Almost 32 weeks - still going strong-ish

As I type this, it is the date that I should have been born (many years ago). I would have been an Aquarius instead of a Scorpio/ Saggittarius cusp baby. But I had my own mind, coupled with my mother's rather stressful relocation from Poland to Germany, I suppose. So, I was delivered at 8 weeks early, and 1.6 kg or barely 4 lbs and immediately flown out to a specialized NICU about 60 miles from my hometown. 

My baby boy is the size of a bunch of asparagus right now, according to the www.thebump.com app or the size of a coconut if you believe www.babycenter.com and making strides towards hitting the 4lbs himself. Grow, baby, grow. 

As mentioned in my blogpost about asthma, my premature arrival is probably to blame for my wonky lungs. When I'm in a positive state of mind, I see it as a blessing that I have been able to do what I do despite this disadvantage but sometimes I wonder what else could have been possible with properly developed lungs inside the womb. I guess we will never know. One thing we know however, is that despite my lungs, I have claimed my guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon 2017 and will attempt to run it 7 months postpartum. 

My lungs are one issue we have been monitoring closely over the past 8 months along with my iron deficiency and unfortunately blood in my urine. It's unclear why it pops up but it hasn't presented an issue and iron can luckily be supplemented, so I have been on a daily routine of prune juice and probiotics before breakfast (to deal with other pregnancy related side effects), then coffee and any regular dairy like yoghurt, then leaving at least a 2 hour window before taking my prenatal and Floradix with a glass of grapefruit juice because Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, whereas dairy products and caffeine, can block it. In the evening I usually take one calcium tablet dissolved in water since the baby now needs an extra 250mg of calcium from me to develop his skeletal structure and having gone through a near stress fracture, I am not willing to enter into that kind of deficit before labor, delivery and postpartum breastfeeding when women are often even more likely to develop osteoporosis. 

In addition to the above mentioned supplements, I have been seeing my acupuncture practitioner religiously from 3.5 weeks pregnant to "give the baby some ooomph" as she put it, to now when he dances around my belly each time she inserts a needle (elsewhere!). Acupuncture has been essential for minor aches and pains but mainly for emotional wellbeing and to keep my sugar cravings in check and combat fatigue. My practitioner reckoned that my spleen had been "tired" so she treated it and my cravings for non-stop caffeine and hourly donuts dissipated and made way for healthier choices. At least most of the time.
I can not stress the wonders of acupuncture enough for hormone related issues that we women face. 

That brings us to my plans for the next few weeks. I had a conversation with a friend in Germany who is due in February and she couldn't believe that there was no subsidized, paid maternity leave for entrepreneurs in the US. She will be taking one year off from work, just like all my other friends (and still they think that more time with the baby would be better), and occasionally I weep thinking of the privileges that one enjoys back home. 

Alas, I'm here and love my job and my clients. So the plan will be to work as long as I can, just like everyone else and only stop working if and when I can't handle it physically anymore. Then, depending on my type of delivery, I'll treat the comeback like an athlete. When my body tells me it's fine, I will come back part-time and delegate more than I demonstrate. Should I need more time, I'll have to take it. 

It's a big unknown for the time being but I know that I'm doing my best on this end to facilitate the best recovery from a purely physical point of view. As opposed to what people may think, none of my physical routine is rooted in vanity. I had always said before pregnancy that I would stay as active as I could and it has kept me in good shape to hopefully continue what I love to do after the baby is born. 

These last 30+ weeks have taught me even more resilience, surrender, discipline and being good to my body, than anything else. Having the constant reminder in the form of jabs and kicks that I was doing this for someone other than myself has been good, since I am very capable of taking on too much and digging myself into a hole. 

Emotionally I have shielded myself from negative influences and accepted more that would have otherwise had me bang my head against the wall in stubbornness and frustration. Pregnancy has unearthed so much doubt, joy, inspiration, motivation, grief, love, aggression, fear and bliss that it can be a lot to handle at times. It has also shown me from day to day how there is an upside to most 'downside days' and usually it follows promptly. 

I am not sure what motherhood will bring. I can't wait to meet this little man and be a parent and have him show me ways that stretch far beyond my current imagination. 

So stay tuned and until very soon! xx 

 

Pregnancy Update: Third Trimester

How did we get here? Haha, just kidding. I won't pretend like this 29ish week update came on suddenly. 

This pregnancy went approximately like this:

- 3.5 weeks: whoa! That's a second line. But what if I still get my period. Let's wait.

- 9 weeks: hearing a heartbeat. It's real! Tears... joy and fear. 

- 12 weeks: still not officially out of the danger zone?? Really??

- 18 weeks: anatomy scan, hello baby boy, we're so happy that you have all your parts!

- 20 weeks: half way point, I feel big (LOL, you don't know what's coming).

- 24 weeks: this pregnancy is progressing well, I'm not nauseous anymore, I feel like I'll be at 30 weeks in no time.

- 29 weeks: ANOTHER 3 months?? Whaaaaa? Let's get this party underway. I can't wait to meet my little man.

So this brings us here. It is January in New York City and we just got our first big snowfall. It's pretty and very cold. It's the first winter when I'm not being brave and running because if I trip or slip and fall like last year, that would be really reckless. Frankly, today I can't motivate myself to go to the gym onto the treadmill either. So it's a long rest weekend.

What has my wellness and fitness routine been so far? I hear from a lot of people how disciplined I appear. It's true. But just like before, my motto is moderation. I would say I eat about 70% well and everything else falls prey to my enormous sweet tooth. Way more than before but now I can't get enough gummy bears, hard candy, ice cream and sweet and salty popcorn.  Other than that, this baby loves all things I love. I swear, he jumps with joy when I start preparing lunch, usually a variation on the egg theme with good sourdough and avocado. Baby loves Nutella and bacon, too :) We've been going through a pint of Sahadi's Castelvetrano olives in a few days and I've lost my fear of eating some of the things that pregnant women should be careful with... I won't list them. 

Here is a breakdown of my routine on good days:

6am: Wake up and either go for a run or have breakfast when I go teach.
7am: coffee unless it was part of breakfast (usually Muesli, berries, yoghurt and almond milk).
8am: usually the first client session of the day, sometimes the second, yup. 
9am-12:30am: probably 2 more sessions, run a quick errand and dash home for lunch.
1pm: lunch at home whenever possible and followed by a nap (even though lately naps make me feel like a zombie so I try to relax without sleeping and instead go to bed sooner).
2-3pm: scheduling of clients, invoicing, blogging, chatting with copy editor at www.wellroundedny.com and procrastinating. 
4pm: either get mentally read for another session with clients or debate what's for dinner. Emails.
6:30pm-7:30pm: usually dinner around that time (most of the time I cook a low-carb meal centered around good fats, proteins and greens).
7:30-9pm: watch a TV show with hubby.
9:30pm: lights out (I value my sleep immensely, not just since being pregnant. I try to read before bed and browse less, cuddle our dog and chat with Chris. Falling asleep takes me about 3 mins tops). 

I work six days a week and while each individual day seems like there's a lot of time to procrastinate, working with people one-on-one is physically and mentally draining. On Sundays when I don't schedule sessions, I used to do my marathon long runs of up to 18 miles (I used to fit 65 miles of training into this work week anyway, now it's more like 25) but it's my most valued day to regroup and recharge with 'me-time' and quality time with loved ones.

