Connecting Through Your Core With Jen ChesnutMay 08, 2018
This conversation with Jen Chesnut will make you rethink the way you train your body. As an athletic trainer, Jen takes us through why modifying is important and how muscling through the motion can damage your core. Jen is a moderator of my Core Rehab Program and wants all moms to know that suffering from incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, aches and pains don't have to come after having a baby!
"GREAT THINGS DO NOT BECOME GREAT OVERNIGHT. SMALL THINGS BECOME GREAT WITH DAILY CONSISTENCY."
I love that Jen and I are completely on the same page when it comes to modifying movements for clients to feel optimal for their body. Throughout her 19 years in the fitness industry, she has seen through a variety of clients what the power of the core can do.
Incontinence is something that can be prevented whether you have had a baby or lift heavily. These fascial connections throughout your body have the power to make you feel stronger and more confident. Listen to this episode to hear the stories both Jen and I share about poor core connection and the effects that that can have on your body.
Jen has been an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach for the past 19 years. She has worked with everyone from children to professional athletes. She finds her passion in helping people work from dysfunction and pain to moving throughout life without pain and with optimal movement. She enjoys speaking, teaching, the outdoors and she also owns her own photography business. Her greatest joy is her two-year-old and her husband.
Erica: I want to start by you letting everyone know a little about your story and how you got into strength and conditioning and CrossFit.
Jen: It all stemmed from the fact that I love to workout and I have all my life. In college, through the athletic training program, I could do an exercise physiology program. That then took me to take the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s top certification that you need to work with college athletes and professional athletes. Through all of that, I fell in love with training athletes and I loved hard workouts. I enjoyed feeling like I accomplished something, so this is how I also fell in love with the general idea of CrossFit. I do a lot of modifications for what is safest for my body.
Erica: I love that you mentioned modifying because that is a big topic of conversation for us. Can you tell us what made you realize that you needed to start modifying?
Jen: For starters, I have had 13 surgeries, so I’m kind of an orthopedic mess on one side of my body that I modify for. I thought that having worked so many years on the workout side of things, that I had a good concept of core training. Looking back, I say that that statement is 60-70 percent correct from knowing what I know now. I took your Pre and Postnatal Exercise Specialist Course and I learned so much about fascia’s role with the body and variabilities of training pre/postnatal women. With that, I realized that there was a big disconnect in movement with the more weight you add and the more explosive you go. Too many people muscle through the motion.
Erica: We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t weight lift, but it's important to understand if that movement is appropriate for your body. Just because an exercise is modified, doesn’t mean it’s easier, it can mean it is more effective for your body. This is where we start to realize that not everyone’s body is the same. We need to move in a way that is activating the fascia. Jen, I want you to share the one story you told me the other day that happened at the gym.
Jen: This girl is amazing. Very petite, sitting at maybe 5 feet tall, but she is so strong that she can keep up with the guys. She has always had good form with her movements and is something that I have always appreciated her. She ended up getting an injury in her shoulder. As we started to look at things, it suddenly clicked that maybe we don’t need to be looking at the shoulder area to see what is wrong. So, I started working on a tight hip flexor on her opposite side because there was a fascial line disconnect there. We went back to the beginning as I gave her exercises from phase one in the Core Rehab Program.
I started looking at other people’s core connections in the gym with her while they were doing box squats. This is when you do a squat with a weighted bar on your back and squat until you touch the box and come back up. And the second someone started to squat back up, they completely lost their core connection.
I then moved her to kettlebell swings with a lighter kettlebell than she is used to so she could continue to lengthen and keep her deep core connection. She was shocked at the difference the lighter weight made, so she wanted to see if she could go heavier. The minute she did the first rep with the heavier weight, she felt her core connection go.
Erica: I like that you said that because it is such a mental game when you tell someone that they need to decrease their weight. There are two aspects of it: 1) an alignment aspect and 2) a deep core connection aspect.
We want to be as aligned as possible, but if we aren’t connecting correctly through the entire range of motion then it is not optimal for your body. And this doesn’t just relate with strength training, it can apply to run and high-intensity interval training as well.
Jen: I think that is the hardest part for people to understand. We need to strengthen our fascia first because that is what is holding everything together.
Erica: Right, and don’t think that these new fascial connections are going to happen overnight. The research says that it can take six to 24 months to create these new connections within the body.
Each day is going to get better because it is going to change the capabilities that your body has.
Jen: I used to train women for fitness competitions and almost all of them were moms. On the days that we would do box jumps, they all wore black tights. The joke of the day was that they wore those black tights because you are going to pee your pants and the black tights make it less visible.
Those moms thought that that was a part of delivering a child so everything down there is going to be weaker. I used to think that was the thing as well, but then I learned that you are peeing your pants because your deep core hasn’t been strengthened properly. Because of that, there is pressure going down onto your organs, which is pressuring your bladder causing and if the pelvic floor is too weak then you will end up experiencing incontinence. These moms need to know that you don’t have to live with this after having a child, it can be fixable (no matter how long it's been!).
Erica: I have found a big part of that is bringing awareness to it. Throughout my training with women over the years, I have found that many just don’t know that there is something that they can do. And the longer they let it go on, the more likely something else can happen.
Jen: When you learn how to get your deep core firing correctly, you start to dissolve a lot of those pains that you experience within your body.
Once you get your deep core connected properly, everything is going to fall into place.
The material contained within is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before beginning a new regiment or purchasing any product(s).