January 25, 2018

Core Rehab isn’t all pick-ups, pikes and planks. In fact, it’s mostly not.

TRX Pike

I had a very strong core pre-pregnancy. I didn’t do any core work the first trimester and then did very appropriate, mindful core work for the duration of my pregnancy.

I waited the requisite six weeks post (+ a couple days) before returning (cautiously) to exercise. I began with very gentle bodyweight exercise and yoga without any negative symptoms. I was feeling fine, and went to my first spin class after eight weeks. I had a couple of symptoms standing during the class, but otherwise felt good and strong.

Then I returned to a regular workout – mostly strength (barbell and TRX) with two cardio exercises in between exercises. All was good with the strength, but I had some real pelvic floor symptoms jumping rope, which, admittedly, was stupid that soon post-partum. I backed off, but kept doing strength workouts three times a week.

Today, I finally went to see my physiotherapist, Cathy, who is a pelvic floor specialist. She and I worked on my pelvic floor before and during my entire pregnancy. If you are having a baby, or have had a baby, and have not seen a pelvic floor physiotherapist, you must. I am a huge advocate. You must. You must do it.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common, but NOT normal part of being a mother. Pelvic Floor fitness is more individual than just attending a post-natal boot camp or fitness class. I wish B.C. medical insurance covered at least one prenatal visit and one post-natal visit. Every woman who has had a baby should be assessed. Anyway…Cathy assessed me today. I have a less than one-finger-width separation between my abdominals, which is great! (No one will have zero separation. If you have less than one finger’s width, there is probably very little cause for concern.)

Cathy used the ultrasound to watch me do kegels and engage my abdominals muscles, which is my favourite! On the ultrasound, you could also see my bladder, and my uterus, which is still bigger than normal at 11 weeks post-partum. It is unknown exactly how long it should take to shrink back down to its regular walnut-size. I meant to take a video today and completely forgot. It’s so cool!

My kegels are very strong – she said I don’t even have to do them. (Many women don’t, but that’s a story for another day.)

My transversus abdominus activation is a bit weak, and unless I really slow down and connect, there is still some invagination (indenting) between my abdominal muscles. = pelvic floor dysfunction.

Me and my friend, Krista Dennett, at canfitpro 2017

Until I can engage a little more automatically without any pressure or symptoms, I am going to back off from any heavy loads or overhead exercise.

That means I am back to gentle core activation, walking, yoga, and maybe some squats for the next 4-5 weeks.

To be honest I am:
a) a little disappointed that, after all my hard work and then what feels like an eternity but has only been 11 weeks, my body didn’t magically bounce back to 100%. Even if it is pretty much almost 90%. (I know. I hear it.)
b) relieved that I have permission to give myself a break and ease back into exercise for the next month. Having a newborn baby is very tiring, so I am happy to allow myself a longer transition.

If you want to learn how to do these four exercises properly, you can book a session with me, or you can see a real expert in the pelvic floor/post partum fitness field, like Kim Vopni (the vagina coach), or my friend Krista Dennett (pictured with me above), who has an online Core Confidence course.

January 17, 2018

The Click is like the click a grenade makes right before it explodes – that thing that turns over inside of you right before you dig deep, explode, and give it your all.

I can think of five instances in my life where I distinctly felt, or still feel, The Click:

Teaching Zumba FItness at a Port Moody Zumbathon
  1. I was running the 400-metre dash on Track and Field Day in Grade Sixish. My mom appeared halfway through and cheered for me at the moment I needed it most, giving me that burst to the finish line, and I won. At least I won in my memory, I probably came in second.
  2. I am in a yoga class attempting a challenging arm balance or posture. I am usually sweaty, and by that point, tired, but I close my eyes, take a breath, and get a little higher or hold a little longer than I did the last time. (Please know that this equates to inner strength; The Click is not physically pushing yourself past appropriate.)
  3. I am in a good indoor cycling class and the beat of a great song drops. The music is the key. The instructor can be dancing naked or reading inspiring Brene Brown quotes, but that doesn’t do it, the music does it. The beat drops, I feel The Click, and realize I can go harder for just another minute. I feel my body go anaerobic and I go as hard as I can for as long as I can.
  4. When I taught Zumba Fitness, if I had a big class or a large crowd and, again, the song was awesome, and the beat dropped, I would feel The Click. I would dance bigger and jump higher than even I expected.
  5. I was delivering my baby. I felt like I was done, I wasn’t made to do it, I couldn’t do it. I thought maybe I could just stop and it would sort itself out. (…No.) But my husband and my mom were cheering me on and ‘Alive’ by Sia was playing; the combination gave me The Click and I dug deep for that final push.

You may have picked up that The Click is physical intensity. It is also pure joy. But it is not just a big moment like your first scuba dive or your wedding day. The Click is that turnover in your brain, like the spoon in a grenade, that gives you a physical push. The Click is one of the reasons I love exercise and fitness – it brings something out you did not know what inside of you. The result is insane pride and joy.

Please know that, for me, The Click is balanced with a healthy dose of magazine-reading, Netflix, quiet time, and Yin Yoga. We don’t want to always be stimulated to the brink; it would steal the joy from when The Click really does happen.If you have not found that ‘thing’ that makes you click (and it is rare, it will not necessarily happen every month or week), or if you have never felt it at all, I encourage you to keep looking.

Find The Click, feel the joy, and then go back for more.

When have you felt The Click?

January 14, 2018

Flying to a snowy location for some outdoor fitness?

Getting ready to hit the slopes in transit is a great idea for keen skiers and snowboarders.You will want to move as much as possible to warm the body and prepare specific tissues for skiing/snowboarding.

