#MomFitHero - Gina Paulhus
Dedication to Healing
Gina Paulhus is passionate about helping others fit their fitness goals into their daily life. In fact, she runs an in-home personal training company where she goes to her clients’ homes and sets them up with workout plans to fit their lifestyle and goals. She manages a team of trainers who work for her doing the same thing! In addition, she is a two-time author and has created the world's first all-adult gymnastics camp that happens twice per year. The camp was born out of her own passion for gymnastics that began when she competed as a child and then later as an adult gymnast well into her 30s! She loves being able to pass along that experience to others, to help them achieve their passions, and to spend more time with people who are equally passionate about gymnastics. She and her husband of 14 years also have a home-based herbal tea business together. But for Gina, pursuing her passions also came with a list of injuries that were getting increasingly difficult to work through. Let’s hear some more of her story!
What injuries were you facing when you decided to join Core Exercise Solutions and try out Sarah’s programs?
I’m 38 years old and have been a competitive athlete for most of my life. I had been in PT for years for a pair of sore ankles and it just wasn't helping. I wanted to shift my focus to working on improving a hernia that I had because I was getting sick of all the time, money and effort spent on something that wasn't yielding results. I thought I would feel better if I could find something to make my hernia feel better. Mentally I needed to take a break from all the ankle PT so I started Sarah's program in September of 2019. When I first signed up, I figured I would do a couple months of using the Facebook group and then cancel that part. Now, I would never go without the group! I am so glad I got to try it out. The group makes all the difference.
What did doctors say about your hernia, was it serious?
Doctors had assured me that my hernia was not an emergency, but the surgical options to fix it involved a total abdominal wall reconstruction with mesh. They warned me that the outcomes aren't great for many people and to only get surgery if I couldn't stand it anymore. My hernia formed as a result of two separate bowel obstructions, both of which were emergency surgery and led to infected wounds. Because of the infections, the incisions didn't heal in a normal manner. Good times [insert sarcasm]. So I wasn’t in a rush to have another surgery!
Your abdomen has been through a lot! Did you have any help as you tried to heal?
I found an Incisional Hernia support group and got some advice there to get me started working on my posture and my core. It was there that I learned the perils of sucking in one's belly button too much (guilty as charged). I had been following along with some of Sarah's YouTube videos for about a year when I decided to bite the bullet and join Core Exercise Solutions. I had made some progress before becoming a member, but I noticed my results were stalling out. I figured I needed to invest some money and some more targeted work with coaching if I wanted to make further progress, and I was right!
Feeling that progress happening is so motivating! How were you feeling physically at that point in your journey?
Physically I was feeling pain with every breath I took unless I had KT tape on my front and back abdomen. I couldn't use it all the time because my skin was getting torn up, and sometimes it would show through my clothes. It helped, but I wanted something more permanent than just using tape. I also was feeling a lot of pain just walking which was very difficult both for my job and personal life.
It sounds like it was really hard living with that pain. How were you holding up mentally?
Emotionally I was frustrated from my lack of progress with my painful ankles and the fact that I was basically forced to stop gymnastics due to the ankles and hernia. I wasn't even able to exercise like a "normal person" very well with all the issues. Gymnastics was my safe place, where most of my friends were, and my reward to look forward to after all the pressure that exists with the businesses and such in my life. It was so hard to have to quit, and I was noticing the void it left and feeling sort of adrift. Also I was never quite sure what would or would not hurt my body since my medical problems were so challenging to figure out and unusual, especially for people of my age and fitness level.
What an unsettling time, especially when you are used to being the one helping and planning for others!
Definitely! I was feeling unsure of what I could and could not do - I needed tape on my abdomen to feel normal. It was such a stressful, transitional time in my life and I couldn’t even go for a walk because of my ankles! I was looking for some structure for myself to come from an outside source, since I spend all day long structuring fitness programs for others - I think my brain needed a break in regards to planning my own program!
As you started working through the programs, is there a significant milestone that stands out to you?
I remember when I first looked in the mirror and saw that my ribcage looked different - it was not poking forward as much and it was growing more narrow - in that moment I saw with my own eyes that it IS possible to change your body with these corrective exercises. I have exercised my whole life and done yoga for probably a decade, so I didn't think there was much else for me to learn. Boy was I wrong. I learn something every day from the experts I can interact with in the Facebook group! Reading the responses the PTs give to others teaches me just as much as the responses directed at me.
After about six months’ worth of work, are you noticing any changes in your hernia?
Several weeks back I got confirmation that a 4.5 cm hernia just above my belly button that was present two years ago (with the symptoms to match) now is no longer officially called a hernia! I have changed my muscles and alignment to the point where the area is much more stable. I no longer have to wear tape, and I am slowly but surely regaining the ability to perform exercises I didn’t think I would be able to do pain-free again.
Wow! That is incredible! How is the rest of your body feeling?
Most other parts of my body are feeling better since I've improved my breathing techniques and my mechanics - my neck and hamstrings in particular, but really just about every part! I have completed or nearly completed the Diastasis Fix, Pelvic Floor Perfect, Posture Perfect and Happy Hips. I did two programs at a time most times, and kept doing a few moves that felt important for me in particular as warm-up or cool down moves. I also just started MomFit! When I do engage in exercise outside of the program, I am applying the form tips to those exercises - allowing me the freedom to do a yoga class or use an exercise bike. I'm also being mindful of my daily habits and that is helping a lot, too. After all, we exercise for an hour a day if we are lucky, but what are you doing the rest of the 23 hours in the day?? It all matters.
What are you working on now - do you have any new goals going forward?
I would like to continue making hernia progress to where I can once again lift heavier weights, and possibly do some recreational gymnastics again one day. In addition to that, I am still tackling the nerve pain I have in my feet. I have had way more setbacks with my feet than my hernia, but I am not losing sight of how much my body has changed just since September and I am extremely grateful for that. In regards to my feet, I'd like to get to where I can go for walks and hikes again. That would be amazing. The PTs in the group have been great about giving me ideas to help with that, and many of the ideas are different from anything I have tried before. I believe it will happen for me with the help of all the experts in CES and my dedication to digging into the layers and doing the work to heal my body. It's a good example for my personal clients, too, for them to know that even their trainer has to work hard on something! We all have our own journey.
Your dedication to working through all the layers inspires all of us in the group! As an athlete and a coach, what encouragement do you have for others who are experiencing chronic injuries and pain?
The value I have received from this program is unlike anything I have experienced before. Yes, you have to do a lot of work if you want big results. But in the past I have done a ton of work with other plans, and it turned out to be a waste of time. In CES I never feel that any of the exercises are wasting my time because I am willing to ask for feedback and the experts are great at guiding me to either improve my form or recommend that I change what I am doing for better results. Their patience is unmatched. No matter how many setbacks I might have, they don't give up on me. That is huge! I wish everyone had a team of people invested in helping them to feel better and not give up on their goals!