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Fuel Your Strength 390 - Postpartum Athlete Needs w Brianna Battles

Postpartum Athlete Needs w/ Brianna Battles

Strength conditioning as an over-40 athlete can be challenging enough on its own, but when you add in the dimension of being a postpartum athlete on top of everything else, special attention is warranted. Bridging the gap between rehab and performance requires an undefined timeline that is unique for you but will ultimately get you back to doing the things that you want to do.

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If You Are Thinking About Your Postpartum Training Needs, You Should: 

  1. Don’t be ashamed of your postpartum symptoms by surrounding yourself with people who understand how you need to train
  2. Make little adjustments that set up your body to perform better as a unit
  3. Understand your predispositions and reverse engineer what your training looks like

Returning to the Sport You Love

Brianna Battles is the Founder of Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism and CEO of Everyday Battles LLC. She is a relentless advocate and relatable resource for women who want training during pregnancy and to make a sustainable return to performance, lifestyle, function, career, and activity postpartum because postpartum is forever!

You Are an Athlete

Many women disqualify themselves as athletes. Brianna believes that if you are consistently dedicating yourself to movement, whether you are running, doing yoga, dancing, swimming, or anything that requires physical output, you are an athlete. While you can be an athlete in all seasons of your lifetime, how you interact with your athletic ability will change over time based on your body’s needs. As a female athlete, especially if you are going through pregnancy or postpartum, you are not fragile, but you are also not invincible, and the way you train needs to reflect that.

Bridging the Gap Between Rehab and Performance

Because of the common male-dominated approach to training, birth is not given the same considerations when it comes to rehab and recovery as other events. Postpartum women are not a special or unique group of the population, and postpartum women deserve a more hands-on and substantial approach to their training.

Like in jiu-jitsu, you need to be a white belt before becoming a blue belt. The same can be said for training postpartum. While pregnancy and postpartum can act as an incredible catalyst for learning about your body, it can bring out many of your vulnerabilities. If you can give yourself patience, rest, and grace, you can learn how to work with your postpartum symptoms and get to the point that you want to be.

Are you showing yourself grace while you battle postpartum? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below. 

In This Episode

  • Examples of topics in which a changing viewpoint has been made through lived experiences (12:19)
  • Why people get hung up on what and who defines an athlete (19:00)
  • How postpartum athletes can support their bodies in a way that a lot of people miss (21:34)
  • Why your postpartum symptoms like incontinence are nothing to be ashamed about or stop you from getting back into training (27:12)
  • The importance of training with someone who understands your postpartum needs (33:00)
  • What coaches should know about training with postpartum women (35:05)

Quotes

“There are so many things about our body that changes during that season [of pregnancy and postpartum], and exercise has to adapt to meet the body where it is at.” (13:50)

“Fitness is a great baseline in general, but it is not a guarantee for anything.” (15:56)

“If you are consistently participating in fitness, you are an athlete. Its not about being a size or an ability, its honestly just an expression of dedicated physical output.” (19:35)

“Postpartum requires a rehabilitation period, a rebuilding period, and then an undefined timeline of what is that going to look like for you getting back to the things you want to do.” (23:29)

“If you can give yourself those seasons, and take it slow, take it gradually, get the support and resources that you need and not push boundaries, you are going to get what you want a hell of a lot faster than if you tried to push boundaries before your body or your brain or your lifestyle was ready for it.” (25:56)

“I think that it is a very real possibility when we are talking about women’s core and pelvic health needs across all sports. It is becoming anticipatory and being able to react where you are not able to think about it or worry about it.” (42:58)

Featured on the Show

Join Strength Nutrition Unlocked Here

Brianna Battles Website

Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coaching Certification

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Follow Pregnant Postpartum Athlete on Instagram

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Postpartum Athlete Needs w/ Brianna Battles Transcript

Steph Gaudreau
Navigating the world of strength and conditioning, as an over-40 athlete can be challenging enough on its own. But when you add in the dimension of being a postpartum athlete, on top of all of the other things that you’re going through, special attention is definitely warranted. In this podcast episode on welcoming a very special guest, who is on a mission to help support pregnant and postpartum athletes in returning to the sports that they love the most. If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard shit, the fuel your strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach Steph Gaudreau. The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery, and why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go.

Steph Gaudreau
Hey, and welcome back to the show. Thank you so much for being with me today. Before we go any further reminder to hit subscribe on your podcast app. Okay, on this episode, today, we are welcoming an amazing guest. It is Brianna Battles. She is a pregnancy and postpartum educator and coach who specializes in working with athletes and athletic populations. Today on the show, Brianna is going to be sharing how she got into this line of work and the different lessons she’s learned along the way, including the things that have changed in her long history in online business. And also we’re going to be taking a look at what are some of the more common issues that athletes experience in postpartum. And that includes both strength athlete’s conditioning, and also in the world of martial arts. She’s also going to be sharing some of the things that you can start to explore.