As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post, pregnancy led me to postpone a few dreams of mine, I had thought I could push through in the first and second trimesters. Coming to terms with that was harder initially but now it's fine. This journey taught me that a lot of things are outside of our control and the next 10-11 weeks will be even less foreseeable. So I'm along for the ride. 

In my next blog post, I will touch on my "birth plan" and my hopes for the postpartum recovery. 

Thank you for reading. xx

Asthma in Pregnancy - When a runner is slowed to a crawl

A little known fact about me, the runner, athlete and personal trainer, is that I have asthma. I've had it my whole life but discovered the problem when I was competing at a high international level in my teens and going forward. That's when they introduced me to my first abuterol inhaler and ever since I picked up long distance running again in the past few years, my asthma has returned and I am currently on both, an oral medication and the inhaler for workouts. 

Asthma as a condition was always a stigma. It seemed like my otherwise so capable body tricked me and betrayed me in an area where I needed it most and felt so passionate about. I felt like a lesser athlete with my 'TUE' and regular check ups but mostly because in every other area of my life, whenever I set my mind to overcoming a problem, I would. 

I looked into why I had it and stumbled across a lot of scholarly articles that examined the correlation between being a preemie (32 weeks) and underdeveloped lung function. I didn't want to believe it because it seemed so final. But unfortunately it was true. Now that I'm pregnant I faced a different question from my doctor which was "do you want to wean yourself off the medication and see how pregnancy affects your lungs, or not". 

I chose not to. 

As it happened, I came to the end of my prescription some time at the beginning of my second trimester and had about a week without it. I don't know if I imagined it or it was true, but my running became more strained. I wheezed going up stairs and there are many stairs in NYC's subway. 

 

So when I saw my OB/Gyn next, I talked to her about it and we decided that since the medication is considered safe and hasn't shown any adverse effects on the baby, that I would continue. From the beginning, my doctor had warned me that in some cases pregnancy with its added weight gain, the pressing of the uterus up and into the lungs, the increased blood volume that has to be pumped by the same heart and ultimately the baby's weight, could drastically affect my asthma for the worse. She said in few cases, asthma was improved during pregnancy but nobody knows what to attribute it to. 

So here I am now, in the same conflict about taking a medication for my hobby that I probably wouldn't need in just regular every day life. Having mixed feelings about it. 

But then I remember how happy running makes me. How it is my "off switch", my happy place, my quality time with my fur baby Zola, how it's my community at races and how every time I get back home, whether it's 3 miles or 8, I'm happy! It improved my digestion in pregnancy, my mood, my cravings, it's healthy, it's social when a lot of other options for being social fall away and I think endorphins make my baby dance in my womb.

So as long as I can, I will continue to run and take baby along on the ride. Whether it's at 9 min pace or 13 min pace. Whether I have to resort to treadmill running come winter or will have to add in walk breaks. My asthma is part of me and defines me in a way. But I have already found a way to overcome it, which is by living with it and doing so to my highest potential. 

Happy running, friends. 

 

Why should we all look the same? The appalling body shaming of pregnant women

I'm writing about this because it has come up repeatedly in the past week. A woman who came to our prenatal workout upset and telling me how a woman congratulated her on her pregnancy, then proceeded to ask if she was carrying twins since she was so big for as far along as she was. Another woman was asked by a homeless person if she was due soon and when she said 'no', was told "whoa, you're big!". 

I on the other hand don't have much of a bump. I have more of a bump when my bladder is full or my bowels (sorry), after a big meal, towards the end of the day. But when you see me during a workout mid morning, it's safe to say that I look at best like I had a big meal and in most instances people wouldn't notice anything different about me. 

Some days I feel ok about it and even feel like it makes my life a lot easier. I don't have much to worry about while running, my center of gravity hasn't shifted, all my clothes fit and I'm super moveable in my job. Other days I worry... about my energy being back up, not feeling the baby yet and not looking much different. 

Then there's social media which has been celebrating and highlighting women who are extremely fit and who still boast tight six-packs at up to 20 weeks along. I look at those physiques and some remind me of my lifestyle, while some are what can best be described as extreme. The notoriety of those women comes from the collective voices in their comments. People applauding and envying them and a much larger group bashing them and shaming them. 

Ultimately it's every woman's personal choice how she goes about her prenatal care. There will always be extremes in the thin and in the big direction. What gets me is how so many people have an opinion on how women's bodies should be changing and how quickly. 

The most extreme case that I heard personally was a person wondering if I was still pregnant. The examples above are pointing in the opposite direction telling women that they are big. Either one of these comments isn't ok. It is rude, it invades the woman's privacy, it causes anxiety in the pregnant woman and it extends an unhealthy habit that we all have to face when we're not pregnant and exposed to physical comparison in society. 

But pregnancy should be different. The most important thing is the health of our baby and our own health. Each woman has a different first trimester. Some of the fittest women get struck down with morning sickness and fatigue and have to pause their physical fitness programs. Other women are luckier but crave more comfort foods and may gain more weight. Some of us retain more water and others face complications that force us to be more sedentary. 

What we all have in common is the unconditional love for our unborn and hopefully gynecological care with doctors that help us navigate this new chapter in our lives. Ultimately this little bundle that we carry is the same. A human that we care for and that we will do our best for during the 40 weeks that they are solely reliant on us. 

 

12 is the loneliest number - my first trimester

It’s true. I’m pregnant. Some women guessed, some women knew. Some people detected changes in my body and I told them. I’m looking at you, boob inspector :) 

Most of the interactions have been very positive with a few falling under the ‘lecture’ category. Given that a first trimester is ripe with anxiety in this day and age of online fora, early detection pregnancy tests and iPhone apps that claim to be able to detect a heartbeat as early as 8 weeks, I pushed back on the lectures and lapped up all the positive support I could get.

One thing that struck me as I was counting down the weeks was how long 3 months can be when counted in days. How long that week was until my period was due… (yes, I found out that early). How un-enjoyable the good days are when one is void of pregnancy symptoms and doubting that there is anything going on. Just to rejoice in dry heaving and extreme dizziness, midnight pee breaks and fatigue worse than in the height of marathon training.

I am generally an ‘early to bed – early to rise’ kind of person and as such, could get away with a quick disco nap when the physical demands of my job became overwhelming. I was utterly unprepared for the drooling mess I would become, waking from a 90 minute ‘nap’ and unable to function properly for at least one hour, wishing 9pm to come around so I could go back to bed.

I had stated to Chris beforehand that the worst that could happen to me would be nausea. Not quite vomiting but just ongoing, day-long, nausea. That’s exactly what happened. Didn’t eat quickly enough: nausea, ate too much: nausea, ate too greasy: nausea. My second favourite symptom: crippling dizziness. I am generally prone to low blood pressure, which was always celebrated as a great problem to have. But the doctor’s office commented on my blood pressure with “oh, oh, give me your other arm”. Not very calming and it did result in quite the spike in the following reading.

Within these three months, the 7 weeks and 2 days mark couldn’t come fast enough to confirm the pregnancy with an ultrasound. Seeing the blueberry’s heartbeat and hearing it, along with the OB’s words “everything looks perfect” elicited sobs, sweaty palms, joy, more sobs, telling the doctor that my due date is within a month of my father’s 20th death anniversary and the ensuing long hug from the doctor “he’s sending you your biggest gift”. I’m tearing up writing this.

Since then I have had two more appointments which still brought on some sweaty palms and relief when everything turned out to be great and we are on our way to the size of an avocado, i.e. the second trimester is underway. 

