Have you ever felt guilted into doing an exercise you thought you shouldn’t do by a pushy personal trainer?
Or maybe you told your group fitness instructor you have abdominal separation or prolapse, and they just looked at you blankly or brushed it aside?
Have you had a trainer that assumed weight loss was your main goal, or when you told them it wasn’t, they focused on it anyway?
Or maybe you went to a women’s only gym because you thought they would be able to cater for your weak pelvic floor, but they recommended skipping to fix it (that is a true story, oh the horror!).
Unfortunately, these are stories I hear regularly from mums and it highlights the importance of women taking charge of their own postnatal recovery to ensure they get the best outcomes. Currently, the qualification to become a personal trainer doesn’t include education on the pelvic floor nor does it include education on pregnancy and postnatal exercise. This general lack of understanding among trainers about the postnatal body, and the relentless media focus on “bouncing back” can make mums feel like they are broken, not worthy and ultimately place them in physical danger.
Mums aren’t lazy, they aren’t imagining their postnatal symptoms and they deserve to be supported at a time when their body, relationships and lifestyles are going through a period of enormous change. This is where many mainstream trainers and gyms miss the mark for providing excellent service to the pregnant and postnatal client.
So why am I posting on this topic today? Well, this week, a client posted the following comment in our Closed Facebook Group – The Go Mum Community. Thank you to Lauren for sharing her experience, and for allowing me to share it outside the group.
“Watch out for subtle post-partum shaming in normal gyms.
You probably all know I was one of Christine's first and most devoted clients (#bragging) and the time came recently for me to work-out without my babies and increase the intensity of my movement.
At my gym, I approached the male instructor today and let him know I've done his class before and that if he saw me modifying some of the movements, it was simply to protect my abdominal separation.
"Oh, how old is your baby now?"
"You shouldn't have abdominal separation anymore"
RED. FLASHING. LIGHT.
I replied that I am working with my pelvic floor physio, that this was my second baby and that this is NORMAL. He said that the body has its way of recovering on its own. Which is only a half truth. The rest is about being careful and using controlled movements that work with where you are at without exacerbating the condition.
The part of me that likes to people please topped it off with: "I just wanted to let you know that I wasn't rebelling when you gave the instructions" *cringe*. This subtle shaming got on my nerves and the conversation kept rolling around my head for the rest of the class.
Listen to what your body needs to do in workouts. If you are incontinent or if your tummy is doming during plank like movements, you need to scale it back.
I learnt so much from Christine and my pelvic floor physio. There's so much noise out there, make sure you listen to the truth about post-partum, your body and don't be afraid to speak up.
What can you do to Create a positive experience returning to exercise?
Lauren’s advice is spot on:
Are you a personal trainer?
If you are a trainer reading this, please rethink your approach to training women. Understanding how a woman’s body changes during and after pregnancy gives you the opportunity to serve women in a truly meaningful way. Go deeper in your learning to understand common pregnancy and postnatal conditions and what you can do to support those women in their exercise choices. Don’t dismiss their concerns and make sure to refer them to a specialist if you feel you are out of your scope of practice.
If you would like advice on the various courses available, drop me a line. And if you are in Australia, make sure you get to the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit.
About the Author
Christine is a pregnancy and postnatal trainer with a passion for pelvic floor and abdominal friendly movement. Her interest in this area was sparked after her own battles with prolapse and diastasis.
Christine holds a Cert III and Cert IV in Fitness and has undergone specific training in exercise for pregnancy, postnatal pelvic floor and abdominal recovery and group exercise instruction. Christine is registered with Fitness Australia (Reg No. 095064) and a member of the Continence Foundation of Australia. She also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Bachelor of Leisure Management and volunteers as President of Friends of the Birth Centre to advocate for improved maternity services for women in Queensland.
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