Saturday, 11 October 2014

Body Pride (31 Weeks)

Recently a friend of mine, who gave birth just 11 short weeks ago, was told that her belly was still huge, and asked why she still looked pregnant. No, the comment did not come from an unaware child, nor a mentally ill individual – it was just a rude man being a bully. Obviously it really upset my friend, and it infuriated me!! What a horrible thing to make someone feel ashamed of a body which has just endured one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally difficult processes known to man (and woman) – a process which started with, and resulted in pure love. I’d like to think this man was honestly misinformed about how a woman’s body changes to accommodate a child… but I know that’s not always the case.

The current (non-scientific) sentiment towards how a woman’s body should handle pregnancy is, to my understanding, something like this: Once you get pregnant, you stop doing all activity aside from walking, prenatal yoga, and very light weight-lifting. You should eat healthier than someone dieting, but still put on a good 30-40lbs. Once you’ve had your baby, which only accounts for about half the weight you put on, you should be able to lose the remaining 10-20lbs within a few months, even though you shouldn’t do any exercise for 6 weeks after giving birth, and you should not reduce your calories for fear of your milk drying up. The weight, apparently, will just magically fall off from breastfeeding and kegels.

Mmmhhhmmm. As a woman, and as an athlete, this attitude makes me feel completely trapped. No wonder we are so frustrated, and even resentful of the daunting permanent effect of childbearing. Headlines such as “Get Your Body Back” don’t really help the cause either. To me, this line implies that women have somehow “lost” their bodies during the process of making a baby, but I think pregnancy is the time to finally find our bodies’ true purposes.

(Side note: I’m also starting to see a trend towards shaming mothers who have managed to get in great shape after having a baby, which is unfortunate. We shouldn’t be attacking women for having a toned tummy any more than we should be attacking women for having a soft one. As long as a person is healthy and happy with how she (or he) looks, then that should be all that matters!)

My intention with this blog is not to shame women into feeling that anything less than what I’m doing is unacceptable - not at all! I want to start a conversation about how we can make these life and body-changing experiences as healthy and positive as they can be. I want to let people (both women and men) know that pregnancy isn’t a time to retreat and pity yourself for the changes that are going on in your body – it’s a time to go out and celebrate the strength that you possess, and be in awe of all the adjustments your body is instinctively making to help you bring this new life into the world. I want to empower you with knowledge, because our society has been viewing pregnancy as a “condition” for far too long. Yes, it's going to be hard... harder for some women than others; we have very little control over how our bodies will react to pregnancy. It'll be painful, and frustrating, and overwhelming. But at the end of the day, what you are doing is nothing short of amazing. Please be proud of your body; be kind to it; look at yourself with the same unconditional love and approval with which you look at your children, and know that every single mark and scar has had a purpose; eat, exercise, and live in a way that makes you both healthy AND happy. And if anyone is rude to you about how your body looks as a result…. I have a few suggestions for that too ;)

Yours in health and maternity,

31 weeks!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Quick Tips for Exercise During Pregnancy

Staying fit during pregnancy is no joke: working out on a regular non-pregnant day can be a struggle, but fighting off fatigue, bodily discomforts, mood swings, and nausea to get to the gym takes serious willpower and dedication. Give yourself a pat on the back if you've managed to put on your sneakers and reach your destination - the hardest part is over! But now what? What are you actually going to DO?  Here are some things to keep in mind as you choose your exercises or develop your pregnancy workout program.

Train your back. As your pregnancy progresses your back muscles will be working overtime to keep your spine in good alignment. Strengthen your back muscles now to improve posture and help alleviate future back and hip pain.

Exercises to try:
-Rows using resistance bands, cables, dumbbells or barbells
-Supermans or Back Extensions (if this is still comfortable for you)
-Rear Delt Flyes using a machine, cables, resistance band, or dumbbells

Train your glutes. We often forget that our glute (butt) muscles are an integral part of keeping good posture; by strengthening your glutes you again help to improve your spinal alignment and thus reduce discomfort and risk of injury.

Exercises to try:
-Hip Thrusts
-Cable Pull-Throughs
-Kneeling Kickbacks
-Plie Squats

Train your core. Although it's popularly cautioned not to train your abs later in pregnancy as doing so increases your risk of abdominal separation, strengthening your transverse abdominis (the muscles responsible for core stabilization) early on will, again, help you to maintain good posture. It's also believed that women with strong core muscles "show less" which, vanity aside, will take some of the strain off your back by keeping your weight centered.

Exercises to try:
-Planks and Side Planks
-Russian Twists
-Lying Leg Raise
-Bird Dog (actually, this is a back, glute AND core exercise!)

