Hi, Travis Mattern here from www.fitnesseducationonline.com.au and i’ve recently written a blog on why it’s important to upskill when training women… from the male perspective. So here it is!
As a young male trainer working at an all female bootcamp you would think I would’ve been more aware about working with pre/post natal women.
To be fair, our audience were young and very few were pregnant or post natal, but… that is just an excuse to be honest. In hindsight, I should have known better. I should have studied more, learnt more and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re in the same boat. So my advice: if you’re a trainer (male or female) and you plan to work with women (at any stage of their lives) please get some further study under your belt! Pre/post natal, Menopausal, Menstrual, all of them are important topics and something that we don’t inherently know, without further study.
But, what I want to share with you today is something I’ve learnt from more recent personal experience from my wife giving birth to two children in the space of two years. Each birth were ‘emergency’ C-sections (no crazy story, just basically unplanned caesareans), but the experience is from two different obstetricians (obviously this is my own personal experience and it would likely vary depending on your doctor, or I assume your method of delivery).
As a trainer this is what the standard procedure is for a client returning to exercise after having a child:
Trainer – “Have you seen your doctor and been cleared to return to exercise?”
Client – “Yes, I just had my 6 week check up and the doctor said I’m good to start doing everything again as normal”
Trainer – “Perfect, lets get started with some burpees” (I’m being a little fictitious here and if you’re a trainer reading this blog, that’s probably not how you’d return the client to exercise).
Seems like a pretty straight forward conversation right?
As a trainer we assume the conversation with the obstetrician covers all the important topics about returning to exercise, such as: ab separation, pelvic floor health, leaking, prolapse, warning signs of potential problems, movements that might cause potential problems and general things to be aware of when returning to exercise.
But in my experience the more accurate conversation between the client and doctor looks like this:
Doctor – “After 6 weeks you can start to return to everything as normal”
End of conversation….
So the lesson in this is, “don’t assume, it makes an arse out of you and me”.
What should you be doing instead?
Firstly, get further education. You don’t need to become an expert in women’s health, but you just need to know the fundamentals of working with women and especially postnatal women. Once you’ve done this, you’ll probably want to adjust your pre exercise and return to exercise screening processes to include some more women centric questions, that will be vital in understanding what the best way to return the client to exercise.
The second thing you want to do is link up with a women’s health physiotherapist. If you didn’t know this is actually a specialty area of physiotherapy.
So why would this be important and what sorts of things would they actually do?
Well, to name a few things;
• Pregnancy related pain and/ or dysfunction (pre- and post-natal)
• Abdominal separation (rectus diastasis)
• Pelvic floor strengthening
• Caesarean or perineal scar management
• Pelvic girdle pain/ “pelvic instability”
• Urinary/ faecal incontinence (leakage)
• Pelvic organ prolapse
• Pelvic pain (including pain with intercourse, and pelvic examinations)
• Overactive bladder: Nocturia (excessive night time urination)
• Urinary urgency
The final thing, reach out to a quality educator on women’s health (I know this was the first thing, but I think it is so important that it needs to be repeated so that is sinks in). There are plenty of high quality education resources available and there really is no excuse not to know, especially if you’re reading this blog!
Co Founder and Director at Fitness Education Online
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