All pregnancies are different. All babies are different. You know what’s not different? The repetitive stresses of caring for your new little bundle of joy and the subsequent new parent aches, pains, and injuries.
Sadly I’ve yet to talk to a new parent who was given a heads up about proper parent ergonomics… no birthing class, midwife, OB/gyn, or fitness professionals seem to even really mention much about it. Often postnatal care is baby-centered: proper positioning for their best latch, proper leg placement for healthy hips in a carrier, the ideal angle to avoid flat head or reflux. Now don't get me wrong, all of these are incredibly important for our babies' health and development, but what about the parents? Who teaches us how to take care of our own bodies in our new, incredibly demanding (and rewarding), role as new parents?
All babies need to be fed, held, transported, comforted, and played with, and these are just the basics. I had a friend who’s baby would only fall asleep if he was manually swinging him… in his carseat! The lengths we’ll go to to keep our babies happy, calm, quiet, or asleep, can get pretty crazy. The resulting wear and tear on our bodies, as parents, is no joke when you consider that all of these tasks are repeated multiple times a day, every day, for many many days (years seems overwhelming to say).
Now, any parent that’s gotten the flu or stomach bug knows that babies’ needs don’t just magically diminish when we’re not feeling well. The same goes for when we get hurt. My baby is a sweet loving little angel but she doesn’t care that I have a torn rotator cuff. She still needs me to carry her to and from the car, get her in and out of the crib, feed her, and change her diapers. So what are we supposed to do? How do we help our bodies heal and not make things worse?
Introducing the ABCDE’s of not breaking your body while still keeping your baby happy and healthy!
A is for Awareness
Awareness is key. Knowing that we are putting repeated stresses on our bodies is an important first step in managing the potential for injury and system breakdown. Think about how you push the stroller, how you carry the carseat, adjust your baby carrier, nurse/feed your infant. What does your posture look like in each of these situations? Can it be improved? (Hint: yes it can)
B is for Breathe
Take a big, full, 4 count inhale and 4 count exhale. Oxygen is required to create energy. Feeling sluggish? Patience running low? Aside from the lack of fulfilling sleep, you’re probably also breathing from your chest ( = more like a 1 count inhale/exhale = less effective/efficient = less energy). Those “mom shoulders”? Yeah, they’re cramping your ribcage and actually decreasing the space your lungs have to expand. When this happens, your neck and shoulders take over to help lift the ribs, forcing you into a chronic shallow breath cycle… neck tension, headaches anyone?
C is for Connection
Turn off auto-pilot and try to connect to your movements. Next time you bend over to pick up your little munchkin, don’t just round over. Take a minute to shift your weight into your heels, bend at the waist, and use your legs to lift. When you’re breastfeeding, put away any distractions (phone, tv, etc) and just focus on sitting with better posture (I say better because bf’ing with perfect posture is near impossible, at least for a prolonged amount of time). There are many ways to interact with your baby and actually build your body up, rather than continue to break it down, you just have to tune in and dedicate some time to learning better movement patterns.
D is for Don’t wait
This is not a temporary set back to your fitness and health goals. Parenting is not a temp job, it’s a long-term position. This is your life for the foreseeable future so be proactive. Make adjustments now so you don’t have to pay ten-fold later. Your body, and your baby, will thank you for it! Happy Parent = Happy Baby!
E is for ErgoMOMics (appropriate for all caregivers but ergoparentomics doesn't have quite the same ring)
Born out of necessity and inspired by real life, this work is for parents-to-be and new/seasoned parents alike.
These sessions/classes will help you to prepare for the stresses of caring for your newborn and offer tips on ergonomic-friendly baby gear to have on your registry.
Have a new baby at home?
Learn how to adjust your home space and baby gear for a more ergonomic experience that will help alleviate stresses that contribute to chronic pain and injuries.
Already months (or years) in?
It’s never too late to learn more efficient movement patterns that can not only prevent further breakdown, but also help to build your body up.
For more information on proper ergonomics for parenting-related tasks, modifications to baby gear, breathing techniques, practical exercises for new parents, and beyond, come to one of my workshops, class series, or schedule an appointment at my studio in OB/Point Loma or on location for an in-home assessment! Email email@example.com for more information, questions, or workshop requests.
