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Too big? Says who?

“You’re too big for him.”

Growing up I never gave much thought to this idea. That I was “too big.” Sure, I had insecurities and struggled with self esteem. I wanted to look pretty, have nice clothes and wished that some things about my body had been different, but I never really considered myself “big.” Not until this moment.

My first serious college boyfriend, his friend and I were hanging out one evening having dinner, and my boyfriend’s friend was studying the two of us closely. “What?” I’d asked. “Why are you staring at me?”

“You’re too big for him,” he blurted out.

Honestly, it was the first time I’d really noticed. My boyfriend at the time was of average height and he was thin. Compared to him, I did look quite a bit bigger. But, I never considered it before. Now it was all I could think about.

In my shock and dismay my boyfriend rushed to my defense and we quickly wrapped up the evening. The car ride home was filled with apologies and “So you’re a little bigger, you’re not fat,” type of statements.

I never saw his friend again (not sad about it). And eventually, my boyfriend and I broke up. But that one statement stuck with me. “You’re too big for him.” You’re too big. And I started to believe it.

The next several years of my life were filled with chasing beauty standards that I would never achieve. I thought that in order to be desirable

At a holiday party. My family was worried about me at this point in my life.

that I needed to be smaller. I started using exercise as punishment. I started starving myself. If I had dessert with friends or a cupcake at a holiday party I went home and did an extra cardio session to work it off. The “fat burning zone” and the “calories burned” counter on the elliptical machine became my guide. When I started to see my spine with more clarity I thought that I was finally beginning to arrive.

Thankfully, I had people in my life who intervened and helped me get back on track with healthy eating and exercise habits (you can read more about that here). And while I never did go back to extreme dieting and 2.5 hour+ training sessions, I thought that all of the head games over my body image was behind me…..until I got pregnant.

The expectations for the expecting woman are intense. Everyone has an idea of how much weight you “should” be gaining per week and how quickly you should be able to “bounce back” after you give birth. And, I’ll be honest…..as a fitness professional, I fell into the trap of putting a lot of pressure on myself to look a certain way postpartum. At first, the weight fell off pretty quickly, but then there was a stall, and I started to worry. “You’re too big.”

But, wait a second…..says who?! The more I thought about it the more I wondered that. Who says that I need to look a certain way? Who says that the postpartum body needs to be erased as if the pregnancy never happened? Who says that I need to weigh a certain amount?

We get to make a choice here. We can either buy what society, media and other people are selling or we get to decide for ourselves what beauty and strength is. Who gets to decide these things for me?

I DO. I get to decide. I get to define my self worth. Not other people. Not the media. Not #fitspiration celebrities. I do.

I’m not “too big.” I’m BIG. I’m powerful. I’m strong. And I have decided to take back what’s always been mine: my esteem, my confidence, my self love and my body.

Jill

P.S. Join our tribe! We’re always look for more women to join us in the quest of gaining strength and confidence on the inside and out. Join our weekly newsletter list or check out our training options here.

3 Ways I De-stress

Things are a little crazy right now.

If you’ve been following Movement Duets for awhile you know that we’ve expanded our training options to include in-person as well as offering our signature online group training program Fit Mom Foundations. This week, we’ve expanded our schedule to include evening classes at a second location. (You can view all of our training services and class schedule here.) In addition to that, I work part-time at a chiropractic clinic. And to add an interesting twist to the mix, my husband and I share a car and we’re parents to a beautiful, busy 18 month old boy. So….yeah, like I was saying, things are little crazy, haha!

All of this said, even though a lot of it has been good stress, my stress levels have been a little high lately. Now I know that I’m not the first mom to have high stress or a hectic schedule, but living in a frenzied state just isn’t for me (is it for anybody?). So, I’ve had to step up my self care game in order to not let my candle burn at both ends. You know what they say, “If momma ain’t happy……”

Here are three ways that I’m taking action to reduce stress in my life:

  1. Working out. This should come as no surprise. Working out is literally my therapy. When I get in touch with iron I can feel my tension leaving my body. And it’s not just what I feel or what I think, there have been numerous studies showing the benefits of exercise on your mental health.

Almost everybody has heard that exercise helps combat stress by releasing endorphins and other feel good hormones into your body, but more than that, exercise has also been shown to help your brain cope more efficiently with stress. According to an article by the American Psychological Association psychologists believe that “exercise thwarts depression and anxiety by enhancing the body’s ability to respond to stress” by giving the body the opportunity to practice dealing with stress through the imposed demands of physical activity.

So, exercise equals less stress and makes us better at dealing with stress in general….that’s a pretty good deal! And you don’t necessarily have to put in an hour at the gym to get these effects. Simply getting outside and taking a brisk walk can do the same thing!

  1. Prioritizing instead of multitasking. Multitasking has typically been praised as a super skill.  I mean, heck, it’s usually something that people list as a strength in job interviews! And let’s face it, as a mom multitasking is sometimes necessary. But, what I’ve found is that multitasking has been decreasing my quality of life.

