Caring for Your Body

A sphincter says what…?!

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Did you ever watch Wayne’s World?? If not, you really need to, or we can’t be friends!

If the sphincter reference of the title went right over the top of your head, because you maybe lived in a cave for the duration of your childhood/teen years, then you’ll be super pleased to know that I’m here to talk about actual sphincters instead of Wayne’s World.

Have you heard of the term “anorectal angle”? It refers to the angle at which your rectum and anal canal are held at and this is controlled by the anterior (forward) pull of the puborectalis sling at the anorectal junction – say what?! Let me show you with this stupendous illustration I prepared with my very own hands:

Illustration showing the puborectalis sling pulling the rectum forwards to create the sharp bend at the anorectal junction.

 

In day to day life, if your puborectalis sling (a muscle) didn’t pull correctly, to create the sharp bend in your anal canal, you would lose continence i.e. poop yourself. If you’re not sure about where that muscle is, you’ll be able to associate a feeling with the function of that sling, because you must mindfully relax it in order to poop.

So, why am I telling you about anorectal angles, slings, continence and poop? Well, it occurred to me that most women (and men too) won’t really have ever been told how to poo correctly. The use of the western style of sitting toilet means that we have to work much harder to pass poop than those that traditionally do it in a squatted position. Couple that with the habit of sitting hunched over whilst reading a phone/book/newspaper/shampoo bottle (we’ve all done it!), you are reducing the angle of your anal canal even further. The sharper and smaller the angle, the more difficult it is to pass stools and the more inclined you are to push or force it out.

Whilst you are in the motion of pooping (or defecation, if you’re fancy), you mindfully allow pelvic diaphragm muscles relax, which makes the puborectalis sling also relax. This relaxation causes the sharp bend between the rectum and anus to straighten, making the exit of faeces substantially easier. Think about a garden hose – the water doesn’t come out if there is a tight bend in the tube. This relaxation and straightening can be further improved by squatting in a particular position.

Whilst everyone can benefit from learning how to master the perfect poop exit, this is particularly useful for women. As women, our pelvic floors take a battering and if there is anything we can do to relieve any pressure or force placed on them, then take that advice and treat it like a golden egg.

If you happen to be pregnant, have ever been pregnant (remember that very scary first poo after giving birth???), or you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction (urinary incontinence, feeling of floor weakness, pain during sex, difficulty emptying bladder or bowels, prolapse), or even if you have no current issues or indications… in fact, if you are a woman of any life stage, this golden egg is for you.

Reducing your anorectal angle will save you from the strain.

So, how do you go about making the bend less of a bend? The answer is in mimicking a squat-like position whilst on the toilet. I’m not abut to tell you to dig a hole for you to squat over, nor am I going to suggest that you should balance precariously on the edge of the toilet seat. All you need to do to find that perfect angle, is to raise your feet by 6 or 7inches/15-18cm – ta dah, golden egg!

You won’t be able to do this by simply lifting and holding your feet, I mean, that will cause a whole different type of intra-abdominal pressure – not good. But by popping a couple of toilet rolls, a kid’s potty, a block of wood, a child’s bathroom step, a Squatty Potty, 25 issues of the reader’s digest under your feet…  you’ll be able to elevate your feet, causing more of a squat position and further straightening your anal passage. No strain, no force, very minimal pressure. Here is another perfectly excellent, informative illustration that I prepared for you whilst my children destroyed the living room:

 

Illustration showing the difference in anorectal angle when sitting and squatting.

 

Try it next time you need to clear your bowels, I promise you, it makes a huge difference.

Apart from finding that anorectal angle sweet spot, there are a few other things you should do to ensure that you can poop carefree forever:

  1. Drink lots of water. Really. You have got to stay well hydrated in order to produce soft, easily passable poos.
  2. Eat lots of fibre-filled foods. Fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, whole grain breads and pastas. Fibre is your bottom’s best friend. Without it, you will have to force a rock out.
  3. Move around a lot. Walk, stretch – your body loves to move and can digest more efficiently if it is able to do so.
  4. Breathe better. Get your breathing connected with your pelvic floor. Don’t work against yourself. This is most definitely something I can help you with. You would be amazed by how many women don’t breathe correctly.
  5. Don’t rush. Forcing out a poo is never ideal. Take your time to pass your stool with minimal pressure. Trust me, you do not want to risk anal tears/fissures, haemorrhoids or prolapse later on down the line.

