I‘LL NEVER BE PREGNANT. I don’t pretend to understand the complexity of emotions that occurs after a female gives birth. While times are rightly changing, the majority of personal trainers are still male and clients are still female. That’s why I, as a male, decided to write this article.
It’s important for all coaches to understand how to speak to and train a new Mom. Any trainer in the industry for more than a couple years will have a client who gives birth. From a business standpoint, showing an expertise in post pregnancy workout instruction will make you indispensable.
The first and most important point to never forget is that postnatal bodies are beautiful and powerful. They’re not flawed or broken. As new Mom training expert Jessie Mundell says:
“I can’t remember the last time I talked to a postnatal client about getting her body back, because that’s irrelevant. This body is new; it’s different; it’s incredible; and it has grown life. What is more womanly than that?”
Apart from being potentially dangerous and almost always irresponsible, poorly trained instructors often reinforce negative self-talk like, “I need to get my abs back” or “I want to fit into my pre-baby jeans.”
Programs like Mom running groups, “strollercise,” or even every run-of-the-mill personal trainer who doesn’t take the time to learn how to properly work with new moms can easily fall into this trap.
Your main job is to help your client heal, recover, and get back to being strong in the gym while feeling sexy outside of it.
Consider where she’s coming from:
Whether it’s her first pregnancy or not, she’s just undergone a transformational experience. She has a new life, and a new body. It’s likely that she’s carrying more unwelcome extra weight and has stretched skin across her abdomen.
At a time of her life highlighted with puke and changing diapers, a new Mom often puts herself last. You’re the one who’s going to put her first.
The minute that a new Mom walks in the door, tell her that she looks fantastic. Do this every time you see her, even if she’s sleep deprived, hasn’t showered for days, is covered in baby puke, and couldn’t find anything to wear because nothing fits anymore.
Look for ways to make her life easier outside of the workout. On her first day back in the gym ask her how she takes her coffee and have one ready for her when she comes into the gym every workout. Also have a towel ready and a bottle of water.
You’ll want to encourage your client to adopt a mindset of self-love and compassion. Show empathy and learn to listen without feeling like you need to give advice. If she comes in and needs to vent, that’s fine. Go into an office and close the door behind you.
Be a great listener and when she’s done talking, simply thank her for sharing, give her a high five, smile, and ask if she’s ready to leave this in the office and get on with the workout. Leave the office and close the door behind you. You’re not a therapist. Don’t feel like you need to offer sage wisdom. Learn to listen.
Finally, instill confidence by having an open dialogue about what’s going on and recognizing signals when they appear. For example, if a new Mom says or does any of the following 5 things while training it could be a sign of a bigger problem:
1) “It feels like there’s a weird heaviness in pelvis.”
2) “I have to pee all the time, but barely anything comes out.” Or, “I feel like I always have to pee, even if I’ve just gone to the bathroom.”
3) Always uses the bathroom before workout and uses the bathroom during the workout.
4) New client (no matter how long postpartum) tells you she can’t or doesn’t like any exercises that involve jumping, running, etc.
5) “My body definitely hasn’t felt the same since having my kids, and that was almost 20 years ago.”
All the above statements could be a hint that there’s core and floor dysfunction. Take it seriously as it generally requires more work on retraining the core and floor to work synergistically or could be a sign of something more serious like pelvic organ prolapse (when the abdominal and/or pelvic organs begin to fall down and out of place, with their eventual descent out of the vagina or anus).
Take Charge of the Situation and Start Potentially Awkward Conversations
Instill confidence by showing that you’re not afraid to speak about what might be going on. The best thing to do for potentially awkward conversations is to take charge. Start the conversation and most of the time they’ll open up to you about what they’re experiencing. You should say the real names of body parts openly and don’t use slang.
Here are a couple examples of conversations that you should be having courtesy of Jessie Mundell.
1) Trainer: “How does your bladder seem to be working since pregnancy?”
Client: “Ok, but not quite the same as it used too.”
Trainer: “That’s really common. Pretty much every woman who has had a baby tells me that’s what it feels like. The best thing to do is to book an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They can assess you and help your core rehab, just like how you’d see physio for any other injury you had. I’ll give you the name of the physio who I trust and who I send all my other female clients to.”
2) Trainer: “Does that exercise feel ok?”
Client: “Yeah…I think so.”
Trainer: “Any pressure on your bladder or anywhere else in the pelvis?”
Client: “To be honest, it feels a little bit I might leak when I step down.”
Trainer: “Ok, that’s really good to know. Definitely tell me if you ever feel anything like that, at all. Remember, that’s really common but not a normal sensation. We need to back off on that exercise for a bit while we continue to retrain the core and pelvic floor to fire on cue again. The impact of those exercises are could be putting too much pressure onto your pelvic floor muscles and not supporting your organs or pelvis.”
3) Client: “I feel like I can’t hold my stomach in during that exercise.”
Trainer: “Thanks for letting me know that. Let’s get you out of that position and into this one (demo…). Tell me if that feels the same, or if you can feel the abdominals working and your belly feeling more supported.”
4) Trainer: “How are you feeling today?”
Client: “I’m feeling ok. We had a rough night, though. Baby was up every hour and then my oldest was a terror this morning trying to get ready for school. So I’m feeling pretty drained.
Trainer: “Oh, wow. That sounds really tough. Good for you for even getting here today. Let’s see what we can do today and move with the intention of just feeling better and getting your energy up.”
5) Client: “I really want to do more ab work. I don’t think we’re doing enough and I really want to lose this belly.”
Trainer: “I promise you we’re doing more than enough. Every exercise we’re doing is working the abdominals, just a bit differently than you might be used to. We need to heal the diastasis (what is diastasis recti?) and pelvic floor first, so we don’t cause any serious long-term issues. In our exercises, we’re training your stomach to be flat, whereas in crunches or sit-ups we would be causing your stomach to bulge out. We just need to stick to the plan, be patient with the progress, and it’ll all come together.”
Post Natal Fitness is a Fantastic Niche
Mom’s make for sensational clients. They’re committed, they see the value in proper training, they’re emotionally invested, and new Moms know other new Moms — and they talk. Do a great job and you’ll be a superstar with an endless flow of referrals.
Not only that, the population is under-served. Increasingly Moms have had bad experiences with poorly trained post pregnancy workout “experts” doing things that have serious long-term repercussions like making a diastasis worse, incontinence, or constant nagging low back pain.
From a business perspective become adept and confident in post pregnancy workout plans encapsulating all areas from instilling confidence, showing empathy, and programming appropriately is a great way to make selling personal training easy. And when you help a woman feel strong in the gym and sexy outside of it after she’s had a baby, you become an indispensable part of her life.
If this feels like a major dose of responsibility, it should. Getting a woman to a place where she feels empowered, sexy, confident, like herself, and just generally more normal is a process and a rewarding journey to be a part of.