I’m constantly placing the demand on my brain to switch gears. I co-own and run a business, I have another part-time job, I’m a wife, mother, friend….I’m answering text messages, emails, writing Facebook posts and breastfeeding the baby, sometimes all at once! I can get so bogged down on trying to be as productive as possible by doing all of these things at once that I feel like I’m not actually being as productive as I thought! And, as is turns out, there’s research to support this:

According to Stanford researchers, “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.” And I’ve definitely found this to be true in my life.

Beyond being less efficient and productive overall, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to be present with my husband and son, the two most important people in my life! And as the most important people in my life, they deserve more of me. As I’ve started to prioritize my tasks, completing them one at a time as they’ve needed to be done, I’ve actually felt more productive and therefore less preoccupied during my family time. Plus, I’m seeing more of my family and less of my phone, which feels insanely wonderful.

  1. Getting out of the house on the regular. In the past I’ve had more of a tendency to  hide out when I get stressed out. But, what I had hoped had been the result has more often been the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I highly value alone time. And especially as a mom that opportunity seldomly arises, so to take advantage of it is key. But, I’ve also found great solace and support in leaning in on my friends and family.

And so, I spend regular time with others outside of the house. Sometimes this involves my son and sometimes is doesn’t, but either way, spending time in a different environment with someone who “gets” me always leaves me feeling heard and refreshed.

On the other hand, if I’m feeling stressed and family/friend time is not an option, another way I get out of the house on the regular is just getting outside! Going to the park and going for a walk does wonders for the soul. And even if I don’t actually speak to another person while I stroll, just being connected by nature always does the trick.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. It’s one of the ways that we grow and develop resilience! But, letting stress take hold of your life in a way that feels constant and defeating can lead to some heavy feelings of anxiety and depression. It can even raise your blood pressure and weaken your immune system!

This is where self care comes in. As moms we are constantly doing everything for everyone else and things can become a real grind. I want to challenge you to not be afraid to be a little selfish! Take some time for yourself to exercise, to be in the moment and to spend time outdoors or with others, or to de-stress the way that you know you’ll enjoy! You’re just as worthy of time and attention as everyone else, and I’m certain you’ll thank yourself for it.

Jill

P.S. If exercise if part of your self care game, we’d love to have you come try a training session! Check out our list of services and class schedule here. Or, if you’re not local, check out our online option as well. Ready to get started? Email us at info@movementduets.com.

The Best Exercises For An Amazing Sex Life

Sex is important.

 

It is.

 

Even if you are a mom…ESPECIALLY if you are a mom!

 

Sex can help you stay connected with your partner. It can help you feel a little less like a woman covered in baby spit and yoga pants and more like a woman-hear-me-roar!

 

On a physical level sex can be really beneficial for moms. Sex…more specifically, orgasms, can help strengthen the pelvic floor. A strong pelvic floor is important for avoiding incontinence, something that will affect about 30% of women at some point in their lives. Good sex is like a workout for your pelvic floor muscles. When you have an orgasm, it causes contractions in those muscles, which strengthens them.

 

Sex can also actually boost your immune system! According to sex expert Dr. Yvonne K. Fullbright, people who are sexually active take fewer sick days. Sex boosts antibodies in our body that fight against germs, viruses and other intruders.

 

Sex has also been found to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease. Sex also can increase libido! The more you have, the more you want. And feeling sexy can be really important to many moms who might be feeling a little like strangers in their changing bodies.

 

Exercise can actually help you have a mind-blowing-health-enhancing sex life. And this is not because exercise will make you thin! It actually has nothing to do with aesthetics. In fact, one study actually found that people who do long bouts of exercise actually have a lower sex drive than people who don’t.

 

So, the type of exercise is really important!

 

Here are the exercises that we recommend to boost your sex drive and your sex life.

 

Leisure Walks

 

Leisure walks, especially walking outside can improve your sex life. Leisure walking has nothing to do with burning calories, but everything to do with balancing your hormones. Leisure walks help lower your stress, which helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. This not only helps you stay more relaxed, but it also opens the door for more feel good, libido boosting hormones to flood your body.

 

HIIT

 

A recent study showed that short, high intensity workouts can boost your sex drive and improve your sex life. When the intensity is high, remember to keep the duration short. 20 minutes or less is what you are looking for. These workouts should include short bursts of activity, then at least that same amount of rest and recovery. For example, if you sprint up a hill for 30 seconds, you would want to take at least 30 seconds to walk back down the hill slowly to recover.

 

Mobility Exercises

 

Sex is best when we have the option of play. We tend to feel the sexiest when we can do all the things we want to do in the bedroom and out! Sex after baby can be like discovering sex again for the first time. Your body is different. You might have new time constraints. Things that you used to love might not get you going. Or you might want to try new things with your new body!

 

However, many new moms have very tight hips. Postural changes due to pregnancy can contribute to this. Try these three hip mobility exercises to open up your…options in the bedroom.