So, there we have it. Your guide to pooping with confidence and ease. Now don’t say I don’t treat you to some useful gems. In 30+ years, you’ll look back and thank me for your anal continence and easy stool passing.

Happy pooping,
Charlie

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Does your diet contain enough iron?

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As a personal trainer and qualified nutritionist, I have a definite interest in what goes in to bodies, what your body needs and what happens when you don’t give your body what it requires. Because I work with women, the majority of my audience is made up of ladies that are pregnant or have been pregnant, so I take a special interest in the mineral iron.
28 x Apple Spatone Sachets
Iron is vital for your body. Both male and female bodies need it for making red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. However, women require much more iron, particularly during certain life stages.

According to the NHS website, the amount of iron you need is:

  • 8.7mg a day for men over 18
  • 14.8mg a day for women aged 19-50 years
  • 8.7mg a day for women over 50

Women that experience particularly heavy bleeding during their period, may suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Levels may also drop during pregnancy and/or soon after birth. Routine blood tests offered during these stages will indicate whether a supplement may be needed.
So why exactly do you need iron and how can you get enough? Iron has several functions within the body. It oxygenates the blood, helps convert food to energy, it helps maintain a normal immune system, it contributes to normal cognitive function. It cannot be made in our bodies, it must be ingested, through diet or supplementation. There are some foods that are better than others at providing iron. Foods such as meat (in particular, liver), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and fortified foods are all good sources. However, it can be difficult to take in enough iron through diet alone, especially if you are pregnant, or you choose not to eat meat, or dislike foods that contain strong sources.
Knowing when to supplement is key to your iron levels and bodily function. Symptoms of iron deficiency include tiredness/lacking energy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and pale skin. If this sounds familiar, a quick blood test from your GP will tell you if you may need to supplement. Typically, the supplements available on the NHS are quite harsh and can cause stomach pains, constipation and black poo. I know from experience, that after having my first baby and being prescribed iron tablets, they are no fun at all. It was my midwife at the time that suggested using Spatone as a natural alternative. That was back in 2010 and I’ve not looked back since.
If you are currently, or have been pregnant, the name Spatone will likely ring a bell – many Mums swear by it. It is a natural (rather than processed) source of iron, coming from Trefriw Wells in Snowdonia National Park. It is in fact, an iron-rich water, which is super gentle on your stomach and easily absorbed by your body – so none of the horrible side-effects that come from taking the tablets.
I also used Spatone during my second pregnancy, as my iron levels were very low, causing me to have debilitating dizzy spells, shortness of breath and heavy-feeling limbs. The 10 minute school run (more of a super slow walk) became a bit of a gamble as to whether I’d make it there and back without collapsing. I must add though, that I was amazed at how many strangers stopped to see if I was ok! Although my iron levels weren’t in the official “anemic” range, they were borderline anemic and certainly low enough for my body to react quite badly. I checked with my GP, who suggested that Spatone would help and, within a week, I was back to normal – no more crouching at the side of the road every 20 metres, waiting for my vision and balance to return!
I continue now, at over 2 years post natal, to use Spatone. Whilst I am careful to eat a balanced diet, I don’t eat much meat at all, and my iron levels remain low when I don’t supplement – this can leave me feeling very tired, especially during my period. However, these little sachets are brilliant, they are small, only contain natural flavor, they have no alcohol, are gluten free, contain no preservatives, are suitable for vegans and vegetarians  and importantly, are sugar free. They are super easy to use, as each sachet has a little tear strip at the top.
Spatone comes in original flavour – which is best mixed in to orange juice, partly for taste (to disguise the metallic tang – think about licking a 2p coin), but also so that the vitamin C in the juice can help your body to absorb the iron. It also comes in an apple flavour, with added vitamin C, which is actually delicious and can be drunk straight from the sachet as it tastes like apple juice, but I like to mix it with a little water to dilute the flavour. I drink this first thing every morning, before food, as suggested on the pack.
Apple Spatone, diluted with a little water
A box of 28 costs between £8 and £12, depending on where you buy them. I’ve found the cheapest place to be amazon. This box will last most people one month, at one a day, though the directions indicate that pregnant women should take 2 each day.
As with all supplements, please check with your GP/midwife/registered dietician before taking them and make sure that you are not taking Spatone alongside another iron supplement or multivitamin that contains iron.
Take care of your bodies, ladies. You only get the one and it will last longer if you are kind to it and fuel it properly.
Disclaimer:
Spatone sent me a box of 28 sachets in return for a honest review. All experiences and opinions are true and my own.
Post Partum Care

