Sunday, 26 November 2017

@Term Initiative

Connect your mind and body to breath and movement in the final weeks of your pregnancy while also connecting with other moms! This amazing community of women will encourage, inspire, and motivate you as you eagerly await the day you meet your baby for the first time!


We are extremely excited to announce our brand new @Term Initiative!

At Fit Your Life, we are passionate about safely and effectively encouraging women to exercise throughout their pregnancy. Labour requires physical and psychological strength and stamina. Training for this incredible event in your life will increase your confidence in being prepared in body and mind. 

On the foundation of this passion, we have created the @Term Initiative! All women 37 weeks and greater, until the day their baby arrives, is eligible to attend FYL classes at no cost! 

The small print:
  • After 37 weeks gestation (must be 37+0 according to early ultrasound dates), you can attend classes, up to a maximum of two per week, until you deliver. 
  • You are welcome to use the passes for any classes - Prenatal Fit, Mom & Me Fit, and Family Fit
  • Email kellie.fityourlife@gmail.com once you are ready to use the passes - they can be booked up to a week in advance

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Pelvic Health Series: Our journey to regaining strength, alignment, & function Kellie - part 3

This has been a humbling journey for me. Not only seeing a physiotherapist for assessment and treatment, but also journaling about my journey through this blog series. Writing about my experience has allowed me to reflect and dig deeper into learning about my own body.

My last blog post explained my initial assessment with Bounce Back Physical Therapy and diagnoses. If you didn’t read it yet you can find it here! I want to now take you on my journey through my “homework”, three follow-up visits, and what being “discharged” means to me.

Homework

At each appointment – the initial and follow-ups – Jillian gave me a series of stretches, exercises, and tips to implement into my daily routine. As the list grew, I would often feel overwhelmed with how to sneak it all in. What made it feel more manageable was when I remembered our discussion about how it’s okay to be imperfect and really that our goal is to have perfect alignment and engagement available to us. I actually came to enjoy incorporating the stretches into my post-workout routine or while I played on the floor with our girls. I would complete the prescribed core exercises at the end of my workout or sprinkled in throughout the day. I never put it upon myself to get it all done in one shot and definitely did not pressure myself to complete each exercise and stretch every single day. This made it attainable and decreased the stress of adding tasks to my daily routine!

Each of our bodies are so different and what was prescribed to me might be completely different than what is prescribed to you, but I still want to give you an idea of my homework list. After three appointments (one assessment and two treatments), my to-do list entailed:
  • standing oblique stretch
  • seated quadratus lumborum (side low back) stretch
  • actively relaxing my pelvic floor with the use of a soft ball
  • actively relaxing my core and practicing “tension to task” technique
  • mindfully shifting my weight into my heels while standing and walking throughout the day
  • continue with self c-section scar massage, as well as adding in abdominal massage for the deeper adhesions
  • once a day to check-in with my rib alignment on the wall
  • laying pec stretch, which then progressed to a standing doorway chest opener
  • core breaths – belly breaths with multifidus engagement
  • glute squats – super challenging squats where you really force your weight over the heels!
  • core exercises – kneeling lean backs (I call these Matrix), bridge lifts, and single leg heel touches – with the focus on full core and pelvic floor engagement and release with breath

Yes, the list in lengthy, but remember that this was over the course of a month and a half. As I began noticing small changes in my alignment and posture, I also started to notice that this movement was becoming my new normal. I would automatically engage slightly while squatting to pick up Mikah and exhale as I came to standing with the weight in my heels. I would naturally allow my upper back to curve the way it is meant to rather than try to sit as straight and tall as possible, which also allowed my core to relax. It is truly amazing that once we become more mindful of our body position during movement and stillness that we can really sense when we are at our most functional.

Follow-up visits / “treatments”

Now that you know what I walked away from each visit with, you might also be curious about what actually happened during those visits. Well, other than Jillian and I going way over time because we get busy discussing all things pregnancy, birth, postpartum, fitness, mom life, balancing it all, and wine… I continued to learn so much about my own body. I have always maintained very straight posture. For as long as I can remember people have commented on how I sit and I take pride in this, but what I didn’t realize I was doing was actually forcing out the natural curve of my thoracic (or mid) spine. Who knew? Each visit we would check in with my glute squat form and really emphasized keeping my bum untucked. I have started to incorporate these small changes into moves in my classes and the light bulb moments I’ve seen in my client’s eyes is priceless!!