 

CARs for hips

90/90 PAILS/RAILS

 

 

Shin Box

 Want more information about how to train for a strong body and a healthy sex life? Come see us!

If you’re local to our area, attend one of our pelvic floor workshops! We’re having one at MidValley Birthing Services on March 18th at 10:00 a.m. Get more info about the event and sign up here.

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it! So often women are too embarrassed to talk about the symptoms that they are experiencing. Let’s normalize talking about the vagina, sex, leaking and whatever else our bodies do so that we can access important information and live our lives with the strength and confidence that we deserve!

 

Why I Care So Much About Your Pelvic Floor

If you were to search our Facebook posts you would probably see the words “pelvic floor” come up about 100 million times. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but we talk about it A LOT. Pelvic floor health is one the most essential and yet often overlooked part of our body’s ability to move efficiently and pain free. Why do I care about your pelvic floor so much?

Because I know too many moms who suffer from chronic low back pain.

Because I am tired of seeing “moms peeing their pants is normal haha” memes (and don’t even get me started on pee pads…..)

Because I know a lot of women who are having painful sex but are too embarrassed to talk about it.

Because I’ve seen the aftermath of high impact exercises performed during pregnancy, and it’s not pretty.

Because I’ve met women who have been suffering from pelvic organ prolapse for 15 years or more that have resigned themselves to just living in discomfort and pain forever.

Because the pelvic floor…..your pelvic floor…..is really, really freakin’ important.

Pause for a moment. If this is your first time learning about the pelvic floor, then it would be neglectful of me not to talk about what it is. If you already know, you can skip this part. If you’re not familiar with it or want to learn more, read on:

Pelvic Floor – What it Is

When people use the term “pelvic floor” what they are generally referring to are the pelvic floor muscles (although the pelvic floor as a whole contains bones and organs as well). The pelvic floor muscles lie between the pubic bone in the front and the tailbone at the back, and form a sling.

The muscles of the pelvic floor function to support the pelvic organs (such as the bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum), assists in urinary and fecal continence, aids in sexual performance, stabilizes connective joints (like the very important sacroiliac joint, or SI joint), and acts as a venous and lymphatic pump for the pelvis.

So, in layman terms, the pelvic floor muscles keep your pelvic organs where they’re supposed to be, they keep you from peeing or pooping when you don’t want to, they help you orgasm, they aid in stabilizing your hips and back and helps circulate blood to your pelvic organs.

So, again, really, really freakin’ important, right?

Why It’s So Important

Julie Wiebe, pelvic floor physical therapist extraordinaire, describes it in the best way I’ve found. I’ll summarize for you what she says:

She likens the pelvis as being the foundation of a house. Sometimes problems with the foundation of the house are really obvious like a crack in the foundation or maybe flooding. But, sometimes, the problem is a little more far removed.

The example Julie Wiebe uses is a leaky window in the attic. The window is leaking and so you go upstairs and try to paint and patch it, but when that doesn’t work the moisture seeps into the wallpaper. And then you have mold in your walls and you end up having to remove part of that wall. And pretty soon a pesky window becomes a whole home renovation project. But, in reality, if you would have taken a look at the foundation first, you may have prevented or fixed that leaky window without all of those extra steps.

So, while there are more obvious signs of a pelvic floor problem like stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, there are other things that pop up like unexplained low back pain, shoulder pain and even jaw pain.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that every single source of pain is a result of a pelvic floor dysfunction, but with all of its responsibilities and its affect on our body, especially if other treatment modalities haven’t been working, isn’t it worth looking into?

Knowledge is Power

You know that NBC public service announcement jingle “The More You Know?” I feel the same way about your pelvic floor health. When it comes to mamas’ quality of life being interfered with, I care. I care a lot. And that’s why we talk so much about the pelvic floor, how to connect your pelvic floor to your breath and how to incorporate your pelvic floor into your everyday movements so that it, your core, your diaphragm and your multifidus can function the way that they’re supposed to. So that you don’t have to just live with those problems that I mentioned earlier. And it’s my opinion that every mama and mama-to-be should have this information, because you are the ones who have the potential for the most problems.

What to Do

When I was pregnant with Jack I was constantly told that I should expect to pee my pants after childbirth. That leaking when I sneeze, cough, jump, workout, etc. was normal. I refused to believe that this was true. And because of some intentional training and education, I know for a fact that incontinence and other pelvic floor dysfunctions are preventable and they are treatable. Peeing your pants after you have a baby is common, but it’s not  normal.

Here are some things that you can do to help ensure or improve your pelvic floor health:

First of all, I highly recommend if you are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant or have had a baby that you see a pelvic floor physical therapist, especially if you have experienced any of the symptoms that I’ve mentioned throughout this article. Your pelvic floor PT can help you figure out if you have any issues and how to address them. If you’re not sure where to start, use this locator tool to find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area.

