During my time living in Corvallis, OR, I met some pretty amazing and inspiring people. One of them just so happens to be Kerry Boysen, MPT. Not only is she a mom, wife, active yogi at Willamette Valley Power Yoga, business owner, balanced lifestyle enthusiast and very involved in the Corvallis community, but she is also a physical therapist who specializes in women's health, pelvic floor health and orthopedics.
Talk about being a health hustle-r!
I feel as though Kerry and I could talk for hours on end about health and life, and every time we do talk, I feel inspired, informed, and mentally/ spiritually strengthened. She is such a fun, amazing person, so I thought it would be fun to invite Kerry to do an interview for the Health Hustle blog. In this interview, we discussed our views on the basics of balancing a healthy lifestyle, how pelvic floor health is more than just strong abs, and why people, women specifically, should never ignore what their bodies are trying to tell them. Oh, and of course more things.
I tried to summarize all we chatted about when I asked her the following six questions (because quite honestly, it is just so hard to stick to one topic when you put two health enthusiasts together to talk about health). So here is what she had to say:
What made you interested in physical therapy?
In the 7th grade, a social studies assignment identified “physical therapist” as a profession I would be good at. So I looked into it, and decided that I probably would like it. As I got older, my interest grew in the profession. I was injured several times as an athlete in high school, and the local PT was great to work with to get me back to my sport. I spent time observing in his clinic and learned more about the profession. Growing up, I always loved math and science. My grandfather was a professor of biology at the local liberal arts college. This fostered more interest in the sciences for me. I knew exactly what college I wanted to go to when the time came, which was Wartburg College, and I knew I wanted to go to the University of Iowa for PT school. So my path was pretty clear from 7th grade on!
If I hadn't had gone to school to be a physical therapist, I would have gone for teaching. I have always loved to teach, and it actually plays a huge part in physical therapy. Another one of the reasons I am thankful I chose to become a physical therapist is because it is well suited to my personality. It is an active job (I don't sit still well). There are constant opportunities for growth and there are also lots of areas you can specialize in. The job is motivating and motivation based. I am a 'set-a-goal-and-achieve-it' type of girl, so it fits me well. Also, when I have moved for personal reasons, I have found it easy to find employment as a PT. Since I have had kids, I have been able to work part-time. Basically this job has been very supportive of all aspects of my life which is why I have never regretted becoming a physical therapist.
As a physical therapist, you know how important regular activity and movement is. What do you do to stay fit and feeling good?
My life is in a constant flux, so my fitness goals definitely look different than they did when I was 20 years old. My goals now are influenced by the fact that I want to be healthy and able to show up for my kids in 20 years. For me, it is more the why that motivates me to strive towards maintaining my health. I also want my routine to be sustainable. Each week I try to do one day of cardio, one day of yoga, one day of lower body, and one day of upper body. Beachbody on Demand has been my go-to for home workouts (no time for the gym!), and I can do the workouts practically anywhere. Then on the weekends, we try to be active as a family, whether that's hiking or long walks with the dog. I believe in never missing a Monday workout, as it sets the tone for the week.
Nutrition wise, the weeks we are successful in eating a balanced diet are the weeks that I plan out the meals and shop accordingly. When we get busy and I don't plan, we eat the healthiest we can with whatever is available at the time. We do a fair amount of eating out - it is something we enjoy, and it guarantees we are all sitting at the table together. Overall we focus on living the 80/20 rule.
On to my favorite topic: Women's health. Why did you specialize in women's health? What intrigued you, and what have you learned since being a women's health specialist?
I spent my first seven years as a physical therapist in an outpatient setting treating orthopedic issues. During that 7th year, I was given an opportunity to work in a women's health clinic, and when I took the job, I had zero background with women’s health PT. My employer sent me to many continuing education courses on all things women’s health. During this time I became pregnant for the first time, so what I was learning was applicable to my changing body. Now fourteen years later, with more personal experiences being postpartum, and a lot more education and experience in women’s health PT, I have chosen to focus my practice on these stages and beyond.
I have seen repeatedly that women are not provided much postpartum education. This means they return to too much activity, much too soon. And then they have symptoms: incontinence, pain with intercourse, low back pain to name a few. These are very common, but not normal. I have found that there is a lot of empowerment and encouragement when women are educated about women's health. It is affirming and validating for women to know they are not the only one experiencing these things.
Often now our health becomes second, and we need to put ourselves first.
This may be a funny one, but the first time I heard “pelvic floor specialist” (and I may be speaking for a lot of other people too), I thought “oh, abs specialist!”. Do you have a lot of people coming to you and asking you to help them get abs? And is there some truth to that assumption?
Ha! Rarely do I say 'abs' in my practice, but I always refer to the core. The core is the deepest abdominal muscle (transverse abdominis), the deepest back muscles (multifidus), the diaphragm, and the pelvic floor. This system all works together, but our culture has us focused on our abdominals. Women will come in because of a separation of the abdominal wall that can occur during pregnancy and does not resolve (diastasis recti). But people more often come to me because they feel weak in their core postpartum and want to feel stronger. These people may be feeling their back doesn't feel right, their hips feel off, their core is weak, they leak when they cough/laugh/sneeze, etc.
To give you some of the basics, the core is a pressure system. When the abdominal wall is stronger than your pelvic floor, symptoms of incontinence or prolapse can occur. For example, when people have really strong abs, but are not engaging their pelvic floor when they are jumping or lifting weights, they may leak a little. I see a lot of people who do Crossfit, Orange Theory, Burn Boot Camp, etc. Lots of these people come in thinking that it is normal to pee a little when they jump. Yes, it is common, but it is not normal. I have the opportunity to educate them on the core’s pressure system and how to balance the system. What this normally looks like in the clinic is a four step process. First, I will educate the person on the anatomy of the body, showing them where their pelvic floor and abdominal wall is, and all of the related parts. Then I teach them about the force and pressure systems that need to be in balance. Next, I'll discuss diaphragmatic breathing, and make sure they can coordinate their breath with their pelvic floor (inhale, relax the pelvic floor and exhale, contract the pelvic floor). Lastly, I'll do a pelvic floor exam and determine the person’s ability to contract and relax the pelvic floor, determining if the pelvic floor is overactive or underactive, or simply insufficient. Alongside breathing, meditation and mindfulness is something I talk about. Mind body connection is so important and is a huge part of what I teach.
If you can summarize all of your knowledge and experience into three tips or pieces of advice you would give someone, what would those be?
Exercise and movement is foundational to your health. Don’t ever stop moving!
For women, know and accept that once you're postpartum, you will always be postpartum. Your body will continue to experience changes. Address the changes that your body has gone through and is going to go through. Know that everybody goes through hormonal changes and stages.
Don't minimize your body's symptoms or undervalue how your body changes. Give yourself some attention and don't be so quick to modify your lifestyle because you're symptoms dictate that. Address the symptoms.
I believe we need to go back to the basics. Like, did you poop today? Have you eaten? What did you eat? Have you drank half of your weight in ounces of water today? Did you get outside and get some fresh air today? Have you moved? When we don't do these fundamental things consistently, we can make ourselves much worse. We want too much of a quick fix these days. With physical therapy, there isn't a quick fix. You have to want change and be ready to change.
I hope you found this advice and information from Kerry as interesting as I did. Kerry can be found on her website, restoreptcorvallis.com, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for being a guest on the Health Hustle blog, Kerry!