People often think that I have always been into sports and fitness. But while I was always quite active when I was younger, I never focused on a specific sport or discipline. And I got into fitness because I didn’t like my body (as harsh as it sounds). As a child I was always very slim. And when I hit puberty, I started getting more curves and “meat”, not necessarily in the right places (at least that’s what I thought back then). When I was about 14-15, I started exercising at home every day for one hour. Every day at the same time. If I missed it I felt really guilty. So guilty that I would punish myself by eating whole block of chocolate or block of biscuits because I thought if I missed that one session I would just get fat so I might as well just eat crap. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed working out; I just didn’t have very healthy relationships with food and fitness.
I did that for about a year and then I joined group fitness classes. I loved hi – lo aerobics, step, and how much fun you have working out in a group. My main reason to do it was to burn calories and to stay slim. However, I also really enjoyed it, so much so that in 2001 I qualified as an aerobic instructor and I started teaching group fitness classes part-time while studying at uni.
After I finished uni, I moved to London. I stopped exercising for a while and obviously I put on weight. Back then I worked in the hospitality industry and that involved partying and booze. Even when I started working at the gym my nutrition didn’t change that much. I thought that because I was teaching so many classes (many Spin classes), I could just eat (and drink) anything. All that changed when I got an office job and I realised that my diet needed to change. I started eating more veggies (loads of salads) and protein. And even though I was teaching fewer classes, my weight just dropped. And that’s when I learned on my own skin that nutrition is more important than exercise. Around that time I also discovered weight training, first in the form of Body Pump classes. Thanks to completing my Body Pump training, I learned that weights wouldn’t make me bulky and that I am actually quite strong. Body Pump made me feel strong. I started loading my bar more during the classes, and after seeing changes in my body composition, started to become more happy with the way I looked and more confident (finally at age 28 or so). Before Body Pump you wouldn’t see me in a weight room, but thanks to these classes I started exploring more weights.
When I moved to Australia with my then-boyfriend (now husband), I completed my Cert 3 & 4 in Fitness. I kept working in an office job, though, and I did fitness just on a part-time basis as a hobby. I always wanted to help others. And I knew I want to help women. I knew how it feels to have a low self-esteem, how it feels to be all the time on a diet and have a bad relationship with food and exercise. I knew very well how shitty it feels to be unhappy with your body. And I really wanted to help other women to change that, and help them to love themselves and their bodies. I just didn’t quite have it all figured out and I guess I was scared, scared to leave stable job and start a PT career full-time.
And then I got pregnant. I kept teaching my classes till pretty much week before I gave birth (well, actually I stopped two weeks before I was due, but my son just could not wait to meet us).
After giving birth I wanted to get back into fitness as soon as I could. And it wasn’t just because I wanted to get my “pre-baby body back” or lose weight. It was about how fitness made me feel, not just how it made me look. And I didn’t want to lose my fitness… ‘cuz it’s harder to get it back than just keep it up. I knew that if I took a long break it would be painful and hard to get fit again. And not even physically, but mentally as well. Getting into the routine to go to the gym again, putting in effort and being constant, can be a hard work, especially if you are out of the momentum (not mentioning looking after a baby on top of that). Also this is who I was (and am). Fitness was/is a big part of my life and I didn’t want to lose myself completely. Becoming a mother was a major change in itself and even more so that we don’t have any family here and we didn’t have much help. I didn’t have control over motherhood but I could control my fitness. So two weeks post-birth I asked my midwife when I could start exercising. Her answer was that I could start right then, just to take it easy. Now, when I think about it, she probably meant that I could start walking (but I was already doing that); she probably didn’t mean working out in the park and adding shuttle runs to lift the heart rate up… On top of that, when I got a clearance from my doctor, I was ready to get back to my training properly! Heavy weights, plyometrics, running, etc. Safe to say, I didn’t really have much idea back then on how to exercise safely post-birth. One thing I knew was that ab exercises are a no-no as they can increase abdominal separation so I didn’t really do any ab-work till I was seven months post-birth.
