Sleep, WTF

 

Sleep.

 

Oh, sleep.

 

I remember a dire warning issued to me by a Pilates client when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child: SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN NOW. I also remember being like, wow, dramatic much? In my barely 25-year-old brain, I obviously knew more than her and obviously this meant that she was wrong, that being a mom was, yes, tiring, but gimme a break, it can’t be that bad.

 

And then my first was born and I genuinely can’t remember a single thing in my life since then hahahaha. 16 years of extreme sleep deprivation and two other kids, guess what? That client was entirely right, and I was entirely wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

 

We all know how it goes and we know that some kids have an easier time with sleep and some have harder (insert: impossible) time with sleep. I happen to have the full spectrum in my three daughters and I also happen to be a single mom, a reality that is only moderately relevant here because in our culture, the person who birthed the kid is generally also the person who bears the bedtime burden.

 

We all also know that there is an additional layer of difficulty with sleep, which has very much to do with the need for alone time that can usually only be captured once these sweet needy kids of ours are finally konked out. And let’s face it – for some of us, that sometimes doesn’t happen until 10pm or later depending on what you have going on in your house. Yet, even though going to bed myself after that would be the wise choice, I somehow find my way to a giant “eff it” button and stay up doing whatever I possibly can that in some way secures independent brain draining delights. Next thing I know, I’ve convinced myself that a 2:00am bedtime is reasonable and that I’ll be totally functional the next day on 4 hours of sleep.

 

So. Yeah. Now that we’ve covered the surface stuff of sleep as a parent, I’d like to flip this beast on its back and rub its underbelly. I only suggest this after attempting to find a solution on Google, which offered solutions that were either expensive or, well, basic. Let me boil down both the expensive and the basic advice, all of which I am pretty sure you have heard before: 1) Have a consistent early evening bedtime routine, 2) Don’t drink too much caffeine, 3) Meditate, 4) No screens before bed or near your bedroom ever never ever, and – my favorite – 5) Share the bedtime burden with your partner/spouse/gerbil/friendly imaginary friend.

 

The underbelly of my sleep situation tells me much more. It asks me to take a look at my relationship with sleep not just as a parent, but throughout my life. It’s here that it becomes clear to me that I have never had a great relationship with sleep. In fact, as a kid, suffering from severe clinical OCD, I used to count in multiples of 8 the number of times I looked at a book in the bookshelf by my room before bed. It happened to be On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross which is rather appropriate because I had convinced myself that if I didn’t do a perfectly counted multiple of 8 glances at this book, I would die in my sleep. 

 

The rituals didn’t stop there. But as I got older and they became harder to perform, I learned other coping skills, namely just exhausting myself completely from a long day of intense physical activity OR by studying in my bed until the wee hours. Instead of “going to bed”, I learned that it was easier if I just crashed out unintentionally, which feels extremely familiar to how I exist today. In fact, after doing this inventory of my sleep history, I confronted the reality that I have never really learned how to put myself to bed. 

 

If I dip back into the feelings of that as a kid and the possible connection of today, I can see a long thread of feeling unsafe. If I tug at that thread a bit, other things begin to unravel, some genetic brain stuff and some trauma stuff and definitely a lot of worth stuff. As much as I have grown up and become an adult, in the end, I still grapple with these things and with issues around safety.

 

My curiosity here reminds me that, yes, it must have been so hard to let go into the great big unknown of sleep when I couldn’t even let go while wide awake. That’s led to a lot of behaviors around sleep that prevent me from protecting rest. And with some things that have happened to me as an adult, the worth piece has become a bigger component as well. AND then, add in all the surface stuff I mentioned at the beginning of this post, wow. There’s a lot here to unpack, but there’s also a lot that can be changed.

 

This is where I land then, in a place in my life where I no longer want to feel exhausted and I feel more ready to try another way. I want to know what I can control and what I can’t when it comes to my unique sleep situation and then I want to take some action. It’s time. I have been crashing out for long enough. What would it be like to reparent myself and tuck myself in at night? What would it be like to capture, during the day, the joy and freedom I feel at 1:30 am?

 

I’ve got a lot to learn here and I know you do too. I’d love for you to join me as we head straight into the topic this month in our August Challenge: Sleep WTF. We will be talking surface level stuff and also deeper stuff. There will be a TON of room for you to discover your own stuff around sleep, which is probably different from mine. We will compare expert advice and engage with real deal realities. 

