We have a very special guest, Bethany Gerry, on the podcast today!
Bethany is going to be sharing her expertise on exercising during postpartum.
Bethany is a fitness and wellness coach, and she specializes in the postpartum years. She’s also a retired Olympian.
The information that Bethany has is slightly different from what you hear in the mainstream postpartum wellness industry.
I’ve actually had the privilege of working with Bethany over the course of a few years now.
She’s also someone who’s taken the postpartum nutrition certification, she makes it a priority for fitness and overall wellness with her clients because she knows better than most that they go hand in hand.
Be sure to share any thoughts you have on this episode in a review and follow so you don’t miss the weekly release of episodes!
In this episode, we share with you:
- Sharing Bethany’s story
- How she became an Olympian
- Going from an Olympian to where she is now
- Being a personal trainer while being an Olympic athlete
- I didn’t feel right after weaning my daughter
- My doctor said it was depression
- Working with a functional medicine doctor
- I had to heal my body
- Knowing where to start to heal your body after having a baby
- Working out after a baby can be an added stressor
- If our body is saying this is not right, you need to listen to it
- If you need rest and nutrition then do that
- We underestimate the impact growing a person in our body
- Have more respect for your body
- Allow yourself time to heal
- Being cleared by a doctor at six weeks, then go back to normal life
- This initial period of healing is so essential
- Rebuilding your foundation from the ground up
- Retraining breathing patterns
- Start that routine of self-care
- Floor based exercises
- Creating a foundation in which your body is going to operate from not just physically but hormonally and emotionally
We all get it: postpartum and the years after having a baby is no walk in the park. But you know what? It isn’t just about depression or anxiety either.
Hey, my friend, I’m Maranda Bower, a homesteading mama with four wild kids whose life, passion, and education is all about supporting mothers and providers in understanding the science, the art, and the sacredness of healing after birth. What we know as common sense in the postpartum years has many women feeling just plain awful. It’s time to bring back the truth, get you the tools you need to heal, and thrive in motherhood and beyond.
Hello, welcome to the Postpartum Circle podcast. I’m your host, Maranda Bower, your womb whisperer and postpartum bliss coach, and I have a very special guest here with us today. Bethany Gary is a fitness and wellness coach and she specializes in the postpartum years. She’s also a retired Olympian. So the information that she has here is slightly different than what you hear in, you know, the mainstream postpartum wellness industry. And this is why I love her so much. I’ve actually had the privilege of working with Bethany over the course of a few years now. I think… oh, I lose track of time. Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve worked together. She’s also someone who’s taken the postpartum nutrition certification. Which is why she works with fitness and wellness because they go hand-in-hand. I’m just super excited to have you. Welcome!
“Well, thank you so much. Great introduction.”
And I’m really wanting my audience to kind of understand, like, where you’ve come from, your background, why you are so passionate, and so damn good at what you do. So share with the world your story because it’s so amazing.
“Yeah, so I mean I started out as a gymnast. Athletics… I’m one of five girls, and athletics has always been something prominent in our lives. My parents always had us in something, and gymnastics kind of was our main focus for many, many years. And then in high school, I dabbled into track and field and soccer. Ultimately, I ended up at UConn as a track and field athlete in the hammer throw, which a lot of people don’t know about. I ended up having a great track and field career there. I was a two-time All-American and went on to train for the Olympics in that sport, something I never thought I would do. I never thought I had Olympic potential. I was just kind of, I loved pushing my body to be the best it could be. The body is so fascinating and we are capable of more than we could ever dream of. I just wanted to push those limits. So that was always my goal as an athlete.
“Upon graduating from college and training for the hammer in the Olympics, I met a physical therapist who got me involved in the sport of bobsledding, which is ultimately the sport I ended up being an Olympian in in 2006. I just kind of went back and forth between those sports for a few years, pushing the limits of my body to see what it could do. Bobsled is like the ultimate push, the limit of your body, which is just absolutely incredible that you had done that.”