From a fitness perspective, coming back from my Spring injury and then trying to get fit pregnant wasn’t going to work. Initially it was a hard pill to swallow but conceiving quickly was a huge blessing so I ran some races in which I felt awful and fought hard to keep my ego in check until I got to a level where I run for as long and as fast/ slow as I feel and am ok with it. My OB told me that pregnancy can exacerbate existing asthma and it has already so my body has been putting the brakes on any of my attempts to be a hero. I will write a separate blog post on how I'm dealing with asthma before and during pregnancy.

I’ve started swimming again and worked my way up to a good 2500 yards, really enjoying being in an outdoor pool. I have emphasized cross training until my leg was healed and added in strength to make sure I have the best possible foundation for the next months. And, yes I’m doing 9+1 this year to receive guaranteed entry into NYC Marathon 2017 because a girl needs goals.

For those who have criticized my running, I have said it in person and will repeat it on here. My fitness level is high compared to the average person and as such I have no reason or recommendations from my doctor to not exercise or dramatically cut it back. I am highly in tune with my body and exercise as I see fit, when I feel up for it. It seems ridiculous to me that I’ve had to defend myself to women nonetheless, for doing something I’ve been doing since the age of 5 and that I love. If anything it is my calm time and helped ease some anxiety during the first weeks. I won’t even go into the benefits of prenatal fitness for both mother and child. It also happens to be my job…

So this brings me back full circle: 

I have never understood how a couple is supposed to keep things mum for 12 weeks and not burst. How women are supposed to keep their mouths shut during a time when they need so many answers. Why the fear of a miscarriage means celebrating and potentially mourning in isolation. I know that the people who knew would have uplifted me in any given scenario and am incredibly grateful to the many times when they talked me off a ledge or out of the spiraling thoughts. Sometimes firmly, sometimes pointing out that locking my bike helmet to a pole but not my bike was the best indicator that my pregnancy was going well.

Less than 25 weeks to go and I’m happy to share my experiences with everyone. More importantly I want to learn from all of you. How was your first trimester? Leave me a note in the comments. 

Athletes Corner: Laura Sanhueza-Miller / Mom, Former pro rower & brandnew IronWoman

When I talked to Laura in July, she had just come off racing a half Ironman distance as preparation for her Ironman debut at Mont Tremblant only 9 months after giving birth to baby girl Mia.

Laura says she didn’t really participate in sports until she entered high-school but she sure kicked things into high gear from there. She competed in triathlons at a high level and then decided to try out for the Canadian rowing team while working full time. A quest she succeeded in.

I remember coming across Laura’s Instagram account while she was in her third trimester with baby Mia. I love Laura’s voice. It’s playful, accountable, engaging, warm and strong. All qualities in women that I admire. I hope that you will enjoy our conversation will inspire you as much as it inspired me.

 

Tell me about your recent half Ironman race:

It wasn’t ideal and I didn’t achieve the goal I had. I wanted to go in with a training mentality to try and have good takeaways from it for my goal race.

What I realized is that I have to eat more – as a breastfeeding mum. I bonked near the end of the bike. In 25km I had over 100 people pass me. You rarely bonk in a half Ironman. I have done them before and could race very fast off of nothing. But the lack of sleep as a new mom and the poor nutrition leading up to the race, having enough pumped milk for my husband those were the thoughts that consumed me.

On the plus side I feel fine today. I was still able to finish the race in a decent time. It is what it is.

How many Half Ironman races had you done before?

Three. But this was the first branded race.

Let’s go further back than 2004. What was the very first sport you were exposed to?

Baseball! I was nine years old. My parents put me on an all boys team. Then I went to an arts school for 10 years, so I didn’t really perform sports until about high school. 

But performing arts included dance, so that’s a sport.

You’re right…

And in High-school you started training for and comepeting in triathlon?

I did. My brother was a triathlete and competed in Kona. He got me into the sport. I didn’t know how to swim. So at 14 I joined 7 year-olds to learn how to swim so I could do triathlons. And I kept doing that until I was 21.

That’s when you switched to rowing

I had just done two half Ironman triathlons and qualified for Worlds but there I truly bonked. I couldn’t finish the race. I didn’t train properly. I had an eating disorder. I was bulimic. Because a lot of coaches said “you’re fat” and “you’ll never be a fast athlete, you have child bearing hips”. When you’re 14 and you hear all that stuff it gets in your head. It was odd because I only had the eating issue during my racing season, which is the worst time because you are trying to compete off of bad nutrition.

So I switched sports and went to rowing and was also taking kinesiology in university, which helped me learn about nutrition, learn about the importance of fueling for performance.

I was mostly in crew boats because I had been focusing more on me, fixing me, and the sports nutrition. But during that phase I also thought why not see if I could get faster each year.

So I would wake up at 4:15 in the morning, commute to a different city and row from 5 until 7.  Drive back, shower and be at work from 8:30 to 4:30, get back out there again to train until 8 or 8:30.

I was working full-time and rowed for six years until I made the national team for rowing in 2012 and I was just married so I didn’t see my husband much for a few years. But he knows who I am and knows how driven I am so he was good about it.

So I was invited to try out for the team and four of us were selected to go in the quad to race in Bulgaria that summer. I was on the national team just for that summer of 2012. It was the Olympic year and there are a lot of politics in rowing but I won’t go into details.

I raced a World Championship in Bulgaria. I feel like all the fringe sports go to Bulgaria :)

Haha, I guess so.

Did you go back to triathlon after that?

Not really. It was the year I started trying out for a baby. First we decided to give my body some time to recover. I was down to race weight. Normally I was about 125-130lbs in weight and I was down to about 118 to 120. I needed to put on some healthy weight. I was also asked to be a lulu ambassador to lead a run club. Which I did weekly and it was good as a distraction from the whole process of trying to have a baby.

What was it like to switch from water back onto land?

Scary, especially if you’ve been at such a high level in a sport. Then you come back to land and you’re not as fast as you used to be. It hits your ego a little bit.

How was your journey of getting pregnant?

Athletically I decided to just have fun. I did a half Ironman in 2013 just for fun. I didn’t train for it. I told myself let’s just do it because I can and to focus on something else than baby, baby, baby. I didn’t do any workouts that compare to what I’m doing now. Speed work, testing myself…

Unfortunately throughout that journey I had two miscarriages. Between 2013 and 2015. The second one being in January of 2015 but I conceived Mia immediately in February of 2015 and I gave birth to her in November.

2 years of trying to conceive is a long time. Do you want to talk about what this was like?

It’s HARD. You need a distraction. Do something that you’ve never done before. It could be exercise but it could also be learning how to draw or play the piano. Just something that keeps you focused and away from stress. When you’re body is stressed it shuts down so it’s not optimal for conceiving. Nutrition is really important. I found out that I had to feed my body. Especially after all the pressure I had put my body through during my career. I needed to get my system clean, I ate really healthy and took my supplements and I drank a lot of water.

Then you got pregnant. Were you worried about another miscarriage?

Absolutely. Our miscarriage was very hard for both of us. My husband and I. I am very open about it because I believe people should talk about it because unfortunately it happens a lot. When we got pregnant with Mia we were cautiously optimistic. We didn’t want to be too excited cause we had just had a loss. We wanted to wait until that 3 month point to get more excited or celebrate but afterwards every check in with the doctor got more exciting. We got to see her heartbeat and see her grow. We had her pictures on our wall and in our wallets. It turned real and very exciting.