 

And in case you don’t know what the heck a challenge here is like, basically, you register, you join the challenge group in our community, you listen to one short episode of our mini podcast each week, and you comment or discuss as you like. OH, and you try to show up for 5-15 minutes of exercise as often as possible during the challenge. 

 

The challenge starts on Monday, August 1, which is SOON. I’ll also be doing a live 15-minute workout at 9am CST on our Instagram (@momma_strong) if you want to kick things off with me. Otherwise, if you are a current member, you can register by logging in to your account, clicking the “Challenges” link in the teal navigation menu and following the instructions there. If you are a new member, HELLO! Simply sign up for our 14-day free trial and follow those directions above. 

 

Here’s to zzzs.

What Happened to Free Time?

 

I fell asleep last night in my bed at 10:30ish, fully clothed and un-showered and un-morning-alarmed. I definitely had an AirPod in my right ear, which I am convinced is basically terrible for my brain in some way that science has yet to determine, especially when left in all night. And I definitely fell asleep watching some wild documentary show about women escaping cults. I tend to gravitate to those. 

 

[insert pause for yes courtney has a therapist]

 

In any case, this is NOT how I imagine my nights to go, certainly not if those nights involve any amount of free time. My nights, ideally, would involve board games, bedtime tea, reading, writing, sitting outside in the still evening air, and going to bed fairly early with electronics far far far away. Alas, over the past couple of years, I’ve run into some very bad habits around how I decompress, how I approach free time, and how I take care of the creative inner child me. And, for ease and simplicity, we can lump all of those habits into one bucket, with the giant label of: AVOIDANCE COURTESY OF BURNOUT.

 

I’ll say that I hate to admit this because the reality of my current free time usage does not match who I am and who you may know me to be. This is exactly why I am here. Things haven’t been matching lately and so much time has passed with these new avoidant, self-care-less behaviors that I now need to be like, HUH, what is happening here? 

 

I’m confident that, in the face of incongruence like this, I am not alone in that the first response to be basically a total jerk to myself. We know how effective this tactic is, right? It’s so effective that we end up just continuing the habits, but now with an extra layer of shame. So, I am opting in for self-compassion instead. And my curiosity here rests in the hope that with self-compassion, motivation will begin to grow and the changes I need to make will feel less cumbersome and more expansive and doable. In fact, as Kristen Neff, who wrote an entire book on self-compassion, says, “Once we start basing our self-esteem purely on our performance, our greatest joys in life can start to seem like so much hard work, our pleasure morphing into pain.”

 

This is exactly is, isn’t it? I’ve been approaching these changes in how I use my free time as some sort of indication of who I am as a person and making sure it all lines up, for me and my kids and anyone who hears my dreary tales. But the truth is that when I operate this way, I force myself into performance mode, rather than WHAT FEELS GOOD AND TRUE TO ME now mode. And that latter mode is where creativity waits, sitting by as you push the shoulds out of the way and just simply opt-in for the grace of being human.

 

NOW, I suppose the other fraught area of this conversation around free time has to do with the reality that for so many of us, it just simply does not exist. And when it does, oooooof, you don’t have any level of capacity to be still, or creative, or kind, or curious. I don’t know about you, but any time I have free time, the last thing I want to do lately is, um, listen to myself. ALSO, I am acutely aware that my free time is limited, which means it’s a ticking time bomb and my attention is spent on what I can get done in a short period of time before it’s all over and I have to go back to caretaker mode. For me, it’s like taking a time test in math class and all my brain can hear is the tick tick tick of the clock and zero computation is even remotely possible.

 

I don’t have the answer to this yet, except to say that I no longer want to keep chasing behind this stinky bus anymore. I am just living on the fumes of “not enough time” and “you wasted that time” and “tomorrow you should do” … enough already, you know? I want to get on the dang stinky bus and take a ride somewhere moderately awesome for just a short bit of time. And I am aware that I am going to have to do some work here to make this change. Nothing changes if nothing changes. But, that work will be fueled by love, at least that is my declaration here in this post now. 

 

FINALLY, one final and very simple note: The pandemic has dramatically shifted our relationship with free time because caretakers have just simply lost all access to routine, autonomy, community, etc. You are not alone if this feels like a new pain point and a painful pain point. I also feel the loss and I also feel the overwhelming burnout. There is a way forward. 

