Summer is here and the swimsuits are out! Mixed feelings about it? In a culture that is drilling "bikini body" images into our heads at every opportunity, moms often feel defeated when it comes to their physical self. We are constantly putting our children’s needs before our own. How can we take care of the kids, clean the home, cook the dinner, maintain a job, AND stay healthy and fit? As a personal trainer, I encourage my mom clients to take a realistic approach. It's not about maintaining your 24-year-old-bikini-wearing body. It's about living in your healthiest, strongest, happiest body RIGHT NOW.
Here are a few realistic ways to find YOUR summer body. I promise it’s not too late!
Workout with Your Kids
No time to workout? Get your kids in on the action. You will be able to exercise more often, and it will help your children build positive associations with exercise early in life. Win/win!
Find ways to build exercises into your daily life. Invest in a jogging stroller (I am in love with my Bob!). Find a mommy/baby yoga or fitness class. Try circuit training on the playground. Don't be afraid to be the parent doing squats and pushups on the side lines! And my favorite... have a dance party in the living room with your kiddos. They love this, and you will be burning tons of calories if you really boogie.
Practice Mindful Eating
Do you catch yourself shoveling food into your face over the kitchen counter with the kids screaming in the background? Or do inhale your meal while binge watching your favorite show at the end of the day? Munching with distraction often causes us to overeat. In these moments we do not allow our mind to process what the body is consuming.
Practice mindful eating. Put away electronic devices and wait for a quiet moment (without your kids around if possible). Savor each bite of your food. Notice the taste, the smell, and the texture. Remind yourself that each food is nourishing your body. By doing this we are better able to receive the message when we are satiated. We will also enjoy our eating experience on a deeper level.
Find an Exercise Buddy
Do you know a friend who may be ready to make some healthy changes with you? Finding a workout buddy can help you stay on track. Set a weekly workout date, share recipes, or sign up for new group classes together. Not only will you be more likely to exercise, but you will have more fun doing it.
Another option is finding an experienced and knowledgeable health coach, nutritionist, or personal trainer (like myself) to guide you. It may not be as cost effective as using a friend, but it will ensure that you see results in a timely, safe, and effective way.
Good luck finding your summer body! My team does amazing work with moms throughout NYC and Westchester. We are here to help. We also offer virtual skype sessions at a fraction of the cost. Visit www.mindbodyfitnessnyc.com for more info. Want to chat with me in person? Come to the Hastings Flea next Sunday, July 12th for 10am to 4pm. I will be giving away free sessions, doing fitness consultations, and teaching kids yoga! www.hastingsflea.com
Sometimes it seems impossible to drum up the time and energy needed to cook a healthy meal. And what happens to dinner when mommy (or daddy) has had a long day? In our house, we usually end up ordering a less than nourishing take-out dinner. What if there was a way to embrace cooking, even on the challenging days, and actually find contentment in it? Recently someone at in my mom's group mentioned Mindful Cooking. My ears perked up! I am a big advocate of mindful eating, so why I had I not thought to bring mindfulness to the kitchen as I prepared the food? As I started to read up on it I realized I already was practicing mindful cooking in many ways.
Mindfulness in its self is the state of being aware and present in the given moment. It is in those moments, when we allow ourselves to let go of that constant babble in the mind, we can find true contentment. “Be here now.” I often repeat this mantra to yoga practitioners when I am teaching. It’s easier said than done, but those moments of mental stillness can help us slow down and appreciate what is right before us.
The kitchen is the perfect place to practice mindfulness. There are so many opportunities to keep the mind actively engaged in the here and now. By tuning in to the smell of the food, the heat of the oven, the sounds of chopping, and the sight of our creations we can learn to enjoy the experience of cooking. Instead of feeling burdened by a meal, one can actually find it therapeutic and relaxing!
Try these simple exercises in the kitchen.
*Before you get started on any of the exercises below, put all screens and electronic devices out sight. ;)
This one works well if you have a lot of prep involved in your meal. With each
ingredient whether you are chopping, seasoning, mixing, try to visuals and
acknowledge the origin of that food. Did it grow from the ground? Or in a tree?
