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I have been doing CrossFit since 2004 and a former regional level competitor (2010 – 2013). I am a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer and also a Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Specialist. After having my second son, I decided to change careers from a high school English teacher of 12 years to a pregnancy and postpartum athleticism trainer. I never thought I would change careers; however, this has become my heart project that I cannot ignore. I am on a mission to help moms avoid the misinformation, confusion, panic, pain, and fear that I experienced during my return to fitness. Even though advertisements on social media show a “one size fits all” answer for postpartum fitness, each situation is drastically different. By really listening to each woman’s story, I provide an individualized approach to both empower them and help them heal their mind and body.
Connect with Lisa. @lisa.marie.ryan (IG) / @lisamarieryan22 “Lisa Ryan” (FB)
Share a little about how your pain started.
I had intense back pain and just assumed that was from a weak core but I didn’t have a clue I had the extreme case of diastasis recti that I did until I tested for it myself at home.
At one point I kinda learned about diastasis. I remember feeling my belly laying down and trying to find a separation but didn’t feel anything (because I wasn’t testing the right way). However, I remember being terrified of touching my own belly and also extremely terrified of what I might find.
This was after going to multiple doctors. One told me I couldn’t have another kid unless I got this fixed because I wouldn’t be able to support the baby in my belly. Another told me I was fine and could just get a tummy tuck after I was done having kids. All of these things completely terrified me, and I felt completely out of control and scared.
Tell me about your life while you were at the height of your pain experience.
For months I would wake up and look at my stomach and try to see if it had gotten smaller. As I slowly lost the weight and my stomach stayed the same, I felt hopeless, confused, angry, and scared.
Once I had a diagnoses and began to understand what exactly was going on in my body, I had to scale back at CrossFit. The problem was not one single person there had any advice to help me do it or even knew what was going on. I was completely alone. On top of the fact that I was just starting to get back to some heavy weights since I was creeping up on a year postpartum. Then, I had to give it all up again to try to figure out how to heal myself. I was around 9 months postpartum when I found a PFPT. My mom had been going to PT for her back and mentioned what I was going through to her therapist and she recommended I see a pelvic floor PT. I didn’t even know what that was! I did a few months of work with her. I also tried doing a “program” I bought online and I would do these home workouts in addition to going to see my PFPT and modifying at the CrossFit gym.
Just after a year postpartum, I was set free back in the gym. I felt okay overall but some movements still didn’t feel right and I didn’t fully understand anything until I got pregnant with my second and finally found the right help. Then after my second, I became paralyzed by my diagnoses and traumatized by my long and confusing journey so much that I was scared to move out of my “safe” zone of movement. . Because I was lost, confused, and scared for so long I held on to this control of doing “diastasis safe” movements for way too long for my particular case. I finally made improvements in my rehab once I just let go and moved like the athlete that I am.
What finally changed?
This lead me to start my own business. I never want another women to go through the pain, confusion, fear, hopelessness, and extreme sadness that I went through for years as I searched for answers. I was so bitter that this was honestly the way I began to heal, by helping others.
If you could share one thing that changed in your thinking and headed you in a new direction, what was it?
Whatever time I need to take to rehab, won’t take anything away from my athleticism. Taking time off for a surgery again, won’t set me back in the long run. I have learned to truly love the journey because when I get back to feeling like I want to at the gym, it is an even greater feeling and appreciation for doing those movements. This has truly strengthened my mental game even more than during my competitive Crossfit years.
What does life look like now?
When I first started incorporating some of the “bad” movements back into my workout routine, my hernia began to hurt and it freaked me out. However, once I got permission and that is really was OK for me to be doing these movements, that pain went away. I didn’t even realize it went away until a week or so later! It has not been back during workouts- only if the kids kick my belly.
Even though I do need surgery, I feel so much more in control of my body it is absolutely unreal. While fear does creep in sometimes, overall, I feel free while before I felt completely trapped almost daily. However, this journey is not done and there is a lot to restore. I have such anxiety and fear over this surgery and how recovery will go that this it the next fear to tackle. However, this time around I know that after this surgery, it will be the last time I will be recovering. It is also hard for me to trust any medical people anymore because I was thrown for so many loops before. However, when I get scared, I repeat to myself that my body will adapt, my surgeon is great (I interviewed lots of people, and have been back to this guy 3 times with questions before I scheduled my date), and I have the best team of people in my corner.
Anything else you would like to share?
People selling “programs” claiming to “heal your diastasis” can be dangerous. Not because they will injure you but because most women need a VERY individualized plan for healing- and many are left devastated with less money. On the flip side, I know it is hard to find pelvic floor PTs in many areas and even harder to find PFPTs that are trained in the newest progressive measures.
What do you wish you could share with medical professionals now?
Please just admit when you don’t know something or that maybe you might not be the right professional for a particular client. Also, I just wish medical professionals worked in groups. The fact that OBs are so disconnected from PTs makes no sense to me.
What do you want others experiencing (postpartum issues/pain) to know?
Once you find the right help, it will all be okay- on so many levels. If you feel like someone is not really listening or doesn’t really understand your goals, you are correct. Find someone new.