The Strong Moms Series
This podcast series addresses issues that strong moms and strong women deal with around lifting, training, and life.
Rebekah Krieg and Anna Marie Oakes-Joudy discuss stress incontinence, pregnancy, making time to train, setting a positive example, and common myths around moms and lifting.
Ep 1: Meet Some Strong Moms
Rebekah Krieg and Anna Marie Oakes-Joudy discuss their journey to and with barbell training and share what strength has meant to them and to the moms they have trained. Meet your hosts, two strong people, great coaches, and wonderful moms.
Anna Marie, like many, found barbells through CrossFit. She naturally gravitated toward strength workouts and looked to the CrossFitters who focused on strength training. She noticed the immediate benefits to her everyday activities, and loved how barbells helped her with body recomposition–not just gaining or losing weight, and how she felt with a stronger, more muscular body.
Bekah also participated in CrossFit, but her first foray into exercise was soccer and sports. After a shoulder injury, she was told she really needed to add some muscle around her shoulder, and this helped push her toward simple, hard, effective training.
Both had female athlete role models, but also felt weird in that they were attracted to strength and athleticism but it wasn’t quite accepted.
They find that with moms, a light bulb comes on as mothers adopt this mode of training and see the benefits in their body but also increased confidence. Strength training is part of self care as a mom, and taking care of yourself helps be a better person and mother. Strength training is empowering.
Much of being a mother is about sacrifice and worrying about and taking care of others’ needs. It can be hard to justify the time it takes to train and that you’re spending time on yourself. Bekah says she struggles–and she finds many moms struggle with the thought: “I want this for my daughter, but I’m not sure I want this for me.”
Ultimately, strength training isn’t for all women, but more women should try it and many would benefit from it who might misunderstand barbells and their benefits.
Finally, a note to dudes and men and husbands: don’t try to convince your wife to train. Be a positive role model, but pushing your wife to train will likely only push her away. She has to come to strength training on her own terms, and you have to understand and support that. Become a strong mom.
Ep 2: Pregnancy & Lifting
Anna Marie & Rebekah tackle pregnancy and lifting.
There’s lots of bad information and poor choices people can make in this arena. Recommendations generally used to be against any exercise during pregnancy. Luckily, it’s much more common and acceptable to exercise while pregnant. Modifications and listening to your body will help.
Anna Marie became pregnant after 4 years of consistent training. Anna Marie’s personality is one where she’ll push things too far and not back off when she should sometimes, whereas others may back off too much.
She deadlifted and squatted up until the middle of her last week, and used RPE to modify intensity when needed. One important note for her is that she had trained for 4 years consistently and is a coach, so she was well conditioned and in shape and knew how to make intelligent modifications when needed.
Some recommend against starting lifting when pregnant. While it depends on health, previous exercise and activity, and the stage of pregnancy, women can in fact begin training when pregnant, but things will need to be progressed more conservatively. The biggest thing for novices–and pregnant women in general–is managing stress.
When it comes to managing stress, consider that every pregnancy is different, so you don’t want to judge yourself against a previous pregnancy. You also don’t want to judge yourself against other women and their pregnancy: it’s ultimately about your body now. What are you capable of doing today?
Different lifts may prevent pain and discomfort for different people. Some common modifications that you may use include the following: high bar squats, bodyweight squats, rack pulls, feet up on bench press, seated press, tempo squat.
Modifying intensity will almost certainly be required. Some ideas for this are using RPE to modify the intensity if the lifts feel much harder than they should. Another is to prescribe tonnage. This keeps the total work and work capacity up, but allows the lifter to do more volume at lighter weights if needed as opposed to higher weights with less volume.
Expect ups and downs. It’s okay if you have to modify a lift or modify intensity or even skip or postpone a workout. This is definitely a place where having a coach helps, as people tend to either be too aggressive or too conservative with themselves.
Consistency matters more than anything else. If you train consistently, even at light weights, you will be physically better prepared for the birth and get stronger.
Following birth, don’t rush into training too quickly. Though you may see others return to training or exercise almost immediately after birth, beginning before you are ready can cause injuries and complications and ultimately prevent you from serious training and returning to your previous strength levels as fast as you would have it you had had a bit more patience following the birth. Listen to your body.
Getting back to training helps give many women a feeling of autonomy. Some women have feelings that–because they are supporting the fetus with their body–they lack bodily autonomy. Returning to training can help create a return to normality and bring this feeling of autonomy. Again, though, return conservatively, modify as necessary, and don’t progress too quickly. There is a good hormonal environment to train post-pregnancy but, again, beginning too quickly and too aggressively can ultimately create problems that prevent progress.
Ep 3: Stress Incontinence
Bekah & Anna Marie take on the elephant in the room when it comes to females lifting: stress incontinence. They provide helpful tips and strategies whether you struggle with this yourself or you are a coach who has clients who struggle with this (whether they tell you or not). To be clear, we’re discussing what happens if you pee when lifting, usually at heavier weights.
Different types of incontinence exist, and they specifically discuss stress incontinence. Even when it comes to stress incontinence, different types exist and you may find that stress incontinence occurs along familiar patterns for different lifters.
When it comes to stress incontinence, you typically two diametrically-opposed reactions: shroud of same or badge of honor. Lifters may feel ashamed that it occurs and not want to discuss and even consider not lifting anymore, or they celebrate it and see it as evidence of hard work, like some CrossFitters may feel or have felt about puking during an especially hard “met con.”
Some things tend to make this more likely. Below are some features or events that will likely make stress incontinence more likely to occur:
- being female
- having had kids, especially 2+
- wearing a belt
- heavier weights
- during a particular portion of the monthly cycle
Don’t worry, though. There are ways to deal with this, beyond diapers or pads to absorb the issue at hand.