 

If you want to join me in figuring out what the heck happened to your free time and why in the world you feel like you can never use it the way that would feel good, then awesome sauce. Join us in our July Challenge: What Happened to Free Time? And in case you don’t know what the heck a challenge here is like, basically, you register, you join the challenge group in our community, you listen to one short episode of our mini podcast each week, and you comment or discuss as you like. OH, and you try to show up for 5-15 minutes of exercise as often as possible during the challenge. 

 

The challenge starts on Monday, July 4th, which we are aware is a holiday. However, I don’t know about you, but holidays means kids home and all up in your space, so maybe this is a great way to do something nice for you. I’ll also be doing a live 15-minute workout at 9am CST on our Instagram (@momma_strong) if you want to kick things off with me. Otherwise, if you are a current member, you can register by logging in to your account, clicking the “Challenges” link in the teal navigation menu and following the instructions there. If you are a new member, HELLO! Simply sign up for our 14-day free trial and follow those directions above. 

 

Ok, I’m off to squander more free time, I mean work time. I mean, I don’t know what is life. 

Do We Have to Talk about It?

 

I really don’t want to talk about this month’s challenge, ha. It’s not even resistance, it’s like just a blank stare from my brain. 

 

Maybe it’s the events in the world and in our country lately. 

 

Maybe it’s the continued never-ending germ-apocalypse in the existence of preschoolers.

 

Maybe it’s inflation and the effects on all of us.

 

Maybe it’s a pandemic that is still a pandemic but that we thought was a post-pandemic except no. 

 

Maybe it’s all of that AND also the simple fact that our pelvic floors are more than mysterious anatomy puzzles we need to sort out. They are the center of us. They are driving so much of our function. And, on top of that, they are connected to our sexuality and our relationship with intimacy and other people and our identity and oh wow. Yeah. 

 

The interesting layer here is that so many of us were never taught about this part of our body, namely because from an early age we were taught it was “private” and should not be talked about. I think we were also taught that only people assigned female at birth have pelvic floors and, so, if you were socialized as a girl, you grew up with this idea that your pelvic floor was something related to your period and sex with a penis someday when you fell in love (omg). And that’s if you even knew about your pelvic floor, ha. I didn’t learn about pelvic floor stuff until after I already had two kids. I knew uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, ovaries, period end of story.

 

Wild, right? The reality is that this information is as basic and necessary as understanding the function of your heart or your liver or your intestines. And it is mucked with other STUFF because this part of our body has been hijacked by topics that our society is afraid to talk about. We could delve in to all the real reasons why this is the case, from misogyny to power to patriarchy to sexual repression, but the reality is here for us all: We have different experiences of knowledge around our pelvic floors, but very few us have a healthy relationship with it.

 

In my case, and mine may not be yours, the added layer is that somewhere along the line, I decided (or was taught) two things:

 

1. That any dysfunction in this part of my body is clearly my fault and clearly a sign that I am gross, flawed, not desirable, broken, weak, old, maternal, etc etc etc etc etc blergh;

 

and

 

2. That this part of my body actually belongs to men. It is here for their pleasure and their experience.

 

Oh crap, I hate writing that. I really do. But, I’m saying it. It’s just the awful terrible truth. And, no wonder I don’t want to talk about this subject. And no wonder I have so much connected trauma in my landscape of personal intimate relationships. And no wonder I do this work in the world. We all teach what we need to know.

 

Here’s the light in the tunnel (pun intended): Today, after a lot of help in this area, I have been actively engaged in working on my relationship with this part of my body. The first step for me was going to a pelvic floor physical therapist and having her teach me about my unique anatomy and also identify any issues I was dealing with. Was that terrifying? Um yes. BUT, 100% worth it. The next step for me was getting specific help for trauma related to this part of my body, which is still ongoing and will be forever ongoing honestly. And the step I am in now is changing my relationship with my pelvic floor by scooping it up into the family of “my body”, “my function”, “mine mine mine mine mine”. 

 

Sometimes I feel a little shame and ickiness about the fact that I am 42 and just doing all this now. But, I recognize that this shame is born in generations before me, handed down to me as a survival tool for staying safe in a society hostile to bodily autonomy. To walk away from the shame means that I am relinquishing my grasp on that tool, which is scary. But it’s time.

 

Join me and Jya and Stephanie this month as we tackle this topic in our June Challenge: Pelvic Floor SOS. Each week, we will be delivering to you a new episode of our mini podcast, Showing Up, focused on different aspects of this topic and giving you some calls to action and things to think about. And, as always, we will continue to encourage you to do 5-15 minutes of daily-ish exercise during the month of June. Education, inspiration, and accountability all in one, yeehaw.