Did you get back to exercising while you were pregnant?

Yes. Some people had suggested that I miscarried with my first pregnancy because of working out. But that was plain wrong. I’m used to it. I’m not doing anything new for my body. That’s when I started capturing my journey on Instagram. I don’t have a coach and IG helped me be accountable. My husband would never say “Laura you have to work out” he was more like “come chill out with me”. But IG was a nice community to be a part of and to meet other likeminded moms. I wanted to focus on something I enjoy, among peers without the pressure of a goal.

Now it keeps me sane on days when I haven’t slept much and I’m tired and it’s all baby all day. Mentally I have found that exercising is so helpful to have a bit of a break for yourself.

Did you have to make any changes nutrition wise?

Yes, I didn’t have much of a choice. When I got pregnant I hated everything that was healthy. I ate bagels with cream cheese and I had croissants every day. I couldn’t touch salad. I hated chicken and salmon which is usually my favourite. So yeah, my diet changed to the complete opposite and I couldn’t control it. It lasted my whole pregnancy.

Do you want to tell us how much weight you gained on that diet?

People may not like me very much but I only gained 17 lbs. I know for some that’s impossible. Women retain more water or have other side effects.

How was your postpartum recovery?

It was fortunately very quick. Weight wise I went under my weight within the first 5 days . I tore so I had three stitches. That took 3- 4 weeks to heal so I couldn’t get on the bike. I didn’t run for about 3 months because I didn’t want that pressure on the hips after just having had a baby. And I bled for about 2 weeks, which seems pretty standard.

I was definitely on a high from having a baby for a few days but then my husband had to have surgery and was on bedrest and then I got sick. So that was rough but we survived.

When did you decide to do a full IM?

I decided to do Mont Tremblant while I was pregnant. I always wanted to do a full Ironman distance and especially after seeing my brother do Kona. It’s been a goal since I was 19 so for over 10 years. Now is the time to do it. I’m on maternity leave and have amazing support from family and friends. They help watch Mia when I train. I also train when she naps and at night. But I couldn’t do it if I was working full time while also taking care of an infant.

What length is the maternity leave in Canada? It’s about 10 weeks postpartum here.

That’s awful. You should move back to Germany when you have a baby. Two friends of mine in the US are new moms and we just talked about this. How unfriendly the system is towards women in the US. It’s not fair. In Canada it’s a year…

What advice do you have for women coming back from pregnancy.

Both for women who aren’t that fit. And those that are.

Walking is amazing. Walk to do your groceries, carry your baby. You could walk with the stroller and choose a farther route. Drink lots of water and keep your milk supply up. Walk carrying the baby to get some extra strength training J

Don’t rush into anything just let your body readjust. Do breathing exercises and work on your pelvic floor. Breath correctly when lifting. Core work is very important. After Mia’s birth I remember checking my stomach and there was nothing there.  

For a bigger goal, set realistic milestones and don’t expect to be where you were before you got pregnant. Set mini goals along the way. I set a goal to race a 8km race and then a 12 km race before doing another half IM before my big goal of a full Ironman. Milestones are important. Remember that it’s ok to miss a training day. You are already doing a lot more than you probably would otherwise. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to have a baby and to be balancing it all is awesome. You can replace a run with a walk and that’s fine. Don’t get caught up in all the little stressors of it.

Have you had injuries?

Yes and really dumb ones too. I hurt my Achilles and got that fixed. It was because my calf was very tight. When you have a baby you forget to stretch among other things because when you’re done working out, you have to breastfeed or spend time with the baby. There’s always something that takes priority over you and you are already feeling guilty over taking the time for yourself to train. Foam roll!

Did you have diastasis recti?

Yes, about 2 fingers wide, but I was diligent about my exercise and was able to close it.

Fast round:

Who’s your athlete crush? I have two. Crissy Wellington and Natascha Badmann.

Trail or road?  Road

Pool or open water? Pool

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? With company?

If you could choose a different talent than rowing and triathlon what would you be?

I’d be an Olympic soccer player. My daughter’s name was inspired by Mia Hamm. So being a high level soccer player would be a dream.

Athletes Corner: Julia Webb (runner, mother, wife, coach)

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I am very pleased to present a second person in my series of inspiring women. Julia Webb wears many hats, she is an accomplished runner, mother to Joanie, wife to Alan Webb (American record holder in the mile), and running coach. I first saw her pictures with hilarious captions on there Instagram account (@runteamwebb) and then read her blog posts on her website which center on topics such as exercise, nutrition, pregnancy and much more. I love how sincere Julia describes the ups and downs of being an active mom, before, during and post pregnancy. In the interview below, you can read more in-depth what her thoughts are on making time for exercise, fueling during pregnancy, scheduling a busy day and keeping motivation high even on days that feel 'off'. After speaking to Jessica in the last interviews, Julia is another example of how amazingly women deal with the added responsibilities of motherhood and how the physical demands of pregnancy can sometimes make you a stronger athlete postpartum. Thank you, Julia! 

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance?

I started running as a last resort to participating in a sport as a senior in high school. I never thought i’d ever become a “runner” as I saw it as boring, unathletic and something my mom likes to do. (she was never competitive, but always jogging throughout my childhood- my dad the stud basketball player and good at any sport he tried was my role model). My first “race” my mom successfully convinced me to run in was a local 5K the weekend before school started in fall 2000. Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, basketball shoes and no warm up, I got 2nd (21:15) to a coach who asked who I ran for. I explained this might have been my first 3 miles ever run in a row. My previous training was all geared toward basketball - lots of time on the court, regular time in the weight room and the occasional mile on the treadmill or around the school block to warm up for my lift. I had a miserable experience my sophomore and junior years playing basketball -despite my love for the sport and strong dedication, I had some major clashing with the coaches and lacked the power to be on our starting line up. We were a powerhouse but I didn’t have what it took, along with my lack of confidence, spiralling me into depression. I decided to quit before senior year but was desperately seeking a new athletic opportunity.

After the race, I decided to show up for cross country practice. My first day I was amazed at how fun and easy the 5 mile run went by. A few weeks later at my first race, I put all my frustration from my basketball days into that competition, proving that I was good at something and gutted out a 7th place finish at a big invite. In complete agony, dying the final straight when everyone was kicking it in.. I ran a 15:40 4K time, beating my teammates by over 2 minutes. I found my sport. Something I was good at. I had never experienced anything to that degree, the nerves, pushing through the pain, being in complete control of my result. All I had to do was run hard and get from start to finish and the post-race high made it all worth the mid-race struggle. Not only the races, but the miles our team put into practice was the highlight of my day. From there I went on to run in college and have never lost my passion for the sport 15 years later. My favorite distance remains the 3000m steeplechase on the track. I love that its not as brutally long as a 5K on the track, but just 10 minutes of grinding and pain. The barriers add another challenge that favour my long legs and remind me of cross country, my second favourite event. I was fortunate to run it my freshman year (at UW-La Crosse)and with some great guidance in early steeple drill training, I was able to place 3rd at the national meet with a PR of 10:50. I finished 1st and 3rd, three more times at NCAAs and ended my college career with a 10:22 PR. Post collegiately I’ve run at three USATF Outdoor Championships (including a top 10 finish), a PR of 9:55 set when my daughter was 10 months old. I can’t wait to race it again, with my goal being- get on the 2016 Olympic Trials starting line with a 9 month old (currently pregnant).

Julia Alan Webb
Julia Alan Webb

You race quite a bit and not even a pregnancy (or two) can stop you? What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"?