Steph Gaudreau
If you’re noticing changes in your body happening postpartum and how you can address those. Before we hop into the show reminder if you’re looking for guidance in your nutrition, training, and recovery as a woman over 40 because things are changing in your body and you want to learn how to work with your physiology, then go ahead and check out more about strength nutrition unlocked. This is my group program where you learn and walk through my signature framework for increasing your energy building muscle, and improving your performance in the gym and beyond. You can find out more information and book a call with the team at StephGaudreau.com/apply Alright, let’s go ahead and jump into this episode with Briana Battles. Brianna, thanks for joining me.

Brianna Battles
Thank you for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
I’m like so geeking out right now because we have kind of followed each other and know each other for many years. And this week is the first time we’ve talked actually in person. And we’re like, Ah, why are we the same person? And like, Thank God, I’m not the only one dealing with these things. And so it’s been super awesome to connect with you. And I’m just looking forward to this conversation.

Brianna Battles
I know! I love it, we are kindred spirits, my friends.

Steph Gaudreau
So let’s start off with some background. You know, we were talking about your podcast the other day and sort of talking about how we’ve been in this online space for a long time, right? Since before the term influencer even existed in this context, right? People are just like, you’re an influencer. I’m like, No, I am not an influencer. So tell me a little bit about how you got into the online space, to begin with. And then we’ll kind of go from there.

Brianna Battles
Yeah, you know, honestly, I started blogging in 2010. And it was like, it was a lot more like just about my training or work coaching, things like that. But that got me into the habit of writing and then sharing it on the internet for like, I don’t even know how many people to read probably like seven including my mom and sister. But it just felt good to share. And back then I was like really into CrossFit. I was really into like paleo, so I was sharing a lot about that because it was still kind of a new way of having a new way of fitness in a lot of ways. And so I felt like really called as a strength conditioning coach to be sharing about that. As time went on me I still like working in corporate wellness and included athletics during that time period. And then I got pregnant in 2013.

And I just sort of shifted what I was talking about a little bit more, I started sharing about that process and my training, and back then my approach was basically like, be a badass, do what you’ve always done like we are made for this kind of thing, very much kind of like a toxic approach to being a pregnant athlete. Postpartum humbled me beyond what I could even describe. And through documenting these processes, I went from like blogging to like the early days of Instagram and Facebook, I was sharing a lot of that process. And the more I was sharing, and since I had been sharing in some respect for a while, there were a lot of people that started saying, Oh, my kind of felt like that, too. Or that happened to me, too, or why didn’t anyone tell me? Or was there more information? Where can I learn more? And alongside working and being a mom and then sharing a lot of my own process? I mean, I was coaching and applying what I had been learning to a local community. And all of that just sort of snowballed over time in a really positive way to what I’m doing now.

Steph Gaudreau
I love that you said 2010. And I was like, Yes, I was there. Like, with a blog…Blogspot blog, I think at first, you know, you mentioned working with people and being in the strength and conditioning community. And you know, I’m curious, how far does your sort of athletic background go back?

Brianna Battles
Yeah, I mean, I grew up swimming and playing water polo. I started that when I was five years old. So I do not know a world where I wasn’t training for something to some degree for hours on end every day. I played through college and I coached college. And after graduating, when I was done playing water polo because I was so used to training like three to four hours a day, I was like, Well, God, in order to not get that, I have to like replace that, that time spent training was something else that will take up a lot of time. So then I got really into running, and I got really into triathlons. I got just really obsessed with like cardio culture, despite being a strength and conditioning coach, I just was like, Really, into the duration because I think I was operating from a place of fear based on what my training had looked like, for the last 15 years with like two to three hours, blocks of training a day.

Brianna Battles
But I also understood the value of strength and conditioning. So at that point in time CrossFit was on my radar, I knew it was a community where I could go and like do bike cleans, and be able to actually drop the barbell. So that was very appealing to me because I couldn’t do that at any of the corporate gyms back then. So I joined CrossFit probably in Yeah, like 2000, not 910, I don’t know summer, early on probably 2010. And did that for a while, kind of transitioned into powerlifting, a little bit of Olympic lifting. While still dabbling in some endurance stuff. And over the last decade, I’ve really kind of narrowed my training into like, just consistent strength and conditioning, nothing super fancy, like I just want to be strong.

Brianna Battles
And I want to be especially now, as like, my athletic maturity has improved over time. I just want to be a really versatile athlete. I don’t want to look like a crossfitter or like, be a runner, or like have an identity attached to how I train, I just want to train. And I started doing jujitsu a couple of years ago. And that’s been a really awesome addition to my overall mental and physical fitness. I’m a blue belt life right now.

Steph Gaudreau
Keep going, keep going. It’ll get better.

Brianna Battles
Yeah. And you know, like it’s been, it’s been really, really positive for me to do something that is new. And that is so incredibly different from anything else that I’ve ever physically done, and certainly not how my brain operates. So every day I go, and I feel like it’s a different kind of challenge that feels better and different than what my training has looked like my entire life. So it’s new and it’s nice that in my mid-30s, I’m able to explore an avenue of athleticism and almost like mental fitness that I didn’t even consider in our prior life of fitness.