The 7 Post-Partum Issues That No-One Talks About

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Why is there such a mystery surrounding what happens in the days and weeks after giving birth?
Everyone solemnly warns you or gleefully tells you about how you’ll be super super tired, which of course, goes without saying, because this isn’t the kind of tired that you feel after partying all night, or pulling an all-nighter studying. This kind of tired makes you feel like you’re made of lead. There will also be heaps of talk about the baby – what to expect, what to look out for etc. But there are a few things about what happens to you, that people don’t seem to discuss so freely and many new mums can feel isolated or worried that what’s happening to them may not be normal, but usually, it is totally normal & these 7 issues will happen to every recently post-partum woman.
So:
  1. You will be super sore whether you had a vaginal delivery or a c-section, you will feel incredibly sore. You will usually be offered pain killers. If the soreness persists for longer than a week or so, please talk to your midwife or GP. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to check you out. If you are breastfeeding, you may also experience mild uterine cramps as you feed, again, this is normal and it is to do with the hormone oxytocin, but if in doubt, do ask.
  2. You will bleeeeeed this blood, called lochia, can be alarming to first time mums. You will usually bleed for up to 6 weeks, and it will get lighter as the weeks progress. Use maternity pads and then sanitary towels, frequently changed, to help to deal with it. Remember not to use tampons, as they may increase your risk of infection. If you experience any large clots (bigger than a 50p coin) or your bleeding becomes heavier, you should check in with your health care professional.
  3. You will develop a new appreciation for using the toilet – if you had any vaginal tearing or an episiotomy, the area that has stitches will burn when urine touches it. Leaning forwards, or holding toilet tissue against the area whilst weeing will help to prevent the sting. Whether you had a csection or a vaginal birth, pooping will be your new milestone of freedom. Most hospitals will want to know that you have managed to wee and poo before leaving. If you see any prunes at the breakfast bar, eat them! The more high fibre and poo friendly foods you can eat, the better – these will make your poos softer and easier to pass. You won’t want to be constipated and pushing out poo whilst you have a sore tummy or vagina. You may be offered a laxative if you are having trouble.
  4. You will have a really soft tummy – you’ll be amazed by how soft and squashy your tummy feels now it is empty. If you have had a c-section, you will have a very tender area at the bottom of your new soft tummy. This will subside in the next few weeks and months, as your tummy begins to shrink, heal and change. Keeping really well hydrated and eating good sources of protein will help your skin (and your insides) to heal faster.
  5. You will find yourself crying then laughing then crying then laughing – your body will be absolutely rammed full of hormones, all shaken up into a cocktail that will have you full of love one minute, then crying and sad the next. This is totally normal and, whilst it might feel a bit strange, it will pass within a week or so. However, if you do begin to feel the blues for longer, or if you worry that you are feeling detached from your baby, or your life, please seek help from family, friends or your health visitor or GP. No one will judge you, and there are so many ways that you can be supported until you feel more in control.
  6. Your hair will fall out faster than a dog in the summer – this is such a weird one. Remember how beautiful, thick, full and shiny your hair became during pregnancy?! Sorry, nature would like that back. As alarming as handfuls of hair in the shower, in your brush, on your pillow will look, it absolutely happens to us all and you won’t end up bald! If you are breastfeeding, your extra hormones might let you keep your lustrous pregnancy hair for slightly longer.
  7. Your boobs will do strange things – after giving birth, your body experiences a sudden drop in progesterone, which, in combination with other hormones – namely prolactin – encourages the production of milk. Whether you have chosen to breastfeed or not, your body gets going. First off, your nipples will leak a golden yellow creamy substance, called colostrum – this is super high in fat and nutrients and is produced in very small amounts. A couple of days post birth, you may develop a slight fever, often called milk fever and this is when the milk arrives and your boobs will rival those of the plastic glamour models of the Naughties’ Page 3 era. They’ll be quite hard and uncomfortable. Cold compresses, loose fitting bras or no bra and apparently cold cabbage leaves (I say apparently, I went with a cool flannel!) will soothe them. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, this stage will pass and your breasts will soon return to some normality. If they don’t, and if your fever persists, you should talk with a healthcare professional.