My first two appointments were only two weeks apart and in that time, with really only postural changes and bringing awareness to certain movements or body positions, we had already begun to close my abdominal separation. Small changes really do have a big impact! The tension in my linea alba, which is the connective tissue between the rectus abdominis, was strong even from our first assessment which likely helped the quick shifts in the musculature.  Some manual work helped to break down some of the scar tissue around my caesarean section incision, which has made movement through my core a lot more comfortable. Upon my final visit, where I graduated from therapy (more below!), we even found that one of my ribs might be in fact keeping my rectus abdominis slightly open. The body is truly interconnected and amazing!

Discharge planning

As a nurse, we learn about discharge teaching and how this actually begins before the patient is even admitted. I found this also true with my pelvic health physiotherapy journey. Jillian set me up for success from our very first meeting and continued to build on that knowledge at each appointment. At my fourth appointment, when we discussed that it could be my final visit, I had mixed emotions! Most of me was excited and proud that I had taken my rehabilitation seriously and committed to making small changes that had turned into healthier habits. A smaller bit of me was sad because I had enjoyed learning from someone who cared equally, if not more, about women’s pregnancy and postpartum bodies as I do.

I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion on how the goal moving forward will be that I no longer am required to do the prescribed exercises and stretches daily. With improved habits and a strong core base, I should be able to move with function and freedom!

If you are reading this, but hesitant to book an appointment because you are afraid that you will be told you need to avoid certain exercises or are no longer allowed to complete certain movements – please do not let that hold you back! A Pelvic Health Physiotherapist is on your team! Their goal is to have you moving in ways that make you feel strong! Sure, depending on your situation (pregnancy, diagnoses, breath connection, etc) they might suggest changes or pulling back from certain movements for a short time. If this is the case for you, I promise that it will be worth it! After your alignment and core function are improved, you will be amazed at your increased strength through those same movements!

I am so thankful that I hopped on this journey of self-improvement and found answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had. I continue to feel empowered by my strong and capable body!

A few final thoughts…

Would I have been completely fine if I never made the initial appointment? Definitely. I had great core connection and body awareness. However, the knowledge and strength I have gained through someone else’s assessment and treatment plan have been empowering.
Do I wish I had seen a pelvic health physical therapist sooner? YES! I am really just so excited about how much I learned about my own body and some of the things I can now bring to my clients in class.
Would I encourage you – pregnant, postnatal, neither – to be assessed? YES! We all have “little” things we can work on with our alignment and core function. Just as Jillian said to me at my first appointment – “If we can make you stronger and more efficient, why wouldn’t we?!”
What is one thing I wish I could demonstrate to everyone reading? How much stronger I am because of my increased connection to engaging my core in the most efficient way!

“The human body is the most complex system ever created. The more we learn about it, the more appreciation we have about what a rich system it is.” – Bill Gates

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Pelvic Health Series: Our journey to regaining strength, alignment, & function Jamie - part 3


It has been two months since my first appointment at Bounce Back Physical Therapy with Jillian Palmer.  I have had some ups and downs with my recovery but overall I have been loving the experience.  I have loved learning more about how my body functions and being able to apply what I'm learning from a women's health expert to my classes. Over the course of this two month span I have had appointments every two weeks to try to find a solution for the symptoms I was experiencing.  If you want to know more about the beginning part of my journey, my symptoms and diagnoses, or Kellie’s journey, please click here and read the first four posts in our series. I’m going to take you back to where I left off after my last post and share with you my experience of trying to find better function in my pelvic floor and close the abdominal separation I have. 

I feel like Jillian, or any physio therapist for that matter, is like Sherlock Holmes, trying to solve the mystery of what is causing the symptoms or problems your body is experiencing.  She has this brain full of tools that could potentially fix your problem, but the trick is finding the right tool for your body. 

I was lucky with my pelvic floor.  She sent me home after the first appointment with a little foam ball to sit on and breathe and relax and imagine my pelvic floor wrapping around the ball with each breath.  Within two weeks I noticed a difference and after just one month of allowing my pelvic floor a chance to relax, I was already noticing a huge difference in function.  I could do up to 30 jumping jacks without feeling any heaviness in my rectum!

Your pelvic floor is an amazing muscle that is responsible for so many important functions in your body.  By not allowing my pelvic floor to fully relax, it wasn’t able to do its job.  Think about it like this, if you walked around squeezing your hand into a fist all day, your hand would be tired too and wouldn’t be able to function properly.  Or if you constantly clenched your bicep, when you needed it to engage to lift something, it would have a hard time doing what you were asking of it.  Your pelvic floor is the same.  It needs to engage and relax just like every other muscle in your body.  Thankfully, when you give your body the chance to behave the way it is built to, it responds magically.

