Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It’s International Women’s Day 2024. The “#InspireInclusion” theme reminds us that “when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment”. 

This got me thinking – what inspires me to be included?

While I was in the final stages of my second pregnancy, one of my team members asked “How do you keep up the energy?” as if there was some magic to my resilience as my belly grew with my little boy. 

I said, “Well…I go to bed really early. And I exercise 15 minutes a day”. 

But there is more to that story. None of us can tackle everything alone, we need a support system. By having a support system, we can make ourselves, and everyone else around us better as well.

Meet Coach Joanie. She is my magic trick to inclusion.

Marilyn: Welcome Coach Joanie, girl-boss owner of specialist online exercise company ‘Transformation Nation’. So Coach Joanie, how do you describe your job? 

Coach Joanie: I am an expert pre- and postnatal coach. Many people assume when they become pregnant or parents they have to sacrifice their body health and lifestyle freedom for the baby. I like to say backpain is not ‘part of the journey’. 

My lifelong mission is to guide clients to move their bodies to help with their parenthood journeys. We work together to reduce the impact of back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, loss of bladder control, pelvic girdle pain, sciatica, diastasis recti, strength loss and more. 

Marilyn: Coach Joanie, you inspire me to stay included in the workforce with energy. Did you realise that your work impacts inclusion in the workforce as well?   

Coach Joanie: Well desk job-related pain and workplace stress can often lead us to feel less included. A nice example of this is inverse breathing, which is common in office workers and can be a real energy drainer. 

You will remember Marilyn, that both you and your husband were inverse breathing when I met you. By breathing in a more empowering way, we energise and get the body working well. This allows women and men to stay empowered even while at their desks. 

Marilyn: Coach Joanie, can you take us through a typical coaching experience on inverse breathing? 

Coach Joanie: Readers, take a moment to breathe without thinking too much about it. Consider where the breath is landing in your body. Then consider what is happening with your belly when you breathe in and breathe out…

First, we like to see the breath moving the belly. Your breath especially when at a desk, may be up higher like in your chest. So we work on that in my coaching sessions. 

Then, on the inhale, we like to feel the belly release and rise so that the breathe goes low into the belly and the core muscles relax. 

On the exhale, we then like to see the belly closing down into the core. 

If your breath pattern is the opposite of this, it is called inverse breathing. Try switching to the above, and see how you feel. It can be really tough to switch at first.  

Marilyn: This was game-changing for me.  

Coach Joanie: Once we have the correct breathing technique, exercise can be quick yet effective, and usually daily tasks themselves become an exercise, like picking up a baby. Or a box of documents. Or just sitting at a desk. 

Marilyn: Is this only for women? And only for parenthood? 

Coach Joanie: Most of my clients are women, but men often need this support too. If you have back pain without a notable injury, it may be your breathing, combined with the novelty of movements with kids or sitting for long periods at a desk. Really anyone can benefit. These tricks are meant to inspire inclusion for everyone.

Marilyn: I had a session on effective public speaking not long after one of our first sessions. It was interesting, as again, the prep for generating the calm and gravitas for public speaking was belly breathing. 

Marilyn: Since your coaching can be so empowering for workplace inclusion, do any companies so far offer these types of coaching opportunities as part of their diversity and inclusion programs? 

Coach Joanie: Yes some companies do, but it could be more common. Companies should consider it as a cost-effective way to inspire parents and non-parents to stay energised and healthy in their life and work journeys. 

Marilyn: Do you have any last recommendations for inspiring inclusion? 

Coach Joanie: You can have a healthy active lifestyle through pregnancy and parenthood. And while working at a desk. You don’t have to assume back pain is inevitable or that you will have to stop exercising during pregnancy. 

Breathing right and exercising just for 15 minutes every day makes me feel ready for action at work and beyond.

Coach Joanie is my magic trick to inclusion. What is yours?