I’ve seen it so often. Women find out their pregnant, start feeling the effects of it, and quit coming to the gym or their classes. When I see them again postpartum, they feel huge and out of shape.

 

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not throwing rocks. I know how debilitating some of pregnancy’s “side effects” are. As one who has experienced hyperemesis through two pregnancies myself, it can be extremely difficult to lift your head to do a daily task (other than hang out with the toilet) let alone get yourself dressed for a workout.

 

I’m also going to say that working out is the only thing that saved me from 1) losing my lunch (and my mind) completely and 2) turning into a couch potato. Even though by eight weeks I could no longer do my usual workouts due to the severity of my nausea, practicing and teaching Yoga and Pilates really, really helped me maintain a healthy weight, keep down the nausea, maintain strength and flexibility and a strong core (essential for delivering babies), and mental clarity.

 

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Pregnancy is a wonderful new adventure, and the perfect time to clean up your routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting something new or increasing your goals. It means making small, healthy changes that benefit you and the baby and your household. Gentle, consistent exercise is the main way to keep pregnancy side effects at bay. It helps maintain muscle tone and bone strength, increases adherence to healthy behaviors and therefore a healthy weight, increases circulation and oxygen to the body (and baby), increases positive mindset and mood while decreasing anxiety and depression, and also reduces all the side effects of pregnancy such as swelling, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, insomnia and exhaustion.

 

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This sounds wonderful (and is!) but I always provide a word of caution. Whenever pregnant, make sure you consult your physician and/or OB about your routine. Each pregnancy is unique and needs to be well attended by both you and your doctor. Complications and contraindications can occur at any time, in which case you must curtail or change your regimen to meet doctor’s orders. Never go against them (seek a second opinion if you don’t agree with the decision) for your own sake and that of the baby.

 

Most of all, enjoy the journey. Be gentle with yourself. You are venturing down a new path–yes, even those of us who have multiple children, it’s still new because there’s another one coming 😉 Take care of the important things, learn to let the little things go, and laugh a lot. Children are precious and fun…and I bet you’ll feel better when you do!

Cardiovascular exercise is important for everybody. It keeps the heart healthy and reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease associated with today’s sedentary lifestyle, yet with so many options available the rates of obesity are still growing. There are a lot of reasons for this ranging from demographics to cost, but I think a lot of the reason people don’t try a new program is because they are intimidated.

 

Exercise can be intimidating. No one wants to look bad doing it. No one wants to jiggle. The way we look in the mirror plays a huge role in how we feel, and exercise clothes are form-fitting (for safety reasons), further hindering those who feel uncomfortable in tight attire. Some people even find sweating a detracting factor.

 

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The biggest determent is time, which is why walking is such a fantastic option for those looking to increase their cardio output. There are so many ways to add walking into your routine, including:

 

  • Walk the dog
  • Park near the back of a parking lot
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Get up to stretch your legs once an hour by strolling through the office
  • Gardening
  • Hiking on the weekend at your favorite park
  • Marching in place
  • Visiting the neighbors
  • Strolling around the house while on a phone call

 

Unlike running, walking does not place a lot of impact on your joints and lower back, and the more you do it. Walking helps loosen up stiff joints while strengthening muscles and promoting weight loss. A.2015 study published in Circulation cited that physical activity was related to lower levels of cardiovascular disease, and that those who walked at faster paces and logged greater distances tended to have the lowest CVD risks. The best thing about walking is that the more you do it, the more you can do it and the easier it becomes.

 

What if you cannot start walking because of weight, joint pain, paralysis, or some other health-related issue? Try swimming instead! Pool time greatly reduces the stress put on the body while adding resistance to any movement you do. My own grandfather has used the pool for years to do exercises after his hips began bothering him, and swimming is well-known for alleviating the effects that gravity exerts on pregnant women.

 

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The typical obstacles that most people face when starting to walk or swim are proper attire and measuring their rate of exertion. It is important to wear proper footwear when you’re walking to support your joints and a clerk at an athletic shoe store can really help you determine a good shoe to wear that falls within your budget. As for swimming, you want to make sure you’re wearing a comfortable swim suit or close-fitting attire that won’t ride up while you’re in the water. Yes, these are upfront expenses but let’s face it: compared to a life full of medical bills, this is cheap!

 

As for the rate of exertion, if you can carry on a conversation but feel somewhat breathless, that’s a great thing to achieve. You don’t have to be struggling for air to get a great workout in but you also want to make sure you’re not making it too easy on yourself. Working out takes, well, work 😉 You ought to feel it without overdoing it.