I am addicted to racing! Some people like to go out with friends, others go out and dance... I get my high from racing! You can’t duplicate the energy and adrenaline the race environment provides. No matter what stage of fitness I am in (or condition - as in being pregnant), I don’t shy away from opportunities. I love testing to see where I’m at, using a competitive setting to push me to get the best out of myself. If I just ran to stay fit, I would definitely get bored fast. I need to mix up my training every 2-3 days with some form of speedwork. If I’m not sore a couple times a week, I better have a good reason! While I’m at it, why not reap the rewards of your fitness by doing a race.

You are also a mother, wife and coach. Could you walk us through a day in the life?

There are two versions of what’s normal in my current life - when my husband Alan is traveling and when he is home. It can be as much as 50/50 being a single mom (although, we try to travel some too when convenient). Currently I’m in the middle of a 6 week stretch when Alan is overseas training and competing in triathlon. Here’s a normal week day - 6:00 wake up , light breakfast, check emails, etc 6:45 2.5 year old Joanie yells “I up! I up! I up!” - the only baby phrase she has not dropped out of habit from when she first learned to talk 7:30 drop off Joanie at her “school” - 3 days a week has part time care 7:45 - Run / follow up w/ core/strength 2-3x a week. Once during weekday do quality workout. 9:00-12:15 - follow up emails, coaching, etc… and eat :) 12:30 - pick up Joanie 1:00-3:00 naps for Joanie, I usually crash for an hour (only have been since pregnancy started, since 2nd trimester just began, feeling less the need for the nap!). Clean house, chores, more time on computer 3:30 snacks w/ Joanie and play or grocery shop- lately been swimming in our pool every afternoon, core/yoga session w/ Joanie if i skipped in AM. 5:30 cook dinner, eat 7:30 start bedtime routine for Joanie (bath, stories, jump around and sing) 8:30 - bed time for Joanie 8:45 - catch ⅙ of a movie I’ve started on netflix, call Alan 9:30 - bedtime

On days she is at home, I will either run with Joanie in the stroller, head to the gym for the treadmill/bike/pool (and utilize their childcare) or occasionally get up before dawn while its cool to run 1000m loops around our gated apartment complex with her monitor audible outside our apartment. If she wakes up mid-run, will let her watch a show in her crib while i finish up or drag the stroller out.

Julia Webb planking
Julia Webb planking

You choose to keep a running and fitness regimen that puts many of us to shame. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements?

I definitely take advantage of eating lots of calories! Especially during pregnancy, I feel like I can burn through anything, but have to be careful not to have a massive meal at once or I get severe indigestion. So my go-to strategy has been to have something light before an early morning run (lately just started trying the product UCAN - a form of carbs/energy that should sustain me through a run - but typically I am starving 20 minutes in if that’s all I used, so have been adding a half energy bar = favorite is regular old Powerbar vanilla/chocolate or a GU as well). I always have a little coffee pre-run (no more than a shot worth of espresso now that I’m pregnant). Since its so warm here in Arizona, I have been running w a water bottle/sometimes with NUUN added, carry it a mile into the run, drop it in the bushes to access at some point. I can’t stand having a water belt. I stash candy or GU in my shorts for any carb needing emergencies :)

Post run hydration is key with an immediate source of carbs/light protein. (apple and rest of my energy bar for example) to tie me over while I make breakfast.

Breakfast - my favorite meal of the day - usually a massive bowl of oatmeal made with milk, with berries, bananas and nut butter added as a dipping sauce. Lunch - varies (and have food on my mind w/ different cravings all the time being pregnant) - fruit, either sandwich, salad, chips ; or pasta/salad or burrito ... Snack - fruit, dark chocolate, nuts or small bar Dinner - varies - tons of veggies, more fruit, rice/pasta/potato base and meat - (beef, chicken, fish, pork…) - typically take my prenatal or Proferrin iron supplement. Favorite cusine - thai food!!! Snack - cereal w/ milk

Julia Webb Nike Track
Julia Webb Nike Track

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your first pregnancy and what was it like during and then getting back in shape?

Initially in my pregnancy I gained a good 8 lbs my first trimester and up to a total of 25 lbs by the end of my second (started at same weight I was before second pregnancy). However, due to severe indigestion and extreme discomfort when I ate to any level of fullness, I gained 0 lbs during my 3rd trimester. Obviously the baby continued to grow, but I must have lost some body fat. She weighed 7 lbs, 15 oz, completely healthy, although my midwife had me checked a few times because I was “measuring small”. Getting back in shape postpartum was not much of an issue. When Joanie was one month old I was back to looking “normal” for me. I held onto 10 pounds for at least 2.5 months, but then I went through a very stressfu l cross country moving experience, and baby Joanie picked up some severe collic which made my life very difficult w/ lack of sleep and digestion issues-- from month 3-6 I dropped an additional 18 lbs (was at lightest post high school weight ever- while continuing to breast feed) - all due to stress. I was also very frustrated with a debilitating hip injury I sustained during the beginning of my 2nd trimester, still not healed and it had been going on for over 9 months, where I was unable to run without pain. I realized how unhealthy my weight was after friends began to comment, and got myself back into eating more and thankfully got some support in helping Joanie out. I got back to my former go-to race weight of 125lbs. By 6 months, with some physical therapy I was able to run painfree and got back into fitness very fast with the help of my coach. Only 3 months in of regular run training and intense workouts, I was back to PR shape, only to eventually be even better - with a  more relaxed race day attitude, an even greater level of toughness my natural childbird experience taught me, elevated blood levels from the pregnancy. So, during my 8th season competiting at in the steeplechase, I dropped 20 seconds off my PR and also a good 10 seconds with only one attempt at the 1500m.

Julia Webb pregnant
Julia Webb pregnant

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out?

Currently I am living in Arizona due to my husband’s triathlon training group, so at the moment I have been doing 90% of my runs/workouts solo. I don’t mind that I have complete control of what I’m doing now that I’m pregnant - so I can really read my body and not be tempted to go too hard to keep up with someone. In Beaverton, Oregon (our home), I typically meet up with teammates/friends at least 3-4 times a week, typically at Nike headquarters right by my house. Two of those sessions include hard workouts. I run for Bowerman Track Club and work part time as a run coach at Nike campus Sports Center when I’m back in Oregon. If it wasn’t for my teammates (Kristen Rohde, Karlee Coffee, Anna Connor) and my coach Jon Marcus - I would NEVER be able to reach my potential and push myself to the degree that I do during these sessions. I have been trying to really grasp the concept of recovery and backing off big time on my easy days. If I’m not fully rested going into harder sessions, I will be dropped in an instant. My motivation rarely ever wanes, I love being an athlete and constantly testing my limits, with my only desire to reach a higher level so I can justify living my life the way I do :) My husband is the true professional athlete in the family, so I always ensure that my needs are second to support him first. Until I have the opportunity to make any money in the sport, I will continue to see it as a hobby.

What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

Typically reserve the rest days for spending energy in the sun or playing with Joanie. I definitely try to move around on those days so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The worst thing to do is sit inside all day if you’re “resting”. I try to pretend I’m a normal mom who doesn’t like working out. I try to remember to save the energy for the next day. Typically I take a full day off every 2-3 weeks. Getting a massage is also a great way to splurge on a day off.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)?

