Tell us a little bit about yourself. The origins of your name? Your age, where you have lived up to now and how long you have been a fitness expert?
My name is Santiyagu Chandran, named after my grandma which happens to be the name of a Saint called Santiago spelt differently and Chandran is my married name meaning “Moon” in Tamil (A language spoken in South India). I am 37years old and was born and bought up in Chennai, India. I came to Brisbane, Australia in 2001 for my postgraduate studies. I have since completed a PhD in genetics. I was an athlete in primary and high school but it was really only after the birth of my children I realised how much fitness empowers my life. My pregnancy and birth were a breeze and I was about 25kgs overweight, and I felt lost, depressed and had low self-confidence. I went back to training 3 months post birth and realised that my training had to be different. I suffered from Diastasis Recti (DR- Abdominal Separation) and stress incontinence due to pelvic floor dysfunction. The search to heal my dysfunction increased my curiosity to know more and help more women. I lost the excess weight and I felt so much better and confident about myself, I felt all women deserve to feel this way and took up fitness coaching. I have been coaching women since 2013 but have been involved in sports and physical activity since childhood.
As a mother, did you have the knowledge you now have about post partum fitness when you gave birth?
No, Not at all. And even till today the education and knowledge on postpartum fitness is yet to reach more women. I recently met a lady who had no idea about her abdominal separation other than just knowing that something wasn’t right. She was involved in various activities that could potentially make her separation worse.
What influenced you to specialise in pre and post natal fitness?
My own journey returning to fitness after having 2 children and the obstacles that I faced during the process was the trigger. I struggled with weight gain, pelvic floor dysfunction and DR. The scientist in me, made me research, study and investigate more into this to help myself get better and feel better.
DR also known as Abdominal separation is the separation of Rectus Abdominus (6-pack muscles) due to the weakness of the connective tissue called liner alba between those muscles. In addition to DR postpartum women can experience other symptoms including pelvic floor dysfunction aka incontinence and pelvic pain. Often women are worried about the physical presentation of the condition and turn to exercise hoping to restore their body. However no amount of exercise will help if performed incorrectly and more often exercise can make it worse. So better to seek the right help early on to avoid complications after.
I asked many of my mummy friends and families if they experience these symptoms and you know what nearly all of them do but have no clue what to do about it. Worse case scenario women stop exercising to avoid symptoms. This not the ideal solution right? This fuelled my passion to reach to women in the wider population. It took me several months to get my body back strong and functional but doing the things correctly and making time to do those initial exercises were very important. Mums don’t have to put up with back pain, pelvic pain and the so called symptoms of having a baby. You can get your body back, strong and functional.
How important is it for new mothers to know how to look after their bodies after giving birth?
A mothers body gets stretched, extended, distended from growing and delivering a baby. However after the baby is born not much focus is given to restoring the body to its functional state. DO you know our food habits have to be different after about to encourage the healing process? Does anyone follow this? It disheartens me to hear mums or sometimes even doctors say “well thats the result of having a baby”. No, in most cases women can gently work on reversing the symptoms and they deserve a strong and functional body. I do not promote “Flat tummy”, “Get ripped” or “Sexy Body” approaches but rather a body that is pain free, moves well and is strong. And of course if your body can do all this it is going to be in top shape, is it not?
Does your advice include exercises that can be done at home?
Yes, but only after few sessions with an expert to ensure your practices are correct. Nothing worse than finding out that you have been doing them wrong. Right? And exercises need to be progressed, as we get strong we need to get stronger.
Is the advice and help you give more important for first-time mums?
Not really, it is important for all mums regardless, who have not gone through the process of having their core muscles checked and restored especially if they are involved in a physical activity and experiencing symptoms aka incontinence. New mums will benefit more because the hormones that linger after birth are in their favour and can hasten their recovery.
As well as being preventative, is your approach also remedial? How important is the age of a new mum?
I wouldn’t say the natural process of pregnancy and the changes to the body can be prevented, as uncontrolled factors such as genetics, food habits and body structure play a huge role. But certainly habitual changes can be adjusted to ensure the likelihood of better recovery and outcome. Many studies show that being active and doing strength exercises during pregnancy helps with recovery. But definitely it is never late to start. One can hasten and get good results from specific exercising 4-12 months postpartum as the body is going through the process of natural healing and exercising correct will aid the process.
Have you got any success stories you can relate?
Yes many, But this one in particular motivates me to keep doing what I do.
This mum, was diagnosed with a fist size separation of her abdominals and was advised not to jump, run, have both legs off the ground, participate in certain activities including dance etc. She was confused with what she can and cannot do so she didn’t do anything and even considered suturing her muscles. She came to my classes as her last resort. We worked together on her posture, exercises and nutrition . On her next visit to her doctor, she found out that her DR was reduced to just 2 finger distance and she can do all of the things mentioned above and she didn’t need surgery anymore. Oh the joys.
This is why I love what I do, changing bodies and lives. Getting mums stronger.
Where do you hold your classes? How long are they?
My classes are held in various locations. I run the following classes
- Core restore for new mums – 4-12 months postpartum (Graceville netball courts)
- Strength and conditioning for mums >12months postpartum (Durack)
Do the mums bring their babies with them? How does that work?
Yes especially my core restore program is kid friendly. It is important for the kids to get involved and see their mums exercise.
Which person inspires you the most?
All mums inspire me it is incredible what they do. Every person has their own challenges and it is never a easy ride. Mums play so many roles within the family and they just make it work.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom?
“Don’t be afraid to Fail”- Good old Google.
Fear of failure stops us from Initiating or Progressing. Failure makes one stronger and is a stepping stone to achieve bigger.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that women trust me with their body and health and this is something I take seriously.
What drives you?
Super success stories of people who overcame failure and my clients testimonials.
What are your top 3 bucket list items?
- Manaslu Base Camp trekking
- Taking up a new activity and becoming good at it. e.g..swimming. I know it sounds silly for Australians but I was born in India and I learnt swimming only as an adult. I can swim but not great. I would love to be able to do laps without stopping to gasp for breath or feel like a complete idiot doing it.
- Sky Diving
What’s your greatest regret?
I try not to regret for things but rather take it as an opportunity to learn. And so I cant think of anything specific here because I try to focus on the bright side.
Where is your favourite place to long lunch with friends in Brisbane?
Cucina by Toscani’s Restaurant, Southbank.
What are your 3 favourite Brisbane cafes you like to visit when you are craving your morning coffee?
- Honour Espresso, Graceville
- Black Milk Coffee, Oxley
- Cafe 63
Summarise Brisbane in 3 words…
Beautiful, Friendly and Welcoming
You can contact Santy via the below:
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.