As a strength and conditioning coach, I couldn’t help but look at mums and the way they move as a sport, and when we are training athletes, we are aiming to get them faster/more powerful/more skilled at a certain set of movements.
A consequence of repetitive movements is a postural adaptation to those movements, which we can “unwind”, or “release”, to keep the body in front of us balanced.
Furthermore, we have to balance intensity with athletes to avoid overtraining, repetitive stress, and burnout, so we schedule downtime, on weeks and off weeks, overload and unloading periods…
The same is true for mums. They have an active “job”. A job that runs for 24hrs, 7 days a week. To train them to be truly powerful mothers, we have to think about:
1) What are they doing every day that we can make them “better” at? Both stronger and fitter?
2) What are they doing every day that we can make them more diverse at?
3) What patterns do we see that we can “unwind” or “release” to relieve pain or posture?
4) How can we balance their intensity? Most SAHM’s (Stay at Home Mums) need permission to STOP. How can we incorporate downtime and relaxation into their session?
So lets think about what SAHM’s do everyday that we can make them more powerful, stronger, and better at…
For one, they’re lifting everyday – children, shopping, prams, bikes, car seats. From the floor to the change table, from the change table to the bouncy chair, from the bouncy chair to the car seat, and so on.
However, frequent, heavy lifting is a risk factor for developing pelvic dysfunctions like prolapse and incontinence, so whilst we should be strength training and lifting with mums, we have to follow a process:
1) Get their pelvic floor checked by a WHP: Look up your nearest women’s health physio.
2) Learn the movement
3) Load – for example, we could train a deadlift – straight up and down, bent leg, straight leg, with arm extension, single arm, single leg
Here’s a video that shows more about training mums to lift.
If you have clients with core dysfunctions, you may be interested in our course From Deep Core Dysfunction to Heavy Lifting.
Simply going for a run might be plenty for some mums, but most mums need sub-max endurance, to keep them going all day, with little bursts of max efforts for when the 3-year old leaps on the road or falls down the stairs. Furthermore, roughly 30% of the women you see will not have the pelvic strength/endurance/coordination/health to run fast, or for long distances. It is worth considering what kind of cardio fitness they need and how you can deliver it…
Once again we have to follow a process:
1. Get their pelvic floor checked by a WHP (women’s health physio), you can look up your nearest women’s health physio here: http://whta.com.au/
2. Start short, light, and with a forefoot landing
3. Load (games below as examples)
GO game (react with cardio)
Left to Right game (catch ball)
More on this.
If you have clients with core dysfunctions, you may be interested in our course From Deep Core Dysfunction to Running Long Distances.
What kind of balance do they need? Will standing on one leg or opposite arm/leg raises really help them when they’re leaping out in front of a 3YO, across the dog’s leash, to stop the child from running on to the road? Do they help when she’s stepped on lego at the same time her 2YO has leapt off the coffee table?
Mums need REACTIVE balance – by all means, stand her on one leg, but throw a ball at her at the same time, or jiggle the power plate, or nudge her shoulder, or SOMETHING that she has to react to!
1) Single leg balance with VIPR reach
2) Single leg balance catching ball
3) Step over a fence, T and Y squat, as slow as possible
If you have clients with core dysfunctions, you may be interested in our course 6-Step Restore Your Balance.
Diversity of Movement
So we have some straight line work and I’ve already given you some ideas that work outside that, but here’s some more… yes, a mum needs to deadlift, and learning a “good” deadlift is important, but if that’s the only way she can do it, that’s the only strategy she has. Once she has a handle on it, we can build diversity in to give her a body that can do multiple things in multiple ways…
1) Straight line deadlift
2) Choose a driver – head, foot, arms
3) Move it 3 ways – frontal, saggital, transverse (for each driver above)
Because mums perform a series of repetitive movements, their body will reflect adaptations to these positions. Upper Cross Syndrome is essentially the “slumped shoulders” posture, and Lower Cross Syndrome is essentially a “sway” back. Both of these postures, and a lack of lumbar curve at all, may sometimes cause pain, or negatively impact the pelvic floor, or inhibit certain movements.
We can release these patterns, by literally taking the pressure off them. If you see the slumped shoulders, move the opposite way.
Here are some example of movements you can do for UCS:
- Chest stretch against PP stem
- Titanic stretch
- HF stretch with hands and arms up
- Roll downs
- Standing hammy stretch
- Down dog
For a posterior tilt:
- Up dog
- Step back and reach opposite direction.
None of these should hurt, and ideally you should run them past an appropriately qualified professional before performing them. You can also apply the rule of diversity in these movements by picking a limb, and moving it in 3 ways as you repeat the release.
Now I think this goes unnoticed for a lot of us, but if motherhood is like a sport, then we need to recover like we’re an athlete! Athletes will nap, take ice baths, have massages, and practice meditation to recover from their training and competing schedules, and so can mums!
We also have to think about the lifestyle of a mother. Once she was just Sarah who works 40hrs and played netball 2x week, when a baby comes, they add appointments and check ups and a completely different routine for that mum’s brain and body. By the time the 2nd baby comes along, she has her work, her commitments for the first child, and also the 2nd child’s needs compounded in to the same 24hr days. This means Sarah will start to cut things, and her work and sport is usually the first thing to go. Recovery is an important factor in this lifestyle to prevent burnout and balance overwhelm.
Downtime and being still is really important for a woman’s hormonal balance, mental health, and physical health (because how you think affects you physically – think about the butterflies in your stomach when your nervous). Try to incorporate some downtime in to every session, and include deep breathing, deep relaxation, as well as stretching and more active forms of cooling down.
You may be interested in this article, Why Breathing is as Important as Cardio and Weights: https://into-you.com.au/how-to-breathe/
Most of time time I like my clients to spend a few minutes with their feet higher than heart, because this position can lower blood pressure, improve circulation, trigger the relaxation response in the muscles and ligaments, and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety (perhaps even overwhelm!).
So now you have it, the complete kit of “things to think about” if you want to train Powerful, High-Performance mums!