Running :) obviously.. but outside of that, I LOVE coffee. Thankfully with pregnancy and living in a hot dry climate, my cravings have dramatically dropped, but still look forward to a daily cup of pour-over or coffee shop Americano. With pregnancy I’ll make a full strength cup but rarely drink more than 6 oz of it.

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it?

Yes. Aside from a month long hip injury I sustained during over-stretching in a yoga pose during track season in college, I have had one serious injury to date and it was during my last pregnancy. It was probably one of the toughest things mentally I’ve had to deal with. I was running some pretty quick workouts feeling very strong and getting respectable race times in my first trimester of pregnancy #1 until I started noticing my right hip started aching right when my belly first started growing. I ignored it, thinking “I get aches and pains all the time, but this couldn’t be anything serious”. Ignoring it and running through it proved to be a terrible decision. Despite stopping all run activity, the pain worsened as the pregnancy went on. It took 6 full months postpartum to be pain free. I got all kinds of wrong answers during pregnancy, with doctors suspecting a stress fracture, etc.. I only realized post pregnancy it had to be a ligament or possibly a labral tear in my hip. Back in Portland after 3 months of no successful healing, I got exercises from my coach and saw a local physical therapy place for rehab and eventually it cleared up as I resumed training.

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.?

Create a time to workout in your calendar. No excuses as if you have to attend, block out the hour each day! My saving grace has been joining a gym with a childcare option. I have up to 2 hours to workout/shower for a very reasonable rate. Get support from your spouse, and if they are gone, find other moms who could possibly swap care to workout. Get a jogging stroller! Also another savior and offering me complete freedom to workout when I am without my husband. Starting as early as 3 weeks you can run with your baby (forward facing attachment) and weather conditions don’t apply (I’ve ran in torrential downpours - with Joanie nice and cozy under the rain cover, to negative temperatures (bundled up nice and cozy again!) . There are no excuses. If you work full time, run during your lunch hour or get up an hour earlier to fit it in first thing in morning (with coffee ready to be made, clothes laid out). Find a local running group that meets regularly to find same-level training partners and new workout friends. Sign up for a race to keep you motivated in training!

Julia Webb Alexi Pappas
Julia Webb Alexi Pappas

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time…

Aside from my year long injury, I have experienced much more of the upside on emotional benefits! Yes there are days which turn into complete disappointments, you just feel plain terrible, or go through a funk where you don’t want to get out there or complete the workout. But I always try to push through those bad times, knowing they will all be worth it. In my first trimester just recently, I felt absolutely terrible on most “easy runs”, especially if I didn’t get out when it was under 70 degrees in the desert sun . I would frequently look at the side of the trail and think, "wow that looks like a great place to lay down" and just have runs when I couldn’t wait to finish. But each of those runs, when I did finish, I would be so thankful I got it done, because my trusty runners high would set in, and make me feel I could take on anything the rest of the day (with a nap of course!). I am so thankful for this sport, but try to keep my perspective that it is a gift and can easily be taken away. I try not to get carried away in making it my all, and see my faith in God, family and overall health as #1.

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? Alan Webb - up and coming triathlete… American record holder in the mile ;)

Trail or Road? Trail! Have never done an official trail race, on my to-do list

Long runs or Speed Work? A combo of both - get the best of both worlds - I rarely do straight up long runs. Often my weekend long run is part of a grinding interval session!

Garmin or carefree? I have only run with a Garmin once during Hood to Coast and got made fun of by my old school coach. I prefer coaching athletes with a Garmin though, so i have a better sense of measure.

Solo or with company? With company!! I really miss my Oregon training partners !!

Postpartum Exercise after C-Section

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*** Please note that this article lists general recommendations that can never substitute your doctor's or other healthcare provider's opinion. Please make sure to obtain their clearance before engaging in any exercise or strenuous activity. *** The woman in the picture had her second baby 2.5 months ago. She also had a particularly difficult time after what was planned as a routine C-section. Recovery was much longer than the 6 weeks that doctor's often list as a good amount of time for women to wait before engaging in postpartum exercise after a c-section. But she braved it impressively and now only another 8 weeks later we did a first postpartum session since her daughter was born.

Before her c-section we trained 2- 3 times per week up until a few weeks before the birth and well into the third trimester, with a belly that was creating discomfort and even pain - when her pelvis sunk on one side and was pressing on the sciatic nerve and caused the leg to swell up with extra blood.

One thing that she kept saying throughout was that exercise (that was always tailored to her daily form, trimester and became less intense as the pregnancy progressed) had multiple emotional and psychological benefits for her. It eased the tension on one leg, it alleviated back pain caused by the weight gain and it always left her less tired after, than she had been before. Plus with a big smile on her face.

This particular example has taught me, as a health and fitness provider, 5 very important things about how to approach postpartum exercise after a C-section:

  1. I can't stress it enough: the exercise before birth has incredibly beneficial effects on the exercise after. Women who stay active before a c-section, recover faster and once they go back to working out, their body remembers and can re-enter on a higher fitness level as well as motivational level than if the last workout was over 9 months ago.
  2. After having an open wound, jumping into exercising too quickly will do you no good. Just like exercise is being tapered down with each trimester, you have to build up again, too. Athletes reduce their amounts of workouts before a big event and afterwards they take a break and then ease into it again. You have nothing to prove to anyone and the added stress of caring for a newborn will most likely have you running around as is.
  3. I like to create programs that focus on body areas that were under a lot of stress during the pregnancy before zeroing in on the core. I know all women want is to get a flat stomach and their core strength back but there are other areas that have had a lot of work to do and continue to, such as the arms, back, legs and hips. Focusing on these areas first, can give the stomach some more rest but works the cardio-vascular system and speeds up the metabolism.
  4. Partner exercises are a great thing to do both for strength workouts as well as relaxation and stretching. If you have had a long day and didn't make it to yoga or didn't have time to fit in a workout, take 20 minutes in the evening with your partner. Once the baby is asleep, you can challenge each other to some partner squats, some plank high fives and finish up in a partner stretch such as this one:postpartum exercise after c-section
  5. Relax: after a c-section you are healing from a big operation. On top of being tired, getting less sleep than before, your body has to heal multiple layers of tissue. For that, it needs time and especially recovery time. Make exercise part of your day in walks, taking stairs, and playing with your baby. If you can, take a few minutes a day to sit still, have me-time, meditate, enjoy a cup of tea, reflect, journal or day dream. It will give you so much more strength to deal with everything else that is happening around you, including exercise.

I wish you well.

xxR

Pregnancy Wellness Tips

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Check out my pregnancy wellness tips over at Mind Body Green where I've recently been published. I'm happy that I have been able to share a lot of my findings and experiences in prenatal and postpartum wellness and fitness on their site. If you haven't yet, go check out how to train during and after pregnancy, check out their many interesting blog posts and stay tuned for more articles to come!

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/wc/roma-van-der-walt

xxR

Pre and Postnatal Fitness

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Pre and Postnatal Fitness is a topic that - when googled - shows varying results of very gentle movement with a lot of breath work. On the other hand there are professional athletes such as Kerri Walsh (who I am a HUGE fan of) who competed in and won the Olympics during her early stages of pregnancy and her open way of discussing it, earned her quite a bit of criticism. One of the first people that I started working with earlier this year was 4 months pregnant when we started and she stopped 2 weeks before her due date. Over the course of 4-5 months, we worked out up to 3 times a week, always according to how she felt, early in her pregnancy we did some running and later on we kept her heart rate up with fast walks with weights in hand. Each session included yoga and that portion increased over time. Every so often she would join my group workout in which the exercises often involved working with other expectant moms. Because I saw her so much, I got a really good glimpse into how the body changes, the mood changes and the muscoskeletal disposition can be affected by pregnancy. It was fascinating.