Did it walk or swim? Breathe? When we see our food as having an existence other
than on our plate we can truly appreciate it. Take a moment to express gratitude
for the nourishment that each food will provide.
Use Your Senses:
If you are cooking something on the stove or in the oven take a few minutes to
sit quietly nearby. Experience the
fragrances, sounds, and sights of your food as it cooks. Notice the subtle
changes in the room. Notice how those changes affect your body.
If your mind starts to wander off, gently
bring it back to your cooking meal without criticism or stress. Allow yourself
to appreciate the sensations that the impending meal drums up in your body and mind.
Infuse With Love:
Have you ever noticed that a home cooked meal prepared by a
loved one just tastes better? Your mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing? Or your grandfather's apple pie? It’s almost
as if you can taste the love. Many people believe that food can take on the
energy of the person preparing it and then be passed along to those who
consume it. Next time you are cooking for your family acknowledge how each food
will nourish those you love the most in the world. If you want to take it
further, create a mantra to go along with it… “I am cooking with love.”
If you are interested in learning more about Mindful Cooking, read "The Mindful Cook: Finding Awareness, Simplicity, and Freedom in the Kitchen" by Isaac Cronin.
Adult participation is always encouraged in my toddler yoga
classes. Yes, it helps to make the little ones more comfortable and open to
explore, but it also helps the grownups find their own mind body connection. I
often hear the parents say things like "I should be doing more yoga."
Or "Man, this feels so good!" So I say, DO MORE! If you have no time to
devote to yoga without your kiddos, try a family yoga session. Here are some fun ways to create a family practice that will benefit both you and your
Chair pose/Wall sit
This is an awesome way to strengthen the core and lower body, and if you know
how to sit on a chair you can do it! Try out a wide legged chair pose side by
side with you child. Imagine you can sit way back in a tiny imaginary chair. For
a little more support try chair pose using the wall (a wall sit).Take 5 to 10
deep breaths together.
Tree in the wind
For balance, work on your tree pose together. First the child can strike a tree
pose as the adult moves all around them like "the wind." The goal is
to stay balanced and strong as the wind whooshes all around you. Then switch
roles and allow your child to dance like the wind and knock you down.
Everyone enjoys the thrill of going upside-down.
Children and adults can practice this hand
stand modification at the wall.
down dog “L” shape with your body by placing hands on the floor and feet on the
wall. For extra excitement bark or howl like a dog!
Sunning on a rock
This is a wonderful restorative pose for child and adult. The adult sits on
their heels with bent knees as the child stands behind. Your backs should be
touching. Nice and slow the child can lay back as the adult
takes a child’s pose (rock). Let your child sun on the rock for 5 to 10
You are never too young (or old) to enjoy a foot rub. End your practice by
using some scented lotion to massage your child's feet. And then switch and
allow them to rub yours. Not only will it be relaxing for both, but it's a
wonder sensory exercise for the kiddos. I love the lavender scented lotion from
The most important thing is to be creative and playful in your practice. There are hidden games inside the asanas. If you make your practice flexible and inclusive, the whole family can reap the benefits.
I thought I knew the power of the mind body
connection. However, it was through the recent birth of my second
child that my understanding of it was strengthened tenfold. In the past, I
used exercise (running, lifting, yoga) as a moving meditation, and I
how my physical actions effect my mental state. Exercise and deep
helped me to stay calm and centered. I was working from the outside in.
labored with my first daughter Laylah I had a similar approach. I was sure that my physical actions would help
shape my birth experience into something peaceful and easy.
Almost 3 years ago when Laylah was born I found that all the
physical strength in the world could not combat the pain of labor. Giving birth sans epidural was important to
me, so that’s what I did. During the
labor I tried to fight the discomfort with different physical postures,
massage, props, gyrations, and vocalizations… all to no avail. I was afraid,
stressed, and in major PAIN. After all
was said and done I came out of it feeling traumatized and a bit embarrassed by
the whole experience. My poor baby came into the world hearing “F*#K! I am
going to die!” It was all very dramatic.
When I got pregnant with Caia, I knew I had to take a different
What would happen if I started
from the inside and worked my way out?
