Want to know my dirty little postpartum secret?
After the birth of my 1st child and all through my 2nd pregnancy and beyond, I was in pain. My whole mid back hurt so terribly and constantly. I taught exercises class. I was a personal trainer. I was a yoga instructor. I had the degree in Exercise Science. I was exercising a lot and I took care of myself.... I "looked good" from an outside perspective and was healthy from an outside perspective, but I definitely didn't feel like it. I didn't share this pain with very many people because I was supposed to be the one to help others with this kind of thing. It was embarrassing that I was in so much pain. I didn't feel good about myself either. The truth is- all of my mass amounts of schooling and trainings and certifications and I still did not know how to get myself out of pain, much less anybody else. I felt like a fraud.
I have been researching what is out there in terms of prenatal and postnatal exercise programs and I have found a lot of "get your body back" talk. I get that our culture is obsessed with looking a certain way. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel and look better. But I sometimes wish that these programs would talk more about strength and vitality. Feeling better. Having your organs staying inside your body, having your core be functional. Not being in constant pain like I was.
Can I let you in on a secret? Here is the real truth. The truth that those programs marketing isn't telling you. Your body will probably never be exactly the same. It may have stretch marks like mine does (or it may not), some skin that's a bit stretched out. But....
You can be a more beautiful and stronger version of yourself.
You went through months and months of caring this precious gift inside of you and then through the birthing process- whether you gave birth naturally, medicated, cesarean- the truth is this: you are transformed and will never be the same as you were before you carried and brought a child into the world.
This is a good thing. Pregnancy and birth is a great transformation. Your body may not look exactly the same, but maybe, just maybe you can start to see that it looks even better because of all that it's done.
The interesting thing about these "body back" programs is that they talk about appearance but do they teach you how to feel better? How to not pee your pants when you sneeze, laugh, or jump up and down? Do they teach you how to feel strong and not have back pain, neck pain? It's all "no pain no gain." That seems to be a culturally accepted message. That in order to gain something you have to work so hard that you puke, you have to do some crazy cardio followed by intense workout. Interestingly, it's totally accepted to workout like crazy for maybe one hour a day but then to sit around the rest of the time. But, real changes comes from what we do *most of the time.* And by that I don't mean you should be doing intense exercise most of the time. I mean you should be moving more often. A more level and consistent flow of movement throughout the day vs nothing to crazy. It's better for your system than the crazy up and down of short bursts of intensity.
Take this graph:
RED= Fitness paradigm (in other words- one intense workout a day... you'll note I accounted for other times of movement too, but overall, most of the moving comes in one intense burst)
BLUE= Movement paradigm (moving more, not harder, throughout the day. You'll notice that the movement doesn't ever get as intense as the fitness paradigm person, BUT that overall, they have a lot more activity done throughout the day.)
The interesting fact is that a lot of people in the fitness paradigm have pain. I sure did. I was in that paradigm for many many years. In fact, I was a personal trainer in the paradigm and I worked with a lot of postpartum women and gave them a lot of "no pain no gain" type workouts to "whip their bodies back into shape." What I did not understanding at the time was that our bodies conform to whatever shape they are in most of the time. So one hour of crazy hard exercising followed by most of the time of not doing anything is not really going to create the change people hope for. Or we might loose weight- but at what cost? Because actually this sort of no pain no gain mentality can cause a lot of damage not limited to injury, exasperating things like diastasis recti (separation of the rectus abdominus "6-pack" muscle), pelvic floor disorder, causing turbulent flow in the blood vessels (where the blood goes from smooth flow to chucking itself all over the place and causes wounding inside the vessels- not good!), and more. And you know what? I've found a whole lot more JOY in going on walks in nature, doing the monkey bars with my kids at the playground, and I've found a lot less pain in Restorative Exercise.
I found myself with the MOVEMENT paradigm.
I found that alignment and restoring ALL of my muscles was the key. All the exercise I had been doing, all the intense exercise, had probably been causing more harm than good AND it was really only reaching a limited amount of muscles in my body. We have a lot of muscles in our body that we are just NOT EVEN USING AT ALL! And guess what? Once you start USING more of your muscles it actually NATURALLY boosts your metabolism too. Feel good and boost your metabolism? Sign me up, right?
The end of the story is a good one. It was because I was in pain that I sought a different way! And it was because I sought a different way and had to know WHY I was in pain, that I found something completely revolutionary!! I found that we didn't have to kill ourselves with intense bouts of exercise to feel really really good. To look pretty darn good too. And to FEEL REALLY GOOD about ourselves. So, I guess my pain was a blessing in disguise because it led me to what I do now and what I offer people now!!
Want to learn more about this new (actually, old... hunter gatherer old) paradigm? Here are some introductory steps, in no particular order:
1. JUST START MOVING MORE. And in a variety of ways throughout the day.
2. Read "Move Your DNA" by Katy Bowman. Are you local and don't have a copy? Come see me and I will get one to you- I have 1/2 a case of them!
3. Come see me for a private RE (Restorative Exercise™) session and we will work together to help you discover the cause of any pain or issues you are having in your body, help you to move better and feel wonderful in your body- whether you're man, woman, pregnant, postpartum, 10 years+ postpartum, 80 years old... we all have bodies and we all deserve to know how to use them properly.... think of it as your owners manual to using your body in the way that helps it last longer and not wear down so quickly.
4. Start LOVING your body for where it is at, today. If you're a mom and you carried and birthed a child, or several of them... that's amazing and you are amazing!! Give yourself some love and know that you can be the best version of yourself after you have kids if you only allow yourself to begin shifting the way you see yourself. Our society if filled with airbrushed magazines. But you, my friend, are a REAL genuine beauty. Believe it.
Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.