Steph Gaudreau
I love that I hear so many parallels to your story in mine I didn’t play sports at the collegiate level and I think that’s a huge difference in a lot of people do come out of that collegiate sports experience. It’s especially feeling like are kind of lost, you know, in terms of how they’re able to take what they did in high school oftentimes transitioning into a collegiate setting, but then there’s nothing. So I feel like a lot of people have struggled with that. I mean, I don’t think many people in their 20s are listening to this show. But it is something that a lot of my community talks about if they had that prior experience, just kind of struggling or and feeling like what do I do now? Who am I as an athlete? Now? Who am I as an athletic person? Now? How do I define that? What does that look like? So I appreciate your story.

Brianna Battles
People almost like a spiral and go to extremes, as they would either go on a sort of like me and be like really obsessive about their exercise and dieting, where it’s like, it’s a really, truly bordering like, like eating disorder and exercise disorder land, or the other extreme of like, I don’t know what to do, I’m not sure who I am. And then there might be a lot of weight gain or inactivity. And it’s like just this like these extremes on either end because there’s not a whole lot of support for when you’ve been training for 20 years of your life.

Brianna Battles
And now it’s like, well, that’s over that, like, now what? And how do you work out in a way that is sustainable, and not like, just for your sport, there’s not a lot of like education around that, unless you were able to kind of collect info from like your strength conditioning coaches, early on? But still, I think that there’s desire, a desire to burn the same amount of calories is like a common thought process, or, you know, like the duration of training like, well, it has to, if it’s under three hours, it’s not good enough. But that’s crazy, and it’s not sustainable for like being a normal human.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. 100% mentioned, then we sort of talked about this on your show, too. But we’ve been chatting back and forth about just evolving and changing and in what we’re doing business-wise, and some of the things that we’ve looked back at, and now we’re like, Ah, I don’t, I don’t agree with that anymore. Or, you know, maybe I wish I hadn’t said that, or my stance has really changed. Can you pick out one or two things where your viewpoint has really changed a lot since your earlier days of blogging or being in the gym to now?

Brianna Battles
Yeah, I think like, honestly, I’ve created a business based on shit, I don’t agree with what I said prior. It’s almost like I my business now is based on like, so yeah, like, don’t listen to what I said, then. And here’s actually what I have learned through this process and how I think is really a strategic way to go about it. So again, when I was pregnant, my first time, nine years ago, there was not a lot of information out there, especially for female athletes. Like as in zero, we had a lot of generalizations from the medical and fitness communities of either like a free for all of do what you’ve always done, or it was, like super conservative, like, just walk, do yoga, like, ooh, don’t lift over 20 pounds. And like, neither of those things really resonated, right?

Brianna Battles
Like, well, I guess what resonated more was the do what you’ve always done, you’re fit you were made for this, etc. And so I like really fell into that line of thinking of like, be a badass, and like, really, like, push some boundaries. And I thought that like, I could do it. So, therefore, that was kind of like it was okay, it wasn’t a red flag. What I didn’t know at that point in time, and what was not very accessible was like, how that influences our changing physiology through pregnancy and postpartum. There are so many things about our body, that changes during those seasons. And exercise has to adapt to meet the body where it’s at. But when you are driven by your own ego, and own insecurities, and your previous like routine, and then there’s this fear of like losing your ability, like it’s just so attached to your identity, especially for female athletes, there was no conversation about this back then.

Brianna Battles
And it was through my own like kind of face planting and having to reassess what I had done, the information is shared and given out so freely, and then being humbled by all of it and say, so actually, like that’s not, that’s not the approach I would recommend taking and here’s why. And then honestly having to be in the trenches personally and then with people that I was coaching, to figure out, what’s a better way of going about this? What do we actually need to know and then what do we actually need to do about it? What’s within our control? What’s outside of our control? How can we connect the dots between our like anatomy and physiological needs, and the core and pelvic health and long-term athletic performance and those considerations were not being combined in any capacity until, you know, I started really getting into the space and creating a lot of curriculum around it.

Steph Gaudreau
You said earlier you were sort of humbled by the postpartum,, what were a couple of the things that you sort of experienced that you didn’t expect? And in what way did it sort of, I guess, affect you and cause you to sort of rethink things?

Brianna Battles
I think a lot of the messaging back then especially in like, the CrossFit, Paleo world was like, just do everything naturally and, like the. So I really wanted to have a natural birth, and I wanted it so no, like medication. And like, fast forward, I had a super traumatic emergency C-section and then felt like, what did I do wrong and almost like embarrassed because I had said, This is what I wanted. And I thought that all of my training and my fitness level supported that outcome. But really, like, there are so many things that influence birth, and it has nothing to do with like how fit you are fitness is a great baseline in general. But it’s not a guarantee for anything, anything. So I think there was like a lot of dogmatic information around training during pregnancy.