Second, train in the best possible way for your body. One of the first things I did when I got pregnant is I hired a trainer who specializes in pre and postnatal training (I think every good coach should have a coach). How you exercise during and after pregnancy matters, and not to scare you, but exercising in ways that are inappropriate for you changing body can actually be the cause of or contribute to an existing pelvic floor dysfunction and can make diastasis recti worse (to read more about DR, check out this blog). Pre and postnatal exercise is our passion. So, if you want to take the guesswork out of the equation, check out our in-person and online options here.

Third is learn as much as you can about pelvic floor health! Do some research. Read some of Julie Wiebe’s blogs. Check out Diane Lee. And if you’re local to our area, attend one of our pelvic floor workshops! We’re having one at MidValley Birthing Services on March 18th at 10:00 a.m. Get more info about the event and sign up here.

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it! So often women are too embarrassed to talk about the symptoms that they are experiencing. Let’s normalize talking about the vagina, sex, leaking and whatever else our bodies do so that we can access important information and live our lives with the strength and confidence that we deserve!

Jill

P.S. If you want more workout tips, recipe ideas, mindset advice and parenting stories be sure to join our free weekly newsletter list! This is where we give out our best information. As a thank you for signing up we’ll send you a free exercise guide for the best core exercises that you can do during pregnancy and after. Not on the list yet? Join the tribe and get your free guide here.

I’m Done with Trying to Be a Perfect Mom

Perfectionism and I go way, WAY back. Certainly way earlier than when I became a mother over a year ago. I remember moving back home one summer in between semesters of college and getting bent out of shape because my boyfriend at the time had turned a box the “wrong way.” I mean, it was bad.

I’ve made a lot of progress on breaking up with perfectionism over the past couple of years. I’ve stopped beating myself up for making mistakes. I’ve stopped feeling guilty for changing or skipping parts of my workouts. I’ve even relinquished control over how the dishwasher “should” be loaded….which my husband is thankful for.

And if I’ve learned anything in my 16 months of being a mother it’s this: Let go of perfectionism, or you’re going to be one miserable woman.

I’m not just talking about the way that I do things myself, I’m also talking about letting go of being perfect for everyone else, which I’m also an expert at. In my family system I was always “the good one,” and I did it well. I didn’t speak up when I had problems. I hid my mistakes (or at least I think I did. I should ask my mother). I flew under the radar. I tried not to rock the boat in any way that would bring attention to myself. I was always “fine” and I was constantly seeking the approval of others.

And when it comes to motherhood, I can feel my perfectionist tendencies creeping in, too. The first few months of Jack’s life were really tough on me. I had a hard time adjusting to this new life and as much as I love my son, I was seriously depressed. But, it took me weeks to tell anyone or talk about it because I thought that if I admitted it, that that would mean that I wasn’t a good mother or that people would think that I didn’t enjoy being a mother.

Isn’t that seriously ridiculous? Everybody struggles, but for some reason, I was unwilling to admit it. It took bending until I broke and becoming vulnerable enough to allow others in to get the love and support that I needed so desperately.

And while I’ve made some serious progress on letting others in, I still have some work to do when it comes to allowing others’ perception of me to dictate my actions. Recently, I went to a baby shower and took Jack with me. We had to park on the street a couple of houses down from where the party was. I thought about just grabbing the blanket I brought, wrapping it around him and taking him inside….but it had been in the 20s, and honestly, I was afraid of being judged for walking in without having a coat on my kid.

So, I grabbed his coat and there we wrestled on the sidewalk for 5 minutes trying to get it on him and to grab his diaper bag, my purse and the present I brought.

Seriously….it would have taken me like 30 seconds to get him inside where it was warm, but, instead we both stood there freezing our butts off for 5 minutes trying to get his coat on.

Why do we do this? Why we do care so much what other people think? I know that if I would have just scooped him up and went inside that he would have been fine, but I was so worried that someone would say, “Where’s his coat?! You didn’t put a coat on him?!” that I went against my better judgement. And you know what? Someone probably would have said something. But, who cares?? As long as I know that he’s safe and taken care of, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Motherhood is already riddled with self imposed insecurities and guilt. Why should I allow other people’s perception or even what I think other people’s perceptions are affect how I live my life? There is no such thing as a perfect mother, and I’m done trying to be. And I’ll do my part by giving other mamas grace and love instead of judgement. And if I don’t think that my son needs a jacket for the 30 second walk from the car to a house, I won’t put one on him, and I won’t feel one ounce of guilt about it.  

Jill

P.S. A judgement-free and supportive environment where you can show up as you are is exactly what Cara and I foster in our tribe. To get weekly workout tips, recipe ideas, mindset advice and parenting stories make sure you get on our newsletter list. This is where we give out our best information. Not on the list yet? You can join the tribe here.

5 Things I Learned From Having a Rainbow Baby

My son Oliver will be one year old in about a week. The time has whooshed by in such a swift (and frankly, unfair) way so fast I can hardly believe it. I am ready to celebrate his life, and as I begin preparations for his party, I am overcome by a petrie dish of emotions…

Ecstasy,

Gratitude.