  1. Cat/Cow: Sit slightly forward in your seat and place your hands on your knees. As you inhale, arch your back and stick your bum out into the seat behind you. As you exhale, draw your abdominal muscles in, round your entire spine and look down towards your navel. Repeat these actions 8-10 times each.
In Flight Cow Pose
In Flight Cat Pose

2. Seated Hamstring Warm-Up: As best as you can, stretch your legs out under the seat in front of you. Sit tall in your seat as you inhale. As you exhale, keep your chin up, stick your bum out, and lean your chest forwards towards the seat in front of you until you feel a gentle tug in your hamstrings. Since the body is cold, you do not want to push this movement. As you inhale, sit back up and repeat the movements 8-10 times each.

Seated Hamstrings Stretch

3. Seated Hip Flexor Warm Up: Keep your left leg extended. Inhale. As you exhale, bend your right knee and draw it in to your chest, without the help of your hands if possible. Inhale and extend the right leg to meet the left. Repeat 8-10 times on each leg.

4. Seated Ankle and Calf Warm Up: Extend both legs under the seat in front of you. Sit up tall in your seat. Draw your toes towards your face as you flex your feet and then curl and point your toes as best you can. Repeat 25-50 times.

5. Seated Twist and Core Warm Up: ​​Sit tall in your seat and take a big breath in. As you exhale, turn your torso to the right, using the strength of your abdominals to assist. Inhale and return to centre. Exhale and repeat to the left. Repeat eight times to each side.

Seated Twist

6. Seated Upper Back Warm Up: Undo your seatbelt if it is safe to do so. Sit forward in your seat and interlace your fingers behind your back. Bend your elbows deeply and let your shoulders shrug up to your ears. As you exhale, reach your knuckles towards the seat, straightening your arms as much as you can with a tight core. Repeat eight times.

7. Side Body Stretch: ​​In your seat, inhale and reach your right arm straight up. Being mindful of your neighbor, exhale and lean to the left, keeping both sides or your body long. Inhale and return to centre. Repeat 6-8 times on each side.

Side Body Stretch

8. Seated IT Band Stretch: In your seat, extend your right leg under the seat in front of you and lift your heel off the floor. Inhale. As you did in the Seated Twist, exhale and rotate your torso to the right, keeping your right heel up and drawing your right toes towards your face – particularly your right pinky toe. Depending on your body, this stretch may feel intense or subtle, but it will lengthen the tissues that insert into the iliotibial tract (IT Band).

Now drink some water and hit the slopes!

January 4, 2018

“You make motherhood look easy,” an acquaintance I love said to me today.

Sophie having a meltdown on Christmas Day, at 6.5 weeks old.

I was actually sad to hear this.

Motherhood is not easy.

It is the blurriest, fastest, hardest thing I have ever done.

Making it look easy may be a disservice to every other mother out there who knows that it’s not easy. Today, when almost every one of us in North America is on social media every single day, we see the best of everything. We see the best angle, the best editing, the best focus, the best moment, the best shot, and the best curated feed. This is especially true in two areas that are huge in my life right now; fitness/wellness and motherhood.

I occassionally find it super annoying and disheartening to follow people who post professional, edited photos of their smiling newborn babies in adorable outfits every single day. Why doesn’t it feel like that for me? Why is that woman so awake and happy about not being able to exercise for eight weeks? Because she’s not. But nobody likes a whiner. Nobody wants to hear how hard it is and how tired you are.

But making it look easy may be a great service to some.

I did not want to be pregnant.

Not only did I not want to be pregnant, but I was actively taking precautions to not become pregnant. Apparently I am a fertile miracle of science; what can I say? When I found out I was pregnant, I was devastated and cried for weeks.

I honestly had few fears and worries about actually being pregnant and delivering a baby. I know my body well and I just trusted it would do its thing, which it did. My greatest fears were around the next 18 years and beyond – becoming weak, being exhausted, being destroyed, feeling restricted, slowing down, and never being alone.

For my entire pregnancy, I thrived seeing Instagram feeds and TV shows where the mothers lived – where mothers exercised and went on dates and worked and travelled – all the things I was (and still am) afraid I would never do again. It gave me hope that I could still be me and do me.

I didn’t want to hear your terrifying birth story or how you become trapped and never sleep once you have a child. In fact, I think my most hated phrase during my pregnancy was, “Enjoy your sleep now, you won’t sleep again for five years.” Eff you. That’s like telling someone who is going into surgery, “Enjoy your body in one piece, they are going to cut you open and it’s going to hurt terribly and you will never be the same again.” I was most grateful for my easygoing clients and girlfriends who assured me that I would still be me, and that yes, everything was going to be fine.

When I was pregnant, I received a plethora of messages from prospective and pregnant moms telling me I inspired them to workout throughout pregnancy because I did it.

So in motherhood, I want to be real: it is fucking hard. But I also want to help others believe that if I can do it, you can, too. You can still be you and be a good parent. I would argue that being you and making self-care a priority will make you a better parent…and a happier person.

You can still breathe and eat out and practice yoga and travel and workout and shower.

Yes. Shower. Every. Single. Day.

So let’s just portray motherhood the way it really is: most of the time it is adorable and cute and rewarding, and the best thing ever. And let’s be transparent about when it is not; when you leak breast milk, when you have to wear giant net diapers for days, and when you lock the door and cry in the ensuite so no one can hear.

But let’s be most honest about this: You can do it. Because that is what I most need to hear.

What do you think? Do you just want to see the pretty photos? Do you want to see the ugly, poopy photos? Do you want to see that pregnancy and parenting are doable? Do you want to see the realness even when it is unattractive, or would you just scroll on by?