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Ep. 50- Q&A- Strength training for postpartum people and throughout the lifespan

Tanya Tringali

Hey, everyone, I'm your midwife, Tanya Tringali. Welcome to the mother wit podcast, a show about the issues we healthcare consumers and providers face every day as we interact with the medical system. We'll talk about its blind spots, shortcomings, and share strategies we can use to feel seen and heard, no matter which side of the table we sit on.

One of the things that makes me happiest in my professional life is that I have clients from many, many, many years ago, who still keep in touch with me, and still write me questions or occasionally have a one off remote session with me. And they email me periodically updates on their lives and occasionally questions. So a former client and listener to the show, who had a baby back in October of 22. So getting close to that one year mark, not quite there yet. Guess that's about nine months. Wrote me recently with a great question. And I decided I wanted to share it with you guys. And she gave me permission to do so. So her name is Debbie, she gave me permission to share her name as well. She lives in New York City. So she says, I'm nourishing my body as best I can, because I'm still nursing. And I'm noticing that my body cannot handle strength training like it could before pregnancy. I feel like it's the fact that I'm carrying the baby a lot. And it's like lifting weights. And I'm caring for him. And so that has me winded. I'm leaning more towards cardio, and I like to run on the treadmill anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour several times a week. I hated cardio before, but it's just what I need after a long day, she's a teacher. Is this normal? Do you find women going through these changes post pregnancy, I miss strength training and lifting weights, I Don't lift anything crazy. But my body was able to handle so much more. Now. It's like I'm a different person. When I go to lift these weights. I loved getting this question. And she knows it, which is why she went and went ahead and reached out to me. So I wrote her back with a, you know, fairly detailed answer. And while writing her back, I realized that I wanted to share this with you guys, because I think these kinds of questions are super common. I think people ask themselves these questions and then kind of don't know where to go for an answer. So sometimes people go to their provider, their health care provider who often doesn't know a ton about this. And you know, you might get a good response, but you're likely to get a pretty vague response. And some people will seek out the help of a trainer or start up with some fitness classes and just try to sort it out for themselves. And all of those things are fine and right. And there's nothing wrong with that. But let's spend a little time talking about it. Because I think there's a couple points with which we can dig a little bit deeper. So on the first note just about wanting something different or enjoying something different, that is so common, the most common thing I see is not what she's describing, actually, it's more that like, physical activity altogether, kind of goes out the window. And for some people, they're not even thinking about it anymore, because they just couldn't even imagine fitting it into their lives. And for other people, it's on their mind a lot, but they can't figure out how to get to it. So I would say that that's the bulk of people. So for starters, I want Debbie to know that she is like super awesome. She is still putting in the effort. And I remind people all the time, that movement is important. I don't care what it is as a baseline, I'm not going to make anyone feel bad about getting some exercise in, right, whatever we're doing to stay active is better than doing nothing. So we want to start from like, let's get rid of just being sedentary. And I don't care if that's super low intensity, low impact all the time. That's better than just being sedentary. From there, we can start to think about a couple things we can think about. Okay, how much time are you spending active meaning household activities commuting to work, caring for the baby cleaning the house all the things that just get us off our off our butts. And then from there, we can say how much time are we doing something that might actually get us into a moderate intensity zone. And how much time are we doing something that's vigorous. And if we're not doing any or much at that moderate or vigorous intensity level, we might start to think about ways we can get there. And in Debbie's case, I'm sure she's getting into the moderate zone, if not vigorous zone while running, and she's getting enough minutes of activity according to national guidelines. Right? And that's just a starting point. But she's getting that. Now she can sort of make some shifts and say, Where can I put a little bit of intensity back into this? And what I hear from her right now is that strength training just isn't feeling great or sounding interesting to her. I'm hearing a little bit of both, actually. So if she just needed to be reminded of the benefits, which I think she did, because she wrote me back to my answer, asking me some questions about why did I value strength training the way that I did, because let me back up a little bit in my response, after I kind of talked through ramping up the moderate and vigorous intensities a bit as a way to make a shift, if she can only stay in that cardio mindset for the time being, if she can make that shift into adding in little bits of strength training, that that would be great. And I had said to her something like, you know, I have a bias towards strength training. But at the same time, I'm just happy she's moving. That's so wonderful. So anyway, that's why she asked me, you know why. And I want to tell you guys a little bit more about why I think we talk around the edges of this a lot, but we don't really drive at home. So strength training is equally, if not more important for aging women, right. And I know Debbie to be in her 30s. So we're thinking about people in their 30s and onward. As we age, and by aging, I mean, even in our 30s, as we age, we start to lose muscle mass. But we can stave that off. And it's so important to do so. And I'm not saying this for purely aesthetic reasons, not at all. In fact, it's the lowest thing on the list, when I say these things, maintaining muscle mass is also maintaining bone mass. So those two things are going to come together, which is awesome. Because what happens as we age, we, whether we like it or not, we lose bone mass and muscle mass both okay. And when we put in the work to grow our muscles, we really, really can push off the inevitable quite a bit. Now there's a point with menopause where that shift is going to happen, and it's going to accelerate a bit. But we can stay on top of that. There are really great studies that show that even as late in life as in our 60s and 70s, starting a regimen that includes even modest amounts of strength training, can improve muscle mass coordination. And where we haven't even gone yet is the relationship to muscle mass, and glucose metabolism, right? Because we know that diabetes