 

SO, join us even if you’re like oh wow no thank you or even if you’re like yesssss finally. We will serve both experiences and both realities. You can register today through Monday, June 6th! You can do that as a current member by logging in to your membership and then clicking Challenges in the teal navigation menu. OR, if you are not yet a member, voila, perfect time to get started. Simply sign up for your 14-day free trial and follow those instructions above. 

 

OK, let’s do this. I’ll see you on Monday, June 6th. 

 

To Be Safe Again: A 10th Birthday Celebration of MommaStrong

I’ve been writing different versions of this post in my phone notes the past few nights while camping out by my three year old’s bed. Her body has decided to take her brand new ear tubes for a high octane test drive, steered by Mystery Preschool Virus #1,763,980 of the year. Negative for COVID, positive for WTF.

 

It’s ok. Really. No, actually it’s not. THIS IS HARD. I didn’t know that parenting would be the hard we expected plus the hard no one told us about. There are things you just can’t possibly know until you know, you know? But, in any case, outside of the germ-pocalypse I’ve been restless anyways, spending the last few weeks figuring out how to process what today is: MommaStrong’s 10 year anniversary.

 

Deep breath for that. 10 years. 

 

In an effort to mark this incredible milestone, I’ve been combing through ancient email accounts and dropbox folders, searching for images and videos from the start of MommaStrong. This means I have come face to face with The Past, along with a very complete visual documentation of said past. Who else can say that they have a video of themselves working out everyday-ish for the past ten years? It’s impressive from the outside, I know. And from where I stand, it’s also been jostling and definitely cringe-worthy. 

 

The plan for these images and videos is to create a time lapse of MommaStrong history. It has reminded me of kids’ graduation slideshows that stir up hot happy tears as we feel hope and pride and nostalgia. This slideshow, though, did something different for me. I felt proud, yes, and also bewildered. So much has happened and yet so much is the same. It was a reminder that parenting shoves us all in this strange bubble where so much is being learned, so much growth is occurring, so much time is passing, and yet so much is the same. Like those sci-fi movies where someone gets frozen and then emerges into the world decades later.

 

So, yeah, I felt for the young 31 year old me on screen, knowing all the things she was going to go through in the next ten years. Wishing I could be a traffic director for her life, cutting off certain turns that she didn’t need to take and beckoning her to slow down. I also felt for the 41 year old me now, clearly weathered and clearly needing a good long vacation. But, above all of that, I also see hard fought wisdom, the sort of wisdom that will grant me the tools to be the traffic director now I needed back then.

 

Knowing this brings me to the purpose of this post, which is gratitude and reverence. I’d like to say a few quick things about what Mommastrong has taught me (and you maybe) and celebrate where we are going and what MommaStrong will teach us in the years to come. Here we go:

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for teaching me that I actually have a pelvic floor and that it involves more than just a vagina. I didn’t know that before I had kids or even after, until I met you. 

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for teaching me that my belly wasn’t broken, but that the process of pregnancy and birth resulted in, shocker, medical conditions like diastasis recti that weren’t my fault and that deserved clinical level help. 

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for teaching me how to do weird technological things way back in 2012 when you basically still had to know html. I feel special because of you.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for helping me feel loved even in my galactic cat leggings and with my weird/lame jokes.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for giving me something else to do other than drink/yell/cry/tantrum/run away/fight/flight/freeze.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong for my glutes. They are awake. And thank you for letting me use the word tuckus as much as I please. I also enjoy the cheeky cheeks opportunities.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for teaching me that a hand bra is the best bra of all bras when doing jumping jacks, especially while breastfeeding. Just hold them, when in doubt. 

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for relieving me of chronic, debilitating back pain that I didn’t think I would ever ever ever recover from. 

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for giving me a place to be a leader in fitness without asking me to prove my value through how fit I look.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for creating new qualifications for a woman who is well and for being one of the first in this industry to demand change.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for being nimble, for sharing ownership of your method and your presence with every member who takes a risk and signs up here. Thank you for giving them room and safety to ask for what they need and help you become better.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for standing up for body ownership for all humans as a human right and not a political chess piece.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong for your work in diversity and inclusion, which I know is only just at the beginning of where it will be. Thank you for your new trainers and their expansive narrative and experience of parenthood.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for my wardrobe of basically all MommaStrong logo clothes. I would be naked without you.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for getting me through the pandemic. And two divorces. And getting sober. And heartbreak. And three kids. And sick kids. And, well, effing life.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for asking me to show up as I am and holding me accountable every day.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for loving me through all of my hair cuts.

