In the first of a new feature on the blog, where I speak with inspiring people from all different backgrounds,career paths and locations, I speak with the lovely Sara who owns and runs The Postnatal coach in Limerick. I was lucky enough to find Sara in Buggy Bootcamp, when I began my journey back to fitness, when the twins were a few months old and it’s been very exciting to see how far she has gone since then. During the interview Sara reminded me of how we first met, where I walked into her class, carrying two car-seats,two babies, changing bags, gear bag , determined to get fit again and I was blessed that she loves holding the babies,given the twins tendencies to kick off just as we began our warm ups so I could continue with my squats!
Sit back for a few minutes and have a read of how Sara from The Postnatal Coach started her own business bringing women on a fitness journey regardless of how far in their postnatal journey they are.
Tell us about your journey Sara from where you started out in the fitness industry, to where you are now with your own business The Postnatal Coach?
I was always into fitness in my twenties and thirties to help stay in shape and lift my energy and mood. I discovered how important fitness was, not only for the body but more importantly for the mind, when I attended the Bump Room Classes while pregnant on my second son. I also maintained swimming and walking during the week. My pregnancy, birth and recovery was so much easier and quicker than on my first child and I was in a much stronger place in my head. I had reaped so many of the benefits exercising during pregnancy I was determined to keep regular exercise in my weekly routine on maternity leave.I found Anto’s Buggy Boot camp class, and attended that for eight months before returning to work. I gained so many benefits from this class. Despite little sleep I still gained energy as a new mother. The best part was there was less of the “Mom guilt” as I could bring my baby with me while doing something for me….win win!!!
I went back to work but couldn’t get the idea that I wanted to reach and tell as many Moms about what exercise could do for them both physically and mentally in the postnatal period. As special as pregnancy and motherhood are, they can cause huge strain, not only on the body but on the mind also.I just wanted to help Moms that might have been struggling by showing them what helped me.
A little over four years ago I was delighted when I approached Anto, who owned Buggy boot camp, about joining up with him. We had a shared goal to reach out to as many mothers as we could. Since then I have been studying and adapting the business to my Moms needs. I strongly believe Moms need to build strength to do everyday motherhood tasks.We have so much more sedentary lives/jobs than our ancestors, that the majority of us are not able or not strong enough in our bodies to do the daily heavy-duty tasks in motherhood. We tend to end up either avoiding doing these everyday stuff ,which is really hard unless you have constant help or support, or injuring ourselves doing them due to bad posture or weak muscles not been able to support us. I strongly advocate that Moms really should try to make time to work on getting their bodies and minds stronger to cope with the everyday motherhood tasks that we come up against. I would say its far from a luxury or “me time” kind of thing I would say it’s a necessity for every Mom.
What drove you to where you are now?
Since last September I went out on my own and set up The Postnatal Coach, this wasn’t an easy decision or one that I took lightly. I wanted to try to reach all Moms, not just the fit Mom or the Mom that wants to lose the baby belly. I also wanted to help empower the Mom that feels they are a bit broken after pregnancy or labour or Moms that have never exercised before and teach them that they too could get fit and strong, both in body and in mind . My goal is to ease all Moms back into exercise whilst being mindful of their bodies, as they are still going through healing stages up to at least a year postnatal. I’ve also done a number of amazing courses with the UK’s and US’s leading postnatal educators, Jenny Burrell, Lauren O’Hayon and Jessica Drummond. I have certified with them on exercise and nutrition and try to bring as much of that knowledge into my five-week Postnatal programme.
If you could give every mother one main piece of advice when it comes to their well-being what would it be and why?
Listen to your body & make sure you are looking after yourself and carve out time every week just for you to make sure you are keeping on top of your self-care. It’s so important and I see it all the time (I’m guilty of it too), moms come into me stressed and overly anxious as they are too busy or worried about their kids or families to do anything for themselves. We all have to find something that we love to do that will help us to de-stress, ground us and feel like ourselves to help us cope on the bad days. Trust me your kids and partner will be all the better for it too, but also don’t over-due it. Too much exercise or dieting can cause further stress and tiredness on the body too, so just tune into your body from early pregnancy and right through motherhood, listen to your gut.
We all know how important it is for our mind and body to work out, have you any advice for those feeling less body confident and those who want to start but don’t know how to?
Just start by walking, preferably somewhere nice in nature so it’s a nicer experience then walking busy roads, but the hardest part is taking the first step to get off the couch. Once you do, each step or walk or class will give you the confidence to keep going. You can build up the confidence by doing a few fast walks for a few weeks first. Fresh air, some music or motivating podcasts will pick you up and even make you look forward to it. Switch off the negative voices and just go for it. Once you are starting to feel a bit good then your energy and mood is up and you won’t look back. If classes or people motivate you, find a class that takes your fancy, everything is at your fingertips these days. Make sure the instructor or classes can cater and are suitable for beginners, especially if you are postnatal. I would always tell Moms to get to a class early and let the instructor know that they have had a baby up to one year and further sometimes if they are still having postnatal issues. Don’t be afraid to ask them a list of questions to make sure they are the right fit for your needs and also because you want to make sure you are in safe hands.
Why are women afraid to talk of postnatal problems such as pelvic floor issues or to seek help?