Finding the right tool to unlock the mystery behind why I am experiencing a significant diastasis has been much harder to find.  Your rectus abdominus (or your six-pack muscles) want to be close together.  They don’t function well with a large gap between them, so if you can find the right tool to unlock the reason they are stuck open, they should willingly go back to where they are supposed to be.  I continued to see Jillian every two weeks, and every two weeks she would send me home with new exercises or stretches to try to get my separation to close. One tool Jillian talked about that really hit home with me was thinking about tension to task.  I needed to start to think about engaging my core relative to the task I was trying to complete.  There was no need to engage my core to a level 10 when I was picking up a pen or washing dishes, when a one or two would suffice. 

No Diastasis Recti          Diastasis during pregnancy      Diastasis postpartum
Image used from ProgressiveMotion.com
During one of my appointments, Jillian watched my abdominals closely as I was doing my core breaths and with every exhale and engagement I would get a small bulge in between by abs. There wasn’t any significant coning or doming or tenting like when I was pregnant.  It was just a small space where my abs were separated that would slightly raise above my abdominals.  This small bulge meant that with every exhale and engagement of my pelvic floor and transverse abdominus, I was generating pressure within my core capsule.  This pressure needed to go somewhere and it was going straight to my weakened linea alba, or the space between my abs that I couldn’t generate enough tension in to contain the pressure.  My insides, my organs, were literally being pushed out and trying to escape from my body. 

Once we realized this was happening, we needed to test my core's abilities. She lead me through very basic movements to see exactly what kind of pressure my core was capable of handling and I was shocked to learn how little I was actually able to control.  When someone tells you that your insides are trying to come out of your body and can show you exactly when, if that isn’t a rude awakening, I don’t know what is.  The reality was that if I continued to push my core and body the way I was, I was at risk of a hernia.  So, over some Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough icecream, (a necessity for me when I have some soul searching to do or let's be honest, anytime really) I did some thinking.   Is doing a full push-up or burpie really worth a hernia?  Physically, I had always prided myself on pushing my body’s limits but at this point was the risk really worth the “reward”? 

On top of significantly modifying all core and prone exercises, I needed to learn to relax my core.  We noticed that I was pre-engaging my obliques with every core breath I did, further separating my rectus abdominus.  Even though we discussed tension to task, and I understood what it meant, I wasn’t actually applying it except when physically lifting things.  For every core breath I did, I was fully engaging every muscle in my midsection, which wasn't necessary. I needed to learn to relax my obliques and just let my pelvic floor, transverse abdominus and multifidus do the work.  Put your hands on your obliques next time you do a belly breath or a kegel and see if they harden or engage.  You might be surprised.  I sure was and it took a lot of mental focus to let them relax while only engaging my pelvic floor, transverse abdonminus and multifidus. 

Outside of relaxing my obliques during core breathing, I needed to let my stomach go.  As hard as physically modifying everything is, mentally for me, this one was 100 times harder.  Not only has this been a challenge almost every minute of the day for me, it has been completely eye opening.  When I started to be really mindful about my core and started to think about tension to task for every aspect of my life, it shocked me to realize how much of my day was spent with my core engaged.  Why would my core need to be engaged fully when I was sitting in the car or watching tv, or walking around the grocery store?  I then started to wonder how long I had been doing this for.  Definitely the whole time I was pregnant, but maybe even before.  Maybe even as long ago as my teenage years.  That’s an awful long time to ask your core to engage and not expect to see some negative side effects. It is highly likely that I was experiencing symptoms before but pregnancy and recovering from pregnancy brought them to the forefront.  “Sucking in” my core was a bad habit I developed a long time ago and it was going to take a lot to unlearn it and retrain my body and mind.  My journey quickly switched from solely a physical one to a mental one as well. 

Habits are important. 
Up to 90 percent of our everyday behaviour is based on habit. 
Nearly all of what we do each day, every day,
 is simply habit.
 – Jack D. Hodge

So for the time being, I am working on unlearning, retraining, relaxing fully, engaging properly when I need to and learning new habits.  I am still smiling and remembering each day to celebrate the small victories and am proud of myself for working within my current bodies capabilities.  


Photo Credit Roughley Originals

After 2 months of visits we still haven’t unlocked the mystery that is causing my abdominal separation but I am happy to report that the depth of my separation has decreased, I am able to generate a lot more tension in my Linea Alba and at my last appointment we found a tool that worked some magic and I can’t wait to see what it does for my body.  Stay tuned for my next post to find out all about this magical trick.