Spring is just around the corner and you know what that means. It is that time of year where we come out of hibernating, dust off our running shoes, and start thinking about getting active in the great outdoors once again.
If you’re a mom to young kids, you may be thinking about signing up for one of the stroller bootcamp classes offered here in London, Ontario or in your area. These classes are great because they do get you out of the house, they do work up a sweat, and they do allow for socializing. All super important.
But what you DON’T want is to potentially worsen an underlying pelvic floor or core problem.
Now you may be thinking that I’m about to tell you to stop working out. Or that I will tell you to hold off on bootcamp.
But fear not. That is not my objective. I actually WANT you to get outside and exercise and move and work up a sweat. We all know how essential movement is for our overall health – both physically and mentally.
However, I do want you to keep some important principles in mind as you participate in your fitness class, whether it be with a stroller or without, in a small or large group class, or in an indoor or outdoor setting.
Here are 5 things you need to consider before you sign up for stroller bootcamp this season:
1. Respect Your Body
Your body works hard for you every day. There are tons of “programs running in the background” just to keep you alive. And don’t forget, it did amazing things to grow and birth a human being. So just pause for a moment and be appreciative. You don’t have to love your body in every single way right now but you can at least respect it.
Every body has a certain capacity for performance at any given time. The nice thing is that capacity can grow. As we challenge ourselves physically, we see an increase in cardiovascular capacity, muscular strength, endurance and mobility. So even though your capacity may be low right now – that’s OK. Be determined to see it grow over time.
Your goal for each day you attend stroller bootcamp should be to exercise at the highest capacity you currently have WITHOUT causing unnecessary damage to your body.
It can take some time to navigate that line. So learn to tune in, listen to your body and to create awareness. Accept its current boundaries and limitations with a confidence that change is possible and that you will meet your goals with consistency.
Let me repeat myself – exercise at the current capacity that YOU have.
As tempting as it is for women to compare themselves, don’t play that game. No one has your body but you. No one has your experiences but you. No one is you, but you! So you be you and let others be themselves.
So if you’re struggling to do as much as others in the class, just realize that you have a huge untapped capacity and massive potential. So go ahead and set crazy goals and surprise yourself as you smash every. single. one.
2. How you move matters.
I’m a stickler for correct form and technique. Here’s why it’s important:
- There is no point practicing an incorrect movement pattern over and over again. The motor pattern gets embedded into your nervous system and then it becomes your body’s preferred (yet non-ideal) way to move. However, a robust nervous system actually likes to have choice and variety. That way if one pathway fails momentarily for some reason, you have multiple backup programs to chose from. A robust system can adapt a lot better.
- When you take a moment to set up your body for correct movement, your performance actually improves. You can move into deeper ranges of motion and generate better control for movement. It shows up as an increase in strength, endurance, and skill.
- Lastly, it’s all about injury prevention. Imagine having a crack in the foundation of your house. Building on that foundation will ultimately result in cumulative damage developing elsewhere in the house. The more levels you add to that building, the more compromised the entire structure becomes. When we focus on correct technique, optimize starting alignment and setting our foundation (core) for movement, then we can avoid injury as more load, resistance or intensity is added to the basic movement.
When you’re starting out learning a new movement, move slowly and with control. Be conscious of your movement. And use your brain-body to assess how the movement feels. Does it feel effortful or fluid? Is there tightness, pinching in any joints, or restricted range of motion? Do your limbs feel heavy, is your body moving symmetrically, or do you feel other body parts compensating as you initiate movement? At what point do you feel like you’ve done some actual decent work? Or did you push it too far? Do you have pain (even in the slightest)? If so, where?
If the movement or specific exercise you’re doing doesn’t feel right, see if you can change something and attempt that same movement differently to improve the feel of it in your body. If you need some assistance, ask your trainer.
If you have really specific goals involving high impact or heavy loading for athletic performance, then you may want to hold off on boot camp and work 1:1: with a kinesiologist, functional movement specialist, or pelvic floor physiotherapist who can get all nit-picky on you about form and technique. At high levels of training especially, this stuff matters mucho.
3. Work with a knowledgeable instructor.
I must say that not all personal trainers and fitness instructors are created equal.
When it comes to women’s pelvic health or training the post-natal population, some instructors are completely in the dark. They may not be aware that 30% of the women in their class are leaking urine. Or that their programming may worsen a diastasis recti or prolapse. Or even worse, they may applaud pain as a sign of being really tuff and hard core.