Did you know that only 1 in 10 meet their resolution goals??! Check out these tips to give yourself the edge.
1. START FRESH
Don't reuse a resolution you've already tried. Recycling past goals rarely ends up the way you want it to. Change it up! Now that doesn't mean if you've tried losing weight or quitting smoking before you can't try again. But this time, tweak it a bit. Add more detail to the WHY & HOW you plan on achieving your goal. Write down why it will be different this time and then make sure that you're actually picking a different approach to back that up.
2. DON'T BE A COPYCAT
Really think about what YOU want out of life. Don't just copy what your friends might be doing. Consider what small shifts could create meaningful change in your world for this coming year.
3. SMART GOALS = SUCCESS!
Make sure your goal is:
Specific - Measurable - Attainable - Realistic - Timely
Break it down into manageable steps to give yourself the best shot for success. Losing 20 pounds in a month is not a realistic goal for long-term weight loss (a healthy loss is about 1-3 pounds per week).
4. SHARE IT WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY
Take pride in wanting to make positive changes and giving your new year some focused direction to better yourself. Accountability can be huge when it comes to staying on task. Let your friends or family know what your goal for 2018 is so that they can help you stay on track.
5. EXPECT A SET-BACK
Setbacks are part of success! They help to challenge us and strengthen us on our way to making change. Don't give up on yourself just because you have a bad day, or miss a deadline on one of your subgoals. It's okay! Just dust yourself off, recommit, and get back to it!
6. TRY A THEME!
Feel like thinking outside the box for 2018?? Pick a word that you could use as your motivator. I did this last year and found it to be a nice shake up for my usual resolution approach. Take the word "discpline" for example... you can apply it to clean eating, making it to the gym 3x a week, carrying your water bottle with you, and it can even trickle into any personal growth goals you may have!
7. ASK FOR HELP
There are specialists for most anything! If accomplishing your goal is more likely with the help of a professional, then make the investment and set an appointment NOW to hold yourself accountable.
Here's to a happier, healthier y0u in 2018!
Shameless Plug: If your New Year's goals involve feeling stronger, healthier, more balanced, please reach out, I would be delighted to help! (Thanks to technology, you don't have to be local to work with me.)
(Did you just sit up a little straighter? Yeah, everyone does that.)
How you sit, stand, move directly affects your potential for good health and functional fitness. Every system, muscle, cell, and organ in your body requires “x” amount of space to function optimally. When that space is reduced by slouchy posture, cramped by sitting all day, or compromised by repetitive stress patterns then those systems, muscles, cells, and organs can’t function properly. So yes, sitting up straighter, or standing taller are both great places to start.
Muscular System - Muscle length and relative balance is compromised resulting in tension, chronic pain, and/or injuries.
Respiratory System - When the upper body rounds (think “mom shoulders” or working on your laptop) the amount of oxygen your lungs can take in is reduced because the lungs don’t have as much space to expand.
Digestive & Urinary Tracts - Less space for your stomach or your intestines to operate can wreak havoc on your overall digestion and bladder function.
Adrenal & Reproductive Hormones - There are studies showing a correlation between hormonal imbalances and poor posture that lead to emotional issues, increased stress, and mood disturbances.
How did I get like this?
Posture is like a visual recording of your life's ups and downs. Your highs and lows, physically and emotionally, are catalogued in your tissues, recorded by your nervous system, and adjusted day in and day out. Our body gets really good at whatever we ask it to do the most, so in addition to injuries or traumas, our daily habits mold our overall posture into what we see today. Each day might be a little different depending on what you're doing. Old injuries that didn't heal or weren't properly rehabbed may have you chronically limping or favoring one side over the other. Pregnancy shifts your posture as the center of gravity changes. Working at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for however many months or years interrupts entire muscle chains. Serious athletes, factory workers, new moms, and anyone else that performs the same movement over and over, are susceptible to repetitive stress injuries. In the short term, a six hour flight or a week on the couch nursing the flu can also impact your day-to-day alignment. You're kind of like an onion... yeah I know I'm not the first to use that metaphor. But really, there are a lot of layers that have combined to get you where you are today.
Okay so now what?