Sorrow.

Longing.

You see Oliver is my rainbow baby–his birthday is almost the same date as my ectopic pregnancy three years ago and my last miscarriage just a year before his birth. I lost three babies before Oliver was conceived. Their loss, and his survival, has taught me so much about myself.

In early 2014 I was rushed to the hospital, in and out of consciousness with terrible abdominal pain. Within an hour our nurse informed us I had an ectopic pregnancy. My fallopian tube had ruptured, causing rapid internal bleeding. I remember looking into my husband’s eyes as she told us the baby had a heartbeat, and in that moment, I felt the joy and possibility of creating a life with my soulmate at the very instant it was stripped away. Without even speaking, we knew we wanted a baby together.

After I came home from the hospital I mourned the loss. I healed from my wounds. I recovered from the fright of nearly losing my own life. And we started having a lot of sex. In no time at all I was pregnant again.

I was so proud. I walked around like I was carrying a little jewel inside me. I was practically bursting with happiness, so much so that I couldn’t keep it in! I seemingly started telling anyone who even looked in my direction.

Then one morning I started bleeding. I tried not to worry–the doctors told me it was normal. But on Halloween I cried in the dark, trick or treating with my oldest son, bleeding into my witch costume. I just knew. And in just a few days, our baby was gone.

So, again, I healed, rested and recovered. When I felt ready, we tried again, and within a month I was pregnant again. With a bit of trepidation I let the hope and the joy back in. I downloaded an app on my phone to track my baby week by week. I let my mother touch my stomach. But then, once again, after a glorious day hiking with my husband that familiar trickle ran down my leg. Within 12 hours my body was doubled with cramps, forcefully trying to rid itself of my beautiful pregnancy.

I was lost. I sank into devastation. I felt betrayed. When I had my first son everything was so seamless. Besides being a complete surprise (I got pregnant on the pill) the pregnancy was easy. It trucked along without a single complication. It didn’t even occur to me to be worried. So why were these babies that I tried so hard for, that were such a deliberate decision, so elusive?

Once again I rested, I recovered, but I also gave up. No more trying we decided. It was too heartbreaking. We would just love each other hard. We would go on more vacations. We would have a great big life even if it didn’t include a baby. We grieved. We buried our baby in our backyard. And we worked to move on.

Then on the very day when my husband scheduled his vasectomy I thought that I was feeling a little funny. I had an extra pregnancy test squirreled away under the sink in the bathroom. A leftover from what felt like a different life. What the hell? I thought.

And I peed on the stick. And there was Oliver.

This boy. My baby. Our miracle. He arrived just in time.

I only recently heard the term “rainbow baby.” It refers to a child born after miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. It is a term that holds space for parents to tell their stories of loss and hope.

This last year Oliver has changed my life. Of course all babies change your life! They seriously rock your world! But, there are things that this rainbow baby has taught me that I need to share. This boy who came into this world against all odds has something to share already to make this world a better place!

Gratitude

I simply can’t take Oliver for granted. Each day when he wakes up (and sometimes even in the middle of the night) I think to myself how lucky I am that I have him. I get to see his smile and not just imagine it. I get to feel his snuggles instead of clutching my arms around my own body, visualizing. I get to nibble those tiny fingers and smell that baby hair.

And the realness of it all makes me look around the rest of my life and realize how rich I am in love. I can look around me and feel so lucky every day to have a life so filled with life and love. And feeling gratitude can make you feel really fucking powerful!

Oliver has helped me live in my power. Having him has helped me trust myself to make big, scary life decisions because I know that I’m worth living a BIG FABULOUS life!

Move the Big Rocks

There are days when I can get trapped in the minutia. The house is a mess. I have too many emails to respond to. I forgot to pay a bill. I literally forget that I am supposed to have a BIG FABULOUS life because I feel pulled and distracted by a lot of little things.

But when I look at my sons I realize just how amazing they are. And miracles deserve more than a constant nagging about the small stuff! So, I try not to “sweat it” with them. Instead I try to concentrate on the BIG ROCKS. The big picture.

Maybe I have to remind my oldest constantly to put a coat on before he leaves the house on a cold day. But, he is growing up to be a good person. He is loving and kind and empathetic and creative. He pushes limits in a way that makes me think he will be a champion for good in the world. That he will challenge the status quo in life and force the world to change. And because of his big heart I believe that change will be for the better.

The lessons I want to focus on with my sons are the big ones. The ones about love, compassion, caring, daring and gratitude. Because…at some point…my son will leave the house without a coat, he will be cold, and he won’t do it again, all without my yelling at him!

The Delusion of Control

From before he was even conceived, Oliver was teaching me about control. I simply couldn’t save the babies that I lost. And even when I had decided that I was done trying, there he was snuggled up in my womb. I had special plans for his birth, but he messed those up too! He came on his own terms as a reminder once again that sometimes you have to submit.