 

Thank you, MommaStrong, for being enough. Always. 

 

Before I sign off, I want to reaffirm my vows here, my commitment to this work, how it’s changed and how it will change. I am here for it as long as it will have me. And I know that the past bit of time has been hard on all of us, so I am officially hitting the refresh button on my inner browser to get curious and devoted to how to help us all out of “it”. 

 

The hard truth is while looking at the videos and images of myself over the years, it was clear to me that the last 3 have been the hardest. For the most part, I can say that I can see how I have wilted. That’s how it feels and that is how it shows up.

 

That is hard to witness, to see yourself clearly like that without self-hate or judgment, just witnessing. It makes me sad and mad and all the basic feelings. But it also brings me to a place of deep compassion for all of us who have gotten through what we have gotten through. I also find the burden of hope in here, which says, you know, it’s not too late to heal and to find a new way that we didn’t know we needed.

 

If you feel wilted and weathered, hi. It’s ok. No wonder we do. Look at what we have been through. Our focus here at MommaStrong remains what it has always been, but in the coming years ahead, we will be extra focused on how to help you show up for yourself even when there is no space to show up

 

This sort of showing up within the massive presence of uncertainty in the world is a skill that will require a new kind of training. The old mantras of even just a few years ago no longer apply. “Just Do It” won’t cut it anymore. We need more than mere inspiration. We need to know how to do “it” and why we ought to do “it”. We need the nuts and bolts for our real deal life in a wobbly world. 

 

I personally want to find a way to feel safe in my body again so that I can engage fully again. I want to relearn—or maybe learn for the first time—what it means to carve out the space to make my wellness matter and to truly put it first. I want to know my worth and I want to protect yours.

We will do this together, this much I know. 

 
Happy 10th Birthday, MommaStrong.

A Little Taller This May: The Hows and Whys of a Happy Spine

Oh May. 

 

This is the month that feels as ferocious as September’s Back to School insanity. May’s End of School, however, comes with zero post-summer sunny reserves to help buffer the hustle. AND, at the end of May, you end up with kids home for many months, so there it is: May is more ferocious than September. I’m glad we talked that through.

 

This feels especially relevant to me right now, as I currently log about 5-6 hours a day in the car, commuting here and there and everywhere. Kids needing this and that. No one told me that parenthood was also going to be a part time unpaid taxi driver position on top of your normal full time job that actually pays the bills. And I know a lot of people will say, oh that’s not manageable Courtney, you need to find a solution. Yes, I do, however it’s just what it is right now. And it will change soon enough when my teenager starts driving in omg 6 months. Terrifying, but also, bring it.

 

In any case, the point of this post is not about the struggles of parenthood, but about the stuff I haven’t been doing to physically survive parenthood and my taxi driver position. Namely, taking better care of my spine. As much as I’d like to report that I follow all of my advice about sitting in a car with functional alignment, let’s be real. After hour 2.5 of commuting, I entirely give up into a slumpity slump slump. It happens during my Zoom-y work day too, which means that most of my body’s experience in life is Slumpville lately.

 

I can feel this. I can even see it. The way subtle shifts in my posture affects the way my clothes hang on my shoulders or the way my neck looks after a long day. All in all, I am not invincible to the effects of ignoring my spine’s health even though I have a tried and true habit of working out basically every day. This habit is life changing and life saving, yes, but it’s not powerful enough to override the amount of time I spend slumped. Something has to give or something in my body will give.

 

This is rather poignant for me to admit this month, as we head towards celebrating our 10th anniversary here. 10 years ago, when I first started MommaStrong, it was ALL about retrieving my sense of wellbeing and sanity after yearssssssssss of acute back pain. And the relief and possibility I felt when I discovered small shifts in pain were the motivation I needed to keep going, to do the impossible and make this company a real service to more people. I could have never ever in a million years imagined that my back would get to a place of health such that I could do what I do today. And it’s the ten years of consistency and curiosity – and member accountability – that has gotten me here. 

 

This is all to say that I am bringing my focus back full circle this month to our spines, to what it means to have a happy spine. And while I know this will be an interesting and informative adventure, it will also be bigger than that. In my experience, when I tend to my spine and I allow myself to wander and wobble on the path to supporting it, I also help my nervous system become a bit more balanced and responsive. Standing tall is, yes, a posture we can assume, but it’s more than that. It’s an agreement with your nervous system and your environment that you will take up space and find a way to preserve yourself even in the midst of the conditions of the environment.