Brianna Battles
What that would mean for like, your delivery or your like, bounce back postpartum? And because I felt like I was, like I got the wind knocked out of me, essentially, through delivery, and like breastfeeding was hard. But that was supposed to be natural. And then, like, my baby was hard. And like God, I thought it was supposed to be like really attached and bonded, and I just felt like I had been hit by a truck. So and it didn’t frickin matter that I was fit, I still felt like just so demolished. And then I had a really significant diastasis, which is the separation of the left and right sides of the abdominal wall, that tissue of my midline was so stretched out and thin. And I’m not talking like people freak out and think that like a couple of fingers separation is really bad. I had like two hands worth like eight-ish centimeters of separation, I but I didn’t understand what that was. It was not trending.

Brianna Battles
At the time, there wasn’t a lot of information I just knew, like had my abs just like, they’re not supposed to feel like this. This is not and what the hell am I feeling? And so even trying to like Google that it was so hard to understand my body at that point in time, because again, this is only nine years ago, that information was not front and center like it is now it was honestly nowhere to be found. And then the things that you would find, I was like, Okay, I’m not going to frickin like, lay there and push my abstract to get it. That is not how this works. And I know that I knew enough to know like, that’s not how, like rehabilitation or performance, getting stronger works.

Brianna Battles
Like we don’t just push muscles together or tape them back together or bind them. That’s not how this works. And so it was through like this frustration, and the being caught off guard. And then they just like the humility of that season that really just sort of forced me to say like, if I’m feeling like this, there’s a lot of people that are rocked and feeling like why didn’t anyone tell me? What could I do next time to have a different experience? And I wanted to be able to have really solid answers around that. I knew that my background and my interest and my lifestyle supported me. It supported me and becoming that person for other people. I just didn’t realize to what capacity.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, thanks so much for sharing all that and being transparent. And I think it’s very powerful to sort of look back at the things that we used to think and how we would do things differently now. And I know that for both of us, personally, it’s sort of influenced not just our own trajectory with things as an athlete, but how we choose to do things now and what we’re educating on, you know, you’ve used the term athlete a lot, and you talked about pregnancy and postpartum athletes. And I find that this is a word that really gets people hung up on what is an athlete who is an athlete, what defines you as an athlete, you know, can you sort of give us your own take on that so we can sort of go forward and have the rest of this conversation?

Brianna Battles
Yeah, I actually wrote a definition down the other day, because I was getting like, well, is this like, right for me if I’m not like an athlete? So one of what I try to say is that an athlete is anybody pursuing fitness across a spectrum of interest, accountability, whether it’s dance, CrossFit, powerlifting, running, whatever, like your interest, and then your own given ability, which is not mine, or even what yours was 10 years ago. And then if you are consistently participating in fitness, you’re an athlete. It’s not about being a size or an ability. It’s honestly just like an expression of dedicated physical output.

Brianna Battles
That’s what it is. So like, you are an athlete and you coach athletes, we just have a really skewed understanding of what that means it is an athlete doesn’t end at 22 Like you’re an athlete, in your 30s you’re an athlete, when you become a mother, you’re an athlete and perimenopause, menopause and beyond like you can be an athlete during all seasons. of your lifetime. What that looks like, is the thing that will change, not the definition.

Steph Gaudreau
Hmm. I love that definition. Thanks for sharing it. I feel like and I run into this a lot where, again, people have preconceived notions about who is an athlete, what does an athlete do, and what level of proficiency in that sport is a particular person to be considered an athlete do you have to compete to be considered an athlete, and therefore, the presumptions that we have in our mind about who is an athlete can really make the difference between the different things we would do to support, for example, our training or if we’re now postpartum, versus not?

Steph Gaudreau
So a lot of times people will disqualify themselves from even thinking about themselves as an athlete, and therefore, they’re, they’re not even going to seek out or look for or think, oh, that doesn’t apply to me. So when we’re talking about postpartum specifically, I think this really applies to a lot of listeners of this show. Because they tend to be more 40s. And over not that you can’t be a pregnant person in your 40s. Of course, you can. But can you talk for a little bit about postpartum athletes? And what you see are, I guess, some of the broad brushstrokes of like, supporting their bodies, that is something that a lot of people aren’t maybe exploring or doing currently.

Brianna Battles
Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of people just need their permission to call themselves athletes. And it’s like, you’re coming across it three days a week, or like you’re running and doing like half marathons a couple of times a year like that. There’s an element there where I think people just need that, like the permission to say like, you’re included in that too. And then when you are a postpartum athlete, I think that especially if you’re somebody who like yes, they take ownership of that, like of that identity or definition, I think that there tend to be high expectations that we put on ourselves to look a certain way, perform a certain way and do it on a certain timeline, whether it’s comparing it to previous pregnancies or postpartum periods, or comparing to somebody else in the gym, or just honestly, like navigating your own expectations of I was fit before. And I did all these things.

