Expecting? Get Buff for Baby and Feel Good in Your Changing Body

This season we’re encouraging mothers-to-be to get buff and feel better in their skins as we transition from a body for one into a body for two. As someone who helps people loose inches and adopt a healthier lifestyle, I can promise you that if you find a way to stay committed to regular physical activity and clean eating (despite the emotional challenges from your increased hormone levels during pregnancy), you will achieve your desired level of health and fitness throughout your pregnancy.

Read on to learn more about expecting more from your prenatal fitness regimen as we talk to an exercise expert about getting into our best bodies before and after the baby comes. Sara Haley, an international fitness expert, certified fitness instructor, and a sought after pre/post natal specialist on prenatal fitness spoke with us about the secrets of shedding the baby blues, getting in shape for battling the challenges associated with parenting, and livening up our libido after the baby.

What common questions do pregnant women ask you about exercising when pregnant?

The most common things new moms ask me are: “My doctor said I’m not allowed to get my heart rate about 140 BPM?  Is this true? (This is probably the question that frustrates me the most.) How can I tell if I’m doing too much or pushing too hard? Can I keep doing what I’m doing?  When do I need to stop doing crunches?” See the following blog post for my response: http://sarahaley.com/bump-day/the-controversial-questions/

Why did you make a DVD exercise program?  

When I was pregnant I became really frustrated as I started exploring the prenatal DVD market. Even though I continued to work out at the gym, there were many days throughout my pregnancy when I didn’t want to go either because I was just starting to show but couldn’t really tell people (1st trimester), or I just felt strange in my new ever-changing body (2nd trimester), or sometimes simply found it annoying because people would come up and question why I was even working out at all (3rd trimester).

Needless to say, in all cases an at-home DVD would have been ideal, but I found that the prenatal market was saturated with pre-natal yoga and basic training prenatal DVDs, which felt like they were catering to the pregnant woman who was either not very active prior to pregnancy, or was feeling tentative about working out while pregnant. Moreover, for years, my pregnant friends had been begging me to create a pregnancy DVD (but I was pretty much against doing one until I was actually pregnant as I wanted to be authentic). However, as I spent more time working with pre and postnatal women who were giving me similar feedback, I realized I had to make the very prenatal workout program I wanted and needed myself. And this was how Expecting More was born.

You can  check a clip from the DVD here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDDJHzmm-EY&list=UUvTNO2RhVU-EDLhdeeRHbHw&index=5&feature=plcp

Now that you’ve had a healthy baby boy is there anything expectant moms should know about the actual birth and C-Section experience?  

I still feel emotional as I talk about this.  The most rewarding thing for me regarding childbirth was how empowering the entire experience was. I’ve never personally run a marathon or done a triathlon, but I imagine the feeling is comparable in that you’ve prepared so long for it and then when you’re done, you feel like you could do anything you set your mind to. I also like comparing it to a marathon or triathlon because you would never do either of those events without training for it. That’s why I am so proud of my new DVD.  It gives you tools to keep you strong and safe through your pregnancy, labor, and bouncing back afterwards.

To answer your question more directly, what I learned is, whether you deliver vaginally or via C-section, if you want to have the absolutely best experience you possibly can, train for it! No doubt, anything can happen when you are in labor, but why not at least set yourself and your baby up for success by staying strong right up until the end?

I believe that the reason I was able to push an 8.3 lb, 22.5 inch baby boy out is because I was in the best shape of my life before I got pregnant and stayed as strong as I could during my pregnancy.  Plus, with some hard work and determination, I was able to lose the 30-35 lbs I gained during my pregnancy in roughly four months.

We want to highlight the importance of sex after the baby, and how exercise through (Kegels) can help tone those muscles?

In regards to Kegels, check out the clip below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1W6hjZ4DIo&list=UUvTNO2RhVU-EDLhdeeRHbHw&index=3&feature=plcp

Here I address how and the importance of doing them.  Kegels not only help your pelvic floor prepare for childbirth, they also help you tighten up after childbirth.  Depending on the kind of birth you’ve had and how big your baby was, you may have a lot of work to do.  Clearly that’s why I am a huge fan of Kegels!  They help you hold your bladder longer (so you don’t leak when you laugh, cough or sneeze) and control your bowels (so you don’t pass gas in public!), but they can also lead to better sex!

I think what people often forget is that they’re great for both men and women. Tightening your pelvic floor leads to better orgasms. And if anyone is having problems doing Kegels or not having as much success as they want, I highly recommend using Lelo Luna Beads. They’re amazing and come in different sizes. Again, it’s training. Just as you do more squats for stronger and better looking legs and butt, you do more Kegels for a stronger pelvic floor and better, longer-lasting sex!

Can you give some more suggestions or tips about how women can feel sexy and strong after the birthing experience through exercise?   

Once you get your doctor’s permission to work out again, my first recommendation is to take the first few weeks at a slower pace than you might want to.  Doing too much to soon can put you in a worse situation than just being out of shape, and trust me that will not make you feel sexy or strong.