 

And that’s the thing about the spine. We can’t control much of what happens in our body, but we can consciously choose to align our spines in a functional way (unique to our individual bodies) even when shit is hitting the fan. We can come back to a place that asks, is this how I need to hold myself? What does my spine need? Even right now, I bet you are sitting up a little taller, giving a little more room to your vertebrae, and rekindling an awareness of the center of you. It’s possible. And, yes, you have structural things to address and pain to remediate and long lived histories of trauma, hiding, uncertainty, stress, relentless caretaking that are included in this process. We won’t forget all of that. But, I will be here with you to remember that it’s worth it to investigate the possibility of putting your spine first and finding a way to move through life that tends to this incredible structure. 

 

SO, join me in this very special and wild month of May, as we tackle the subject of Happy Spines and also celebrate the birth of MommaStrong. We will be addressing a few different themes each week this month, including the nuts and bolts of the anatomy or our spine, common misconceptions of pain and treatment, and how MommaStrong is here to help you feel better and take up more space. AND HOORAY, we will be joined by our own PT Advisor, Stephanie Dillon, to bring a friendly, expert understanding to this part of our bodies.

 

You can sign up today through Monday, May 2nd. You can do that as a current member by logging in to your membership and then clicking Challenges in the teal navigation menu. OR, if you are not yet a member, voila, perfect time to get started. Simply sign up for your 14-day free trial and follow those instructions above. 

 

And in case you are new to our challenges or new to MommaStrong, the way these challenges works is simple: You register and then we deliver weekly content to you that is extremely digestible via a short, engaging, personal podcast between myself and Jya. AND, we encourage you to attempt to show up for 5-15 minutes of movement on your terms every day-ish of the challenge. That is truly it. This delivers TO YOU, rather than asks more from you. 

 

Join us. Celebrate with me this month. Bring a friend or two. Let’s get through May a little taller this year.

 

10 Years and 1 Habit

 

My 15 year old told me yesterday that she didn’t want to play her (first ever) tennis match today and that she was considering telling her coach that she wouldn’t be able to do it because she needed to pack for our upcoming move. When I shook my head with a smirk, she then asked me how bad the rain was going to be and if I thought the courts would be too wet to play. When I showed her the sunny afternoon forecast, she dropped her head in defeat. She continued, “Maybeeeeeeeee I could just …”. We laughed and I reminded her that showing up may not feel good and it may not even go well—or maybe it will—but that she’ll feel whole and congruent afterwards no matter what. I said, “You’ll match your insides and your outsides.” She agreed and also said that I was “cringey”. 

 

I get this entirely. I get the art of negotiating the stuff to which we’ve said Yes and even the stuff that is actually healthy for us, good for us. In fact, I will sheepishly admit that I spent most of my life before turning 40 doing that. Everything was negotiable. And flaking out of something always felt good and true. In fact, a lot of times, I would feel like I was standing up for myself and my true wants. BUT BUT BUT. I always ended up feeling regret later. Always. At least with the stuff that mattered and the stuff that I actually had capacity to do. 

 

For me, this has to do with two things: Neurodivergence and worth. I get overwhelmed with “normal” life things that will be overstimulating only to me and then I get embarrassed and then I sign up for the thing anyways because I don’t want to be that person. And then, at the last minute, my nervous system has a giant freak out and the only option left is to just excuse myself from the thing, aka flake out. As for how this relates to worth, the more I do the above, the more I think that it doesn’t matter if I show up or not. And this then creates a vicious cycle for me in which the excuses feed shame and shame feeds excuses. 

 

I’m not sure what your experience here is, but I am sure you can relate in some small ways, maybe particularly in the area of wellness and self preservation. For me, I was this way with exercise for so long. I would flake out or never start or set up inevitably impossible goals. It was just a giant failure to launch, framed inside lots of hopes and ideas for how to move my body, how to feel vital, how to experience physical adventure, how to feel powerful, etc. And I just always bailed out. Always.

 

This is actually the underpinning of the Daily 15 in MommaStrong, funny enough. It came from a deep, mostly unconscious, drive to create something that I would actually do every day AND to create some requirements around it that made it basically impossible for me to not show up. And I think I must have known that it needed to be short, different every day, pain relieving, anti-fitness, zero unitards, zero-ish equipment, no shoes or bra needed … and my actual job in order for it to stick. 