My nutrition was really good, though. I didn’t “diet”. I made sure I ate enough and that I fueled my body properly. I was fitter, stronger, and leaner than I’ve ever been. And it felt amazing! I didn’t deprive myself of food. I wasn’t overtraining (training four times a week for about 45 min., sometimes 30 min.) I felt great, strong, sexy, and confident. Everyone was telling me how great I looked and that they couldn’t believe that I’d just had a baby a few months ago. And again I had that thought that I would love to train women (this time more specifically mums), and show them that there is a smarter way to get fit, that they can be fit and feel confident and sexy without hours at the gym and hours of cardio. I even completed online pre- and post-natal course. It all sounds amazing, right?! Well, it wasn’t all great. There was that one little detail I kept ignoring. And that was stress incontinence. I kept ignoring it as I thought it was normal after you have children. Your pelvic floor gets weaker and you leak. And yes, they tell you to do Kegels…but who has time to do Kegels?! Anyhow, after attending a group session, which involved 45 min. of jumping, I ended up with a wet crotch, and finally I thought that it might be time to do something about it. But who do you see when you wet yourself??? I asked Dr. Google and I’ve learned that I need to see a physio specializing in women’s health (Dr. Google is not always bad ;)). When I made an appointment with a women’s health physio, I thought she would just say that I just have a weak pelvic floor and that it is normal after kids. What I didn’t expect to hear is that I have stage 2 bladder prolapse and minor bowel prolapse.
Firstly, WTF is prolapse?! Yes, I was a fitness professional, and yes, I had a baby and I even completed a pre-and post-natal course, but I didn’t really know what Pelvic Organ Prolapse is. The online course just mentioned that as a trainer you have to be careful when you train mums as they may suffer from prolapse and incontinence but nothing else. I didn’t really like what I read on the Internet as it all was very depressing. This time Dr. Google told me that I even shouldn’t be doing lunges or squats, not to mention running, jumping, or lifting heavy weight.
I’ve learned from my physio that pelvic floor dysfunction is really common and that exercises I had been doing could contribute to it. I also learned that assisted birth can increase chances of prolapse, and I had assisted birth, but no one had mentioned that to me. I felt angry, confused, and ashamed (I’m in my early 30s and my pelvic floor organs are trying to run away). And I didn’t want to stop my fitness routine. I was the strongest and fittest I’d ever been. Plus I was a fitness instructor; I didn’t want to lift “baby” weights while I teach Pump.
So when I went back to my women’s health physio, I asked her to recommend me any courses I could do to learn more. I knew that I wanted to educate other women about how important it is to strengthen their pelvic floor before they go back to any high-impact exercises and lifting heavy weight (even though often they don’t listen).
After being in the fitness industry for so many years, not knowing who I wanted to work with, I finally knew that I wanted to work with mums, to help and support them, to educate them, and to give them hope. I want mums to learn from my mistakes and understand that it’s important to work to your weakest link and get strong from the inside out. I want mums to feel strong, sexy, and confident. And that it is possible to achieve it after having kids and without starving yourself. I want to empower women; I know how it feels to obsess about your body 24/7 and I don’t wish it on anyone. It doesn’t make you happy and it’s a waste of time. I also want to show women with prolapse that they can lead an active life with prolapse. You can work out; you can play with kids and be happy with prolapse.
And that’s why I decided to quit my office job and follow my passion (finally). I’ve created a safe community for mums where they don’t have to be ashamed of anything, where they won’t be judged, and where they can find support and make friends. I want them to have a good time during our sessions but also to work hard in the safest way. I have hired nannies so mums can actually focus on themselves. For some of them it’s actually the only time during the week they have to themselves.
I also am working on an online program, which will help busy mums around the world to get moving again. You don’t need hours in the gym; even short home workouts can help you to get a strong and functional body that will support you with the demands of life as a mum. This 6-WEEK online program will deliver time-efficient workouts (15-45 minutes, your choice), which can be done anywhere. Workouts are pelvic floor-friendly with an option to work harder and longer to suit different fitness levels. First round is due to start on the 18th of September (my birthday ;)), and I’m really excited and can’t wait to help mums around the world to get fit, strong, and confident in a safe and effective way!
When I look at what got me to where I am today I honestly don’t think I would have had the guts to do it if I didn’t experience pelvic floor dysfunction once I became a mother. This gave me real motivation and a reason WHY to get going – to educate other women so they can learn from my mistakes and my experience.