This is a question close to my heart as I suffered myself with pelvic floor issues after both my births. After my first I just presumed it was normal and that was the way I was going to be from now on.I didn’t really talk about it to anyone and just suffered through. But after my second where it had become much worse, I opened up to friends and also ended up back in the hospital with the physio. I still to this day have to work continuously on my pelvic floor, like I have to work on the strength of any muscle in my body, but I have come so far over the years. I totally understand and know it can be embarrassing for some, especially first time Moms that had no idea this could happen to them. The more women do talk about it the less embarrassing a conversation it is becoming. As a nation we are getting there and I’m determined to help more women talk about it. If you do have a problem please don’t ignore it or think its normal, like any muscle the majority of issues can be sorted with the proper rehabilitation and training.
How can working on the core post pregnancy help women later on in life?
To have a strong core (including pelvic floor) we need all four key muscle components, the diaphragm, TVA (deep ab muscles), lumbar/thoracic (lower back muscles) and muscles of the pelvic floor to work properly but also to work in synergy with one another, as one unit of muscle. During pregnancy there is a lot of strain and pressure put on all of the core muscles which can tend to lengthen and weaken them, causing issues such as incontinence but also can cause other issues such as organ prolapse (where one or more of our organs drop in the pelvic area), hence the need to strengthen them afterwards. This is not just super important in the postnatal period but is key as we age because unfortunately the hormonal changes in menopause may also bring strength and elasticity issues to the pelvic floor and can sometimes cause incontinence and organ prolapse too. I know right!! Women really drew the short straw. So whether you have had a vaginal or c-section birth, it’s important to strengthen all parts as a unit and not in isolation ,as you might not have issues now but there are huge benefits in making the core stronger, to future proof it.
What do you do for your own physical and mental fitness?
I love to mix it up. I love running on my own for my head and I run with a fab bunch of girls for motivation, chats and craic for my cardio kicks. I love kettlebells for strength work for retaining and building muscles and love yoga/pilates also to build strength and for more awareness to how my muscles and body feels and ultimately help it function better. Lately I’ve started to use meditation at the end of my yoga sessions to calm or get out of the mind even further. I bring all of these elements into my classes as I feel its important to mix it up so the mind and body don’t get bored or used to certain moves. It is good to have a backup plan for your mental health if you cannot get to work out, we can all do a bit of mediation or a few wall squats anywhere.
Have you any other personal ambitions you want to achieve?
Over the years I have been very lucky to have trained and been taught by some amazing instructors and mentors in person in the fitness/postnatal field. Thanks to technology they still continuously support me from anywhere in the world, but I’m not finished learning. I have no real ambition to get my programme online at the moment as I love the personal contact and connection I get from each Mom however it is a way to help more Moms, so maybe someday, but not for a while yet.
What is in the future for The Postnatal Coach ?
My goal is always to try reach and help as many Moms as I can to give them that sense of awareness and empowerment in their bodies after having a baby. Unfortunately and for various different reasons some Moms come into me feeling “broken” and they don’t necessarily leave skipping out the door or fully healed in just five weeks.They do leave stronger, fitter and more importantly they know how to listen to their bodies and know they are not broken and hopefully they are on a path to maybe even a better, stronger body & mind. My weekdays are full so I am hoping to start weekend workshops for different stages of Motherhood. I really want to reach out to everyone, regardless of whether you are six or twenty years post natal, if they still have issues. Over the last six months, women have travelled from the Midlands and all over Munster, so I would love to bring my workshops out further than Limerick. My five-week programme has been very well received so I hope by reaching out to more in this way it will go as well too.
As a busy working mother of two how do you balance both running your own business and being a Mam?
If I’m totally honest, this is something I’ve struggled with over the years. I gave up a full-time secure job to follow my passion and build this business. I wanted to help as many Moms as I could but stupidly thought I could do it part-time and be a stay at home Mom the rest of the time. I didn’t realize how much training, love and time I would need to put into this to make it a programme, but I can say I’m super proud of now. I’ve struggled with putting myself first, putting everyone else’s needs before mine and it ended up taken its toll. I now know I need to look after myself first before I can look after and be supportive of anyone else. I also have an amazing supportive husband and two very patient and understanding kids, but it’s a constant work in progress. I’m learning from the Moms in my programmes as much as they are learning from me,we need to be more supportive of one another and our individual decisions. Life as a Mom is very different to what it was fifty years ago, not easier, or harder, just different.We all struggle at some stage with getting the balance right. So whether you’re a stay at home Mom or work part-time or full-time, we have to do what we feel is right for us & our family at that particular time. If we all just do what we believe is best for us and our families at that given time, we can’t go too far wrong.
Thank you so much Sara for taking the time to talk to me and I know my readers ,including myself will have learnt a-lot about the importance of recognising that we need to mind ourselves first and listen to our bodies most importantly! You are right about the challenges of being a Mother in this age, I never thought of building my body for motherhood, I think we all get caught up in concentrating on the pregnancy and then the baby afterwards. It is fascinating to know that work we do now on our complete core, including the pelvic floor, will stand to us when we go through the joys of Menopause! I for one will be waiting to hear of news of your weekend workshops, they sound fantastic. It is very encouraging to hear that it is never too late for anyone to work on their core and pelvic floor no matter where they are in the postnatal journey. Thank you for opening up my inspiring real lives series, I couldn’t think of a better motivator and advocate for women’s health and I wish you continued success with The Postnatal Coach.
**For more details on The Postnatal coach, please check out http://www.thepostnatalcoach.com/ or contact her on 086 8283622
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