Moms to See in the 803 :: Ashley Kates


I remember driving through downtown Lexington while pregnant with my second daughter, and seeing Mom+Me Strong. It was a fitness center with children’s toys and gym equipment peeking through the large glass windows.

I immediately searched for the website and Facebook page thinking how I was needing to find a professional to help me rebuild my core again, after recently giving birth. I hadn’t taken the time to heal it properly from my first pregnancy, and when I was five weeks out from my second delivery I was shocked when I couldn’t seem to find my abs at all!

So August 2021 I met Ashley Kates, the owner of Mom+Me Strong. And I’m so happy to have found her!

Ashley was great about assessing my core and asking me questions about my ability to function five weeks after my delivery. We also spent time discussing her passion for mother’s finding time for themselves while finding their confidence and strength again.

Since that meeting, I have completed Phase One of her Heal and Seal program to help close my Diastasis Recti. And in fact, I had significant separation, explaining my lack of abdominal muscles. I was so amazed at the results and excited about all of the progress in just four weeks, that I have continued on with Phase Two. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ashley and chatting with her about her passion for women’s fitness, and why mothers finding their strength is close to her heart.

Ashley, tell me a little about yourself and your family.

I am a mid-30s mother to two (Piper, 6 and Ryder, 3), army, ex-fitness competitor turned pre-postnatal coach transplanted from New Orleans, LA. 

I am a high-energy and passionate woman on a mission to change the way women’s bodies are treated and cared for. I can be a loud, bold voice who speaks uncomfortable truths but I can also be the calm, quiet ear when a woman needs space to vent and feel heard.

I thoroughly enjoy laughing, having a glass of jack and ginger, or a good ole cup of Rush’s fries. My days consist of singing ridiculous songs with my kids or playing Catboy from PJ Masks as my kids and I run errands around town.

On my days off I visit Target (who doesn’t!?), walk my neighborhood, and watch trashy TV like the Real Housewives, I’m not picky as to which city. 

How long have you been teaching fitness?

I have been a personal trainer since I was 22 (I’m currently 36). I even did some competitions in my younger years. From age 24 to 27 I competed in the NPC (National Physique Committee) as a fitness competitor initially, then a figure competitor. I even graced the stage at two national competitions.

For a few years, I stopped training clients and worked for a health center until postpartum depression took over. That’s when I rediscovered training and my ultimate purpose, pre and postnatal coaching.

I love fitness. I love muscles, specifically their complex relationship with the body. I completely love what it has done for my life and how it can transform every aspect of a person.

What made you want to specialize in women’s health, and specifically postpartum fitness?

My journey to where I am now came from a place of pain and struggle. My husband and I tried for two years to conceive, lost our first pregnancy, then carried our next to term, my now six-year-old. The first two years after my daughter joined us were clouded with postpartum depression, causing me to have to quit working and stay home.

I struggled with who I was in my changed body, who I was as a woman, and truthfully, confused about what motherhood was meant to be.

How did Heal & Seal start?

I remember walking the zoo with my friend who was three months postpartum. She would stop every five minutes or so because she “felt like her vagina would fall out.”

She explained, “I have this thing called Diastasis Recti. You’re good with muscles. Figure it out.”

I thought, well, challenge accepted, as I scoured the internet searching for anything to help. But all I found was conflicting information telling women to do this, don’t do that with zero explanation as to the why. 

This made me angry!

I was angry this isn’t talked about. Angry the symptoms were dismissed and angry there were no solutions. My anger, coupled with the postpartum depression, drove me to find a solution that didn’t just deliver results but also educated and empowered woman to know WHAT happened, and remind them they have the power to grow stronger.

After a few months with a test group, I created my Heal & Seal program, and have since helped hundreds of women overcome symptoms associated with ab separation and the pelvic floor, including back pain, hip pain, incontinence, prolapse, and more. 

Heal & Seal Logo Small (2).png

How does Heal & Seal actually work?

Heal & Seal is unique to any other program I have seen,  and different from traditional physical therapy. Heal & Seal teaches the woman intuitive connection. Sounds hokey but truthfully, if the woman can’t feel what her body is doing, she is only destined for more pain and symptoms as no cups, massage, or balm can change the patterns her muscles are in that are causing the symptoms to begin with.
Heal & Seal instructors assess each woman’s core, not just for separation, but HOW the abdominals are functioning individually and as a whole, which can be fairly complex and also directly related to the way the pelvic floor activates.
We even show the woman and have her feel for herself what is going on, where, and give HER the power back over her body. This is very important because only the woman can do the healing. Not any therapist, coach, or doctor. Her.
While I love seeing the light bulbs go on, trauma being healed, women becoming stronger and more confident, there is more women need, and that is the next step.

