Jessica Sprenkel: Double-Duty Doula
Jessica Sprenkel, known as “Sprenk,” serves her clients in two capacities; she is a birth doula who owns a gym and fitness studio. Her areas of educational expertise marry with her coaching ability for her dual roles as personal fitness trainer and doula. She is passionate about helping women during the pregnancy process through her role as doula and continues to support them through exercise classes and personalized fitness routines following their pregnancies. Her philosophy focuses on an individualized approach, helping women thrive before, during and after giving birth.
TK: Tell us a little about yourself:
Sprenk: I grew up in a small town outside of Indianapolis and attended college in Memphis, TN, so I could escape the long winters. I majored in psychology and got my first fitness certification. I was lucky enough to find a gym outside of my college campus that became like a family to me and really helped shape how I coach my clients in a compassionate and understanding way. In 2012 I moved to Austin to pursue my graduate degree in kinesiology and had always planned on moving back to Memphis. That changed when one of my very best childhood friends invited me to visit her in Tulsa. I found such a friendly spirit and loved the size and affordability of the city. In 2014 I moved to Tulsa. It was a winding and undulating journey to my current role of gym owner. I worked at the YMCA, at a startup livestreaming fitness company, nights and weekends at special events, slowly piecing together my roadmap and making connections. I eventually found great success in small-group personal training with a focus on strength training for women.
TK: How did you become interested in teaching classes to pregnant and postpartum women?
Jessica: I am a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise. I have my Master of Science in Kinesiology. And my prenatal and postpartum certifications include attending the Birthfit Coach Education weekend and being a Certified Prenatal and Postpartum Coach through Girls Gone Strong.
I have found that there isn’t a lot of information in a general fitness certification to truly serve pregnant and postpartum populations well. These periods of life require a completely different mindset, approach and environment than the general population. I saw a giant need for this and created a community where they are the priority, not an afterthought.
TK: What is a doula?
Sprenk: A doula is many things, but I think that birth coach sums it up pretty well. They don’t have medical experience or make medical decisions, but they do provide emotional and physical support, encouragement and resources during pregnancy and labor to their clients. My goal during a birth is that mom feels supported, heard and like she is making her own choices. Between myself and her partner, she is never alone. We work together to explore decisions, ask questions and make sure there’s understanding and that she is in control of decisions made.
TK: How did you become interested in becoming a doula?
Sprenk: I spent about two years working almost exclusively with women before I had clients talk about getting pregnant. I realized if I wanted to continue to serve this population well, I would need additional training. Most personal training certifications barely cover pregnancy and postpartum considerations, giving very vague guidelines.
TK: What is your training in this specific area?
Sprenk: I found a prenatal and postpartum fitness certification called Birthfit and signed up for their class in Salt Lake City. It was a three-day intensive and during training, one of the coaches mentioned she was a doula and that it only makes sense if you’ve been coaching and preparing your clients for labor and birth, that you would be in there for the big event. This piece of knowledge broke down a huge barrier for me. I spoke with this trainer after class, and she gave me some starting points. Three months later, I was in Boston for my doula certification course. After learning more about it to better help my clients, I was just blown away by our body’s power and strength.
TK: What do you enjoy about working with pregnant and postpartum women?
Sprenk: I enjoy helping change the mindset around what they’re capable of. Oftentimes my clients are far stronger than they know and just need a little encouragement to get there. I also love changing the narrative and helping women break free from the diet culture and bouncing back narrative. It is toxic and the last thing anyone who has given birth recently should be worried about. Postpartum is a time for healing, recovery and growing into your new role as a mother. Soak that in.
TK: What types of classes do you offer?
Sprenk: I own an in-person gym that hosts small-group classes at various times in the morning, at lunch and after work. There is a general fitness program available to all as well as a more specific 12-week postpartum reBUILD program and pregnancy fitness program that focuses on birth preparation. It helps to feel strong going into such a physically demanding event!
Prenatal and postpartum classes have a different plan in that there is a lot of focus on breath and posture. We work on regaining core control and focus on movements that apply to everyday motherhood. Healing comes first, then strength.
The prenatal program is offered in person and via an app year-round. It is targeted to the specific week of pregnancy you’re in and you’ll work directly with me. We focus on physical strength to help make pregnancy easier and more comfortable. We also focus on mindset and emotional support and preparation via habit tracking. We work together to pick daily habits that will benefit you the most.
I have a 12-week post-partum program available in person and via an app that focuses on healing and rebuilding strength and routines after pregnancy. My goal is to get you back to doing what you loved before pregnancy and feeling confident in your new life. Whether it’s your first or fifth kid, there’s a major adjustment physically, mentally and emotionally that happens after each.
TK: What is your philosophy of kids at the gym?
Sprenk: Kids are always welcome at the gym. I have play pins, blankets, toys and help set the expectations among members (mostly other moms) that there will be kids present some days. I never want your kids to be the reason you can’t make it.
TK: What is your focus on health, nutrition and exercise for the whole family?
Sprenk: I believe, for all my clients, that small daily habits add up to big results. I don’t encourage the all or nothing mentality or going all in at once. It’s not sustainable, especially in motherhood. We focus on little things like drinking water before you have your coffee or taking the first five minutes of naptime to sit in quiet, that can add a lot of mental value to the days.
For more information, go to www.coachsprenkel.com.
To listen to the full interview, check out the Sharing Passion and Purpose Podcast by Nancy Moore on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music.