Do your Pelvic Tilts and Kegels. Pelvic Tilts are a fantastic way of encouraging proper spinal alignment, improving core strength, and helping to get baby into a good birth position later in pregnancy. You can do them lying down, against a wall, or kneeling (aka. Cat-Cow). Kegels strengthen your pelvic floor which will help with pushing during delivery, speed up recovery afterwards, and help prevent you from "leaking" every time you sneeze or cough :P Try doing your kegels during sex - it adds a degree of difficulty, and your partner is sure to love it!

Stretch your hips. Although the pregnancy hormone relaxin will loosen your hips naturally, additional stretching will help alleviate any hip or lower back pain (I can personally vouch for this one!), enables your body to adapt more effectively to the changes it's experiencing, and prepares your hips for that grueling labour of love we call "child-birthing".

Stretches to try:
-Low Squat Pose
-Butterfly Stretch
-Spiderman Strech
-Pigeon Pose
-Runner's Lunge

Stretch your chest. As your belly gets bigger your body will try to slouch forward, thereby tightening your chest and exacerbating an already weakened posture. Take just one minute every day to give your chest a stretch. (I like to stretch in the shower while my muscles are nice and warm :) )

Stretch your neck. Because it feels amazing, and we should all do it more anyways!

Walk. Whether it's a casual stroll or a power walk, walking is one of the best and most highly recommended exercises to do during pregnancy. It's low-impact, it's full-body, it helps get the baby into a good birthing position, and it gets you outdoors! Just be mindful of your posture while you're walking - keep your tailbone tucked, shoulders back, and chin up.

Additional Notes
-As a general rule, you can continue doing the same activities now as you were doing before pregnancy.
-Keep safety top of mind during your workouts! Be mindful of your balance, intensity level, physical safety (ie. Is there a dude haphazardly throwing weights around nearby? You should probably steer clear of him), and stay hydrated.
-Beware of cookie-cutter programs. I don't like the "one size fits all" approach to workouts for anyone, let alone expectant mothers! Your body is going through so many changes, and no two pregnancies are alike (even within the same body!). If you need some help designing a program, seek out a prenatal fitness professional who will take the time to talk to you about your specific needs.
-Listen to your body. It will naturally slow itself down, so just listen to what it's telling you (ie. Lift less weight; take a week off; change positions; etc.) and respect that. Every day will be different, which could be frustrating... OR it could be a great opportunity to try new things!

Yours in health and maternity,

Friday, 3 October 2014

30 Weeks

30 Weeks

The last two weeks have totally flown by! Last week while hubby was out of state for work, I was in a minor car accident which ended up chewing up a lot of time between going to the hospital (just a precaution to make sure the baby was ok - she is!), talking to insurance companies, getting a rental vehicle.... WOW! This was my first ever accident - who knew they were such a major inconvenience? All is well now, though I'll be losing DH to a work trip again next week and I'm sure time is just going to keep on flying by right up until the due date, which is now just 10 weeks away.

I've got a few new exercise modification for all my pregnant lady friends :) Alas, I cannot take credit for coming up with these gems - they are courtesy of WBFF Pro Michelle Macdonald ( and IFBB Figure Pro Jessie Hilgenberg, who just so happens to be 30 weeks pregnant too!

Chest Elevated Lying Leg Curl: Depending on how big your bump is, this is a great way to use that lying leg curl machine at your gym (because sometimes the gym just doesn't have seated leg curls!). Make space for your belly by propping yourself up on your forearms, while maintaining a neutral neck and spine. Drive your hips into the bench, and try to minimize the movement in your lower back throughout the movement; reduce the weight if you need to in order to ensure strict form here.

Glute Kickbacks on Lying Leg Curl Machine: I mentioned in an earlier post that the Glute Kickback Machine wasn't exactly pregnancy-friendly, as the "chest" pad hits right at belly level; an alternative is to do your kickbacks using a lying leg curl machine. Get onto all fours behind the lying leg curl machine. Place your working foot on the underside of the ankle pad, and drive through your heel to kick back. You may need to fiddle around with this one (both the machine and your body placement) to get the right alignment and motion.

Dual Cable Lat Pulldown: If you're finding that the knee pad on the lat pulldown machine is getting uncomfortably cozy with your belly, you can do your lat pulldowns using a dual cable machine instead. You could use a regular bench/seat to sit on during the exercise, or I have done them just kneeling on the floor. You could also use a stability ball, which would have the added bonus of incorporating some core work!

I've really enjoyed following Jessie on Facebook and reading her articles, which can be found here:

Some other fit mamas I love are:
Jamie Eason Middleton -

Natalie Hodson -

Melissa Cunningham -

Angela Liddon (food blogger) -

Yours in health and maternity,