I saw a picture recently that you posted on Facebook. Oh my gosh, how incredibly empowering that image was. I might even just have that image to share with you guys because it was so incredible.
“The whole journey, you know, I kind of was one of those people who set a goal, achieved it, and set the next level goal. Like I said, I didn’t have the dream to be an Olympian. I didn’t think I possessed that amount of talent. But between the hard work and obviously some athletic talent, I stuck with it and traveled the world. I had wonderful experiences all around, not even just athletically. Those experiences have helped me tremendously. After retiring from the Olympics, I went on to compete in CrossFit at a very high level, going to the games. We were second in the world back in 2013. I was on a team, not individual, which is a whole different level. Competing at the CrossFit Games twice… oh, the good old days.”
Okay, so you are like a superstar athlete here. How in the world did you go from this extreme success in athletics to specializing in the postpartum years? How did you transition into supporting women in health, fitness, wellness, and postpartum?
“Well, professionally I started with a degree in athletic training. I was working with sports teams and in a physical therapy clinic, rehabbing orthopedic injuries and working with high school athletes. At some point, I was approached about doing personal training. I started doing personal training more with the general population and found that schedule worked really well with my Olympic training. It had more flexibility, so I could train and work. I got more into the personal training realm and moved away from athletic training. I always loved helping people work through injuries and working with people who didn’t think they could work out safely or kept injuring themselves and trying to troubleshoot.
“How could they still reach their fitness goals? But maybe just in a little bit different way that was more accommodating to the limitations that they might have or restrictions that they had with their body, with an injury or something like that. And for 17 years now, that’s been my focus.
And then I had children, and after I weaned my second child at 15 months, I found myself in this place I just didn’t feel right. And I went to the doctor, they told me, you know, it’s hormones, you’ve weaned your daughter, stress of parenthood, and all of these things. It’s totally normal. And I was like, OK. Well, six months later, I still didn’t feel right. And I just knew in my gut that something wasn’t quite right. And I had to dig deeper. I mean, I thought I had seasonal effective disorder. I thought I was working too much. Like, I kept doing all these things. I thought it was my IUD at one point, had that taken out. And finally, my doctor said to me, she said, you know, I think that we’re dealing with something else here, and you might be suffering with depression.
“So I started on antidepressants and ended up going down this path, working with a functional medicine doctor, and really healing myself in a way that I didn’t anticipate. And that was with nutrition. And I actually didn’t exercise. I stopped exercising because it was more of a stress to my body. And I didn’t feel good. I had basically exercise intolerance, which after, gosh, how many years of training my body? And I thought I would never spend– not have a day in the gym. And I just couldn’t get myself there. And when I did, it was miserable. And so I finally healed my body after quite some time. Gosh, it was probably a year or two of solid nutrition, working on nervous system regulation, all of these things. And I’m only recently getting back into exercise.
“And as I kind of look back and reflect on this journey and talk to all these other mom friends I have now, I see this common theme of these women who are struggling. You know, it’s this battle of getting your body back after having a baby. You know, and all these moms are dieting and crushing themselves in the gym and either not seeing the results that they want or they don’t feel good. And then they’re dealing with these mood disorders or developing auto-immunes and all these other things. And I think there’s a disconnect after we have grown a person in our body and then, you know, give birth to this human being that we are now responsible for sustaining their life and then it’s kind of like, well, where do we start to heal our bodies? And I think we could have much better guidance in terms of the nutrition and the exercise and fitness piece ’cause just because your doctor clears you at six weeks, I think I made the mistake of, I just went back too much too soon and I made a lot of mistakes on that journey that I, you know, going now knowing what I know, I wish I could have done differently.
“And so as I’ve healed through my journey and recognize these commonalities, I really want to use my expertise in fitness and nutrition to help these moms who are struggling to survive get more to a thriving place of being a happy, healthy mom.”