Brianna Battles
Therefore, this is what my situation should be postpartum. But there are a lot of different variables that influence that postpartum return to performance. And I think that a lot of times, we are blindsided by some of those considerations, because we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, just sort of are used to being able to push through. And like this isn’t really a problem, or this doesn’t apply to me like that’s a huge one with postpartum athletes is they think that a lot of a lot of this information does not apply to them that they’re almost exempt. And so one thing I like to say is that you are not fragile, and you are not invincible. So it’s like both. And we have to like, figure out what that gray area looks like for every single person. So I think what has been overlooked in our culture, in general, is that postpartum requires a rehabilitation period, a rebuilding period, and then a, an undefined timeline of what that’s going to look like, for you getting back to the things that you want to do, whether it’s the sport you want to do, or the intensity that you want to do, or the movements that you want to do, all of that looks different, and there’s no like, Okay, six weeks, you’re cleared and you’re good to go run your 5k.

Brianna Battles
That’s not how it works, like birth is a significant physiological event that does require rehab, no matter how the baby comes out, whether your birth was super, like easy and uncomplicated, and like whatever that means, or if it was really traumatic, both C section or vaginal birth, require rehabilitation. And I think What’s hard is, we see in other communities like if I tore my ACL, or had like some kind of knee or back injury, there would be some protocol for a right. This is what we need to do to recover or to improve on its sort of over this time span is nuanced, and nuanced time span. But like if you just had knee surgery, you’re not going to go load up the barbell with 300 pounds, and you’re not going to go on a 5k run, because that’s too much impact too much wear and tear and too much potential for re-injury to the knee. Right. And like we can logic through that in the fitness community in the practitioner community. And frankly, even just the general population knows like, yeah, if I like busted my knee or just had surgery, I’m probably not ready to do that yet.

Brianna Battles
But birth for some reason has become quite an exception to those rules or to those considerations that way. If thinking and I think that if we have postpartum athletes that are really good at the understanding process, like before you are snatching a lot of weight, you better frickin know how to do it with a PVC pipe, we get that, like you got to be a white belt before you can be a blue belt, we get that, like we understand that. And again, we dismiss that when it comes to postpartum. So we have to give credit where their credit is honestly needed, your body has been through a lot, it has been totally different for the past year. And it’s going to require time and intention. And just honestly, like a lot of patience and grace, to get to where you want to be. And if you can give yourself those seasons and take it slow, take it gradually get the support and resources you need not push boundaries, you’re going to get what you want a hell of a lot faster than you would if you tried to push boundaries before your body or your brain or your lifestyle was ready for it. And that is my sermon.

Steph Gaudreau
I was like, yes. And Mic drop. Absolutely. So one of the issues or common things that Ben again, sort of thing about strength training. But this happens in many different contexts. One of the things I hear a lot is people who have our postpartum for some indeterminate amount of time, whether it’s recently or it’s 10 years ago, or who knows, 20 years ago, and a lot of times women are in the gym, and they want to lift heavy, or they’re like, oh, double unders our programs today in the workout, I think I’m going to conveniently excuse myself from them, not because it’s not something I can you know, something I can do. It’s something I’d like to do, but because I fear that I’m going to, you know, pee myself or pee on the platform if I’m pulling a heavy lift. And I hear this so often.

Steph Gaudreau
And I’m always like, I know this is common, I noticed this happening. This isn’t something to be ashamed of. But also it’s not. Like, please don’t let this stop you. So can we talk a little bit about that? Because I feel like every time it comes up on the show, there are a lot of surprised responses or surprise reactions to this topic. So go ahead and maybe give us your thoughts on that.

Brianna Battles
Yeah, I mean, of course, I have lots of thoughts on this. I think that over the last, let’s say like 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen more women pursuing barbell sports, right? We’ve seen them training at a higher level of intensity, where they’re finishing marathons. And like maybe they are like they’re shitting themselves during the marathon. And like we see that like we see fecal incontinence, we see women who have, who experienced incontinence when they’re doing double unders, and it’s almost an either made into a joke, or if they’re peeing on a platform. And that just means really freaking trying hard and like good for them. And there’s applause and while like, no one should be shamed, ever, for experiencing any form of incontinence, especially on any like stage, right, the marathon, the platform in class or in a competition, no one should be made to feel bad about that, I think what we do need to understand is, it’s not just funny, and it’s not just a sign of like, Oh, they’re trying hard, like, yeah, their pelvic floor has reached capacity.

Brianna Battles
And that is why they are symptomatic. So there’s help and it doesn’t have to hinder your performance. And what you’re doing, like the help should actually complement what you’re doing in the gym, it’s going about it a different way. That doesn’t mean like, oh, I have to stop going across it, or I have to stop lifting heavy and just do these like lame exercises. That’s not what it means. What my work is focused on is troubleshooting from the outside in, I am a coach, but I’m not a pelvic floor, physical therapist, pelvic floor, physical therapy therapists can absolutely give us more context on what’s actually happening. A lot of the time female athletes have what we call a hypertonic pelvic floor. So that means their public was really tight, they don’t know how to chill, they’re relaxed. Do any of us like honestly, you know, like, it’s so hard, we hold a lot of tension in our bodies and our abs. Like, and if we’re stuck in our stomach, which all of us have been doing for the last, like, however, many years, 30 years of her life less than our pelvic floor automatically holds a lot of tension.