That’s when I decided to read up on hypnobirthing. The goal of hypnobirthing
is to practice deep relaxation, visualization techniques, and self-hypnosis to minimize
the pain of childbirth. I studied hard. Along with practicing the techniques
every night by listening to hypnobirthing tracks on my ipod, I read Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method
Mongan. I was skeptical when I read
things like “childbirth can be a pain free experience,” but I was willing and
open to the thought of it. I felt as if I was training for a race. The more I practiced the meditations the more
confident I became in my ability to stay relaxed when the big day arrived.
Labor started. I was nervous, but I kept my cool. With each surge (Hypnobirthing lingo for contraction)
I calmed my mind and allowed my body to relax completely. In my mind I told myself that I was not
feeling pain, only “pressure.” This “pressure”
concept really worked for me, and as labor progressed, I made sure to stay in
the present moment. In the breaks between surges I savored the relaxation, and
during the surges I repeated my “only pressure” mantra. The atmosphere was
peaceful. I didn’t yell and scream. I didn’t waste mental energy anticipating the
next surge. Time flew by, and all of a sudden my midwife told me it was time to
push. I was shocked! I thought that I
was just getting started. Where was the pain and suffering that I experienced
with my first labor? Was it possible that it was almost over?! With 2 big
pushes my little one was safe in my arms. I felt proud and amazed at the ease
in which she entered the world.
It was truly a wonderful birth experience, and it gave me a
deeper understanding of the power of the mind... and how it can affect our
physical experience. What an awesome tool to use in all the challenges of life. With
the right mental approach, obstacles can be overcome without too much
suffering. Whether it is exercise, a frustrating work moment, a painful loss of
a loved one, or a screaming toddler in the back seat of your car, one can relax
and ride the surge to the next break.
With only about 6 more weeks to go in my second pregnancy, I
thought I would share my thoughts on maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle
this time around. So far I have managed
to keep up a moderate fitness routine, eat healthy (with some exceptions…ice cream),
and gain only the minimal amount of weight (19lbs in 34 weeks). It probably
goes without saying that there are many challenges, maybe even more so than the
first pregnancy, but there are also positives that come with experience. I’ve been trying to keep tabs on both…Hopefully
my insight will be comforting to some!
The challenges lie mostly in the time and energy
department. Having a toddler is
demanding (to say the least). Chasing your
strong willed two year old around while picking up toys and old raisins from
the floor is tiring. Add a work schedule to that, and you find yourself tempted
to skip basic household chores, much less fit in a workout.
It is not one sided though… While there are hurdles to
overcome, there are also some pros to the second pregnancy that actually make
it easier to stay fit. Confidence is helpful for sure. After you have lived through one pregnancy
and a few years of motherhood, you gain a new resilience and an inner strength.
You worry less, feel more confident in your choices, and may even want to do it
better than you did with the first. Not
to mention trips to the park, tickle fights, and endless piles of laundry tend
to keep one in shape.
My advice on staying motivated for the second pregnancy? Do it for your baby, and do it for you. Mothers who stay active throughout their
pregnancy gain less weight, are less likely to develop gestational diabetes,
and are thought to have easier labors. More importantly, they have healthier
babies with better heart rate variability and birth weights. Exercise can also
cut down on everyday fatigue. Also, keep in mind that there will be less work
to do post baby if you haven’t been sitting around for 9 months!
Try to make exercise part of your everyday routine. Shoot
for 30 minutes of light cardio 4 to 5 days per week, plus 2 strength training workouts
per week (weights or yoga). Make sure to keep it moderate. You should always be
able to speak a full sentence without taking a breath. Also, stay hydrated, and
listen to your body. If you choose a nap over a workout here and there don’t
beat yourself up. It may be just what your
body and baby needed in that moment.
Some practical tips…It helps to get the workout in during
the day time hours, otherwise it may not happen. Your child’s nap time is prime
time to work out, if it still exists. If
you need to include your little one into the mix try taking a long brisk walk
with the stroller, or have a dance party in your living room, OR try some
parent/child yoga. Some exercise is
better than none, and it could be a fun activity for both of you. Lately I find myself savoring the alone time
with my daughter… pretty soon my attention will be split! Keep in mind I know
of some really awesome personal trainers who can help you on this journey if
need be. Good luck and stay strong!
*Photo Credit: Jess Murphy