Start with some light strength training and cardio. Go on as many walks with that new baby as possible. And most of all, do your Kegels!  Remember your insides went through as much strain as your outsides.  Once your doctor has given you approval and you feel like you can handle more intensity, I highly recommend Tabata training.  It’s truly what helped me lose my baby weight. Using simple but challenging exercises, you work for 20 seconds as hard as you can, then rest for 10 seconds (up to eight rounds in an hour).

This was great in my postnatal recovery because 20 second intervals seemed much more manageable than going out for a 30 minute run. Also, I could work at my own pace.  I said as hard as you can (not as hard as you went pre-baby).  Remember you will need to pace yourself.

Here are three of my favorite Tabata exercises:

Remember you perform the exercise as quickly, cleanly, and aggressively as you can for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, eight times.  But please listen to your body and make sure you have your doctor’s approval first!

1. Burpees:

Part 1: Begin by squatting with hands on the floor in front of you.

Part 2: Jump your feet back to a push up position and simultaneously lower your   chest to the floor.

Part 3: Using your arms to push up, return to squat position.

Part 4: Jump up and clap your hands together.

2. Speed Skaters:

Part 1:  Begin with one leg crossed behind the other.  Reach your opposite arm across towards the supporting leg.

Part 2: Just like a professional speed-skater, hop laterally (side to side) and cross   back with the opposite leg.

3. Froggies:

Part 1: Rotate your hips out with your knees tracking over your toes, and squat as far to the floor as you can, putting your hands on the floor in front of you.

Part 2:  Push up from the floor, jumping up in the air. Land with bent knees to protect the joints and go back into your squat to prepare for the next jump. (You can also do these without the jump – just reach up and back down.)

Plus, here are 6 tips to staying sexy & strong while you are pregnant:

1. Move it, move it. Get up and move every day. When you stay in bed and wallow the day away, your blood and oxygen flow slows down, which can make you feel even less energized and motivated. Whether it’s simply walking to the grocery store or getting to the gym, the more you move, the more energized you’ll feel and the more comfortable you will be in your new body.

2. Ride the highs. Take advantage of your high-energy days. Some days will be better than others, so do what you can when you can. If you have been working out prior to being pregnant, you can do what you’ve been doing but at a moderate level (make sure you can talk out loud). For some, that might be turning a run into a jog, moving a bike ride outside onto a stationary bike, or taking a group fitness or yoga class while making sure that you don’t get too hot. (Let your instructor know as well, he or she may be able to help you modify.) Pregnant or not, the body was meant to move, so move! No one feels sexy or strong after sitting on the couch all day.

3. Move them hips. Whether you’re a dancer or not, shake those hips! Put your hands on your baby belly and rock those hips side to side, front to back or in big circles. Not only is it a great way to work on your core while you’re pregnant, but it will feel fabulous if you have any back pain. I love dance cardio as a work out. Depending on how I was feeling that day and how far I was into my pregnancy, I had to modify. Some days I had to put on slower songs and take the bounce out of my step, and on others, I felt like a “rock star” and moved across the floor like I wasn’t even pregnant. Either way, it made me feel sexy and strong to be doing something I’d always done, even if it was at a different level than I was used to. Plus, what’s sexier than a woman who can move her hips? So let your hair down, put on your favorite song and get those hips moving!

4. Lift weights. The best way to feel strong is to be strong, so weight train at least twice a week. In order to have a healthy baby you must gain a healthy amount of weight, but why not keep muscle (or add some) while you’re doing so?  Besides, you’ll soon have a growing baby by your side that will eventually weigh much more than 10 pounds, and you’ll be lifting him or her multiple times a day. Be ready for that new baby by working on both your muscular strength and endurance. This means sometimes working on lifting more weight, as well as sometimes working on adding more reps.

5. Eat regularly and drink lots of water. I hear pregnant women complain about constipation all the time, which definitely does not lead to feeling sexy. I can honestly say that I did not have any constipation during my pregnancy, and I credit it all to a regular exercise regimen, healthy eating and drinking lots of water. Eat often and drink more water than you think you’ll need. I don’t believe in “eating for two” (most doctors only recommend an extra 250 to 350 calories in the second and third trimesters), but perhaps think about “drinking H20 for two” instead. That way you’ll be sure to stay hydrated. When your body is functioning regularly, you’ll feel just as sexy and strong as ever!

6. Show off your baby belly! Nothing is sexier than a woman who feels confident in her own skin. Find a top that makes you feel sexy and shows that baby off! I found that the farther along I was in my pregnancy, the less self-conscious I was about showing my baby belly off. It’s no wonder so many people want to touch that belly when you’re pregnant! (Another reason to stay strong – to fend off those baby belly attackers!)

For more information about Sara’s new DVD, Expecting More go to SaraHaley.com

It’s a unique prenatal program designed for the fit and healthy mom-to-be who is looking to stay active and energized during her pregnancy and beyond. Sara leads the workouts that she developed and practiced during her own pregnancy, and filmed the DVD while 8 months pregnant. She is also joined by two other expectant moms who participated in all six workouts on the DVD which has modifications and options for staying in shape throughout pregnancy, plus a calendar to track your progress for each trimester.

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