Let me back way on up. I was in 5th grade, sitting in the library watching my sister’s 4th grade class performance. It was a rendition of We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel, and I’m guessing the teacher had designed her own creative lyrics, but I wouldn’t know. Because I couldn’t hear a single thing. I strained, I turned my ear towards the mini voices, and I vowed to myself that I would be in a play one day, and I would be so loud that no one would miss a single word. I dabbled a bit in theater in middle school, and by Freshman year I tried out for the school play. And didn’t get a part. But I was offered the consolation role of being Student Director which I accepted, went to theater camp that summer, and by senior year I was the lead in the play Rumors and a proud member of the International Thespian Society. And no one struggled to hear a word I said; the mic was merely an accessory as my voice boomed throughout that auditorium.
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a physical therapist. But my Junior year I struggled with a chronic ankle injury that landed me on the bench during my soccer season, and I was sent to physical therapy for one visit. One visit. I had big expectations. But the physical therapist didn’t leave an impression. He seemed disinterested that I was sitting on the sidelines, and gave me a red stretchy band and a faded photocopy of some ankle exercises to work on. And as I walked out of the clinic that afternoon, I decided I could do better.
I wish I could tell you that I graduated at the head of my physical therapy school class, but I was in the middle of the pack at best. School never came super easy, and I had to study twice as hard as everyone else to grasp the concepts. I formed a study group, and while I wasn’t the smartest, my super power was making the learning fun and turning hard-to-understand science stuff into easily digestible little nuggets which earned me a spot in our regular study group.
A Women's Health Physical Therapist is Born
I spent the first 5 years of my career working in acute care and home health before moving to the outpatient side of things where I could finally treat the sports injuries I thought would be my passion. It was pretty satisfying, and I was pretty good at it. And then there was a need to expand the Women’s Health program. I reluctantly agreed, but decided I wouldn’t do anything intravaginally because I was a sports PT after all. But, the more I learned, the more I understood that in order to help these women, I had to “get in there.” So I took a few courses and kept one foot in the sports lane and one foot in the Women’s Health lane.
My Prenatal Pilates Program is Born
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I already decided I was going to be the BEST pregnant person ever (it’s a character flaw, people). And then the only thing I craved was salami, I thought I developed listeria from eating the salami, and I even took Advil in my 3rd trimester before Googling “should you take Advil in your 3rd trimester” and contemplated sticking my finger down my throat after reading the answers. My point is, I was NOT the best pregnant person. I was told I could just keep doing the same exercises I was doing before the pregnancy so I ran several miles each week until things started to feel uncomfortable towards the end of my 2nd trimester, and then I began to search for other forms of prenatal exercise in my area. Crickets. There was nothing!!! And then I found a Prenatal Yoga class, but the instructor seemed to be using us as her own personal therapists in between the questionable poses. I knew I could do better. I was already a Power Pilates mat instructor myself, so I flew to New York and took an amazing course through the Center for Women’s Health and became a Prenatal and Postnatal Pilates specialist.
My Postnatal Pilates Program is Born
But if I thought there were gaps in my prenatal education, the postpartum time was an even bigger eye opener. Why don’t we want to see women until 6 weeks after giving birth?! That 4th trimester is a cluster f$#! and we need more help! At my 6 week check up I was given a green light for sex and told I could return to the exercises I was doing before pregnancy. I was scared to have a bowel movement let alone have penetrative intercourse, but I white-knuckled my way through sex for a few weeks before figuring out I needed lube (and lots of it!) and a change of position (goodbye missionary-OUCH!). And my first post-baby run was a real drip. Literally, because my undies were wet afterwards and it wasn’t from sweat. Running was definitely not the best first exercise. And neither was the stroller fitness class I joined or the Mommy Boot camp.
I decided I would develop two 6 week programs that would be a combination of education and exercise to help pregnant women strengthen their bodies to birth their babies and help postpartum women recover from birth. After teaching group classes at hospitals and clinics all around the Chicago area, I decided to offer my programs in an online format that would be accessible to women all over the world.
My DRA Rehab and Core Restore Program is Born
Just when I thought I had figured out the formula for prenatal and postpartum exercise prescription, I had my 3rd child and developed a significant abdominal separation, otherwise known as diastasis rectus abdominis or DRA. No sweat, I’ll just look back at my notes from PT school. There was one page with one exercise listed; that’s it. Needless to say, I wasn’t cured. So I spent the next year taking every continuing education class known to man (or woman). I learned little pearls of wisdom in each one, but nothing matched with what I knew as a Women’s Health Physical Therapist. I dug deeper. And I found THE CLASS I wanted to take. It was based in science and research. It was led by a group of female physiotherapists. But it required me to fly out of the country, and I had a 6 month old. I thought about my 5th grade self, seeing those 4th graders botch up their class production, and then I thought of the disservice we as a medical community were doing to our postpartum women, and I bought the plane ticket.