Control is really an illusion, especially when it comes to other people. The only thing that we really CAN control is our actions and reactions. So, when Oliver decides in the middle of the night that he is starving or that he just needs some cuddles I submit. I let go. And I choose love and gratitude.

In those dark, quiet moments in the middle of the night, when I am so tired I can barely think straight, I remember that his needs are not under my control. And I settle in, because in those moments, I am the only one who can really show up for him the way that he needs. And I cherish those moments. The smell of him. Those little starfish hands holding my breast. The little humm he makes as he nurses. Letting go and just loving him feels like the most natural thing that I can do in the world.

There Are All Kinds of Mothers

Conception, pregnancy and childbirth are amazing, sacred, womanly experiences. They made me feel incredibly powerful, beautiful and robust. But do you know what feels even more amazing, sacred and womanly?

Mothering.

I am the holder of hurt feelings. The kisser of boo boos. The champion of life lessons. I have the privilege of teaching my two boys about life. I have the privilege of learning FROM my boys about life. And that is powerful.

Holding a baby in my body doesn’t hold a candle to the gift of parenting. And that’s what I grieve when I think of my lost babies. I will never clap when I see them toddle their first steps. I will never hear them sing a song. I will never see the joy on their faces when we hike in the woods. I will never hold them, comfort them, scold them.

Mothers come in all forms. There are mothers who birth their children and raise them. There are mothers who trust others to raise the children that they birth because they know that it is best. There are mothers who never give birth, who adopt and foster. And there are mothers who never get to meet their children, who’s lives are ultimately changed forever by loss. And each of those experiences is big and precious and valid.

Body Image is a Practice and a Journey

When first started to try and conceive after the ectopic I thought I felt pretty good about my body. I had worked really hard to look at my body with love and kindness. To cherish all the amazing things that my body could DO!

But then my body DIDN’T.

My body failed me. It betrayed me. I felt like less of a woman. I was on edge, checking my panties all the time for signs of failure.

As part of my healing process after my miscarriages I had to learn that my relationship with my body is a constant practice. My body is family. I don’t just love it when it does what I want. I love it even in sickness and darkness. Having a rainbow baby helped me realize that I must choose every day to love myself. Some days, like my times of loss, that will be incredibly hard. And others, like when I was pregnant with Oliver, it felt like a daily celebration.

I’m certain that I will teach my sons many things. But I’m also certain that they will teach me just as much. As a verse in the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow” goes,

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,

They’ll learn much more than we’ll know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

5 Tips on How to Exercise During Pregnancy

I remember it very clearly. I was standing in Cara’s bathroom with both hands on the countertop, staring in shock and disbelief at those two pink lines. I hadn’t been feeling any pregnancy symptoms and I was only 1 day late, but Cara encouraged me to take a test. And there it was. I was pregnant.

After my blank stare of shock and doing the happy dance with Cara, we both did 100 kettlebell swings. I know, we’re weirdos. But, working out is how we bonded in the first place and we already had planned on doing this workout together, so….we did it!

But, being pregnant at the same time, we both knew that our workouts were eventually going to have to change. And, I’ll admit, it was fun knowing that we both had to modify what we were doing in order to accommodate our changing bodies.

One of the questions that we get on a regular basis from our mama clients is, “If I wasn’t working out before pregnancy, is now a good time to start?” Our answer, under most circumstances, is a resounding, “YES!” Anytime is a good time to start moving and getting stronger. But, how do you go about it? And, if you already are an avid exerciser, how will pregnancy change your exercise routine?

Don’t worry, girl, I’ve got you covered. Here are 5 tips on how to start exercising during pregnancy:

1. Get medical clearance. Every pregnancy and every woman is different. There may be some special circumstances in which physical activity during pregnancy needs to be restricted or avoided, so be sure to ask your doctor and/or pelvic floor physical therapist to see if any of these considerations apply to you. (Use this locator tool to find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area.)

2. Be diligent with core and pelvic floor work. During pregnancy, our core and pelvic floor muscles are put through the ultimate test! As your baby grows and your belly expands, a couple of things are going to happen. The connective tissue that runs down the center of your abdomen, the linea alba, will spread and thin, causing those muscles to become lax and your core to become less supported, a condition commonly known as diastasis recti (DR). In addition to DR, the weight of the baby and your uterus will put a lot of downward pressure on your pelvic floor, which will really tax those muscles.

It’s never too early in your pregnancy to start considering the health of your core and pelvic floor. Putting in the time to do core and pelvic floor exercises can help prevent issues like incontinence, low back, hip and/or knee pain and pelvic organ prolapse. They can also help you heal and recover from issues like these and diastasis recti more quickly and efficiently after pregnancy.

We spend time on core and pelvic floor exercises with our online and in-person clients during every workout. They’re an important part of your training program and should be incorporated into every session. (If you’re not sure where to start, you can see a sample warm-up here.)