Brianna Battles
And if we’re talking about female athletes that are double entering with their shirts off, it’s not like they’re just letting their belly like, just to you know, like, there’s tension that they’re creating intention is not a bad thing. But we’re adding tension on top of tension. And that’s where we typically see a breakdown of pressure management. So we can manipulate some of the pressure management with how we breathe, and some of our positional considerations, and then learn how to better distribute where we’re holding the tension. Because again, pressure like IAP when we’re lifting it’s not a bad thing. It’s absolutely needed. So where we’re sending that pressure to, like that’s what we can manipulate a lot. have athletes who pee on the platform, do so because they’re holding their breath, they are likely people that are bearing down into their pelvic floor kind of setting the barbell into their back. If they’re squatting, for example, and they pee as they’re coming out of the bottom of the squat, we see that very commonly.

Brianna Battles
And again, that’s because the breath hold, they’re pressuring that breath hold down into the pelvic floor, they likely have a weight belt on so then that really constriction constricts the diaphragm, pelvic floor ta relationship. And then obviously, they’re under tremendous load, and Something’s gotta give. And sometimes it’s the pelvic floor in that capacity, and incontinence and prolapse can sometimes go hand in hand. So then they’ll also feel pain or pressure. Like, it’s like, they basically don’t have the support that they need from the base of their core, which is their pelvic floor. Same with double unders, for example, we see a lot of people who, when they get tired, what happens, their form breaks down, because that’s what happens in all movement when we get tired, and there’s a form breakdown. And so a lot of times, we’ll see them sort of squeeze their butt thinking that’s going to help them stop peeing. But again, that’s adding tension on top of tension.

Brianna Battles
And that’s gonna give eventually, it might give it rep 20. Or it might give it rep 400. But that’s where we typically see a breakdown in both mechanics and function. So there’s a lot of things we can do like positional adjustments, breathing adjustments, and redistributing that tension, that can make a tremendous difference. Or we can scale back the actual movement, just like we know how to do with like, any other kind of coaching consideration, we can scale back the movement, and then build our capacity to be able to withhold that demand to be able to squat heavy, without having to, like have that same strategy that we’ve always used, like, let’s learn a new strategy, and then go from there.

Steph Gaudreau
Hmm. So important. I remember, it was a little while ago at this point, but you had a post, about squeezing, squeezing your butt really hard. And you just mentioned it here. But I think it was in the context of maybe squatting or something like at the top of a squat, or at the top of a lift, or we’re sort of trying to get reset, and there were a lot of really, I guess I’ll say, confused, slash upset comments, in that, in that post, where it was sort of like, but what like, we, like we should stay tight. And so you know, contextualizing it, I think, like you were saying, is, is so very important. And, you know, because the thing that we’re told so much is like we just have to be tight and have tension and generate tension. But I think what I hear you saying is, sometimes it has to that has to go other places, it has to be learned how to be managed. And, you know, is that something you can teach yourself? Or is that something that you really think folks should be learning from somebody who specializes in it?

Brianna Battles
Well, I think ideally, I created a certification program for coaches to understand how to coach some of these mechanics because oftentimes it is pregnancy and postpartum that exposes some of these, like kinks in the chain. So to speak about the right expression. I’m so bad with expressions. But like, that’s like kind of the thing like pregnancy and postpartum can act as an incredible catalyst for really learning about your body. And it can bring out a lot of our vulnerabilities. And like, what worked prior maybe isn’t working out why because like, the structure of our body has changed. It’s just that and it’s a very normal part of the experience.

Brianna Battles
And with those changes, we have to accommodate that. But yeah, as we can, if I tell you, like okay, I want you to try to tie in your exhale here, or like lessen the tension like we don’t need to be over like engaging glutes at the top, or we don’t have to do this huge breath hold into the midline, or we don’t have to like, like, sit down into the pelvic floor. We don’t have to do those things. Like we can still perform without a lot of these like little weird tendencies that we’ve added over time. Like I don’t know, I see this all the time in gyms, but like, when someone’s squatting, sometimes they’ll kind of like push their hips forward and then sit back into the squat.

Brianna Battles
Like is that aided like now, so we can make little adjustments here and there that almost like setup our body to perform as a unit better? And it doesn’t have to be these dramatic or like lame and boring exercises it just doesn’t make can be very simple adjustments in our mechanics that have an excellent functional carryover, where we get to that core system to work with us for that specific movement instead of breaking down at some point in it.

Steph Gaudreau
What are some of the other things you’d like coaches to consider? I guess they had broad brushstrokes because you have a whole certification on this, but what are some of the things that I guess maybe you see coaches are reluctant to do or are sort of miss applying and what do you wish they would do differently?

