Pelvic Floor Exercises

Finding hope to be an active Mom!

Jessica Matheson is a new mom who had high hopes of being healthy and strong during pregnancy and after! She invested a lot of time into becoming a runner after high school and wanted to stay fit in spite of the big changes that pregnancy brings. She also dreams of having a big family but is the first to admit that she feels discouraged by the physical realities that she has had to confront since her beautiful son was born eight months ago. When she joined us she was in a hurry to fix her pelvic floor and hoping to find more than kegels, which were not helping on their own. Let’s hear some more of her story!

I would love to hear more about your background. I know you grew up in a big family, did they encourage you to stay physically fit?

Yes, they did. I am the oldest of six kids, and exercise was a big part of my family's life. My mom was always trying to lose weight, and starting at around the age of 10 or so I would join her to do her workout videos. When I was 14 I remember that I felt like I was fat. So I started running and weightlifting to try to lose weight. Unfortunately, this started a cycle of unhealthy exercise and a destructive relationship with food that would last well into my late teens.

During (and despite) this battle, I fell in love with running and feeling strong. And although my teenage self-was mostly motivated by impressing boys, this love of running stuck with me. It was my way to de-stress, feel alive and leave my problems out on the road. I ran my first marathon days after graduating high school and ended up running four of them before I got married, and then pregnant, at 23. Our son is now eight months old.

Was it hard to go from such an intense running regime to being pregnant?

It was hard, but I was optimistic! One of my big goals for my first pregnancy was that I wanted to stay fit and continue running for as long as I could. I have memories of my mom during her pregnancies just blowing up like a balloon and not being able to exercise due to the many miscarriages she endured. I was sure I could do things differently, but I can admit now that I was somewhat naive about the physical realities of pregnancy. Throughout my life, there was one thing I wanted… I wanted to keep running. And I did. I ran until I was 28 weeks along and then my body told me it was done. After three straight days of pain that I could not get away from no matter what I did, I listened. But I continued to walk and do what I could to safely stay active until my baby's birth.

Did you have any difficulty recovering postpartum?

Initially, I thought my recovery was going well. My pelvic floor was getting stronger, and I was starting to get back into more high-intensity things. I was in a hurry to get back to running. One day I decided to go for a run with my neighborhood's local running group. As I ran out to meet them, I was feeling good… taking it slow, but feeling good. Then, as I met them and turned to run in the direction they were going, I realized their pace was much more than I could handle. The stubborn thing that I am, I decided to meet their pace and push my body. As I did, I could feel my abs gripping while trying to hold my poor pelvic floor in place. After barely a mile or so I decided to stop and walk home. It was then I discovered my pants were soaked. It was all I could do not to cry as I slowly made my way home.

Oh, how discouraging! How did you feel the next day?

The next day I thought it would all be fine. I thought that *obviously* I just was not strong enough yet. I could go back to my normal routine and try to get stronger. But… that did not happen. My body just kept falling apart. I could not even squat without wetting myself. I started spiraling into a depression. I had been so hopeful that I could do fitness right and stay in shape, and now… all I felt was despair. I got more anxious as I thought about my son who was going to start crawling in a couple of months. I wanted to be able to chase him around and keep up with him without worrying about peeing my pants.

It sounds like you were really feeling disillusioned at that point. Where did you go to for help?

The Internet has all the answers, right? Everything I googled kept saying… do more kegels, do more kegels! But as I did them it just made the problem worse. I knew this happened to a lot of moms, but I also knew that this was NOT normal. This was a sign that something in my body was broken.

I kept researching and trying to find answers. Then one night during a midnight feeding when I was about four and a half months postpartum, I found Sarah's website. At first, I wasn't sure if it was a scam because I was afraid of more disappointment. But as I continued to look over her site, I became more and more convinced that this was legit, and I was ready to buy one of her programs. I had the spending money, and this surely would be less expensive than going to a physical therapist. I thought I could try this, and then if it didn't work, I could try physical therapy. I bought both Pelvic Floor Perfect and the Diastasis Fix but jumped into PFP first.

How did it go?

When I started, I felt overwhelmed. There was so much information that I had never even considered before, and I so badly wanted to stop leaking NOW! The desperation that I felt before buying Sarah’s program stuck with me for a time while I worked through it. In the beginning, everything I tried to do just left my pelvic floor feeling like it had left the party. I was not even sure if it was very tight or very weak.

That sounds pretty frustrating. What did you decide to do next? Did you stick with the program?

I did stick with the program, but I also ended up scheduling an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist in person. She never diagnosed me with prolapse but did identify that I had some dysfunction in my pelvic floor. After examining me she told me that my pelvic floor was not tight, it just was not very strong. So she gave me kegels (sigh). By the second appointment, two weeks later, I had reached the point in Sarah's program where I was starting to do the 90-90 exercise, breathing, squats, and Stronger After Baby workouts. My pelvic floor had already improved so much that my physical therapist felt like I didn't need to come back!

In two weeks! Wow, I’m so glad you stuck with it! Where are you at now? What are your current goals?

Now I am mostly through the Pelvic Floor Perfect program and after several months of hard work, my leaking is practically gone! Still not 100% yet, but loads and loads better than it was three months ago. I am starting MomFit 1 and my goal is to get through Happy Hips, Posture Perfect and several months of MomFit by the end of winter. My ultimate goal is to be in tip-top shape by the time summer comes. I am so ready to hit the road… but I am going to put in the work now so that my body is strong enough to own that running!

You sound optimistic again, so different from how you felt when you started! Are you noticing that working with Sarah is affecting your outlook in other areas of your life?

Sarah's programs have empowered me and given me hope that I can run around and be a strong active mom for my son as he gets older. I have learned so much about my body, and have more awe and respect for what my body did to carry and birth my son. I now see why I needed to take the time to start from square one and correctly load my body to get it stronger safely. Although I was frustrated at first, I have grown to love how Sarah meticulously starts from the basics, explains the why, then describes how the body is connected. It is so helpful to know what muscles need to work and what muscles should take a break to do an exercise properly! I know I have a lot more to learn, and I plan to continue to invest in myself in this way so that I can be a happier, stronger, and healthier person - and not just while I am young. As I have more kids, and my body starts to show the effects of time, I want to feel great.

Another encouraging thing is that the eating disorder that I struggled with in my teens has slowly improved as my outlook changes. I have learned to appreciate that I am a beautiful creation of God. After seeing the amazing things my body did to house a human for nine months and learning even more about my body through Sarah's programs, I have more hope now. Hope that I can embrace the changes my body will undergo - and meet it healthfully where it is at - through every season that life will bring.

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