3. Include exercises that help you have as comfortable of a pregnancy as possible. Throughout your pregnancy, your posture is going to change. As your belly pulls you forward your ribcage will flare up and your pelvis will anteriorly tilt. To prepare for the load, we must do a lot of work to strengthen the backside of the body. In our programs you will see a lot of glute bridges, deadlifts, squats, pulling exercises and core work. You’ll also see variations of body positions with these exercises change over the course of your pregnancy to accommodate your changing body.

4. Don’t push through pain! You’ve probably heard over and over and over again to, “Listen to your body.” While that can be pretty subjective advice, pregnancy seems to be a time that women can more easily learn to tune in to what their body needs. The thing about exercising during pregnancy is that something that feels totally doable one day may be totally not the next…..and that’s completely fine! When this happens we help our clients modify their exercises to be done in a way that feels safe and makes them feel good.

Strength training during pregnancy should feel good and not cause any pain, the exercises should make your core and pelvic floor feel supported and it should make you feel challenged, but not like you got hit by a truck. In other words, if it doesn’t feel right or good, don’t do it!

5. Hire a coach. Yes, Cara and I are personal trainers who specialize in pre and postnatal training, so this may seem like a shameless plug, but honestly, it is something that I truly believe in. Something that you’ll hear me say a lot is that I think every good coach has a coach. When I was about 8 weeks pregnant with my son Jack, I hired a trainer who specializes in pre and postnatal training. I did exercises that were appropriate for each stage of each trimester and I’m happy that I did! Because, as far as all those things that you hear are “normal,” i.e. peeing your pants when you laugh, cough, sneeze, etc. go, I haven’t experienced. Not during pregnancy or after. I also have been able to return to heavy lifting and am making progress past what I was able to accomplish pre-pregnancy. It’s made a world of difference for me in feeling confident on the inside and out. In fact, I’m still with my coach at nearly 16 months postpartum.

If you type in “how to exercise during pregnancy” into your Google search bar, you are going to find A LOT of information. Some of it is good information, some of it is okay and some of it is just flat out harmful to women physically and emotionally. Cara and I were put on this earth to help empower women to have successful and healthy pregnancies, postpartum recoveries and support during the biggest change you will ever face: becoming a mother.

 

That’s why we put together our workshop Labor of Love: the ULTIMATE GUIDE to having a fit, empowered pregnancy, birth & postpartum experience. What is Labor of Love?

Labor of Love is a full day in-person workshop that will…

  • Help you make your health and fitness a priority so that you can feel like the strong, awesome fertility goddess you are during pregnancy and proudly rock your mom-mod postpartum.
  • Reveal how fitness can help you improve your odds for the birth you desire as well as empower you to be prepared for the unknown.
  • Prepare for postpartum, embrace your new role and your new body so that you can bask in the light of the miracle you just achieved. 

Our next Labor of Love workshop is on April 29th, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Indigo Wellness Center. In this workshop we’ll be covering….

  • How fitness “delivers” an empowered birth experience.
  • Our specific recommendations for strength training, cardio and pelvic floor health for all 3 trimesters.
  • Guidelines for how to recover mentally and physically postpartum.

We’ve put of all our best information together in this full day workshop and we want you there! You in? Get more event info and register here.

Jill

The Top 3 Exercises that Directly Apply to #momlife

You’ve said it. I’ve said it. We’ve heard our other mom friends say it.

“Chasing after my toddler all day is my exercise!”

Isn’t that the truth? Those little rascals are always on the move and they’re quick! And Jack is no exception. He is on the move constantly, never content to just sit in one place for too long. He’s always doing laps around our apartment, one item in each hand, never coming back with the same two things he was holding before. Let’s just say I stopped putting stuff away during the day. 🙂

While keeping an eye on him and preventing him from getting into imminent danger is exercise indeed, I can’t help but reflect during my gym workouts how much of what I do directly applies to the physical activity that I do everyday with him.

By now you know that I LOVE lifting weights. It is one of my favorite forms of movement. It’s my therapy and I love the way that it makes me feel. Being strong on the outside helps me feel strong on the inside. And this is something that we see with a lot of our mama clients as well.

The way that we program for our mamas is intentional and specific. We want them to have fit and healthy pregnancies and strong and successful postpartum recoveries. One of the ways that we do this is with strength training and doing exercises that will help you be active, strong and have as little discomfort in your body as possible. (Side note: we just expanded our class schedule to include evening classes at Indigo Wellness Center! Check out our class schedule here.)

Here are three exercises that you can do right now that directly apply to #momlife:

  1. The Deadlift.

Have you ever picked something up off of the ground? Okay. I’ll wait for you stop laughing. #momlife can feel an awful lot like being the person with the shovel behind a horse in a parade, amirite? If your answer is yes, which it most likely is, then you deadlift everyday!

The deadlift, when performed correctly, is actually a full body exercise. It engages the glutes, hips, hamstrings, back, core and even your forearms and grip. I like to think of this as the powerhouse of all exercises. Not only is it something that we do everyday, it’s a fundamental total body exercise that builds strength, power and a beautiful booty. And of course, it’ll give you super pick-up-everything-that-your-baby-throws-everywhere power.

