Written by Dionne Smith, Bumps & Burpees trainer and owner of Peach & Smith Studio
Over three quarters of women in the UK will have children at some point in their lives. That means that as a coach, amongst your female clients, a huge proportion will try to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are postpartum – and to these women there is a huge physical and emotional responsibility. The sad reality however is that these women are not served well enough. Most trainers do not have enough expertise on how to effectively coach pre and post-natal women.
The run-of-the-mill personal instructor who doesn’t take the time to learn how to properly work with new mums can often fall in to this category. You don’t have to look very far on Instagram to see women 4 weeks after birth doing high impact or plyometric exercises whilst their uterus still hasn’t shrunk and pelvic floor will be weakened. A safe and healthy pregnancy extends far beyond just the term you are carrying a baby. It starts before conception and continues for years postpartum.
Apart from being potentially dangerous and irresponsible, poorly trained trainers also often reinforce negative, unrealistic pressures that women put on themselves, “I need to get my abs back” or “I want to fit into my pre-baby jeans.” The reality after pregnancy is that you are not going to go back to a pre baby life. You have a new life, a new body and this requires a new mind-set. A good coach understands that whether it’s her first pregnancy or fifth, a woman at this phase of her life is undergoing a transformational experience – physically & mentally and can get on her level, so as a coach I want to implore our industry to do better. Our job is not to stand on the sidelines and count reps. I have lived through my clients fertility struggles, miscarriages, twin pregnancies, athletes who have lost control of their pelvic floor and wept in frustration, and life that can be littered with sleep deprivation, new feeding rhythms and routines. And so during this time when the reality is that the mother will often put herself last, I put my mumsfirst. We need to start making the women standing in front of us understand that the body they are in, is incredible, it is trying to grow life – what could be more amazing than that. Let us get our women feeling strong in the gym and confident and capable outside of it.
I ask our coaches to ask themselves these questions: How well do I understand the connection between female hormones, and fertility? How confident am I to coach clients with fertility struggles or to support a client through miscarriage? Do I know how to programme at each stage of pregnancy and which exercises, if any, are contraindicated and why? Do I know what foods should be avoided during pregnancy and why? Can I coach a client struggling with a change in body image during pregnancy? How well do I understand the anatomy and functions of the female pelvic floor? Can I manage intra-abdominal pressure during exercise and understand how it impacts your client’s pelvic floor? Can I understand specific nutritional needs during breastfeeding? Can I understand how to deal withpelvic organ prolapse and the implications it may have on exercise and lifestyle? Am I able to discuss and improve incontinence issues with my clients? If this feels like an overwhelming list and a major dose of responsibility – good… because it is!
Even if you are well educated and certified you will get questions about pre and post natal clients that you don’t know how to solve. And so the learning should never stop. If you find that these topics are not clear to you, take some time to educate yourself. Expand your network by partnering with a woman’s health physio or find a coach you respect that can mentor you. Before you take on any client but especially the pre and postnatal client ask yourself if you can honestly make the woman in front of you optimize their physical and emotional wellbeing.
At Peach and Smith Studio, we work with a network of experts (women’s healthy physiotherapists/ osteopaths/ sports masseuses/ perinatal psychologists and nutritionists) to raise the standard of care for our pre and postnatal women.
As part of the Bumps and Burpees team, we meet with the inner circle of the industry to share knowledge and support each other to raise industry standards for our pre and postnatal clients. I implore you to understand what it means to be a great coach and be able to change lives. When you help a woman feel empowered and powerful inside and outside of the gym after she’s had a baby, you become an integral part of her life and that is a journey a coach should want to be part of.