Angie Bell has three boys who are now 8, 5, and 2, and she is a coach for Orangetheory Fitness. After her third child was born she had so many issues — a weak and tight pelvic floor, a diastasis, back pain, left side activation issues, twisted hips, posture issues and more. Each specialist she went to see for help just kept missing the mark, and she wasn’t seeing improvement. Let’s hear some more of her story!
When did you first start experiencing pelvic floor problems?
After having my first two kids I had pelvic floor issues, but only when I would run and jump — I didn't even leak when I would cough or sneeze. When I went to see my OB about it he said, "Do kegels and the leaking will likely resolve once your period returns." It didn't resolve like he said, but I didn't try to fix it because I assumed that it would happen again with each pregnancy.
It must have been tough to have a doctor tell you to just accept that as normal!
Yes, I was lacking in information and decided to wait until I was done having children to see if I could fix my issues. He also made it seem like it wasn't that big of a deal, so I wore a pad and continued on with running and jumping and just "dealt" with it. I had no idea that I could be causing so much harm to my body. After my third child was born, I started to seek help from other specialists.
It is great to see how proactive you were in trying to heal. Where did you go for help initially?
Prior to Sarah's program, I had seen two pelvic floor physical therapists, a holistic pelvic floor specialist and a standard physical therapist, and I had downloaded a $40 "fix your pelvic floor at home" guide. Nothing was changing much. That is why I started Sarah's program about six months after having my third child. After taking Sarah's course, I realize now that I probably would have been able to correct my pelvic floor problems fairly quickly by learning to regulate my breathing and retraining my core.
You mentioned that you felt like things got much worse after having your third baby. Did you experience anything out of the ordinary that led to worsening symptoms?
So after I had my third and final kiddo I was determined to fix my tight and weak pelvic floor, but yes, this time things were so much worse. I was also experiencing a diastasis, back pain, left side activation issues, twisted hips, posture issues, and more. The severity is likely due to the fact that I had knee surgery about six months prior to getting pregnant with my third. The recovery from that combined with the pregnancy caused a great deal of left and right side imbalances. At first I tried the $40 guide, and like they say, "you get what you pay for." It wasn't terrible information, but I was so disconnected from my body that I really needed more in-depth information.
It must have been so hard to even know where to begin! How were you feeling at this point?
At this point I couldn't even make it through the grocery store without leaking, so I reached out to my OB (a different one than I mentioned previously) to see if he had a recommendation for a pelvic floor physical therapist. He didn't know of any — WHATTTTTTTTT my OB/GYN who interacts with pregnant/postpartum women EVERY DAY didn't have a resource for them if they experienced any issues???????
So I did some research on my own, and I found two different PF PTs. They were okay but didn't touch on breathing at all, and there were other things that made me feel like I wasn't getting the help that I needed. Eventually I gave up, and started doing regular workouts and dealing with the leaking like I had after my first two pregnancies. In some ways I did get stronger, but I learned I was also strengthening my imbalances. This is when I started Sarah's program.
You must have been emotionally worn out after so many dead ends. How did things change after you started Sarah’s program?
I rode a wave of emotions over the past two years. At different points I felt hopeful, hopeless, excited, desperate, disappointed, inadequate, frustrated, mad, and finally happy. When I started the program I didn't realize how many issues I had, and the funny thing is I "looked" strong to the common eye. No one would ever guess that I was struggling so much. Each week the PCES course presented a new topic and, nine times out of ten, I found I was struggling with an issue relating to the topic.
That must have been overwhelming! How did you cope with learning so much new information at once?
It was challenging for me because I am not very patient! I didn't want to stop doing the things I shouldn't have been doing all along, like running and jumping. I am also the type to go too hard in my workouts because I want to feel the burn. I was used to being super strong and fast, so to have to slow down and do something as basic as breathing was mentally hard for me.
But honestly, the way the course was organized was so helpful. It was eye-opening to observe others when I was teaching my own classes. I began to see so many common issues that I hadn't noticed in my members before. The wealth of knowledge is priceless — to get such in-depth information in an online course is incredible.
After you completed the PCES course, did you feel like your own physical issues had improved?
After I completed the course I still had not resolved my issues, so I went to a new PF PT. She was really good, but it was also because I was able to direct her based on the knowledge that I had from the course. Eventually she released me, saying that the leaking would subside soon. I wasn't satisfied so I went to another PF PT who was good and was the first person to diagnose me with a tight pelvic floor. The other PTs and I had missed the mark on that because some of the symptoms were not obvious. In the end she helped me with my PF, but she didn't address breathing or how the whole body works together.
How frustrating that no one was able to completely get to the bottom of things!
I know! At one point she released me and told me that this was as probably as good as things would get. But I didn't accept that because of this course! I continued to work, and thankfully I didn't listen to her because things have gotten better. That is where the Inner Circle has been so helpful. As I peel back the layers, I am able to build on my knowledge and foundation. I can post videos and get feedback that was missed by so many others. I can only absorb so much information at a time, so being able to participate in the Live Calls and then rewatch them has helped me tremendously. The same applies to the videos posted on the page — I am able to practice what I am learning by assessing others, and then see what Sarah, Anna, and Robin post. The freedom to not be in a hurry but to have support on a daily basis to process my thoughts and questions is incredible!
I am so glad you have not been alone as you continue to heal! Are there any significant "aha!" moments that stand out to you?
Probably too many to count. I remember when I told my husband that I hadn't been leaking on my runs, and he said, "time heals." Ugh, it wasn't time, it was hard work, dedication and the many hours I have spent tuning into my body and working through things! Sadly, many people want the quick fix so they rush to surgery, when oftentimes the answer is patience and allowing your body the time it needs to get stronger.
There were different points during the course that I thought, "I don't need to worry about that." It was really because the topic was too overwhelming for me to understand at that moment. As I digested more and more information — and my brain got stronger, just like my body — I was able to worry about the things that I had previously pushed aside.
Where are you at now? What are your current goals?
While I have made tremendous improvements, I am still working on things and progressing. My current goal is to continue with that. I also decided when I started the course that I wasn't going to take on my own clients until I "fixed" myself. Now that I have mostly fixed myself and have gained so much insight, I am thinking about starting my own business trying to help others. I *do* apply my knowledge when I am coaching, but it is not the best environment to really help people the way that I would like to.