregnant and postpartum body and congratulating them on PUSHING themselves and moving the same way they did before babies. Women need to weigh the risks of often undetectable at the time, injuries (prolapse and diastasis recti) against their fitness performance goals and desires. Putting them on a pedestal for their workouts only fuels their need to keep pushing.
Pregnant and postpartum clients are going to look to you, the coach or themselves for guidance, but are either of you are qualified in this area to give comprehensive, sound advice and instruction?
It’s an important question to ask, especially once you learn what’s at stake.
So let me ask you, are you able
to discuss leakage of urine and feces and other signs of pelvic floor dysfunction and pelvic organ prolapse with your clients?
or how breastfeeding renders the core and pelvic floor susceptible to injury EVEN after the “6 week checkup”
identify signs of and assess for diastasis recti (I always have this confirmed by a pelvic floor PT)
or identify and refer out clients showing signs of postpartum depression, overwhelming stress, disordered eating, extreme loneliness, body dysmorphia and more emotional and mental conditions that are negatively impacting them and their baby?
discuss the hormonal changes of pregnant body and how the makes their pelvic floor and core stretchy?
train mommas for function (how to carry and hold baby and all the stuff that comes with baby) NOT JUST fitness
educate your clients on the relationship between the core, pelvic floor, alignment and breath
emphasize prioritizing sleep, nutrition, rest and self-care OVER exercise for fat-loss and fitness?
If you answered “no” to more than one of these questions, then you need support and education to help you better serve your momma clients, EVEN if they show NO apparent signs of being challenged in these areas, because they often don’t, or don’t feel comfortable talking about it.
You need to know more OR you need to refer out.
I provide workshops on strength and fitness for pregnant and postpartum mommas AND Gym Owners, Trainers and Coaches as well!
Contact me here for more info.
You can ALSO download my FREE Trainer’s Quick and Dirty Guide to the Core and Pelvic Floor!
**I mention some of the best courses or certifications IN the free guide above!!!
Resources: Brianna Battles, Sarah Duvall, Jessie Mundell, Antony Lo and Julie Wiebe.
Look for coaches that have taken these specific courses IF you want the most progressively educated people in fitness or ask your local pelvic floor physical therapist who they trust!
We will send your clients back ONCE they are educated and have tools for self-regulation and awareness as well as prudence in their fitness pursuits.
Not sure how to approach the topic?
“I am so glad to have you here, you are always welcome to these classes or to train with me, but I don’t know enough to adequately and safely train you right now.
I strongly recommend that you to see a pelvic floor physical therapist and temporarily work with a postnatal fitness specialist, so that you can avoid longterm injury, restore your core and pelvic floor after the ordeal that it’s been through and build resilience and strength to you can get back at it!”
Or something like that.
Because you’re a good coach.
You know what you know and you know when you DON’T know about something.
Your primary concern is your client’s safety and success and you’re not going to let pride, ignorance and greed get in the way of that.
And believe me, THERE’S SO MUCH TO KNOW! And I should mention that being a mom yourself DOES NOT alone qualify you to coach pregnant and newly postpartum mommas.
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.
Because the trainers didn’t know.
They didn’t know to ask the questions.
They didn’t know to bring up “leakage” as a sign of dysfunction and need for healing.
They knew SO MUCH, but they didn’t know about this.
I can tell you as a postnatal fitness specialist, I SEND THEM BACK!
My clients that were working in a gym environment, they were happy and had relationships with their fellow gym mates.
I want them to get back there.
I want them to have autonomy, self awareness and intelligence and in their fitness practice and NOT to have to solely rely on me for coaching.
I want them to enjoy their strength training, their metcons, their running, their group fitness, and to work with you again!
So we build strength, courage to slow down and the ability to say “no” when things don’t feel right.
We learn how to check our egos and our abdominal gaps.
We learn to relax our pelvic floors and our expectations for our newly postpartum bodies.
We learn train for birth, baby care, burpees and bumps in the road.
And then they move on.
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. Follow her on Instagram or Facebook to see real-time highlights of her work!