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.
How does Heal & Seal actually work?
What is Mom+Me Strong?
Your goal is to empower women, especially mothers. How do you do that differently than other fitness centers?
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!