Below are some important things and potential ways to address this:
- proper instruction on bracing
- incontinence RPE, where this issue limits intensity
- limiting rep ranges
- don’t wear a belt
- adjust exercises: high bar
- don’t drink caffeine before training on training days
- NOT emptying your bladder repeatedly between work sets
- adjust training during the portion of your cycle where this is more likely to occur
- think about this like a form error that you can address (and potentially a form error that you don’t allow and adjust training if it occurs)
- prescribe tonnage goals
Thinking about bearing down like you’re going to the bathroom is definitely NOT helpful. Learning proper bracing and valsalva can help, and these muscles can actually be strengthened alongside your other muscles. You may find that these muscles lag behind your others, but you can still get seriously strong even if you limit stresses that tend to cause this to occur. It’s more like clenching like someone is going to hit your stomach.
Kegels and other exercises can help, but they simply aren’t similar enough to holding a properly braced position for a hard set of squats or deadlifts.
People tend to find that this occurs at a fatigue threshold or intensity threshold. Some women find that longer sets make it harder to prevent this, so lowering rep ranges and doing more sets can help.
Other women may find that a certain intensity causes it. In this case, limiting intensity can help.
If you find that it occurs during a certain time of the month, then you can adjust that portion of the month with lower weights or reps, no belt, tempo squats and supplemental squats that make it easier to control and lower the intensity.
Another thing to note is that trying to empty your bladder before every work set likely only creates an expectation in your body that you need to pee when you train, so this is ultimately counterproductive.
Bekah and Anna Marie have found that this often occurs alongside form breakdown (as, if you think about it, you tend to adjust your body in certain ways when you pee). Just like other form errors, you can learn to prevent them as much as possible and, of course, adjust training when they occur.
There’s the mental side to this. You may feel embarassed from this. You may get upset that your platform or clothes get urine on them. There’s fear and apprehension, especially when you train in ways that tends to cause this to happen (higher reps or intensities).
Finally, after hearing all this you might feel guilty or not normal if you’re a woman and don’t struggle with this. That’s fine too! Different people struggle with different things in life and lifting, and you don’t need to feel bad whether you struggle with this or not.
We should be able to talk about this and help people alleviate and address this issue. This podcast is here to help.
Ep 4: Being an Example to Your Kids
How do you balance all your responsibilities and set a positive example for your kids? Bekah and Anna Marie discuss what they’ve found works for themselves, their clients, and other strong moms.
It can feel impossible to train while maintaining your other responsibilities. Despite this feeling, training can help bolster your ability to uphold your other responsibilities. Capable, strong moms who regularly subject themselves to difficulty can better weather difficult times.
Training helps set an example for your children that choosing to struggle can help, shifting away the idea of body image and appearance to capability and strength, and you might hear your teenage son tell his friends “my mom can bench more than you.”
When you embrace voluntary hardship, you will likely find yourself gravitating toward others who act similarly. Beyond setting an example yourself, your children will see examples of your friends and acquaintances. Beyond benefiting your children, you will surround yourself with people who raise you up and make you want to be better.
You’ll see confidence and mental health benefits, as you realize you’re tougher than you thought. You and your children will see the benefit of individual and short term failure and how pushing beyond these failures leads to long-term success.
Making the mental shift to training can be difficult, so have awareness for what makes this easier and you can try some different strategies. Having a home gym helps tremendously, though you may find that you need to lift at a time when you know that your children won’t be around. Plan around your family schedule, knowing when it will be the easiest for you to train, and this might mean breaking up your workouts into smaller parts throughout the day or getting in what you can during the week and then having a longer workout or workouts on the weekend.
You may also want to reevaluate how you spend your time. You almost certainly are spending time on things that, if you think about them, matter less to you and provide less good than training to you and your family.
Finally, you can think about your “done list.” This is your to do list at the end of the day or week: what did you accomplish, and how will you feel looking at what you accomplished versus what you didn’t? Would it be better that you completed what you did if you didn’t train? Probably not.
Return to training if you stop: you can always come back, but when you’re training ensure you fit it in–even if the intensity or frequency or volume is lowered: do something. Lift.
Ep 5: Strong Mom Myths Busted
Rachel Reynolds joins Bekah & Anna Marie to bust some strong moms myths, including toning & tightening, burning belly fat, giving you energy, and confidence.
2:57 Energy to Keep Up with Your Kids
- doesn’t give you energy, but gives you strength & confidence & calmness
- it’s a give and take because it also takes energy
6:31 Tightening & Toning Your Body
- lifting does probably does what you want “toning” to be & do
- visible muscles but not too many muscles
- can’t promise what you’re going to look like
- your body will change
- finding clothes can be more difficult, but more options exist these days
20:15 Burning Belly Fat
- lifting does use some energy and also helps skews calories toward building muscle
- you want to be a gas-guzzling body and eat all the calories, not a prius
- it does take hard work to look a certain way
- lift+nutrition=superpower & real body transformations
- just dropping body weight really won’t do what you think it will do (you probably won’t be happy with the result)
- you can eat more food
35:33 Body Transformation & Not Feeling Like Yourself
- can cut and get stronger if you start off bigger
- some people have a number they’re unwilling to get heavier than, regardless of how they look
- important to have people in your corner (spouse, friends, family)
43:33 Strength Training Builds Confidence
- choosing to struggle builds confidence
- sense of control as well
52:27 Why Train as a Busy Mom?
- try it
- how important is your long term health for you and your quality of life?
- find a coach you connect with
- you can do it!
- most people have this “I’m so glad I did that” feeling about training, getting stronger, and the overall process & change
- you won’t regret trying it