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!!

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Are you a yo-yo fitness dieter?

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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.”

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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.


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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!

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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…




Why you don't want to use another person as the standard for what YOU should be

"After all that, I'm just ready to be me." -Lauryn Hill

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I'm work fitness. 
I help women stretch beyond their comfort zones and grow. 
I help them find time in their days and space in their lives to care for their bodies with movement and training. 
I help them crush goals, change how they feel in their bodies and even change aspects of their physique. 

I do NOT tell them that they have to be like me. 
I do NOT encourage them to look to Pinterest boards and fitness models as inspiration for whom they should become. 

I have an online presence that features me working out, sharing my accomplishments, challenging others to do more in their lives. 
I follow other women that are crushing online. 
I look to them and their accomplishments with admiration. 
I use them to challenge me. 

I work HARD to make sure that I refrain from EMULATING them or believing that I have to do exactly what they are doing to be successful, to be happy. 
 



You see, I am 100% in opposition of is the idea that we should EVER make another individual human being the standard for what WE SHOULD BE. 



I spent from age 13 to 19 suffering chronic whiplash from always looking around at what EVERYONE else was doing and using that as a measure of what I needed to be. 

Consequently I had NO direction. 
I felt like a failure and a fraud. 
I pretty much hated my life. 


At 19 years old I had two amazing faculty members at the University of New Hampshire, that changed my life. 
They saw me. 
They saw my talents and my potential for the successful achievement of goals. 
They believed in me. 
They weren't confused about who I was. 
They weren't comparing me to anyone else. 
They weren't telling me to become something else. 
They simply let me know that I was capable and that I could cultivate a life for myself beyond what I was doing now. 
I could do better. 

And never in a "you don't measure up" sort of manner, but in a, "I see you. You got this," sort of way. 

And suddenly I wanted to change EVERYTHING. 
I wanted to invest in myself. 
I wanted to expand my comfort zone and pursue all the things that I wanted out of life. 

I saw fellow students buckling down and succeeding in school and I went after MY OWN version of that. 

I saw my friends enjoying their hobbies and academic pursuits and I wanted to figure out how to do that for myself too!

I took a hard look at the habits, relationships and activities in my life that WERE NOT working and I changed them. 

I took another job. 
I moved. 
I studied like I had NEVER studied before. 
I set goals. 
I wrote them down. 
I changed who I spent time with. 
I found new tasks and activities that actually nourished me. 

My life suddenly looked like no one else's around me and you know what. 
It was good. 

 

And so now, you know, I understand that it was because I was measuring myself or trying to compare myself to a standard that wasn’t reality. It wasn’t the standard at all, you know. There’s a scripture in the Bible that we, what does it say, it says ‘We compare ourselves amongst ourselves’ you know. That’s not the standard. You already are the standard. What are you trying to fit into a standard for? We were each created to be individual standards, you know. And we’re trying to fit into a standard? It doesn’t make any sense, you know....After all that, I’m just ready to be me.
— Lauryn Hill, Unplugged
Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!

Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!



Of course this took place over a couple of years and while I learned this incredibly important lesson early in life, I have had to re-learn it and grow it and build upon it time and time again. 
BUT the foundation that nineteen year old Sarah Smith laid has FOREVER impacted my life and helped me to stop chasing everyone else and invest in my own life. 


And this is why I feel so passionately about speaking out against the MANY messages in fitness, social media and popular culture that tell you, 
"Be this_______[insert snapshot of popular, fit, successful person]."

Especially for pre and postnatal women, women struggling with their body image, confidence, self respect and a sense of place in this world. 
Because when we are in theses states we are vulnerable. 
We can be more susceptible to harmful messaging. 
We can do ourselves harm chasing standards set for us by the culture EVEN when we don't know that we are doing it. 


That nineteen year old young woman that was affected by what everyone else around her was doing, she came out again during my third pregnancy and postpartum period. 


I found myself being affected by what fitness culture was telling me pregnant and early postpartum women should be doing, looking like, be capable of. 

I didn't even know that I was doing it!

I was working my ass off. 
Training, lifting, chasing kiddos, not always eating enough, exhausted, a little fried...

Why?
Because I thought that's what you did. 

And then I injured my body. 


The good thing about my injury is that it taught me that I could no longer copy what anyone else was doing. 

NO one readily accessible to me rehabbing pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse AND training with kettlebells. 

I had to look to my own body. 
I had to pay attention to my own life. 
I had to work around my own restrictions and capitalize on my own strength.  
Once again I had to stop using what others were doing as my meter stick for success and fitness. 

And it was good!
I now am SUPER outspoken about the fact that pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse and other injuries shouldn't stop you from living your life and crushing your goals. 

But I the way that I train and the messages that I share are always based on the idea that we need to learn what works for us as individuals. 
We need to challenge ourselves to grow. 
But trying to keep up with other people and do exactly what they are doing is both an empty, dangerous and unsatisfying pursuit. 

At the end of the day, we are 100% responsible for shifting our focus and our mindset from looking to other people to learn "What we should be."

But I also know how impactful it was to have two very successful intelligent people in my life say, "I see you. You can do more. Dig in and grow. "

And so that's what I do with my coaching and my online community. 

I see you. 
You can do it!
It doesn't have to look like what anyone else is doing to be good, valuable...to be a success. 


 

This is what happens when we reject the pressure to be perfect

" I actually made a great change, I decided that diet soda is a non negotiable for me. 
So bad for you, but I love it.  I use to drink it all day, constantly.  Over the years it has decreased and now I have stopped drinking it Mon-Thurs and have one diet soda, Fri-Sun.....That is huge for me!


-Dana, Cultivate for Life 2016 client who has lost 60 lbs in the past year!!!!!!

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