Mood wise, there were days when the feeling of heaviness and sciatic pain made her consider not working out but after a few times during which we saw the positive effects of gentle exercise on her mood, it usually took only the first minutes and a fun anecdote of my work week to get her spirits up and by the end of the session she would feel much better than before. Regarding the changes of her body, because she carried a girl, she said the felt different than carrying a boy the first time around: heavier around the hips (I'm looking forward to reading some comments from mothers whether they agree or disagree) and an earlier onset of more weight. Towards the end of her pregnancy we were presented with a different problem. Her pelvis had shifted to one side so now it was pressing on the veins that ran down her leg, causing it to swell to almost an inch more in diameter than the other. Her doctor ran tests to see if it was dangerous and it wasn't but we did an increased number of exercises to stabilize the pelvis (like in this video) and luckily the imbalance subsided immediately after the birth.

This pregnant woman and others have shown me a wide range of fitness levels and motivation. Regardless of what they are they are usually accompanied by a high level of insecurity of what to do and what to avoid. The safest bet is to take advantage of the many prenatal yoga classes that exist now. But there are many other exercise forms that are safe for women to do during and after pregnancy. So in my approach I have focused the first part of the class on getting the women's heart rate up, through walking, slow running, cardio exercises with resistance bands and in some instances light boxing work (it is intensely gratifying to punch those boxing mitts and it is stationary so there is no jumping or running involved). The second part of my workout includes strength. Usually it's focused on the main weight bearing areas such as the hips and legs. But a pregnant woman also wants to maintain a beautiful appearance which is why toning the legs, glutes and arms and shoulders is an essential component too. I do some core work but often the yoga with which I end the session, involves some of that as well.

Postpartum exercise is often similar especially in the early stages post baby, i.e. 6 weeks and later. Women who have given birth are usually very eager to return to a regular exercise routine quickly. But the body needs time. And during that time I have found variety to be the most important component. Just as for people who want to lose excess weight, keeping the exercises fun and diverse is key to making the workout routine a habit and therefore sustainable.

It makes me really happy to see women leave the class glowing. Not only are they doing something healthy for themselves and their baby by maintaining a good cardio-vascular level during pregnancy but after delivery they also take an hour for themselves, they laugh and talk and get things off their chest. Having mixed classes has been beneficial for both groups.

If you are currently pregnant and want my five tips on how to make exercise fun, please read this MindBodyGreen article. Or even better, come and join me for one of my classes.

I hope whether you are a new mom or currently pregnant, that you find a way for yourself to maintain or get back to exercising. And if you have any questions, concerns, comments or just want to say hello, please do so in the comments box below!

xxR

Monday Moves: planks, planks, planks / stütz, stütz, stütz

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I must admit, I wasn't always the biggest fan of planks in any form, but since doing them daily with and without clients, it is astonishing how it has defined and strengthened my core. It has helped me alleviate sciatic pain and I even recorded a little video with useful exercises and tips that you can find on YouTube or right here on the blog. I muss zugeben der Stütz, war nicht unbedingt meine bevorzugte Übung (kam gleich nach Klimmzügen) aber seit ich ihn täglich durchführe, mit Kunden und ohne, beobachte ich mit Staunen wie sich mein Rumpf verändert hat. Soviel stärker und definierter (Bonus!). Die Übung hat mir geholfen meine Ischias Schmerzen unter Kontrolle zu bekommen und ich habe sogar ein kleines Video aufgenommen, das ihr auf YouTube bewundern könnt oder direkt hier auf meinem Blog.

Simple (Prenatal) Exercise Routine for a hot day

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It is September 11th, an important date in the US and specifically in New York City. Exactly 12 years ago this city and the world watched in horror at the events that unfolded in the Financial District and later mourned together all those who were lost and their families who were affected. Today it is also unusually hot and humid, not the weather we were expecting in September after an unseasonally cool August and people have been dragging their feet and feeling heavy and uncomfortable.

I was training with one of my pregnant clients today who is due in 3 weeks (!!!) and who is in great shape but was feeling tired like me. The following is a routine of five exercises that energized us but also wasn't too strenuous and can be done by pregnant and non- pregnant people alike.

Seesaw Stretch:

Sit in a wide legged seat and either hold hands with a partner across from you or interlace your fingers and point the palms out in front of you. Inhale straightening your back, sitting tall and exhale leaning forward as much as you can without collapsing in your back. If you do this exercise with a partner, they assist you by holding your arms up. Together you should get into a rhythm of inhaling/ exhaling sitting tall and leaning forward. Do this for 2-3 minutes.

Simple prenatal exercise

All fours / leg lift:

Come to all fours and do a few cat and cows (inhale arch your back, look up and exhale round your back and look towards your thighs). With a neutral back, lift the right leg, knee at a 90 degree angle and foot flexed. Lift the leg up and open up the hip as if you were kicking something behind and above your left hip. Repeat 25 times and then switch to the left side.

Supported side plank core work:

Come into a side plank on your forearm. Lower and lift your hips with feet stacked and legs long and strong 10-15 times on each side. When you are coming down, avoid touching your mat.

Inner thigh work:

Lie on your back and if you are pregnant elevate your hips by placing a yoga block under your hips. Turn you feet all the way out in opposite directions. Then cross them while engaging your inner thighs. Bring your legs apart and then cross them. Switch between the right leg on top and the left one. Do 3 sets of 30.

Lizard into pigeon into ankle over knee:

In a low lunge with the right leg in front bring both of your palms to the inside of your leg. Keep the back knee up and then lower down to your elbows if possible. Breathe deeply. After 10 breaths scoot your right foot over to the left and set yourself up in pigeon pose. Fold over your front leg and take 10 deep breaths. Then, swing your left leg forward and cross the ankle over the right knee. Melt over your legs and relax. Switch sides and repeat the routine on the left.

Simple prenatal exercise

Extra pose for pregnant ladies to stretch out the achy side and hips:

Stand about arms length from a wall or tree if you are outside. Face it sideways and place the inside foot outside the outside one, crossing over the front of the ankle. Place your hands as low on the wall as you can and press your hips outward. Then switch sides.

Simple prenatal exercise

I hope you enjoy the routine, that it gives you energy, some strength and relieves some minor aches and pains. Stay cool!

xxR

Words on Wednesday: Less is More

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I just stumbled across an old friend from Uni online, who commented on a Facebook post saying that "we have lost the awareness to be excited by the little things"... Ever since I left my office job, I realized that while I'm doing what I really love, time slows down. I have an awesome session with a client and the hour seems much longer (I think for them too, depending on what we're doing). No but in a positive sense I cherish moments much more.  Before, I obviously also had really great days at the office, but the simple setting which was an office that forced me to be at my desk at certain times of the day and dictated that I was to have lunch around 12-2pm made me really look forward to 6pm and the freedom that came with it.

I tried to bring food to the office to not have to rely on food chains because ultimately in a 5 day week I would have at least one, twice. I'm not good at leaving things on my plate, so the places dictated how much I was eating... Now I take my time to prepare breakfast and some of the results you see on here. I enjoy eating it, I go workout, by the time I come back I really look forward to preparing a nice lunch. And I cook most evenings. There was never really time for that before.