 

The most important thing is to just get moving! Don’t worry too much about form or what you can do for how long you can do it. Moving breeds fitness and fitness brings weight loss.

So I’ve been busy as a bee in October trying to get moved and enjoying a vacation, but all the while pondering what it’s like to be a pregnant mom with a one-year-old. First off, let me say that this first year has been an absolute blast. My husband and I are so very happy, we often look at each other and wonder what we did before we had kids. Our daughter is a sweet-tempered, curious little tot who wakes up each morning ready to embrace the new day. (I wish I could channel that enthusiasm for sunrises some mornings.) To her, there is nothing more pleasant than getting a chance to venture outside with one or both of her parents; walking with the breeze blowing through our hair is the greatest of delights.

 

It’s not always so easy, however. I’m once again experiencing nausea with this current pregnancy as I did with the last, though admittedly it isn’t quite so bad this time around. Still, there are days when it’s hard to peel myself up off the couch because my daughter is investigating something that we’d rather her not get into. After a hectic month like October, all I really want to do is vegetate. Too bad I’m a mom 😉

 

Here are some of my thoughts on back-to-back pregnancies, and how to make it through when the going gets rough:

 

  • It is exhausting to be chasing a young child around while you’re carrying another. Take naps. Take a lot of naps. Find ways of wearing said young child out so you can take another, or put them in a play pen (pack-n-play) just so you can close your eyes for 20 minutes. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your spouse, friends, and family. Even if all you do is sit on the sofa while they tend to the needs of your little one, it’s worth letting go of the control reins for those few precious minutes. One of the big things OB’s try to convey to their pregnant patients is minimizing stress factors in your life. This is one way of doing so.
  • It is very likely that, as some point, you’re going to feel like a harassed blob that looks like a tornado struck her in the face. It is so easy to forget about your needs. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Put on a little makeup (but keep it out of reach of Little Sticky Fingers), wear clothes that aren’t your usual pregnancy attire, go out with a girlfriend for coffee/tea, workout, get a massage–whatever it is you need, do it. Dad won’t die from watching your tiny tot for an hour or so. If he can’t do it, try to have a backup babysitter.
  • Remember that tornado I mentioned? It rips through your living space daily, spreading toys and shoes and whatever else it finds throughout it. Remember that it’s okay to let the house be messy for a day or two (or three). Tidiness is not a strong trait with young kids, and you might not have the energy to pick up every evening when pregnant. Take a deep breath and watch something on the television once your kiddo has gone to bed. You deserve the break.
  • Eat often (you’re growing a baby) and eat a wide variety of foods. Your tot will want whatever is on your plate, no matter what’s on his/hers. I just went to MommyCon last weekend (more on that later) and one of the interesting facts I learned is that you only have the first three years of a child’s life (plus gestation) to instill healthy eating habits. After that, it becomes much harder to get them to change their preferences. So by eating the best foods you can (the pregnancy will dictate some of this, of course), you’re increasing the likelihood that your tot will be exposed to good food choices, as well as your baby (they have a lot of taste buds in the womb)! Don’t worry if they’re picky through their toddler years. Keep trying. They’ll come back to eating well later on.
  • Don’t forget to budget for baby! You might not need as much stuff this time around–I don’t, thank goodness–but you still need to plan and buy well in advance, if possible. I highly recommend shopping secondhand or asking friends if they have anything they’re getting rid of. I got a crib for free and a double stroller for a fraction of its original price.
  • Stay consistent with your tot in both routine and discipline. It’s really easy to let go of the control reins when you’re pregnant because you’re tired, sick, etc., but that can be really frightening/challenging to a young child, and they’ll act out. Stick to your guns, even when it’s tough on the hard days, and you’ll thank yourself after Bumpkin #2 comes along because you won’t have as much work to do, let alone patience, in order to correct bad behavior.
  • Tell your kid about the baby! You may not think they’ll understand, particularly if they’re young, but I guarantee you they will. My daughter once gave my baby bump a kiss!
  • Take time to be with your spouse. Nourishing your relationship will promote a healthy family life and set a good example for your children.
  • Keep a sense of humor even on the bad days. Sometimes a good belly laugh is all you need to turn your day around.

 

These suggestions, of course, are the tip of the ice burg. Each situation is unique to the person living them, so there’s no way for me to cover them all. These are the things I’ve learned from my own personal experience, and I hope they help you on your own journey through parenthood. It is a fantastic time of life. Cherish every moment, particularly the young years–they’ll be gone in a flash.