is common, right? Many people will move in the direction towards pre diabetes, or to hopefully if they have diabetes, diet controlled, but then from there, we get into oral medications and even insulin, the more muscle mass we have, the greater the ability for the body to utilize that glucose and maintain a nice healthy balance in our bodies of glucose so that we don't run around with too much high glucose or too frequent high glucose levels. And then from there, what I think people don't realize is that there's a pretty big relationship between diabetes and things like Alzheimer's. So we don't often connect, or make the leap, I should say, from the size of our muscles to diabetes, let alone to cognitive impairments as we age, but that's a real connection. And it's there's a lot of science that supports all of this. So if this is new to you, I'll make sure to link something fairly digestible in the show notes so that you can explore this a little bit more. And if if some of what I'm talking around the edges of is really interesting to you. I'm not sure if I've ever said this on the podcast before but my favorite podcast to listen to and it's not for every one and I get it is Peter A TIA the Dr. He is a lifestyle medicine doctor long, longevity science. He is he's really smart. That's really all I can say. He's really smart and he brings on really smart guests. The episodes are really long, and that can be hard to listen to even if you are medically trained. If it's not your area of expertise, it can go over your heads. But it's nice to just kind of work your way through those sections. ends because they always get back to the point. And they talk a lot about this kind of stuff. So Peter Atea keeps me on my toes, he keeps me aware of the state of the science, he keeps me aware of where, you know, research has its limitations and where politics intersects with how we get these bigger bodies of information or where we have lack of information sometimes. So anyway, back to Debbie real quick. So Debbie also asked me if strength training could be done just using her own body or if it had to involve weights. And that's another great question that came out of this dialogue, this conversation. Because I want to be really clear that strength training absolutely can be bodyweight only, like when you see people doing calisthenics and things like that, that's all just bodyweight. And they are crazy, strong and crazy buff, usually. Now what I would say is, there is a place for evolving beyond that for many people, because maintenance only gets us so far. Alright, so this is where it might get a little crazy making. If you aren't getting sore, sometimes if you aren't growing your muscles a little bit, you are plateauing. Right, and in order to continue to grow your muscles and get better and stronger. And really, I should focus on stronger rather than bigger muscles. Because we don't actually have to get bigger muscles to get stronger. There's plenty of people who keep getting stronger, but look the same. So that's I think, what's important to say here, but anyway, if we want to keep getting stronger, we need to add resistance. That doesn't necessarily mean we have to lift heavy weights or some idea that's in our mind about what that means or what bodybuilding and weightlifting looks like, it doesn't have to look a particular way, it might be the addition of bands, it might be any type of additional weight, whether that's I can a soup, a two pound dumbbell, or we start to get into kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, things like that, there are absolutely ways to do this, I would also say that in terms of body weight, there are ways to grow just using your body. So we can spend more time under tension. So say we were doing a squat, instead of just simply going up, down, up, down, up down, we might go down slowly for a count of five and spend more time under tension, or we might do more reps, or we might start doing single leg work. So instead of just squatting with both feet on the floor, we might do a Bulgarian split squat. I'll link to some of these terms in the show notes as well, if that's helpful. So even with just bodyweight, there are ways to add resistance, let's think about a push up. If you can't do a push up, you might do it at the wall. And when they get easier at the wall, you start walking your hands down the wall until you're using the back of a chair or a box and then moving towards, you know, lower and lower till you're at the floor. Right, which I significantly prefer over the typical air quotes, girl push ups, but neither here nor there at the moment. There's always ways to progress exercises that involve only your body. But we want to be making progress over time. We don't want to plateau, we want to keep getting stronger, build stamina, build capacity, get more coordinated. challenge our brains, that's probably where the Alzheimer's stuff comes in. Well, not only that, because it's also about glucose metabolism. But there's a couple different ways I think that that's working. Anyway, I just thought it was high time to start talking about some of the questions that come in to me and that I spend time and energy answering for people. I hope you found that helpful. Let me know and if if you did, we can keep this up and I can continue to bring some of these things your way. Hope you guys are well by.

Did you know that less than 15% of people meet guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity during pregnancy. As health care providers, it is our duty to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan and the perinatal period is all too often overlooked. Our clients look to us for guidance on this and we do the best we can with the knowledge we have. But that's often based on a combination of life experiences, common sense and myths. My new course exercise in the perinatal period for healthcare providers is designed for providers who are motivated to improve their ability to support their clients and getting or staying active throughout the perinatal period, including their postpartum return to fitness. Click The link in the show notes to learn more.

Thank you for listening to the mother whip podcast. If any of the issues we discussed today resonate with you or your experience, I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a voicemail at 917-310-0573. Or better yet, email me a voice memo at Tanya at I really want to hear what worked for you what didn't work, what support you'd wished you had, how you got through the tough times how you advocated for yourself, or especially any tips you want to share with our listeners. I want to hear all of it. And if you'd really like to work together, you can get a discount on your first consultation with me at Mother wit using the code, first consult10%off. That's 1-0-% symbol, all one word. Okay, that's all. That's wonderful being in community with you all. Thanks again for listening and see you next time.


And remember, listeners, nothing we discussed on this show should ever be considered medical advice. Please speak to your local provider about anything that comes up in this show that resonates with you and your needs and your health care.

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