When you’re pregnant or a new mom, it’s a challenge to find the time (or the energy) to keep fit. We’re exhausted from carrying baby and just trying to keep on top of our daily lives. Working out is on our “to-do” list but often our days feel rushed or there is a hiccup in our schedule that prevents us from making it to the gym. What if you’re not comfortable leaving in a daycare situation baby just yet? Or maybe you don’t want to call up a sitter for a half hour workout that adds on another $20 to your day? We have many excuses that de-motivate us from working out as moms so how do we make exercise, and ourselves, a priority?
Recently I was introduced to a work out series called ESSENTRICS. I’ve been streaming a few of the workouts online (perfect for doing in the privacy of my home and in hotel rooms!) and LOVE LOVE LOVE the workouts!
So, what is Essentrics? It’s a combination of strengthening and stretching that helps elongate the body while toning your body; it is also said to help heal injuries and build the right muscles for injury prevention. There are ballet style and Tai Chi movements used making it a gentler and more controlled workout.
While the series is amazing for anyone, I wanted to get some expert advice for new moms. I had the opportunity to chat with Essentric’s go-to baby expert, Ileana Ripas, to find out what we should be aware and what to do….
What should expectant moms be cautious of when it comes to working out?
Before beginning any new workout during a pregnancy, it’s important that the mother-to-be get approval from her physician. Depending on whether she’s been exercising her entire life or never worked out at all — she must remain cautious when introducing new exercise movements into her daily routine. An unfit or rarely active person is much more fragile and prone to losing the baby in the first trimester; she should wait until the second trimester before taking on a new workout once the baby is more stable in the womb (and of course her doctor gives the ok)! Every women’s body grows differently throughout pregnancy — it is not recommended to do any traditional abdominal work while lying on your back as there is a chance that this position will squeeze a main vein which prevents circulation of oxygen in the womb and may affect the baby’s development. In our Essentrics Pregnancy workout DVD, we avoid this position and instead work the abs and back while on all fours (hands and knees touching the ground).
What are your favourite work out sessions from your series for pregnant women?
When a woman is pregnant, it’s recommended that she remain active in order to prepare her body. Labour is a physical effort that requires a lot of energy, so the more in shape you are, the better you’ll follow the rhythm. When it comes time to push, you need strong abs, kidneys, and hips. To prepare, you can do controlled pliés, and standing exercises for the upper back, such as arms raises. This will also be good for your posture. The Essentrics Pregnancy workout is divided into different sections—standing, floor and barre exercises—each targeting the areas that a mother-to-be should be concerned with. Standing work will help you relax and improve circulation; floor work will help strengthen the back, obliques and spine to help support the extra load from the baby; barre work will enable deep hip stretches—releasing tension in the spine, relieving back pain and preventing nighttime cramping.
When we have a newborn, it’s sometimes hard to find the energy to work out? Any advice?
Yes it’s true, when you have a newborn, you have to sleep in the day to recover from all the extra energy you’ve used up to do all of things that go along with being a new mother. Exercising on a regular basis will definitely make you feel more energized and put you in a better mood, as well as help you get through the ”baby blues” (postpartum depression).
“The best motivation to exercise is knowing that you will lose any extra pounds that you’ve have gained during your pregnancy—quickly, making you feel more positive; even your baby will feel the change.”
Nobody likes having a belly after delivery. Working out will improve your posture, strengthen your abs and most importantly—your back. You will need to have a strong back for the months to come as your baby grows up and you need to lift and carry him/her. For the social aspect (because you need it), you can go out and join a class for moms & tots to meet other moms and also, to exchange information and experiences about babies.
For those who are used to a regular exercise regime, having a baby will definitely change your priorities. You have to be organized and motivated to find the time to exercise after your pregnancy. You’ll need to be flexible—it may not be possible to work out every day or at the same time every day, but it’s important to fit it in when you can; especially in the first few months when the baby sleeps a lot! You have to try to be efficient—consistent short workouts are showing to be just as beneficial and healing as intense long workouts.
And what about work out sessions for post-baby for regular birth as well as c-sections?
After giving birth, we rely a lot on our back. We often lean forward to pick up our baby, which can cause lower back pain if the latter isn’t strong. Since our forearms, wrists, neck and shoulders are connected to our upper back—there’s also an increased risk of pain in those body parts. Good posture becomes crucial! You must always keep your back straight, even while breastfeeding. In this program, we introduce arm exercises, and we constantly exercise the back since it’s located in the center of the body (the standing workout is best for this).
It’s also important to stabilize your muscles post-labour as they help the hips remain stable and are connected to the pelvic girdle. Since relaxin (the pregnancy hormone) makes ligaments more supple, and given the baby’s weight—it becomes crucial that we protect the pelvic girdle in order to avoid back injuries. Essentrics strengthens the hips, abdominal muscles and the back, and stabilizes them at the core. That way, it becomes easier to stand up straight and pain is avoided. Leg lifts, pliés and hip stretches from the floor and barre sections are great for working these areas.
Your day-to-day advice for new moms?
If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it—whether it be from your husband, parents, a friend…Ask someone to watch the baby for 20-30 minutes so you can squeeze in a workout. Another trick is to put on exercise clothes first thing in the morning. You’ll feel more ready to “jump in” when the opportunity arises. If your baby isn’t sleeping much one day and you don’t think you will get the chance to exercise—go for a walk. Any activity that gets you off the couch will make you feel better!
Another tip: When your baby is sleeping, you can prepare extra baby food to put in the freezer. It’s best to use organic products—much better than buying jars from the store.
If you’re breastfeeding you will need to eat, but remember that you don’t need to eat ”for two.” Instead, eat small portions—often. It’s important to make yourself a very healthy breakfast: oatmeal, chia seeds, flaxseeds, fruit, almond butter and nuts and fruit for snacks.
I encourage you to breastfeed as long as you can. This will make you to lose weight fast and help give your baby a strong immune system. This is the main thing that formula milk doesn’t have and will help your child stay healthy when he/she starts daycare. Lastly, the contact between you and your baby when breastfeeding will help with their psychosocial development and help them become a strong person emotionally.
For more information on DVD workouts and online, visit essentrics.com
Here’s a great example of what you can expect with Essentrics workout. The Quad and Waist thinner is a fast paced sequence of leg exercises that will help to tone and thin your quads and core.