 

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A Pregnancy Post

April 25, 2013

Pregnancy has been on my mind a lot lately because, well, I’m expecting. What I find so interesting is how much misinformation on pregnancy is out there. Some of it is cultural, some religious, but some stems from “science” that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless you have health complications. So I thought I’d write a post on what I know to be fact vs. fiction with regards to pregnancy.

PLEASE NOTE: I’m not a health expert or doctor. What I say comes from personal experience and the fitness training I have received. ALWAYS see your doctor to discuss your own pregnancy, as each person and baby have their own unique needs. What I say here are generalizations.

First of all, for new mothers who lead a sedentary lifestyle, never begin a new fitness regimen or diet during the pregnancy unless guided by your doctor. Pregnancy often makes women want to get in shape and healthy, but the reality is that the baby is placing special demands upon your body and by starting up a new routine, you are depriving your child of oxygen and nutrients. However, everyone can walk! Our bodies were made to walk! Unless directed otherwise by your doctor, walk often at a moderate pace, hydrating and replenishing your body’s energy stores (within reason; a pregnancy only needs 300 more calories/day than one who is not pregnant).

For moms who are already active, perhaps highly active, remember to monitor and moderate your activities. I know that I found myself breathless just climbing my home’s stairs very soon after the pregnancy took root. Many recommend not letting the heart rate exceed 130 beats per minute (BPM) when pregnancy due to lack of oxygen to the baby. I also know that some women can run marathons while pregnant. The best thing is to know, and listen to, your body. If you feel breathless, faint, or like you’re just plain working too hard, heed the warnings. It will keep both you and the baby safe. For example: i normally work out very hard before I teach my classes, but since becoming pregnant, I pretty much do cardio when I can (30 min at a time) and teach, and that’s all…and I haven’t put on excessive weight!

One of the biggest myths out there is that a mother ought not workout through her first trimester. To me, this defies common sense. Women have been working (and working out) throughout pregnancies since the dawn of time, often times doing hard tasks. If humanity was that fragile, I think we’d have gone extinct.

With that said, however, once you know that you’re pregnant, it is wise to ease up on your routine. Slow down a little. Allow for the time to rest. Your body is undergoing a whole lot of changes–everything is shifting in preparation for birth and motherhood!

Realize also that it is necessary to limit movements. This weekend, I found myself a bit frustrated that I couldn’t do some of the yoga poses that I was learning. Granted, it isn’t comfortable (or smart) to lie on my stomach any longer, and lower belly twists need to be minimized; and frankly I have a great reason to be careful. But it’s hard to limit oneself when you’re used to striving for the next step. The thing is, it’s absolutely necessary. As your body changes, it undergoes a lot of stress. Things like huge back extensions or inversions could cause more damage rather than health. If unsure, always back off from extremes and use common sense. It’s your body. When you take care of it, you take care of that precious baby.

On a dietary note, many women find themselves eating differently. I know I have. The gluten-free diet that I normally adhere to went out the window when I started vomiting. I’ve heard the same thing said about lactose intolerance, etc. The thing is, the baby needs specific things and will demand those from you. Keep in touch with your doctor as things progress but realize that your usual diet might be on hold for nine months until that bundle of joy arrives.

There tends to be a lot of nerves and anxiety in mothers-to-be too. This is perfectly acceptable. However, I’ll say that these things translate into the womb. Your baby gets a dose of anxiety when you grow overly anxious. Therefore, consider meditating on things like gratitude (it can be for anything or anyone) and love, using deep breathing techniques to calm both body and mind. The infant will get much-needed oxygen and both mother and child will receive a boost as these things help them connect on a deeper level.

I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned thus far, however, is that it’s okay to feel crappy, and to say so. There are huge societal pressures upon expecting mothers. People tend to think that you ought to be in the throes of joy and exultation, when in reality you might barely be making it through the day without throwing up and biting off your boss’s head. I’m honest when asked: this pregnancy’s been rough. It’s a blessing, to be sure, but it’s been a long, hard road to the halfway point (to which I’m approaching).

Remember: it’s okay. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel tired. It’s okay to think it’s highly unfair that you’re sick and half the pregnant ladies around you aren’t.

Take some deep breaths. Sleep. Spend time connecting with the growing life within you. Remember that however rough the pregnancy is, it’s no a permanent situation. It does end and the real job begins, motherhood. Pregnancy is a preparatory time. Use it not only to nest but to prepare yourself mentally for the joys yet to come.