Even though I work physically and mentally harder getting Chitta off the ground, I run around, I work out with my clients and I try to keep up with my own exercise routine, I feel less tired than I often felt after a whole day at the desk. My anxiety levels are lower even though every new client feels like going on a first date, my hair and skin are healthier and my digestion... well, you know :)

My friend's comment was on an article about how we consume a lot these days and I must admit as a budding entrepreneur I consume much less these days. And interestingly I'm happier.

This NY Times article also weighs in on how we have become a society of consumers and how the author scaled back which - you guessed it - made him happy.

How does all this relate to what I'm doing?

I once met a client who told me she was working out six times a week, she had changed trainers a few times, she did her own cardio but still she said "I don't run faster than some New Yorkers walk".

In my trainings, I try to bring as much versatility to each session as I can. Often I switch up exercises after only a few sets or combine them and I try to squeeze the maximum result out of each proposed exercise. And I am seeing peoples' results. My pregnant ladies felt energized after sessions albeit challenged, other people have lost weight and others were able to increase their strength, flexibility, coordination, etc. All of them - if I had them do their very first session again today - would do it without breaking a sweat and hardly being out of breath.

These results make me incredibly happy! And they show that by tickling my clients with these 1-3 hours per week, which is easily incorporated into their busy schedules, we are making amazing progress in a relatively short time. Think of their muscles being excited too by the diverse, rapidly changing movement and because they are happy, they interact better, within (intramuscular coordination) and between each other (intermuscular coordination). It all creates a well oiled machine. Moreover, because the results stick, this new regimen becomes sustainable: it's fun to see yourself transform.

I strongly believe in breaking the loop of living to work, rewarding ourselves by consuming more, buying more, eating more and ultimately feeling obliged to exercise more.

I dare you to work to LIVE, then the work itself becomes rewarding, consuming becomes a luxury and eating is a part of a delicious routine that creates balance in our body... a strong body that loves to be tickled regularly.

xxR

PS: Every now and then, stop and smell the flowers...

Monday Moves: Exercises for Lower Back Relief (Video)

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I am very excited that this first Youtube video is online, now! I hope it will be helpful to relieve some of your issues around the lower back. You can increase the number of repetitions per exercise as you see fit.

And I would love to hear more from you about it, in the comments below.

xxR

Monday Moves: Work multiple body parts/ Trainiere mehrere Körperbereiche

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Sculpt multiple body parts at once. Deep lunge w/ resistance band. Good for the core, thighs, upper back, bingo wings & armpit. For starters use the lightest resistance band, wrap it around a pole as shown in the photo or at home against a sturdy object on chest level. You should be pushing out the palms straight in front of your chest. Do 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions; then switch the legs and repeat. Over time, build towards 30 repetitions and/ or use a stronger band. Trainiere mehrere Körperbereiche gleichzeitig. Tiefer Ausfallschritt mit Trainingsband. Diese Übung eignet sich besonders gut um den oberen Rücken zu trainieren, die Oberschenkel, die Unterarme und den Achselbereich. Fur Anfänger: schlinge das Band um ein Objekt auf Brusthöhe, bringe dann die Handflächen gerade vor deiner Brust nach vorne. Beginne mit 3 sets von jeweils 15-20 Wiederholungen und wechsel dann das vordere Bein. Mit der Zeit, kannst du dich auf 30 Wiederholungen hoch arbeiten.

Monday Moves - Exercise Kneeling/ Übungen knieend ausführen

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I often ask my pregnant friends to do strength exercises kneeling to engage their core. It's strengthening those important muscles in a gentle way. If this feels hard on the knees, fold over your mat, for support. The same works for everyone else who's not pregnant, too. Try it! Ich bitte meine schwangeren Klientinnen oftmals, Ubungen knieend auszuführen um ihren Rumpf mit einzubringen. Dies hiflt die wichtige Rumpfmuskulatur auf sanfte Weise zu stärken. Natürlich trifft das selbe auch für nicht-Schwangere zu. Versucht es!

 

Keeping things in perspective - how our puppy taught us to focus on the positive

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In December, my husband and I - after not much deliberation - decided to get a Vizsla puppy who at the time was roughly 4 weeks old. We had seen her photos and despite knowing the breed's size and temperament as hunting dogs who need a lot of exercise, couldn't resist getting her at this time, although it was a rather trying period in our professional lives. For the next 6 weeks, we were giddy with anticipation and brainstormed names. We decided to name her Zola, which means "tranquil" in the Zulu language and were assured that all Vizsla's from this breeder were extremely relaxed, sweet mannered and therefore easy to handle. So in early February Zola arrived in Brooklyn and quickly became the darling of our neighbourhood. People squealed on the street and she learned soon that there was nothing to fear - not fire trucks nor noisy buses - and came to enjoy the attention quite a bit. We would take her outside every 1.5 hrs and made sure we followed every rule in the book to be calm and assertive parents but she was (and still is) a puppy. Sleep deprived and covered in little teeth marks we went through multiple evenings of testing each others' boundaries and almost every other week included a visit to the vet for vaccines or one of the several things that young dogs can have.

While being parents to Zola, we were both building businesses, so we had to go through paperwork and meet with accountants and lawyers. I was finishing certifications for pre/post natal exercise and a yoga teacher training all while we split up exercising her for almost 2 hours a day.  With the stress of training a young dog and not being able to leave the house for longer than a very hurried dinner, we soon came to be less than fond of our forced time together not to mention the stress we felt about yet another event: our impending (second) wedding with friends and family flying to New York from all corners of the world.

And then something magical happened. At the point of all of our stresses culminating, we took a trip to the Hamptons, strapped Zola into the back seat of our rental car, made a reservation with a dog friendly woman and left. New Yorkers will attest, that leaving the city behind can have a soothing quality and so it happened that we arrived on a freezing beach a few hours later and didn't mind it. Zola ran and was the happiest dog in the world, leash free in the sand, turning, chasing balls, focused on just us because there was nobody else crazy enough to be there. And she made us giggle, frozen and tired we could finally laugh about all of it.

Since our little getaway we have talked about how we need to relax and introduce a lighter mood into our current life. When we get stuck in a rut we look at Zola and watch her curiosity, her insatiable hunger for learning and her way to never hold a grudge even when she doesn't get what she wants. We recognize her eagerness to please, rather than focusing on her occasional testing of boundaries and our being together has changed drastically.

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In life, we go through stages that are difficult, we are tested and tried and when everything happens at the same time, it's difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and keep our chin up. Too often, one negative thought can lead to the next, the mind somehow convincing the body that it is too tired to move and the not moving adding to the downward spiral of a negative self image. It's in these situations that we can learn from our four legged companions. Movement keeps them happy, they don't hold on to resentment, they focus on the important things and if there is something to be happy about, they embrace it wholly! In some areas, we have already learned from animals, we place newborns and preemies on their parents' bare chests to create a bond and make them feel safe and at a later stage people with disabilities or high levels of anxiety have the opportunity to profit from being around animals in therapy that helps them feel grounded again. Often senior citizens who have a pet feel less lonely, too.

We have come to love Zola's 'velcro' personality when she insists on being part of everything we do. If she can have maximum body contact with one of us she is almost as happy as when it's a pile of all three of us on the couch. She entertains us with things she learns and melts our heart with her pure and unconditional love. When we get stressed, she will often deflect the situation by doing something that makes us laugh so hard, we have tears streaming down our cheeks and forget what we argued about. She has taught us so much and continues to do so. We couldn't imagine life without her.