Brianna Battles
Oh, it’s like a whole episode. But I think to start with, it’s acknowledging that like, this is not a special population, that if you’re coaching CrossFit, or if you work with powerlifters, or you are involved in the mixed martial arts community event, you know, like combat sports, like you’re going to have people that experienced pregnancy and postpartum in your class. So just like you know how to make some adjustments for that ACL or that back pain, and you can understand like movements and considerations that are maybe good, or maybe they’re not ready for yet, like, we have to have that same basic level of understanding for pregnant clients, and when they are returning to the gym, or the mat or the whatever, like postpartum, like, I think that is, it’s taking ownership of acknowledging and this is our special population. In fact, this is and will continue to make up the large majority of our clientele across the board. So I think that’s number one.

Brianna Battles
And number two, I think it’s just, it’s how we communicate to them. Because I think there’s these like, there’s a lot of generalization surrounding pregnancy and postpartum fitness. And I think that it’s like, we’ll just do what you’ve always done. And like we’re kind of like more hands off versus hands on. Like, they’ll just listen to your body, instead of being able to give practical advice that they can implement. Now, it’s understanding what their predispositions are incontinence, diastasis, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain, it’s getting an idea of what they want to do postpartum so that we can reverse engineer what their training during pregnancy looks like, how they are planning to rebuild that postpartum. And just be more involved. I think coaches get really hands-off during these seasons.

Brianna Battles
But in fact, these are the seasons where we can get hands-on and set them up. Unfortunately, when we keep it superficial like, Oh, you’re so fit, you’re gonna bounce back so fast, or look at you, you’re already back in the gym. That’s so amazing. Like, I think we can provide a lot more substantial conversation and messaging and advice for our clientele..

Steph Gaudreau
We don’t talk a lot about ju-jitsu on this podcast. But I know there’s something that you and I both do. And you were talking earlier about being a blue belt. And I was for people who don’t understand I was sort of trying to be funny because the blue belt is often considered probably one of the hardest belts as the second belt in jujitsu. And it’s just a long haul there you’re learning a lot. So that’s where that was going. But with regard to combat loses combat sports, we’re talking about mixed martial arts boy tie, like some of those, and also things like BJJ.

Steph Gaudreau
Where do you see that some of the postpartum challenges specifically show up? So we talked about lifting or being on the platform? We talked about double unders or jumping box jumps, those sorts of things. But where are you seeing some of these issues coming out with postpartum athletes and things like combat sports, or mixed martial arts BJJ, that sort of thing?

Brianna Battles
Ooh, this conversation lights me up. I love it. I was working with the fighter for the last almost two years now. And it’s been cool because I was able to coach her through her pregnancy and then returned to the Octagon postpartum process, right? And so we were like, we’re good, we’re good. No symptoms, this is awesome. The second we turned the corner of like, upping the intensity, or up being almost just like situational. That’s when we started seeing some incontinence. So for example, we will see that a lot and like, sprawls during a takedown if they’re trying to avoid the takedown and sprawling back.

Brianna Battles
Like we’ll see that why because like their legs kind of have to like to open up into that sprawl position, we’re widening the base of the pelvic floor. And we’re adding impact, right, like they’re absorbing that hit. And so much about mixed martial arts and any kind of combat sports, in general, is reactionary and anticipatory. And that’s really hard. That’s why we can’t simply you’re gonna breathe like this or just move like this, as we can with, with barbells, for example, like it’s really we’re having to train the brain to send the right signals to the rest of the body to respond to be able to absorb that force. And to be able to create that kind of momentum and effort, we will see that a lot like during any kind of like, break fall, same kind of reason because it’s absorbing that force.

Brianna Battles
During certain takedowns, I know, I can’t even remember what it was called, but it’s like the high crotch takedown, which was really fun. I got to drill that with her and she just like, basically like went between my legs, but she may go up into like triple extension ascent, essentially. And that squeezed glutes, squeeze but position and then add in the rotation to it like that could cause incontinence, when you’re trying to go for like different sweeps, where you’re having to bridge and then be really explosive, to get somebody really heavy off of you. That’s where we see people experiencing continents, and frankly, even in warmups when they do doing jumping jacks like that can be part of it too. When you’re in Mount and you’re striking like that can be a lot too, because again, you have a wide base, you’re trying to really create a lot of tension to hold that base.

Brianna Battles
But then in like MMA, for example, you’re also striking, so we’re adding these rotational components, and it’s really easy to like, bear down or send pressure down. And we can see people experience incontinence or pressure in those positions that can be really aggravating to the pelvic floor. And again, this conversation is not explored at all, because one, a lot of women, like, we know that there’s a lot of women involved in these sports, but overall, this is still a very male-dominated combat sports world. It just is. So then to like, bring in the talk of like pelvic health, and any woman in that world doesn’t want to be treated special or different, either, right?

Brianna Battles
Like we don’t want to be like, we want to be able to hang out and not be like, treated super differently a lot of the time. So I think it’s acknowledging like, Well, okay, I do have different anatomy and different needs. And if I’m symptomatic during these things, there are things that I can do to create less symptoms, so that I’m not paranoid about paying. And instead, I can just be focused on not being afraid of the takedown. Right, like I know what to do, I can trust my body to respond. And that was sort of the thing we worked on most with Miranda was like, We need to get you to a point where you can trust your body to respond and not be paranoid that you’re going to pee during takedown or pee when you are striking in this position.

