Taking charge | One mother’s determination to get fit

Katherine Trakhtenbroit

When Katherine Trakhtenbroit walked into the gym, Patrick Curtis didn’t know what what to think.

Born with club feet that were later surgically corrected, doctors told her she would never run. She has a shortened achilles tendons and limited ankle and foot mobility. She has hypothyroidism. She’d just had a baby via C-section and was still recovering.

“It was a worst possible case,” Patrick said.

Patrick said Katherine contacted the gym when she realized she couldn’t hold her 4-month-old son and stand from a seated position.

“She knew she needed help and the gym owner asked if I wanted to take her on as a client,” said Patrick, who also works as a police officer. “I wasn’t sure I could help her, but I met with her and we figured it out.”

Patrick Curtis coachingGetting started

Having worked with other postpartum athletes, Patrick said he put Katherine through the same vigorous assessments, beginning with her goals.

“Katherine told me she wanted to 1. deadlift as much as her husband; 2. be able to play with her son; and 3. show her son that working out and exercise was fun,” he said.

Using the OPEX model for assessment, Patrick tested Katherine’s mobility from her ankles to her elbows.

After months of mobility and functional exercises, Patrick introduced Katherine to the the weights.

“He was insanely thorough in going through every ‘system check’ before he would let me touch a barbell,” Katherine said. “Once I started lifting, I was hooked.”

Katherine saw quick progress — she can now squat 140 pounds, deadlift 180 pounds, and bench 110 pounds.

“I had never seen such progress so quickly,” she said. “I love how you can see gains and feel strong while lifting, whereas before I would focus on the scale, which doesn’t budge easily due to thyroid issues. My goal was to feel strong and to regain control of my body, but I also want my boys to see that it’s okay to prioritize your health over other things.”

Progress

In addition to assessing a client’s physical abilities, Patrick said he also considers their emotional and psychological attitudes toward exercise.

“I always want to see what the walls are and what’s going to make them come down,” he said.

Patrick said when working with postpartum clients, he often has to help the realize that they are starting at square one.

“I usually sit them down and explain that there is a difference between what you used to be able to do and what you can do now,” he said. “I have to break their heart a little bit. I tell them, ‘Your body had to do certain things to have this baby. … This is the new you. Let’s reassess you.'”

He begins with assessing a client’s glutes and abdominals, driving the importance of activating the lower abs and glutes.

“Once the abs come back together and I’m satisfied that the abs and glutes are firing and working together, then we can start lifting weights again,” he said.

“The man is a perfectionist when it comes to form,” Katherine said. “It pays such amazing dividends to work with someone like that.”

Night and day

After working with Patrick for months, Katherine became pregnant with her second son. The difference between her two pregnancies, she said, was significant.

“I bounced back after yet another emergency C-section with no trouble,” she said. “The nurses were shocked that I was up and walking¬†10 hours later and¬†without any of the lingering aches and pains that plagued me after my first caesarian. Patrick is quite literally a lifesaver.”

When she began training again, Katherine admitted she experienced frustration at not being able to hit the heavier weights, but Patrick kept her focused.
“People get frustrated taking it slow,” he said. “I get it. People get impatient, then the frustration sets in, and then they quit. And then they’ve wasted time and money.”
Patrick said he hopes all postpartum women get with a coach who knows what they are doing and will work with a postpartum woman on her short-, middle and longterm goals.
He also said he wants postpartum women to know that they don’t need to rush back to the gym and the heavy weights too soon.
“The gym’s not going anywhere,” he said. “The barbell is not going anywhere. … Throw your ego and timelines out the window and let your body do what it has to do.”
Katherine echoed Patrick’s advice.
“Be kind to yourself,” she said. “You just grew a human, for crying out loud. Listen closely to your body and give yourself time — more time than you think you will need.”

Disclaimer: Andrea Signor is a writer. She does not have any medical background or fitness certifications. She is a former journalist with an interest in weightlifting. Any woman interested in exercising and lifting in her pregnancy should consult with her medical team and fitness coaches.

Want more? Check out our series on postpartum lifting.

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