Now I Can do the Activities I Love Again
Val is a valued member of our online community/CES family. She has been dedicated and consistent in her journey, and she doesn’t miss an opportunity to use all she has learned to help lift up others in the group. One of her admirable qualities is that she is absolutely willing to push herself, and yet she is also good at taking a step back and reflecting on where she needs to focus more attention. Val has battled the “APT Monster” as we like to call it, and she is starting to win that fight while also learning how to apply tips and tricks for rock climbing. Taking into consideration her goals, she's been able to target her workouts to meet them by working at it from various angles from strengthening to running form, cadence and nose breathing. She is also a mom of four boys! Let’s hear more of her story below.
Tell me about your family - how many kids, their ages, what you do for a living, or anything like that you are willing to share with the world.
I am a mom of four boys ages 12, 10, 6, and 3. My degree is in graphic design, but besides an occasional freelance project, running the household while attempting to stay sane is my full time job. Exercise is something my husband and I made a priority for each other early in our marriage after we learned that many arguments could be put on hold until after (typically he, but now both of us!) exercise, and then somehow it magically wasn’t an argument anymore, but a reasonable discussion.
When and how did you find Core Exercise Solutions and the team? When and why did you look for it, and had you tried anything previously?
My journey to CES has been a long one because I didn’t find Sarah until my youngest was nearly two. That said, my relationship with PT started in between having my middle sons. I never really considered myself an “athlete,” but it seems like my athletic prowess somehow ramped up after each kid was born. When my second son was one and a half, my family moved abroad and we found ourselves living life in a very active way because we didn’t have a car. I walked to the grocery store several times a week pulling a wagon full of kids and groceries, we mountain biked, we climbed when we could borrow a car, and I ran occasionally in between. (Running was a slow plod style, with heel strike, and all the things I know now that I shouldn’t have been doing, lol!)
Everything felt fine except running. Running consistently gave me hip pain that I couldn’t explain. For days after, every time I lifted my legs to change clothes I’d get a serious pain through my hips. A friend encouraged me to see a “physiotherapist” (that’s a loving nod to all my non-American CES sisters out there 😉), and she taught me about my pelvic floor—and that PTs have a special kind of magic. I did a barrage of exercises to strengthen my pelvic floor, and eventually I could run comfortably again. She also taught me that I was quad-dominant. After a year and a half we returned to the US and had two more babies, the youngest of which was born in June of 2017. I took it easy getting active again, but found myself eventually running and now having a new problem. My hips didn’t hurt after running—but my pelvic floor did. I could not figure out for the life of me what was wrong with my body. I assumed I needed to do more kegels, so I faithfully did more rapid-fire kegels daily, and somehow my problem only got worse. My pelvic floor would hurt for three to four days after a 20-minute run. Gradually I pushed the barrier back and could run for longer, but I always came home in pain any time I tried to push myself. I have to clarify here that running is not my first athletic love. Climbing is, by far—and it is what has defined me over the past fifteen years as an athlete. That said, not being able to run wasn’t a dire emergency because I could still climb, but it was annoying.
When it became evident that my pelvic floor pain wasn’t going away and that I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I asked my primary care doctor for a referral to a PT. Unbeknownst to me, he set my course towards CES. Rather than writing that referral, he encouraged me to see what I could find online to solve the problem myself. I twiddled my thumbs and wasted time, but began praying that I would find help. That recommendation, plus lots of desperate prayers for help, led me to a Google search one night after my kids were in bed. I signed up for a free pelvic floor strengthening email with three exercises from Sarah. They were great even though they didn’t solve my problem, and I was intrigued to learn more. I emailed CES explaining my situation and asking which program I should start with. Sarah wrote back surmising that rather than my hips and glutes holding me together while running, my pelvic floor was doing all the work. It was a simple epiphany that made perfect sense, and that feedback started my journey at CES in March 2019.
How were you feeling physically/emotionally when you started versus now?
When I started with CES I skipped Pelvic Floor Perfect and dove straight into Happy Hips. I knew I needed stronger hips and glutes, and assumed that my pelvic floor was fine since I wasn’t leaking. A little over halfway through HH I realized that I really did need to work on my pelvic floor, because it was tight (plus I completely skipped all the breathing training which is so very important!) I had no idea that was even a thing, and as I learned to not glute-clench, I realized that I also needed to release the tension in my pelvic floor. Holding tension there always made me feel like I was strong and doing the right thing. My journey here has involved a pride check in some ways. No one wants to hear what they believe they’re doing to be proactive is actually damaging. I started here feeling like I was doing all the right things already, so it was a bit of a shock to learn otherwise. Since then I’ve come a long way, but I realize this journey is far from over and there’s always going to be more—and sometimes that’s an uncomfortable feeling that I’ve learned to sit with and take one day at a time rather than feeling overwhelmed. That said, I can also look back at how far I’ve come and feel a true sense of pride in how I’ve invested in myself.
What programs have you been working on lately?
I’ve moved on to work in MomFit, and in case it makes anyone out there feel better, it takes me three to six months to work through each “month.” 🙂 Return to Running is amazing, and Shoulder Solutions is absolutely on my list, as is Posture Perfect.
What were your goals when you started? What are your goals now?
Regarding goals, my initial goal when starting here at CES was to be able to run without pain. I have to admit that’s still a work in progress. I’ve completed Anna’s Return To Running program which is a beautiful step-by-step three-month journey to running in a body-safe way with great form. I am able to run with little to zero pelvic floor pain, which is amazing! I say that it’s still a work in progress just because now I’m working through some plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Another goal was to feel good while moving in a general sense. I wanted to be able to chase my then-toddler, run across the park with my kids, and walk around the neighborhood with my husband without feeling pain. I am grateful to say that I have achieved this goal and all the hard work was worth it! My current goals are upward and onward. I want to climb stronger (I’m hoping to climb my first 5.12a this year! 🙌), run farther, confront my fear of mountain biking, and be able to knock out a set of ten pull-ups on a dime. I want to teach my kids to use their glutes, and model great push-up form. More than anything, I just want to feel good while doing things that I love with the people that I love.
Share with us anything else you feel would help women who are dealing with the same things or anything that would have helped you along your journey.
I’ve been asked how I find the time to work on the programs with four kids at home, and for me the key to this is having a spouse who values fitness. My husband knows he feels better when he’s had a chance to exercise, and so he works to make it a priority for me. We trade nights of the week out at the climbing gym with friends—which is also much-needed socialization—we ride bikes with our kids, we walk together around the block after they go to bed. I try to wake up early enough to get in some movement each morning. (It’s worth noting that I didn’t start waking up early until all my little ones were sleeping through the night. I just can't do it on little sleep). I’d love to accomplish more than I actually do, but I think showing up each morning and doing something is enough. For six months or more I did iliacus pullbacks and clams every morning, now it’s foot mobility exercises. Sometimes I foam roll while the TV is on, and sometimes I don’t.