 

And here we are, ten years later. TEN YEARS. Ten years. Ten years. Thousands of Daily 15s filmed. A daily-ish habit that no longer gets tossed around in my head as a maybe, but more of a fine I’ll do it. It’s changed my life, if I’m honest. It’s been here with me through two divorces, getting sober, surviving major life and business hurdles, countless moves (omg), the birth of my third kid, a friggin global pandemic, and everything in between. And while my body has healed and my strength has integrated … beyond that, I have learned to stay true to me in this process and I have learned that exercise is probably my number #1 tool for my mental health. I have become embodied. 

 

I just got chills thinking about this. I couldn’t have done this by just willing myself into the behavior or by reading enough self help books. There was no magic switch waiting in my brain that would then launch me here. It happened because I changed the way I set up my goals and I changed the way I was going to pursue a habit. I didn’t know I was doing it at the time. I didn’t know I was being rebellious in relation to all the health/fitness industry teaches us about motivation. I just was, well, maybe a little desperate and over it. 

 

The lessons here for me are that what we think about motivation and what we’ve been taught about habits aren’t always true for all of us. What is true for ALL of us is that habits stick when they are true to you and when they honor where you have been and where you are now. When they match your insides and your outsides. When they help you in the ways that matter. AND when they allow you to be human.

 

I could have never ever ever ever imagined that I’d be here today, reporting back after ten years. I’ve learned that I’m not a bad shower-upper. I’m actually a pretty awesome one. I just hadn’t set my own terms. And now I have. And now I have a contract with showing up for exercise that has extended into how I show up in life. I don’t flake out even when I want to, even when my mind has one bazillion valid excuses. I do it anyways, as long as it all matches. As a result, I feel what we all want to feel when moving towards health: I feel good about me. I feel sturdy in my integrity. I feel resilient. I just … can feel. 

 

I feel.

 

That’s a weird word when you type it a lot, FYI.

 

OK, good news for you is that the month of April in MommaStrong is dedicated to the art of habits that stick with a month-long challenge called Streaking. Yes, Streaking. You will learn how to show up consistently for yourself ON YOUR TERMS. And you will laugh. You will attempt daily-ish workouts. You will hear about whether or not you should clean your sheets more than once a year. You will hear about how exercise can change your life, if and only if it’s doable regularly. You know, we cover it all and we help you be human and also show up. 

 

Join us starting Monday, April 4th. Register today (it’s a free part of your membership). You can do that as a current member by logging in to your account and then clicking Challenges in the teal navigation menu. OR, if you are not yet a member, voila, perfect time to get started. Simply sign up for your 14-day free trial and follow those instructions above. 

 

That’s it. Tadaah. Now to go convince myself to do a D15. 😉

Uncategorized
Zarina Shah

Sleep, WTF

  Sleep.   Oh, sleep.   I remember a dire warning issued to me by a Pilates client when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child: SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN NOW. I also remember being like, wow, dramatic much? In my barely 25-year-old brain, I obviously knew more than her and obviously this meant that she was wrong, that being a mom was, yes, tiring, but gimme a break, it can’t be that bad.   And then my first was born and I genuinely can’t remember a single thing in my life since then hahahaha. 16 years of extreme sleep deprivation and two other kids, guess what? That client was entirely right, and I was entirely wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.   We all know how it goes and we know that some kids have an easier time with sleep and some have harder (insert: impossible) time with sleep. I happen to have the full spectrum in my three daughters and I also happen to be a single mom, a reality that is only moderately relevant here because in our culture, the person who birthed the kid is generally also the person who bears the bedtime burden.

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Articles
Stephanie Dillon, PT, DPT, WCS

C-section Scars: What Problems Can They Cause?