This is amazing. And there are so many points, like key points, that you have mentioned here. And the one thing that I wanna go back to is that you as this athlete who is used to working out, who’s used to pushing your body, here comes postpartum. And working out was not something that your body needed. And I want to stress the importance here because I hear so many people say, well, you know, I don’t feel well, I’m suffering from depression, anxiety, a host of other issues and I’m told that if I work out, I’ll feel better, but I can’t bring myself to work out. And like there’s so much guilt and pressure around it.
“And it’s like, we need to understand that, yeah, you know what, working out for some women during postpartum is helpful, right?”
“For a lot of other women, that’s not what we want.”
Right, you do.
“An additional stressor. Not only from a physical standpoint too on your body, but from a time perspective. There are so many factors, right, that go into it. And I think you’re right. You know, that is kind of that piece, like, you know, you’re supposed to exercise because exercise is supposed to make you feel better, but you can’t motivate yourself to exercise. And if you do, sometimes you don’t feel great. Absolutely. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a catch-22 almost. And I think we just really need to understand that, hey, if our body is saying that this is not the thing for us to do, it’s okay to honor that and understand that, you know what, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s the rest and the nutrition piece that you need, and the emotional support that you need to meet before you even get to that place.”
Right. Here we are, having a retired Olympic athlete telling us that this is the reality, you guys.
“And you know, it was really harsh. It took me a long time. It took me probably over a year of fighting this battle to recognize that it was something I needed to actually take off my plate. And had I recognized sooner, it may have just looked different. But I, you know, I think a lot of us just go back to what we think is a modified version of what we were doing, but it’s still more sometimes than our bodies are able to tolerate. And I think back to when I was injured as an athlete, and we honored that time most of the time to heal and to stop doing activities that made the injury worse, to hone in on our nutrition and hone in on resting that injury to heal so we could compete. Because we knew if we didn’t, we’d be re-injured and end up not able to compete, possibly missing some of the biggest competitions of our year. And, you know, when you really think, I think we underestimate the impact of growing a person in our body and the resources that it takes from our body to do that, and then to heal from that while also caring for and sustaining the life of this human being.
“You know, I always think back to, I think I had this tough girl attitude of like, well, back in the day they just worked hard and they just pushed through it. It’s just having a baby. But then I’m like, but maybe that actually wasn’t smart, you know? Their life expectancy back then wasn’t that great. So I think, you know, having more respect for our bodies and what it’s been through during this process to have a baby and grow a baby, and really respecting that process and allowing that time to heal is more, I think, what we need to focus on. But a lot of us don’t get that guidance. You get cleared at the doctor at six weeks and then it’s like, okay, go back to normal life, but that’s different for every single person.”
Yeah, absolutely. And the clearing, this is the funny thing to me. And I think I mentioned it in another episode before about how we are so, you know, we go to the doctor and they ask us some questions and occasionally they’ll look inside our vagina as if they can tell what’s going on inside there, like with the rest of our body, right? And then declare that, oh, you’re good to go. What does that even mean? Right? And it’s so frustrating to me because I see so many women return to running or jogging or getting out there and working out and lifting weights. And then, you know, a couple of months later, they come back and they have a prolapse, right? Or they start having incontinence issues. Or back pain, hip pain, knee pain, all of these things.
“Yes, yes. And so what we need to understand is that this initial period of healing is so essential. Yes, we can do our Kegels. Yes, we can get up and walk, right? But these higher-impact things, as in just doing, you know, occasionally some yoga moves, are not in your benefit, right? Working on your core muscles in certain ways, you know, what we’re used to as exercise, is not the way it generally goes in postpartum, right? And healing the body, and this is something maybe you can speak to, what are some things? Because there are moms out there who want to start working on their body because it helps them feel good. And we have things like breathing and posture and things like that.”
Can you speak on what exercise could look like that’s healthy, where a mom could start, that’s not going to put any extra pressure on her organs, her physical body, but also her emotional and mental health?