 

With all of this going on with your body, you’ll need to take care of yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself or your new body. Some new mums will want to jump right back in to their normal routines and some may want to curl up in a blanket for a month. There is no right or wrong way to go about your postpartum time, but the key is to listen to your body.
When returning to exercise after birth, it is so important to ease in gently, even if you were very active prior to and during pregnancy. Your body has been through a lot and it needs time to recover and mend.
If you choose to work with a fitness professional after having a baby, you should make sure that they are aware that your are recently postpartum and ensure that they are suitably qualified to work with you. They should carry out an assessment before you start any training or classes to make sure your body is ready to take part in the program. Don’t take any chances with your body at this pivotal moment in your life.
You can be sure that if you train with me at any stage of your pregnancy or postpartum journey, that I will properly assess you and prescribe only the correct exercises for your body and abilities. My “New Mum” short course is perfect for you.
As always, if you have any questions, let me know!
Charlie
Services

Why You Should Absolutely Book An Initial Assessment

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If you have looked at the services I offer, you’ll have noticed that they either include or require an initial assessment to take place, right at the start of whichever training option you select. But what is an initial assessment, and why is it so essential?

Checking for Diastasis Recti

The initial assessment appointment itself is around 45minutes long. Prior to attending, you’ll fill out a few questions for me – questions relating to your general health, your history of any pregnancies or births, if applicable, and whether you suffer from any specific issues relating to your core, floor, back and pelvis. These questions are super important, because they give me an overview of your current health and condition – meaning that already, I’ll have an idea about the sort of support and training you might benefit from, and more importantly, any exercises to avoid that may cause you problems.

When you come along to my studio for your face to face appointment, firstly, you’ll be met with a smile and a safe place for you to talk about any issues, without embarrassment. Well have a quick chat about the questions you answered and you’ll be able to ask me any questions too.

The physical side of the assessment is where I take the time to look for and assess any potential issues that you may or may not be aware of. I’ll check your alignment and ask you to perform a series of movements whilst standing, then a series of movements and breathing patterns whilst lying down. I’ll also check your abdominal muscles for any separation and check the tissue tension. All of these checks are done over the top of your clothes, so you don’t need to worry about removing clothing – however, it is helpful if you are able to wear fitted sports clothing to your assessment, as bulky or overly baggy clothes like jeans or a sweatshirt can make it tricky to see what is going on.

The information that I gather at this appointment will inform how best for your training to proceed. If any issues are identified, such as a large Diastatsis Recti (separation of abdominal muscles) or the fact that you pee when you sneeze, then it immediately tells me that there are certain movements and exercise that should be avoided or changed and there are others that can help to heal that separation or to help reduce leaking.

When I assess your breathing pattern, I will look for your core connection – because of the way we habitually sit or move during the day, it can quite often lead us to breathe in a disjointed pattern, which can actually impact your pelvic floor function. I’ll help you to understand the correct way to breath for optimal core function.