  If you have had a Cesarean section (C-section), then you have a scar. However, most of us aren’t told what to do about those scars, nor are we told what kind of problems C-section scars can cause. Instead, they are basically ignored, and then people are surprised if they end up having trouble related to the scar. If you would like to know how to prevent problems that can arise from a C-section scar, read on!   Can C-section scars contribute to abdominal and pelvic pain? Absolutely—the scar itself can become a source of pain. A 2016 meta-analysis by Weibel et al showed a 15% rate of c-section scar-related pain at 3 months after birth, and a 11% rate of pain at 1 year or more.   What other problems can they cause? It is well-known that with repeat C-sections, the rate of intra-abdominal adhesions rises significantly. After one C-section the rate has been reported at 7%, but after multiple C-sections the rate of adhesions can reach 68% (Elprine et al 2021). This same study also showed that women have severe abdominal stretch marks, and who have C-section scars that are very dark, highly vascularized, less-pliable, and elevated above

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Articles
Courtney Wyckoff, CPT, CES

Sleep Guidelines for Busy Parents

  I’m not a sleep expert, I’ll start by saying that. However, I am a self-proclaimed sleep deprivation expert, so I promise to walk us through with appropriate skepticism and vetting of sources. I, like you, want to learn more about how to get better sleep as a busy parent, BUT through advice that actually applies to the life of a primary caretaker. I simply cannot read one more article or book touting the importance of uninterrupted sleep without laying out a clear plan for primary caretakers who carry the burden of helping little humans go to sleep and stay asleep.    I turned to the internet to see what I could find, just did a classic search for “How to get more sleep as a busy parent” and the responses were typical and basic. Most notably, the advice was “Make sleep a priority.” Thanks, internet. A few searches deeper and I did find an article in Parents magazine that gave some advice for busy working parents. This one included the standard: 1) Set earlier bedtimes, 2) Share the duty with your spouse or partner, 3) Chill out, and 4) Exercise more.    All of this advice is good, right?

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Stephanie Dillon, PT, DPT, WCS

Postpartum Incontinence: Common Doesn’t Equal Normal!

Most people assume that leaking urine after having a baby, aka postpartum incontinence, is just the price a person pays for becoming a birthing parent. But while it is COMMON, it doesn’t have to be NORMAL! There is so much that you can do to help yourself if you are struggling with incontinence, and especially postpartum incontinence. I thought everyone had some urine leakage after having a baby? It is true that developing incontinence is incredibly common during and after pregnancy. A recent systematic review (Moossdorff-Steinhauser 2021)  found that the general rate of urinary incontinence between 6 weeks and one year postpartum was 31%. However, the overall prevalence ranged between 10-63%. That is a lot of people dealing with incontinence after having a baby! But, just because it is common, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do about it.  In fact, it’s just the opposite! Really? So you are saying that I shouldn’t have to cross my legs every time I have to sneeze? YES! Even sneeze-pees, or stress urinary incontinence, can be helped after having a baby. Stress incontinence is the most common form of postpartum incontinence, occurring in 54% of those who leak after having a

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Articles
Courtney Wyckoff, CPT, CES

How to “Fix” Diastasis Recti

If you’ve been diagnosed with diastasis recti, or you think you have it, you most likely want to know how to fix it as quickly as possible. That is certainly how it was for me after discovering that my years of back pain and my deep abdominal issues were because of this condition. I felt both relief and total overwhelm, grateful to know that there was a root cause but, well, completely unsure of how to get myself “back together”. I think it’s important to say that while some of my urgency to fix my DR stemmed from the desire to get out of pain and feel strong again, some of it was also fueled by the immense societal pressure to have a “flat” tummy after birth. Therefore, in this article, I’ll be answering the most common questions we get about effective solutions for DR, but I will also be answering questions about the association of a flat tummy with abdominal strength as well as the glorification of its appearance. Here we go: I just got diagnosed with diastasis recti, a 3-finger separation. Where do I start? It can be alarming to get this kind of diagnosis and hearing that

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Articles
Courtney Wyckoff

How Do I Prevent Diastasis Recti?

  Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA), also referred to as Diastasis Recti (DR) is one of the many physiological changes that take place during pregnancy. As the abdomen expands to accommodate the growing baby, the skin, muscles, and connective tissue all stretch as well. This includes the linea alba, or the connective tissue running down the center of our abdomen, which helps join the right and left halves of the rectus abdominis (commonly known as the 6-pack muscle) together. As the linea alba stretches, this increases the distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis, creating the phenomenon of diastasis recti. And in case you missed it, our PT Advisor wrote a great article that goes deeper into understanding Diastasis Recti.    How can I Prevent Diastasis Recti from happening??  This is a very common question that gets at a very common misunderstanding about DR. Diastasis Recti is a normal process in pregnancy and should not be considered abnormal or pathological. Diastasis Recti will occur to everyone while they are pregnant by at least week 35! A 2018 study even found that the abdominal separation in pregnancy can range from 4.4cm to 8.6cm at weeks 35-41 of pregnancy, and the

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