“Right. I think, so I think immediately postpartum, we have to recognize our bodies have never, especially after the first baby, been through this before. And even with a second baby, that’s a second pregnancy. Your body’s never had two pregnancies before. It’s really coming from the focus of rebuilding your foundation from the ground up. And it’s a great time. Life is stressful. And I think coming from the aspect of retraining breathing patterns, you know, there’s a way to breathe for exercise and there’s a way to breathe for relaxation.
“There’s a way to breathe for working on and assessing if you have that diastasis recti. A lot of women, I was just reading, somebody was like 10 years post and they didn’t even realize they ever had one. And so, knowing how to assess that, or seeking a professional that can help them assess that and then retraining breathing patterns is crucial.
“And as we know, the nervous system is essential. I mean, how are we not in fight or flight survival mode when we have a baby, between the birth and then caring for a child or more than one? I think the breathing is a great way to get abdominals contracting in a safe way and to help heal it and close the diastasis if there is one. And also to calm the nervous system, you know, to just start that routine of self-care for a mom to know that times when she’s feeling stressed out, like that’s a great thing to always be able to go back to.
“So, I think starting with basic breathing patterns, some diaphragmatic breathing, and then being able to utilize that breathing strategy and start with floor-based exercises is the way to go. You know, after somebody injures their hip or knee, you don’t start them standing weight-bearing. You start them on the floor with basic exercises and basic progression. So taking that breathing strategy and starting to work on floor progressions, working to half-kneeling progressions, and then ultimately back to standing progressions, I think would be a great place to have a mom be able to start feeling like she can start working and using some of those muscles. But strengthening the core, getting glute hamstrings firing again, and just moving through movement patterns that, now that she doesn’t have a belly there anymore, we can go back and retrain those patterns and get those muscles strong and rebuild that foundation again.”
Yeah, and I think that’s the key, right? Like you are creating a foundation in which your body is going to operate from, not just physically, but hormonally, emotionally, right? All of these different components. I often describe to my clients, they come to me at rock bottom. My clients are at rock bottom, and we want to get them up, you know, in the elevator and have their, you know, “rock bottom” to be like level 10, right? And so when they fall from the 20th floor, and when they fall, they’re not going to hit rock bottom anymore because they have created such a foundation in their body that they’re going to hit level 10 instead of literally the rock bottom, right? And so that’s going to shift so much, and I’m so appreciative of you coming here and sharing that with everyone because that’s truly how we’re going to shift and heal and change our body.
So I’m so grateful that you are doing this work and that you are combining nutrition along with it because that is such a key factor. And share with everybody where can they find you because you’re on fire right now. You’re posting a lot of amazing information. You were just featured on your local news channel. Like you’ve got a big program that’s about to release. Tell everyone where they can find you and learn more.
“The best place to find me is on Instagram and my Instagram name is “destined2evolve” with “destined” and then the number two and then “evolve”. All one word, no underscores or anything. And within there, I have a link tree to some different links to either my Facebook page, which is kind of more on the personal side, but I think it’s all part of it, right? You know, we’re real people also as we kind of do these things professionally, and some links to be able to contact me if people are interested in working with me as well.”
Beautiful. Thank you so much. And of course, we’ll have that link in the show notes for you so you can go take a look at her information and really learn how to start supporting the foundations of your physical health. And that’s the key here. So if you are really looking at beginning your workout journey or if you even have already started that and you are wanting to make adjustments and really start honing in on that foundational piece and building up to have a healthy, supported body, definitely go check out Bethany and what she has.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing with everyone. Of course, any time, of course, we’ll have to do it again. Thanks for sure. Thanks for tuning in and taking the time to learn about how to support your body and deep healing. We don’t do this work just for us or for you. Your healing impacts your children, your relationships, and your community. We do this work because the health and vibrancy of our world begins with its mothers.
I hope you have taken some valuable information today and applied it to your own life. If you aren’t sure where to begin, then reach out about working together one-on-one or at minimum learning about my postpartum nutrition plan, which is where I start every single one of my clients. And you can do that by going to MarandaBower.com.
Hope you enjoyed this episode. Let us know by leaving a review, and we will see you next time.
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