Well, now you begin the process of building your body up rather than breaking it down. First suggestion is to take some pictures of yourself - front, sides, and back view. If possible, get in front of a grid or use a grid overlay (easy to find online). Visual feedback can be a powerful tool. Optimal alignment (side view) is when your ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and ear all line up. If any of those landmarks are not stacked properly, it would be considered a postural misalignment. Once you know your postural tendencies, you can begin taking steps to improve it! Finding a corrective exercise or postural alignment specialist is your best bet. Ideally whoever you work with will you give you homework because, let's be real, one hour a week could never outweigh the other 167 hours you spend sitting, standing, playing, and sleeping. Both yoga and pilates can be helpful towards improving posture, but remember that no group class is designed to address an individual's needs (group classes are designed to be good for "most bodies"). I suggest working one-on-one with a specialist to learn what your body needs and begin working towards your best alignment. From there, you'll be able to take that information and get the most out of any group class by knowing how to modify for your needs.
You only get one.
Becoming aware of your postural tendencies is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. While the results above are of an actual client of mine, within the same session, it does not mean everything was "fixed". The approach I take with postural therapy is unique and can have some instant results BUT for those results to last long term, you need patience, dedication and commitment. Whatever shape your body is in now has likely had months or years to settle in. I'm not going to promise a quick fix, but I will promise that it is never too late to begin this work. I will also promise that with some focused attention and educated assistance, you will develop a whole new relationship with your body and a much greater appreciation for this beautiful one-of-a-kind space you live in.
Call or Email today to schedule a FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULT to get a better sense of how this can help you!
My foam roller is my best friend. Okay maybe it doesn't help me work out complicated emotional matters or rock out with me at local shows or enjoy a mimosa at brunch on Sundays but it absolutely helps me keep my body happy and healthy! It helps me sort out the kinks that affect my flexibility and it helps relieve the aches and pains I have to come to associate with the marvels of motherhood. Where once I was rolling to help my dance skills and warm up/cool down from circuit training, now I'm using it to help alleviate the "mom shoulders", "baby carrier back", and the "breastfeeding elbow/wrist funk" that is part of my daily life.
There are tons of articles and blogs on the benefits of foam rolling (click here) so rather than reinvent the wheel I've decided to point out some ways in which your foam roller can actually be better than a professional massage. Yup, you heard me. Better than a professional massage. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good massage as much as the next girl. Having someone else do the work and a nice relaxing setting to unwind are both absolute personal favorites but since I didn't marry a massage therapist and I don't have unlimited income or access to a 24 hour masseuse I've come to realize just how important my foam roller is for creating a consistent (and realistic) self-care routine. So here you go!
FIVE WAYS MY FOAM ROLLER IS BETTER THAN A PROFESSIONAL MASSAGE
Want to learn how to take full advantage of your foam roller? Need some instruction on how to roll properly?
Sometimes when we are dealing with pain or injuries it can be difficult to find any silver linings. Take a minute for a little body scan and see if you can't find an area that feels good. Maybe it's your pinky toe? Wherever it is, give thanks. Then go back to whatever area of your body is bothering you and instead of yelling at it, feeling sad about it, or calling it mean names, give it thanks. Yup, you heard me. Say thank you to the pain. Well, not exactly to the pain, but thank you to your body for doing it's best in spite of the pain. It's important to remember that our bodies hear everything (whether we say it out loud or not). How often have your referred to an aching body part as negatively?
"My stupid back is acting up again", "my knee's being a jerk today", "I wish I could just get a new neck"...
Not only are these actual things I've heard clients say, they're things I myself used to say before my acupuncturist called me out. Studies have shown that our tissues respond to our internal monologues of anger or resentment the same way they would if someone were calling you stupid, or a jerk, or wishing you could be replaced. So on today, a day to share gratitude, be nice to your body and always try to remember that it's doing the best that it can. If you're not already actively working with someone to help alleviate chronic aches and pains, give me a call and let's get you feeling better!
The topic of aging and it's "inevitable" effects on the body has come up with several people over this last week. The idea that aging = a slumping posture and the end of happy joints and carefree activity is a myth! Now is this a reality for some older people? Absolutely. But is it a given? No!
The body is made for movement. Literally. Bones grow with impact. Muscles get stronger when they contract, release, and rebuild. Our heart responds to increasing demand with increased efficiency. Joints are happiest when they are lubricated and movement helps encourage a steady supply of synovial fluid to keep them nourished and healthy.
