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Find YOUR Summer Body

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

Partner Up for Family Yoga

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 little one.

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.

Upside-down Dog
Everyone enjoys the thrill of going upside-down.
Children and adults can practice this hand stand modification at the wall.
Create a 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 breaths.

Foot rubs
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 Jivamukti.

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.

The 2nd Pregnancy: Tips to stay fit!

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

Why I stopped doing yoga...And then started again.

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 AMAZING!

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. 

Not Your Mom's Prenatal

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 before pregnancy? 
Before 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 kickboxing class.

What your fitness routine like now that you are pregnant?
I 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?
My first 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? 
The 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?
Since I 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?
No matter 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!:)

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