When Brianna Battles, a highly qualified strength and conditioning coach with a Master’s Degree in Coaching, birthed her firstborn, she expected to bounce back quickly. After all, she had been lifting weights and exercising routinely throughout her entire pregnancy. She understood body mechanics, had solid form, and like many athletes, she had the ability to push herself, keeping her eye on the prize—a healthy baby, easy birth, and a quick bounce back.
Real life came to play though, and while she did have a healthy baby boy—inarguably the ultimate reward—she also ended up with diastasis recti, an abdominal separation common after pregnancy. Her “bounce back” wasn’t what she expected, and instead it was a slow and trying process to regain her strength.
Diastasis recti is seldom discussed, and rarely checked for by a medical professional, much less a coach or personal trainer. It can leave you with many unwanted side effects including a protruding belly, umbilical hernia, low back pain, and a greater propensity to have pelvic floor and pelvic organ prolapse. The lack of education around this common condition leaves many women without the resources or know-how to remedy it. The condition is worsened by many exercise movements including crunches, sit-ups, lifting without proper breath and core engagement, and poor posture. And yet, women are told to work harder, get back in the gym faster, and run off that baby weight. The guidelines for pregnant and postpartum athletes are vague at best…non-existent at worst.
“So many of the women who I coach feel like a failure if their pregnancy, birth, or recovery didn’t go as planned. That’s just not the case,” Brianna said. “Often, it comes down to the fact that training pregnant and postpartum athletes takes an understanding of the core, pelvic floor, and body mechanics that most people and coaches simply don’t have available. Most trainers just aren’t familiar with the intricacies involved in coaching this population. You can’t simply modify certain movements or use lighter weights, and expect that to be the answer. It’s not so simple.”
Brianna, a doer in every sense, delved into the world of pelvic floor and core health after her own experience, with the intent to empower women with the knowledge and awareness of moving their body safely, effectively, and with strength. She has spent the last three years on a mission to help moms move better and live better, and created a program, Strength Training and Adaptations for the Pregnant and Postpartum Athlete, to help women get back to training safely and effectively. She coaches athletes of all levels, from CrossFit Games competitors, to moms looking to simply keep up with the demands of motherhood.
Despite the fact that more than 1 in 2 women have a complication from child birth including pelvic floor issues like incontinence, stress urinary incontinence, diastasis recti, back pain, and the list goes on—women’s health isn’t at the forefront or even on the radar of most in the fitness industry. Frankly, most obstetricians don’t address or educate women on these matters, either.
Frustrated with the over-simplification of “listen to your body,” as is cued too commonly by medical and fitness professionals, Brianna became on advocate for female wellness in an industry that is all-consumed with getting skinny, instead of getting strong from the inside out.
“There is no badge of honor to keep doing what your were doing before pregnancy,” Brianna said. “You can’t out train pregnancy. It isn’t the time to prove anything. What you’ve always done is not necessarily what’s best for optimal function, strength and recovery. Listening to your body isn’t enough of a coaching cue.”
Brianna is prepping for the release of her most recent course designed to train the trainer, Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism, which will be available this May. And her course couldn’t come soon enough. Social media is not only rampant with “fake news,” as it has been coined, but also with fake fitness experts teaching fitness on the platform of simply being a “fit mom.”
“People need coaches who can critically think and apply confidently. That skill set and education is not learned via social media,” she posted on Instagram.
Brianna has connected with coaches in various fields including pelvic floor physical therapists, and postnatal fitness experts to create a top down approach to helping the female athlete.
In other exciting news, she is expecting baby number two this fall!
You can find Brianna and her courses at briannabattles.com, and on social media @brianna.battles.