I enjoyed many years of successful teaching and even left my job in the clinic to start my own business, Carrie Koziol, Inc, to teach these 6 week classes and see private clients to design custom exercise strategies for them based on their life phase and individual goals. Being part of women’s birth journeys has been the most rewarding part of my career. The end. Kidding. You know I had to run head to head into another personal problem or inadequacy soon enough!
My Magic of Menstruation Program is Born
And that came in the Spring of my daughter’s 5th grade year but instead of watching a sibling’s mediocre class play like I was in 5th grade, she was watching a less than mediocre puberty presentation. Correction. She was listening to a less than mediocre puberty presentation with a pair of headphones. It was administered by the school nurse, gym teacher, heck it could have been the janitor for all I recall, and all she recalled from that presentation is that any kid who laughed got taken to the principal’s office. Laughing happens to be a coping mechanism for topics that are awkward and uncomfortable, and unfortunately hearing the proper names for body parts is awkward and uncomfortable for 5th graders in this country. I listened to the presentation myself. It talked about pubic hair and BO. It talked about some of the puberty changes they might experience (even though many had already started noticing changes at that point). There was no mention of vaginal discharge, period blood, period products, period tracking, problem solving, fueling your body so you have enough energy for all 4 phases of your menstrual cycle, self esteem, or any of the other things that should be part of puberty education. I knew she deserved better. And so did every kid in her class. And so did every uterus owner on the planet! So, I dragged my daughter to Seattle to take a weekend long puberty course, the mastermind of that program agreed to a mentoring phone call, I hired a period coach, and my Mom and Me Menstruation workshop was born. I have been teaching that workshop in large conference rooms and small living rooms and everywhere in between, including in my new online course The Magic of Menstruation.
Might as well tack on a Puberty for Boys Program and Comprehensive Sex Ed for Middle and Highschoolers
And they wanted something for their sons too. But I resisted. After all, I didn’t have the hardware that went along with that conversation, and I was always very careful to “stay in my lane.” Then again, I had two sons and was doing my own puberty education for them at home. Plus, this gap in education started to burn brighter, and I just couldn’t ignore it. My Mom and Son Puberty class was born a few years after my Mom and Me Menstruation class, and I’m just now putting the finishing touches on my online course Puberty for Boys.
One would think my story might end there, but there’s one last personal issue I needed to address. As a midlife woman, I noticed as my once athletic build began to soften, plump, shift without any change to my eating or exercise plan. I abandoned piles of bras that wouldn’t clasp in the back and traded skinny jeans for elastic waistlines, and I found myself looking in the mirror for the first time saying “What exactly is happening here?!” I’ll tell you what was happening. Perimenopause, the reverse of puberty and even less discussed. Why is it that a life change that half the population will experience is so misunderstood? Maybe it’s because it hasn’t been that long since women have lived beyond their fertile years. The average age of Menopause (a day marked by 12 consecutive months with no period) is 51 years, and women on average weren’t living that long until the early 1900s. You know what happens next…I feel that familiar little whisper inside that says “You could do better.” This time I really tried to push that voice aside. I was busy enough teaching Prenatal Pilates, and Postnatal Pilates, and DRA/Core Restore, and my puberty workshops, and my sex education classes. But the whisper became a scream (or maybe that was me as the minor irritations of life that I was once so expertly able to shovel under the rug became almost intolerable), and in usual form I began reading books and listening to podcasts and talking courses.
My Powering through Perimenopause Program is Born
I became a 3rd Age Specialist and got a certification in Peri/Postmenopause Wellness Coaching. It was through this education that I learned that it is no coincidence that menopause occurs (for most people) at the midpoint of their lives where they have the opportunity to assess how they have cared for themselves up to this point and vow to enter the new chapter of their lives with all cylinders firing. We need to clean up our sleep hygiene and manage stress better, no exceptions. We need to overhaul our nutrition strategy and begin moving in ways that support the changes our body will experience.
And we can unapologetically begin to mother ourselves and shower ourselves with the unconditional loving kindness that we may have only reserved for others up to this point. If we are willing to listen to the messages in the mess of menopause, we are given gifts to help us become the most authentic and powerful versions of ourselves we could ever be. And that is the underlying theme of my new 6 week Powering through Perimenopause program.
So you see, my journey is a full circle one.
Thirty six years ago my sister’s class may have been singing We Didn’t Light the Fire, but a fire was lit that day. And I’ve been fanning those flames ever since.
To see all of Carrie's offerings and to register for her programs, visit www.carriekoziol.com