There are a few reasons that I make this assessment an absolute pre-requisite to training with me:

  •  Firstly, it is essential to identify any current issues to make sure they are not made worse and that they can potentially be improved.
  • Secondly, this assessment will give you a record of your starting point – with the correct posture, alignment, breathing, and core and floor connection, you will be able to make improvements on any current issues, safely. These improvements will be measurable against your initial assessment results.
  • Thirdly, it is absolutely essential for all women, especially those that may have a compromised core or floor (hello pregnancy) to seek this invaluable support before throwing yourself blindly in to a fitness class, gym routine or home workout series. I personally won’t train any woman that isn’t fully in the know about her own body, I won’t risk your health like that and you shouldn’t either. This assessment will give you a wealth of information about your body and its function.

You’ll notice that many classes aimed specifically at women, or at new mums often don’t require you to attend a face to face session before joining their classes. They may ask you to answer a few questions, but that’s often where the investigation ends. Women, especially those that have been pregnant, have had any abdominal surgery (hernias, hysterectomy, appendix etc.), those that experience pain or discomfort in the pelvic region or lower back – well, these women are a special population and they require specialist training, training that goes over and above the baseline questions. You absolutely owe it to yourself to seek out the best support.

These essential assessments are included free in all my 1:1 packages and they are also available to purchase separately at just £30 for 45 minutes – which, for the information you receive, makes it excellent value for money (and costs less than many other more regular self-care routines, like hair, massage, nails, coffee shop stops). Once you have had this assessment, you don’t need to keep having them – unless you specifically want to, or unless something happens, like having another child or undergoing a hysterectomy, or a development of new symptoms. These sessions can be bought prior to joining any of my small group classes, or they can be bought individually even without any further training from me. These assessments also make a great gift for a new mum – give her some well earned self-care time and make sure she is healing well.

All initial assessments that are paid for before September 19th are offered at 25% off, making an appointment just £22.50, just add in the code POPCORN on ordering.

Sometimes, its good to just find out how your body is doing. This assessment is really an MOT for your body. Time to look after yourself – you are worth it, and more.

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Yay – Welcome!

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Hi guys, welcome to my brand spanking new website and blog. I’m so excited for you to join me here and hopefully some of you will also come with me on a journey of self discovery, fitness and healing through safely designed exercise, for women.

 

 

I’m Charlie McSherry, founder of charliemcsherry.com and Fundamental Female Fitness. I’m a fully qualified and insured personal trainer, but more than that, I’m a pre and post natal exercise specialist and all round women’s well-being advocate.

I have such a burning passion to push the forefront of women’s health and fitness in a new direction. There are so many mixed messages out there and it can become really confusing when trying to find a fitness experience for yourself.

Trainers and instructors are ten a penny, you’ll be able to scour your local selling page and see at least a dozen people all offering you “THE solution” to whatever problem you may have. Classes will be cheap, they will be very full and you will be promised sweat, fat loss, and a reduction in that well publicised “mummy tummy”. But… you’ve got to ask yourself… what’s the catch?! Well, hey, there isn’t always a catch – some of those classes are exactly what some women are looking for. Perhaps they had a super straight forward pregnancy, kept very active and had no problems during labour or post-partum healing. Perhaps they put on minimal weight and managed to avoid painful issues like SPD, carpal tunnel, lower back pain and SI joint dysfunction. Maybe they aren’t experiencing a diastasis recti (separation of your abdominal muscles), or pelvic floor dysfunction after birth. It’s not impossible for a woman to have an “uneventful” experience of pregnancy and labour, but it is certainly very uncommon. It is more likely that the women are unaware of these issues existing, because it just isn’t discussed enough.

When women become pregnant, their bodies change. The hormone levels change. Their mental well-being can become impacted. Pregnancy can be scary for some, exciting for others, and however it makes you feel, there is no doubt that you are on the path of something quite spectacular and quite literally life-changing and it happens over a period of months.

It’s no surprise then to learn that once your baby has been delivered, that women do not suddenly “bounce back” to how they were before they became pregnant. This is not even true days, weeks and months down the line. Growing a baby, birthing a baby, nurturing a baby are all major tasks for your body.