So really, a more accurate cause/effect is that as people get older there is a tendency for less activity. This lack of movement is what leads many older individuals to have a sinking/slouching posture, difficulty breathing, problems with their blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
Solution? STAY ACTIVE! If you're not currently active find a trainer (pick me!) to help create a routine that is right for you and your body. Already have some postural issues? Come in and get your posture assessed complete with pictures of all 4 views of your alignment while standing in front of a grid! Awareness is the first step!
If you haven't heard of Foundation Training, check out the info on my page or go directly to their webpage. It is an invaluable tool to help reverse the effects of inactivity and improve your overall health and well-being, no matter your age or fitness level. The exercise below was developed by Eric Goodman, the founder of Foundation Training, and is a great starting point for anyone looking to improve their health, overcome training plateaus, or avoid the myth of aging. Pictures are from his amazing second book, True to Form, which I highly recommend to anyone looking to jumpstart the process.
STANDING DECOMPRESSION BREATH:
The 3-Dimensional Breath
MAKING IT A DECOMPRESSION EXERCISE:
To create the effect of "decompression" we introduce the adductors (inner thigh muscles). These muscles help to stabilize your pelvis so that while you're taking this wonderful full breath and lengthening your spine, the pelvis remains "anchored" allowing for the "decompression" effect.
If you have shoulder issues or acute lower back pain you might choose to skip this progression.
Do you keep trying to figure out that "one" thing that triggered your back pain? What you did the day before you woke up with knee pain? Why your feet suddenly get mad at long walks or why standing in line at the grocery store or at a "standing-room only" concert feels like too much to handle? Do you remember the last full day you had without a headache? Many clients come in wanting answers to these questions. There's a feeling that if you could just pinpoint when it all began, it would be easier to fix.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you might never figure it out. It's rarely "one" moment that creates the problem. Likely it's been brewing for a while and that "one" thing is much harder to pinpoint because it's like the straw that broke the camel's back.
Instead of trying to pinpoint a moment in time, start evaluating your habits over time. Do you slump at your desk for 8 hours a day? Do you lounge crooked on the couch for a few hours every night? Do you brush your teeth with a rounded back and hunched shoulders (everyday, twice a day)? Did you sprain your ankle back in high school and just "suck it up" at the time? Is your diet full of foods that create inflammation in your body? How much sleep do you get, how many glasses of water do you drink? Do you continue intense workouts even when you're injured?
Chronic aches and pains are often accumulations of poor movement patterns, poorly rehabbed injuries, compression, compensations, and/or mismanaged care (pain meds, incomplete therapy, lack of rehab altogether). The good news is that with patience, attention, and intention, you can move better and feel better. A lot better!
I'm not just saying this because I read it in books or learned it at a workshop. I'm saying this because I've lived it. I spent 15 years living with chronic pain so I get it. I get the obstacles, I get the frustrations and fear of trying new things. I know firsthand the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. This background is what motivates me to assess and treat each individual as a whole and to honor each client's preferred pace and comfort level with new movements.
It is incredible to have come full circle and to now be able to help others break the cycle of chronic pain, find the light on the other side, and enjoy their lives again. Need help or know someone that does? Call, email, or book an appointment today and take the first step towards feeling better.
Naming a business is pretty crazy. It has to be something that resonates, something you don't mind seeing and saying a million times a day. I went through a couple of possibilities but struggled to find something that I felt truly represented me and my mission. It wasn't until I'd almost settled on a different name (needing to meet a deadline) that it came to me one sleepless night (as most good ideas tend to do). Every breath is movement, and every movement is an opportunity for improved fitness.
During the Stott Pilates certification I learned about using the 3-dimensional breath and intentionally connecting each inhale and exhale to every movement. The result was greater connection to my core and more control over my movements. When I went through the Foundation Training certification I was introduced to decompression breathing; using the breath in combination with the muscles to create more space and actively resist gravity. These two concepts have transferred so seamlessly into my daily life that I began to realize a simple fact about fitness. Fitness doesn't just happen at the gym or in a workout class. Fitness is a way of life. Quite literally, every breath offers us another chance for a healthy, active life. And that was it. Breathe Fitness was born :)
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San Diego, CA 92106