Brianna Battles
And so honestly, it was just a lot of mechanical changes. And again, just manipulating where she was generating a lot of that tension and force from, and that made a really huge difference. And if you dial that in enough, you create that, like, your brain knows what to do. It’s like what’s so beautiful about combat sports is it’s, it is open-ended like you learn to react like you are dogs.

Steph Gaudreau
And we love being visited by our furry friends.

Brianna Battles
Just the dog, it’s not my kids, it’s my dog interrupting. Like, I think the beautiful thing about combat sports is it is so reactive it is so like, at the moment that you do, eventually, certain things just come naturally to you. You’re not totally having to like logic through everything. Like I love what I’m like, Oh, I just knew how to do that. Like, again, blue belt life is running. Oh, wait, that just happened and knew what to do finally like to be, but like when something just sort of clicks and it falls into place, we’re building that automaticity because we’ve trained it over and over, we’ve seen it we’ve been exposed to it more and more and more.

Brianna Battles
And that’s the beautiful thing about different combat sports. And I think that that is a very real possibility, when we’re talking about women’s core and pelvic health needs, across all sports is become anticipatory, and be able to like React, or they’re not having to think about that or worry about that they can do their muscle ups or they can do their striking or they can do their heavy lifts, where they’re not paranoid about like their vagina working for them or not.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, 100%. And, you know, coming from the world of barbell sports into BJJ, in 2017, was just when I started, I was humbled by the amount of isometric strength that I sort of didn’t have, even though I was coming in already with an incredible base of strength. So I feel like that’s an extra added sort of dimension to all of this like, so much of at least BJJ. I can’t speak for striking sports necessarily, but we are holding, yeah, quite often, you know, ever requiring so much isometric strength. And that seems like it will add an element or dimension to all this as well.

Brianna Battles
Absolutely. And like we think about something like a neon belly, right? If somebody has their knee on your belly, like quite literally, that you’re going to have to generate a lot of tension or there’s going to sink in, and then you really, really feel like you’re getting destroyed. So that was a huge thing of having to drill with different, like different postpartum BJJ, or combat sports athletes was like learning how to absorb that kind of force and create an amount of tension that will work for that moment, but also like where you’re not just like sending all this pressure down.

Brianna Battles
And then that’s maybe irritating prolapse symptoms. Or, like if that midline tissue is still weak after having a baby that’s really gonna frickin suck, like if there’s not like abdominal muscles to help absorb that force if the midline is wider, and that tissue is still really weakened. So there’s a lot we’re gonna have to do with learning how to create the appropriate amount of tension for the exercise or the scenario that comes up.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m excited that you’re offering everything that you are and you’re having these discussions for athletes specifically. I think it’s really really important, and especially in sports or pursuits like MMA, or other, you know, other martial arts or BJJ, where, you know, we know women aren’t necessarily the majority, but we’re still making up a really amazing component in contention of the sport. And these conversations really need to be had. So it’s great that people now have all the resources that you provide, and I can go and learn from you. So tell us where folks can follow where they can learn more, whether they’re an athlete or a coach, and sort of what you have going on?

Brianna Battles
Yeah, well, you can follow me on Instagram my handle there is Brianna.Battles. The brand page is at go.pregnancyandpostpartumathleticism.com. And that’s where we have all very specific contents for being a pregnant postpartum athlete or a coach who works with that population. And I have fitness programs, I have the pregnant athlete training program, just a well-rounded strength conditioning program for pregnancy that kind of does all of the thinking and adjustments for you. And then I have the eight-week postpartum athlete training program, which really acts as that bridge from getting cleared to returning to maybe your more normal kind of performance.

Brianna Battles
It’s open over an eight-week period, just bridge that gap between rehab and strength conditioning for well-rounded, recovery, strength, and performance. And then my like signature program is a certification program that I created for coaches and practitioners. It’s called pregnancy and postpartum athleticism. And we have coaches all over the world that are certified who’ve gone through this program and are honestly changing the game for pregnant postpartum athletes in their online and local communities.

Brianna Battles
So it’s been really incredible to see how that’s grown and, and created so much change for communities that have like all different kinds of fitness. It’s not just barbell stuff, it’s being able to apply it again to dance, to yoga, to group fitness, to CrossFit to powerlifting to jujitsu, like we really have coaches that have the very diverse skill set, and practitioners that are out there really helping bridge the gap between rehab and performance.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s amazing, we’re gonna make sure we link all that up in the show notes, of course. And it’s just been so lovely to connect with you again, and to have you on the show, finally, and help spread the word about your mission and everything that you’re doing in the world. Thank you so much for being here.

Brianna Battles
Thanks so much for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
There you go. That’s a wrap on this episode with Brianna Battles. Thank you so much for being with us today. And remember to get the show notes, including the links that Brianna mentions in the show, please visit StephGaudreau.com. Share this episode out and tag us on Instagram Stories. We’d love to see what resonated with you. Make sure you hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. Thank you so much for being with me today. And until next time, stay strong.

 

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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