Welcome to the first part of our multi part blog series on coaching the pregnant and postpartum athlete. In the first installment we take a look at common mistakes by athletes and coaches as well as key factors leading to successful communication between them. The information provided in these blogs is courtesy of the fantastic Coach Eileen Middleton. Her full credentials and bio can be located at the end of the article.
Common Mistakes Athletes & Coaches Make
- Training for birth: Birth is unpredictable. You cannot train your body for your birth by exhausting it at the gym. Beating your body up day after day isn’t going to do anything but exhaust you.
- Relying solely on listening to your body as an indicator to fitness: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. An athlete may feel great and ready to do 100 heavy front squats during their pregnancy, but it doesn’t mean they should. Choose movements and weights that set your body up for long-term success.
- “Your cleared”: It is not enough to be cleared by your OB. You should see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist to do an internal exam of your pelvic to determine the strength of it postpartum. They will also be able to determine how big your diastasis recti is and show you rehab movements to help both. When an OB says you are cleared, they are mostly checking your body to see if it has healed from the birth.
- Not thinking with big picture aspect and long-term function: Workout in a way that is going to set you up to workout the rest of your life not just in the moment. Coaches & Athletes keep this in mind when choosing movements and workouts. Is this going to benefit me long-term or is it just going to make my ego feel good today?
- “Just modify the exercises.” Pregnant and Postpartum athletes need a workout plan that works for them. Not all modifications are going to work for everyone. Every woman is different, and every pregnancy and birth is different. Base your modifications on the plan you have built for your body not the one someone else has built for themselves.
- No symptoms=no worries: Just because you can’t feel symptoms doesn’t mean your pelvic floor and abs are fine. There are many things going on internally that we can’t feel when we are pregnant and postpartum. Again, think long-term in regard to working out. Is this going to benefit my body? Is it going to support it or is it going to put more stress on it?
- Making your athletes wrong: No one is wrong here. We are all learning and will continue to learn as we talk more about pregnancy and postpartum. Your athletes don’t know any better, they just want things to go back to the way they were as fast as possible once they give birth. Social Media delivers false expectations and does not show the entire story of what a woman goes through during pregnancy and postpartum. You can’t blame your athletes for wanting to jump back in as soon as possible. Find out what their goals are and remind them of those goals when they start to push too hard too soon. Do not tell them they are wrong or lecture them, meet them halfway.
Key Factors in Succesful Communication
- Athletes don’t always want to share personal information.
- Don’t try to push the athlete into doing something they don’t want to do.
- Check in with them. Let them know you are there if they want to talk.
- Remind them of their goals when they veer off course.
- The more you can share with your coach, the better they are able to help you.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your coach something isn’t working or doesn’t feel right. They can’t help if they don’t know.
I am a wife, coach, working mother of two. I have been an athlete my entire life. At the age of 8 I started running track and cross country and continued through college at Tiffin University. After college I yearned for that competitive drive again and trained myself for numerous half marathons. Still not satisfied, I dropped into a local CrossFit Box and instantly fell in love with it on my first day. It was there I met my husband Evan, learned how to channel my anxiety, strengthen my entire body and become a part of an amazing community that would go on to support me during my most challenging times in life.
My husband and I Co-Own a Strength and Conditioning gym in Valley View, Ohio that we opened in 2016. In 2019 I became a CF-L1 Coach because I wanted to share my love for fitness with my community. I also knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to utilize my coaching to empower women. Being pregnant with my son made me realize that there was a dire need for coaching during the pregnant and postpartum chapters of a woman’s life. It pushed me to complete my certification in Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism by Brianna Battles and to start coaching pregnant and postpartum athletes.
I understand the curveballs pregnancy and postpartum can throw at you as my journey into motherhood has been an interesting one. My son was born emergency C-section at 38 weeks. My daughter was born a micro-preemie at 23 weeks and spent 140 days in the NICU. I believe it is extremely important to be adaptable during these times in your life and take care of your changing body.