On the other hand, a really great instructor:
- is someone who doesn’t make you feel like an idiot for working at your pace
- is someone you feel safe sharing information with (ie. that you leak with running or jumping)
- will not overtrain you or potentially cause further damage to your joints, ligaments, muscles, pelvic floor or abdominal wall
- will encourage you to listen to your own body
- will have options for changing intensity levels or modifying an exercise so it’s safe for you
- is knowledgable about the core and pelvic floor, abdominal wall, incontinence, prolapse, diastasis recti and other common-yet-not normal conditions that impact women
- should have some additional training or certification in postnatal fitness
- will advise you to seek out care from a pelvic floor physiotherapist if you report any pelvic symptoms at all
- will go so far as to recommend that you hold off on stroller bootcamp if it’s clear that you should be focusing more on restorative programming first
I am so thankful that there are some awesome trainers here in London whom we love and trust. And if you’re looking for stroller bootcamp, I suggest you check out Andfit or Mum and Bubs as we’ve worked with them in the past.
4. Don’t continue to push through dysfunction.
Leaking urine, loss of gas or stool, pelvic heaviness and pressure, doming or tenting of your abdomen, chronic pain….
Our bodies speak to us all the time. They speak in the language of signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms are indicators that something is off and really ought to be examined. These signs (if we pay attention to them right away) are actually a gift because they clue us in and help us prevent further problems.
So don’t ignore them. Take them seriously. (Otherwise your body will start screaming at you and that’s not a good place to be!)
If you ignore signs of pelvic floor and core dysfunction while you claim to be perusing health and fitness goals, then you’re living a contradiction. Just becasue we can’t see internal dysfunction doesn’t somehow make it less of a problem than an external or more visible injury. (Case in point: undetected cancerous cells multiplying like mad vs. a broken arm with a cast on it).
Sorry if this all sounds harsh.
But someone’s got to tell you.
I’ve got to tell you that it’s not worth it.
It’s not worth it to push through dysfunction, gloss it over, pretend it’s all ok and then wake up at 65 years old with a severely prolapsed bladder to the point where you can’t stand or walk more than 15 minutes. It’s not worth it to discover that risky surgery with poor outcomes is your only option at that point. It’s not worth it to no longer be able to participate in what you love.
I know that it’s not worth it because we work with a LOT of women in our practice – women of all ages – who wish someone would have issued them a word of caution long ago.
That brings me to my last point.
5. Get your pelvic floor, abdominal wall, and core checked – ideally before you start.
I’ve written extensively in the past about what the pelvic floor is and how it, along with our other core muscles, provides a stable platform for controlled and efficient movement. Consider it as the foundation of your house. If you have a problem with your foundation, please get it checked out right away, especially if you are consider signing up for stroller (or any other kind) of bootcamp, or even if you’re just doing a home based video or online exercise program.
If you’re uber proactive (which I hope you all are) then you should get checked by a pelvic floor physiotherapist BEFORE you register for bootcamp.
And if you have already started with stroller bootcamp and have pelvic symptoms, then don’t worry. It’s never too late to get assessed. We’re really glad when you make your internal health as much of a priority as your external health.
The purpose of an assessment is to uncover the underlying reason you may be having pelvic floor or core dysfunction in the first place. And it may not be what you think! (Sometimes a pelvic floor is strong and you still leak!) Once we figure out what’s going on, we then put forward a plan so you can get better.
Now you may really love stroller bootcamp and may be avoiding coming to us because you’re terrified that we will tell you to stop everything right this minute! Please rest assured that we’re on your team. We’re rooting for you 100%. My personal philosophy of practice is to do everything I can to help you continue doing what you love – yet in a way that is sustainable.
This means teaching you how to tune into your body. It means getting you going with daily practices to address your core or pelvic condition (and by the way, it is possible to get full resolution!). We talk about how to modify bootcamp exercises to a level that is appropriate for your body in its current stage. And as your capacity increases , we progressively increase the challenge to your system so you can work at the level you want to.
And we’re honest with you too.
If we feel that stroller bootcamp is truly doing more harm than good physically, then it’s our duty to inform you of all the potential risks. We may have to advise you to push the pause button on stroller bootcamp so you can focus on more of a rehabilitative program for now. But the choice is ultimately yours to make.
Choose wisely, young samurai.
So that wraps up my 5 big tips for all moms considering stroller bootcamp.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and active Spring! And warm. And dry – in every sense of the word. 😉
If you’re ready to get your pelvic and abdominal wall checked in anticipation of stroller bootcamp, you can do so by booking an appointment here!