What is Mom+Me Strong?

I strongly feel most fitness facilities encourage body dysmorphia and eating disorders with trick marketing using diets and damaging tactics to produce results, but neglecting the long-term metabolic and mental effects those programs have on the woman’s body.
Having had thyroid issues and an autoimmune disease myself, I wanted to create a space where women could hit goals, transform their bodies and minds without those damaging beliefs. This is where the Mom+me Strong studio came about.
Mom+me Strong doesn’t just host small group training classes and personal training clients, but we have an in-house chiropractor, maternal mental wellness counselor, as well as two certified Heal & Seal Instructors. We are a space where women can come as they are, wherever they are, and be supported.
Everyone within our walls treats every woman with respect and as if they have what they already need to be who they want to be, and just need support tapping into what’s already there.

Your goal is to empower women, especially mothers. How do you do that differently than other fitness centers?

Well, first, we don’t use weight as a sole factor for determining progress. We all know the scale lies. Too many times to count we see women associate self-worth with the number on the scale while neglecting to track or celebrate the changes in their body fat percentage and inches lost. Which, truthfully, mean so much more than how many pounds they weigh.
We demolish the idea that self-worth is related to that number. We also set and celebrate non-scale victories like benching X amount of weight, X amount of burpees, the ability to get up and down off the floor without pain, or playing with their kids without being winded. This is what life is about, not pounds.
Secondly, we don’t do diets. No Intermittent Fasting, no Keto, no Low Carbs, no Carb Cycling, no Macros or calories counting. If that’s what they want to do, great. We will walk with them through it, but the truth is, no diet works for every person and oftentimes creates a disordered relationship with food labeling things bad, creating guilt or shame with eating certain foods, and also encouraging the negative belief that their body is broken because it isn’t producing results by doing X diet.
What we do instead is teach women to recognize how the foods they’re eating are affecting them physically, mentally, and emotionally, distinguishing between that food being emotionally or bodily nourishing, which both have a place in our lives. Neither is wrong. Once they can identify that, we can begin to work through the habits surrounding these choices and the triggers behind them, when the woman is ready. This is how long-term nutritional changes occur, as well as emotional and mental healing.
Lastly, we remind women that they are allowed to feel, to set boundaries, and to do life the way they want to do it. We don’t tell women what to do or how to feel or how to raise their kids, go to work, school, dress, believe, think. None of that. We listen to women and give them the space to go through and be who they are with zero judgment. None.
You’ve seen the phrase and heard people say it but we actually mean it, come as you are. We meet you there and walk with you at your pace over your hurdles, one at a time.

What was it like starting a business during a pandemic?


Heal & Seal has been around since 2016, so it already had roots in the community. But the studio opened its door two days before the national mandate to close all fitness facilities. I lost all of my family’s life savings that year to just keep the lights on. I can vividly remember the panic attacks I had in June of 2020. They were weekly, sometimes daily.

I tried everything natural I could to manage myself. I felt better for a bit then got shingles in Aug 2020 from the stress, and in Sept 2020 my body had enough and I had one of the biggest meltdowns of my life.

March 2021 was a corner turned for the studio and for myself. I finally had an amazing team who picked up what I couldn’t, when I couldn’t, and let me lead when I am able to. They are incredibly passionate about what we are doing, and we all realize that this mission is even more important now than ever.

My personal struggles are enough for me to keep going, to wake up and be bold and challenge beliefs because too many women are struggling and have no idea there is hope. So it was absolutely one of the most traumatic, challenging, difficult, emotional times of my life, but it is producing an incredibly passionate team and place of hope that I don’t think would have existed to this degree had last year not happened.

What would you say to a mama struggling right now?

There’s always hope. Don’t give up on yourself. It may take years to find the one person, place, or thing that will propel you forward, but it does exist. Somewhere.

I refused to quit every time something massive tried to steal my hope and joy but I relentlessly kept going and I will relentlessly go for anyone who tells me they need that.

How can women reach you if they would like more information about Mom+Me Strong or Heal & Seal?

First and foremost is social media.

We have a Facebook group called Mom+me Strong and pages for both Heal & Seal and Mom+me Strong as well as an Instagram for both, though we are far more active on Facebook. We also have a website with an app for quick access to our events, classes, and instructors.

Everyone is also welcome to friend request or follow me on Facebook, Ashley Kates. I am a wide-open book!

Moms to See in the 803 is a series highlighting local moms who are making a difference in our community or in business. Want to tell us about an inspiring mom who is doing something great? Send us an email!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here