The link between intense fitness and fertility

Above: Amber Dobecka, online coach at AmberMichelleFit.com, struggled with infertility as a result of her previous experience in fitness competitions. Lifestyle | 21 May |

While regular exercise has shown to have numerous health benefits, including weight loss, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing energy levels and helping with relaxation and sleep, intensive exercise can negatively affect your health.

Women who intensively exercise and/or compete in fitness competitions put a lot of demands on their bodies, which can take a toll and result in decreased fertility.

According to the CDC, “About 6 percent of married women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying.”

Studies have shown intense physical exercise can decrease fertility. A few reasons why exercise can lead to infertility can be a luteal phase defect, low levels of progesterone, hormones that regulate the female reproductive system are changed in ways that interfere with ovulation; or a change in leptin levels, which regulates appetite and metabolism.

Amber Dobecka, online coach at AmberMichelleFit.com, struggled with infertility as a result of her previous experience in fitness competitions. Dobecka is also the ZYN22 Program Director for THE22, a strength and conditioning workout, and a certified Group Fitness Specialist through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), headquartered in Phoenix.

Dobecka has always prioritized fitness — she taught fitness classes, was a personal trainer, trained and competed in fitness competitions, and is now an online fitness coach and is a wife and mother of two.

She started training for competitions in 2012, competing in 2013 every few months before she stopped competing at the end of 2014. She began in the bikini division and finished in the fitness division. Dobecka said being in the bikini division “was so aesthetic and it’s so hard on your spirit because you train so diligently and nobody sees that. You get about 20 seconds on stage for a panel of judges to assess you. However with the fitness division, I performed a 10-minute routine that demonstrated various skills and strength elements, so there was a lot more value to that division for me because it revolved around physical strength,” Dobecka said. “It was much more affirming in the progress I had made, and correlated with what I wanted to stand for.”

She said while she was competing, she taught group fitness classes and people took notice her body was changing and she was becoming stronger through her training; and started approaching her about helping them in their own fitness journeys.

Dobecka took a leap of faith and left her full-time job to pursue a career in fitness. Although at the time she said she wasn’t sure doing what. She took a job as a personal trainer at a private, local training gym, and grew her clientele.

Dobecka since transitioned from being a personal trainer to an online coach at ambermichellefit.com, her fitness and nutrition website, the Program Director and instructor with ZYN22, and as a Group Fitness Specialist with ISSA, a distance education certification company.

“Now I’m a mom of two, so that has opened so many doors and how to fulfill my purpose in inspiring others, while at the same time prioritizing my faith, my family and making the most of my time and energy,” Dobecka said. “ISSA has helped me tremendously with that because they’ve given me certifications that I can do from home, so I can further develop my education, and then they’ve given me a writing outlet as well, which helps build clientele.”

The Dallas Fort Worth resident struggled with infertility due to the intense toll fitness competitions took on her body, but she said through her first pregnancy she learned how to adjust her fitness routines and refined her motivations to workout, which involved breaking her previous mindset of training for aesthetics or adding muscle to prepare for a competition.

“I learned what I wanted to do in training people, and in nutrition and fitness and coaching… and with the second pregnancy, it was definitely refining that and learning how nutrition and fitness and becoming your strongest self physically requires mental, emotional and spiritual transformation as well.”

Dobecka utilizes this holistic wellness approach in her roles as an online coach for her business, and as a Group Fitness Specialist with ISSA. She said this approach stemmed from what she learned while training for fitness competitions. “I learned what it’s like to become strong and the strongest version of yourself,” Dobecka said. “I really learned what it means to be strong from the inside out and that’s my motivation to keep going and disciplining my body; but more than anything, it required me to discipline my mind.

“And for me, I learned how to discipline my spirit at the same time. So I made my own training more of a spiritual training as well because for some reason that’s the way God communicates with me, so in the midst of a really tough workout, I can relate it to how God is strengthening me from the inside out. And my time working out is also my time to be reminded of what this life is about and to be grateful for the body I have and what I’m going to be doing with it.”

She said this realization is also why she decided to stop competing, she wanted to have a family and still have a career in fitness, but in a different way.

She had to adjust her mindset and figure out what her new purpose would be for working out if not for a competition. That thought process turned into how she could train and positively impact others’ lives – through coaching.

“I looked holistically at it, and I decided I wanted to become the best version of myself, and every chance I got I could track my progress. And other people were so inspiring to me.

When people started to say, ‘Can you help me do this?’ and I’m like, ‘the fact that you’re humble enough to ask me, somebody who is struggling right alongside you and want my help, that inspires me.’”

Dobecka said seeing people that support each other in the fitness community is valuable to her since training can be very isolating, so she translated the community aspect into coaching her own clientele.

“I have them journal and answer a series of questions like, ‘Did I work out today? Did I feel like working out today? Did I work out even if I didn’t feel like working out? If so, what helped me get there? If I didn’t work out, why didn’t I?’” she said by answering those questions, clients can refocus on why they’re working out instead of a “fleeting motivation and come to the realization that working out is a daily habit and is helping them get stronger.”

By going through this self-reflection process, Dobecka said her clients figure out what triggers them to make negative wellness decisions or being too harsh on themselves, such as restricting their diet or their confidence was affected because of negative comments about their weight.

“There are so many wounds that we deal with. It’s so deep to talk about fitness and nutrition, it’s so much more than the surface, and I think that’s why so many people constantly struggle with it without any real success that lasts, because they never get to the root of the problem, or the root of the wound.”

Her approach to working with clients in a holistic way also contributes to her desire to share her challenges she’s overcome and hopefully help others learn from their own journeys.

“When I struggled with infertility, as strong as I was physically, I still had this deep wound in my heart and I was scared of being a bad mother and losing myself, yet the coolest part and the biggest reflection was I learned who I was going through that struggle,” Dobecka said. “That’s my story to share with other people and my hope is that people have their own story revealed to them through their own struggle by asking those tough questions.”

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