Interview With a Pre- and Postnatal Trainer 🏋️♀️
Deep dive with Little News 3/19/2022
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In this deep dive, we have interviewed a pre-and postnatal trainer and a San Francisco-based mama, Sally Schoenack. Sally is a certified fitness instructor (DFAV GER) with a focus on pre-and postnatal fitness. She has a Master of Science and is also a certified barre instructor. Sally has a Youtube Channel called Fit With Sally with 13k subscribers, she gives 1-1 classes over Zoom and in San Francisco and is helping hundreds of women with her postnatal fitness program REBUILD to heal and strengthen their bodies after giving birth. More about Sally and her REBUILD program can be found on her website: https://www.fit-with-sally.com/.
Here is one of Sally’s Youtube videos. Let’s dive deep into the interview with this amazing mama.
Hi Sally! Excited to speak with you today. We love your Youtube videos here at Little News. Tell us a bit about you and your journey to fitness - how long have you been involved in fitness training? Why have you decided to focus on pregnancies and postnatal care?
I am originally from Germany and a mom to a 1.5-year old. I moved to the Bay Area in 2017. My background is in business. After college I worked for a consulting firm, then various startups, and then for the German government, where I helped German startups enter the US market.
I became a fitness instructor 8 years ago when I was in college and had a very unhealthy relationship with food. I had difficulties with my body image - something a lot of young women struggle with. I tried a lot of different diets but they didn’t work. At that time I was living in Paris which was super expensive for a student and I couldn’t afford a gym. So I did home workouts and realized how effective they are and I stopped worrying about food but focused on living healthy and feeling strong. I decided to go deeper into that, become a certified fitness instructor and help other women.
After I moved to the Bay Area, I had a day job in business, but I also started teaching classes and giving 1-1 coaching in the evening and on the weekends.
I got pregnant in 2019 and looked at what fitness options were out there for pregnant women. Unfortunately, there weren't many options. All high-intensity workouts were too intense for the pelvic floor, barre which I loved included lots of core exercises and in general, most classes included lots of core work or exercises where you lie on your belly. So I realized that I have to create my own workouts. So I specialize in pre and postnatal fitness. I decided to upload my workouts on Youtube. And it just picked up! So many pregnant ladies were looking for efficient workouts to do at home especially after the pandemic started.
Pregnancy is an exciting but also difficult time in life where a woman’s body changes and postpartum is even more difficult. So I want to help women throughout this challenging time of life.
How did exercising help you throughout your pregnancy and birth?
There are so many things that were helpful! One of the benefits is no excessive weight gain. Of course, I can’t promise this will be the case for every woman. Our bodies are different and some women have more water in their bodies than others. Fitness reduces the risk of gestational diabetes. I felt energized throughout the pregnancy, I had no sleep issues. I had a pretty difficult birth I have to say because of my child having been positioned sunny-side up but I was able to push him out on my own. I had strength for it. My postpartum recovery was fast: lots of core exercises helped me heal my diastasis recti within a few weeks after birth. My pelvic floor recovered really fast, and muscle strength got back to where I was pre-baby faster.
I know you have your own training program for postpartum women. Tell us a bit about it. How did you come up with it?
When I gave birth and then still 6 weeks postpartum I didn’t know where to start. I was exhausted, weak, and there are so many things that aren’t safe when you just gave birth.
And I never wanted to get back to a point where I’m unhappy with my body. So I knew I needed to find my way back into fitness but in a safe way that could heal my diastasis recti and strengthen my pelvic floor. So I created an 8-week online fitness program, REBUILD, that helps women get back into fitness, strengthen their pelvic floor, and work their core. It starts super gentle with the first workout that one can do even in bed and then it progresses week by week. So it is not a pelvic floor healing program but a fitness program that allows you to get back into fitness while strengthening your core and pelvic floor.
The postpartum period is very difficult for new moms. I, for example, felt completely foreign in my body. Postpartum, your belly feels like jello, you might pee yourself and might still have some extra weight from pregnancy. It is completely normal but it’s difficult to accept for many women. During that time women are prone to start a diet or start a crazy exercise program. This is very dangerous though! Postpartum is not a good time to diet.
My REBUILD program starts every month with a group of new women. They have access to weekly workouts (about 2-3 workouts/week), and we also have a WhatsApp group where we support each other and share our successes, recipes, baby stuff, etc. the program helps to strengthen the pelvic floor, heal diastasis recti and gain strength overall.
How soon after having a baby is it OK for women to start exercising?
Generally, 6 weeks after vaginal birth, 10 weeks after c-section but that doesn’t mean that you can go back to the pre-pregnancy workout routine. At that point, it’s safe to move your body but you still need to be careful with your core and pelvic floor. You can’t jump or do intense workouts. After you complete my REBUILD program you can slowly go back to your pre-baby exercise routine. Actually, I mentioned that I am from Germany. In Germany, every woman does a postpartum fitness program first. It is paid by health insurance and is part of German culture.
Do you have any tips for women wanting to stay healthy and fit during their pregnancy? What exercise routine and frequency is safe during pregnancy?
I recommend working out 2-3 times a week for ~30 minutes. I recommend doing workouts that are meant for pregnant ladies. It’s important to not do any high-intensity workouts because of the relaxin hormone in the pregnant woman's body that can increase the risk of injury. You can also do swimming, walking, bike rides - anything that is gentle. Be careful with core exercises when pregnant!
In the third trimester, I recommend adding pelvic floor exercises to prepare the pelvic floor to push the baby out. Also, don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins.
How should women prioritize exercise when they aren’t sleeping well and are taking care of a newborn?
I always recommend prioritizing sleep over exercise. Get a babysitter or ask your partner to watch the baby or do workouts with your baby: either next to you or with them. We need to accept that our workouts might look different after having a baby. We might need to stop and entertain the baby for a few minutes - it’s totally ok! My son is now 1.5 years old and he has learned to workout with me. At the beginning only 5-10 min. Now 30 min.
Do you have any tips for new moms who want their pre-baby body back after childbirth?
First, accept that the body may be different now. It’s totally normal. Don’t push yourself too hard to get your body back. Second, rest (!!!) for the first few weeks. When starting working out, do safe workouts, otherwise, it could lead to injuries. Walk walk walk with baby (with a stroller or baby carrier). I think it’s important to find a mom tribe (a group of women who is also committed to exercising) to walk or hike with. Please don’t diet - it’s not good for you or the baby in the postpartum period.
Can you tell us any myths about pregnancy or postpartum exercise?
A lot of women accept that it’s normal to pee yourself when you become a mom. It’s common but it’s not something that we should accept and live with. If you have this problem, then your body tells you that your pelvic floor needs to be strengthened.
Another popular myth is that expecting women should not start new workout activities, for example, if they didn’t exercise before the pregnancy, they shouldn’t start now. This is completely wrong. Any new activity, as long as it’s safe, is totally OK.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Sally! We hope Little News subscribers enjoyed reading your tips and will check out your workouts on Youtube.
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