There is a very common misconception, that once women have their 6-8 week check with their GP or care provider, that they are then fit to get back to normality. The reality is, that the 6 week check ironically checks very little about how mum is doing, both physically and emotionally. You’ll get a couple of questions from the GP, like – “how are you feeling?” (you’ll probably try to answer with something like “exhausted, drained, out of my depth a bit”, but usually a “fine” pops out instead), or maybe you’ll get “is your baby easy to care for?”… errrrmmmm, is there such a thing? That’s it, your 5 minutes are up, out you go, free to enter back in to the world, go running, take that spin class, move that sofa, carry all that shopping….

Now, from the outside, you may look great. By 6-8 weeks post partum, you may have found a way to shower, to pull a brush through your hair and to make it out to the GP surgery with minimal baby puke on your top, but there is still some major healing going on inside you.

Birthing a baby should really be compared to having major surgery. Whether you birthed vaginally or via c-section (emergency or planned), your insides will be incredibly sore and will need care and attention to optimally repair. You need great nutrition, rest and hydration. You wouldn’t go for knee surgery, then start running around 6 weeks later – your medical practitioner would have a fit! So, really, the same rule applies to birth. 6-8 weeks is NOT the magical marker. Some ladies may be able to ease back in to gentle exercise at this point, most wont be anywhere near ready to start until 12-18 weeks post-partum & some may not feel ready until months later. It’s all pretty unique to each lady.

The message here is that you need to take care of yourself in the weeks and months after birth. The early post partum period is not the time to jump back in to or start new exercise classes. This is not the time to “get that pre-baby body back” – isn’t that an awful phrase? Your body didn’t go anywhere, it didn’t check out for a bit, waiting for you have to track it down and lure it back in. It was with you all the way through the last 9+ months & it did the very best it could for you and your baby, it had your back, quite literally. But now, it needs you to help it, to help it heal, to help it slowly and safely regain the movement, the flexibility, the alignment and the function that you need to live your best life. (Do you see how I didn’t mention fat loss, jean size or mummy tummy in that?!)

It’s true that some women are unhappy with what they see in the mirror once they have given birth. Society leads us to believe that those stretch marks, the extra bit of weight you may be carrying, the loose skin are unacceptable, but the truth is, they are absolutely acceptable, lovely and part of who you are now.

It is OK to want to lose weight, to return to your old jeans. It’s OK to want to look how you did a year ago. But, and here is the big but, it is essential that you create a safe foundation on which to build your future self. Returning to exercise too quickly can cause or worsen issues such as diastatsis recti (quite often the cause of this “mummy tummy”), pelvic floor dysfunction (think weeing when you jump, laugh, sneeze), lower back pain, pelvic pain. I can work with you safely, to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Prescribing tailored exercises and nutritional guidance to help minimise issues and to heal.

The ethos of fundamental female fitness is to ensure that all women are trained correctly and safely for their life stage. When you choose to work with me, you’ll be individually assessed and only given exercises that are suitable for you and your abilities and goals. All my one to one and small group clients receive personal attention and education, with time and a safe space to discuss any issues. You’ll never be part of a “stack them high, sell them cheap” fitness model. Your investment in my services will be an investment in your future. You only get one body and if you don’t look after it, especially in times of need, it won’t perform to its best.If you are wondering if my services are right for you, check out this handy list to see if you fit:
You’re a perfect fundamental female fitness client if you are:

  • An adult woman of any age
  • Trying to conceive
  • Currently pregnant
  • Recently postnatal
  • Long-term post natal (once post natal, always postnatal)
  • If you suspect you may have core and floor issues – bulging abdomen, core weakness, lower back pain, urinary or fecal incontinence (that includes leaking), frequent urination, discomfort or difficulty during sex, pelvic girdle pain.
  • Would like to start or return to fitness, but are feeling nervous
  • You are ready to commit to improving your life and body, safely

If you think the fundamental female fitness ethos suits you, I’d love you to get in touch with me and see how I can help you learn to love your body and all it does. Check out my services, or contact me for more information.

Thanks for stopping by!

Charlie