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
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.
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
Before I loved running or boot camp or lifting weights, I
loved yoga. I practiced almost every day. My mat came with me everywhere I
went, and my body and mind felt supremely healthy. I was a living, breathing
yogini. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I lost my connection to the
practice. Maybe it was the time crunch I experienced after having a baby? 90 minute classes seemed quite indulgent. Or
maybe it was the mild agitation I felt when inexperienced, 20 something instructors
wanted to preach to me about quieting the mind and balancing chakras? What did
they know about quieting a mother’s mind?! OR maybe it was the fact that I was
in a mad rush to get my body back after 9 months of pregnancy? I was in need of
heart-pumping calorie burn on a daily basis. So it seemed that motherhood steered
me away from the yoga practice for some time…until recently.
What brought me back?
First, it was the need my body felt for the asanas. Running,
jumping, and lifting day in and day out was putting too much strain on my
body. I felt an ache here and tightness
there. My range of motion and posture
began to suffer. For a while I just
assumed I was getting old. Then I thought,
“Meghan, you need to show your body a little TLC!” So I put down the weights
and gave my long lost love another chance. Good move! I was challenged and
pampered all in one sweaty workout. I
felt my shoulders loosen and my hips unwind. I noticed my smaller muscle groups
engaging in ways I had not felt in my daily strength workouts. My core was
working the WHOLE time. My entire being was integrated again, and it felt
What was the next hurdle I had to cross in order to make it
back to my mat? Getting myself to an
actual class… Most days I realistically
don’t have 90 minutes plus to devote to yoga! When I did, I felt guilty leaving
my family for so long because doing a little yoga didn’t seem like a priority. And even if I
did make it to whatever random class happened to fit into my schedule, would I
spend half the time judging the poor instructor? I know, not very “yoga-like”
to be judging anyone, and a fellow instructor no less.
I decided “let go” of any expectations… of time, of judgment,
of my guilt or frustration, and just enjoy the moments I had on my mat. So what if I can only fit in a 20 minute session
at home surrounded my toddler toys? It is better than nothing! So
what if I make it to class and the teacher spends half the time chanting? At least have made it to a class. So what if the situation is not
perfect? I don’t need perfect. I just need to do some yoga! After accepting that, I have found it much
easier to incorporate the practice into my life again, and body and mind are
reaping the benefits.
I may not be the living, breathing yogini I thought I was
pre-baby. But I feel strong, limber, grounded
and most importantly, happy.
My mother was a prenatal yoga instructor in the
1980s. As a child I remember quietly watching her teach from the next room. She
led women through gentle stretches, breathing exercises, and relaxation
techniques. It was SUPER GENTLE. There
was no sweating, no grunting, and no muscle burn. While I think a little TLC is
beneficial and necessary for the pregnant body, I am glad times have changed!
Pregnant woman can now exercise at a more vigorous level and it is not only
proven safe, but beneficial for mother and baby. Pregnant women are now encouraged
to continue with moderate cardiovascular and strength exercises throughout
pregnancy. It is a great way to stay strong, manage weight gain, decrease
stress, and grow a smart and healthy baby!
A study conducted last year discovered that woman
who exercised for 20 minutes, three times per week during pregnancy gave birth
to newborns with higher brain activity. Another study in 2011 showed that mothers
who continued regular cardiovascular exercise throughout pregnancy gave birth
to babies with stronger hearts (slower heart rates with more variability). More
and more mothers are deciding to stay active not only for themselves, but for
baby as well.
This winter I had the privilege of working with an exceptional group of women. My
prenatal Mind Body Mama class was full of mamas who were not afraid to break a
sweat. In fact, they were asking for it! We tackled everything from
circuit training to kick boxing to yoga. I never saw a group of pregnant mamas
so committed to staying active. It was inspiring, and a clear sign that times
have changed since my mom's approach to prenatal fitness.
Melissa, one mom in the group, caught my attention as she executed military
push-ups with perfect form… 30 plus weeks into her pregnancy. Melissa is a
prime example of an active woman who is keeping her fitness level in check
safely and effectively throughout her pregnancy. I had to ask her a few
questions about her approach to exercise.
Here is what Melissa had to say:
What was your fitness routine like
pregnancy I worked out 6 days a week, with usually one day of rest or light
cross-training, such as yoga. Most days I would run for 45-60 minutes and
incorporate 10-20 minutes of a light arms and shoulder work out. I also
tried to have 1-2 days a week of high intensity circuit training or a
What your fitness routine like now that
you are pregnant?
am 32 weeks pregnant and I am still running (well, jogging about 2 minutes
slower that my pre-pregnancy pace) 45 minutes 4-5 days a week and doing
10-20 minutes of a light arms and shoulders. I also practice
prenatal yoga once a week and participate in Meghan's fantastic prenatal
fitness class once a week!
Did you have a similar experience
during your first pregnancy?
pregnancy was a lot harder, I wasn't used to carrying the extra weight while
running and I wasn't as strong. Although I was able to keep up running
and working out until the week I delivered, I had to cut my distance and time a
lot earlier in the pregnancy and I struggled with sciatic back
pain. This time around, I spend a good portion of my day
chasing and carrying around a 26lb nearly two-year old -- which has
definitely helped to keep me in overall better shape.
What do you feel are the benefits of
staying active while pregnant?
biggest benefit is how much it improves my mood. If I wake up feeling
tired, nauseous or emotional -- running and working out always leaves
me feeling 100X better and with great energy to keep up with my day
and my toddler son. Additionally, staying active helps manage my weight
gain throughout my pregnancy. I never see unexpected weight
gains at my doctor visits and I manage to stay within the recommended
healthy range. I also found with my first pregnancy, the "baby
weight" came off pretty quickly. I was back to my pre-pregnancy
weight within 4 months.
How do you stay motivated while
dealing with the physical changes happening in your body?
have stayed active during my first pregnancy, I know how much exercise benefits
a woman during labor and delivery. Keeping my legs and core strong
throughout my pregnancy probably played a big role in my relatively quick
delivery of my son (25 minutes!) Whenever I'm feeling lazy or want to
skip a work out I just think of this and power through at least some form of
activity every day. I also don't beat myself up when I have days that I
need to listen to my body and skip a work out or take it extra easy.
Do you have any advice or words of
wisdom for other pregnant women in regards to fitness?
what form of exercise you choose, just find something you enjoy and can
do for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. It's a
wonderful escape from the various emotional and physical pains we feel being
pregnant. And keep reminding yourself -- staying fit can really help lead
to a healthy labor and delivery for both you and your baby!
Great words from an experienced mama! I agree: aim
for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. If you were NOT
active prior to pregnancy, you may want slowly integrate it into your
lifestyle, or find a trainer with prenatal experience to guide you. Don’t be
afraid to break a little bit of a sweat! And always honor your body when you
need a rest. Happy exercising, mamas!:)