There are many variations of the deadlift, but the kettlebell deadlift seems to be a good place for most people to start.

How to do it:

Stand tall directly over the kettlebell, with feet about hip width apart. Breaking at the hips, push your butt back and slightly bend your knees. With both hands on the kettlebell, pretend to “break” the handle in half (this is to set the shoulders in a good position). Pick up the kettlebell with both hands and stand tall, squeezing your butt in the top position.

Trainer tip: If you’re not sure how much or how little to bend your knees, try this dowel hip hinge drill.

  1. The farmer’s carry.

We have a term around here for the developing strength you get from carrying a child around all of the time. We call it working on your “biceps of love.” I’ve been absolutely floored by how much I can carry at one time (see: baby in a car seat, diaper bag, purse, water bottle, and sometimes more). Luckily, there’s an exercise that can help me do this efficiently without compensating with other muscles or my posture. Enter: the farmer’s carry.

How to do it:

Stand with your feet about hip width apart with one kettlebell in each hand. Maintaining a neutral spine, brace with your core and walk 10 steps forward and 10 steps backward.

Trainer tip: Don’t let the weight make your body lean to one side more than that other. If that’s happening, start with lighter weights.

  1.  The off-loaded squat.

Squats are another natural movement that we’ve been doing since we were babies. Squats improve strength, mobility and stability all at the same time. Not to mention that they’re another way to get a great booty.

I chose the off-loaded squat because how often do we squat down while we’re also holding onto our children? I can’t be the only one right??

How to do it:

Stand with your feet about hip width apart with a kettlebell in one hand in the rack position (as seen in video). Push your butt back and pull your knees apart as you squat down with control and push through the heels to come back up, squeezing your butt at the top.

Trainer tip: If you’re feeling unstable, practice the exercise without the weight first. When you’re feeling ready for a challenge, add the weight back in.

PLEASE NOTE: These are all exercises that we give our mama clients in our Fit Mom Foundations program and our in-person training sessions, but we don’t necessarily start here. During and after pregnancy, your body goes through A TON of changes, and those changes need to be respected by practicing good alignment as well as core and pelvic floor restoration exercises. The changes that we experience don’t just go away with time. It improves with intentional and specific training.

Want more guidance with your workouts? Well, that’s what we do! We offer a variety of services including one-on-one training, small group training, Mommy & Me classes, online group training and more. You can check out the full list of services here

If you’re interested in trying out a class, the first week is on us. Email us at info@movementduets.com to get started or contact us here.

Jill

P.S. For more workout tips, recipe ideas, mindset advice and embarrassing parenting stories, make sure you join our tribe by joining our weekly newsletter list. You can get on the list here.

Cara’s Paleo Cinnamon Rolls

When I was pregnant with Oliver I had serious cravings for cinnamon rolls! It was a hankering harkening back to my teenage years. When I was a kid I used to eat a Cinnabon before every cross country race I ran. It’s amazing I survived!

20161204_093559These days I don’t really tolerate wheat or gluten that well so I’ve had to get creative.

Cooking with alternative flours can get tricky…because, let’s face it…they don’t always hit the same spot as our old favorites. But, this recipe is different. The first time I tried these I thought that I had made a mistake and accidentally baked these bad boys with real flour!

In a word…they are amazing. And they get the kid approval. 20161204_093514

Here’s what you need:

Dough

1 Cup Coconut Oil

1 Cup Water

1 Teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

2 Cups Tapioca Flour

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

1 Cup Coconut Flour

2 Large Eggs

Filling

1/2 Cup Raisins

1/2 Cup Dates

3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

1-2 Tablespoons Water

Directions20161204_092102

Preheat the oven to 350

In a  large pot bring the coconut oil, water, salt and maple syrup to a boil. Remove from heat immediately and slowly stir in the tapioca flour. Stir until sticky. Add the cinnamon, coconut flour and eggs. Set dough aside to cool.

Put all the filling ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Roll dough out on parchment paper until about 1/2 inch thick. Spread on the filling. Carefully roll into a log. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool and set. Cut into rolls. Bake on parchment paper for 30-35 minutes.

While still hot I like to melt a pat of butter on top of the rolls as “frosting.” If you want the real thing just blend coconut cream, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.

*my rolls did not turn out pretty because I couldn’t wait the ten minutes to let them cool. Patience is not a virtue of mine! But they still tasted amazing!

Paleo Lactation “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookie Recipe

When I was pregnant I always heard about how amazing and natural breastfeeding was. I heard stories from other mothers of how their babies latched right away. I read thread comments and complaints in online mommy groups about the pain of engorgement. I was even told by my doctor that my milk “would drop” within a few days after my son was born.

Imagine my surprise when none of these things happened to me.

When Jack was first born, I struggled with my milk supply A LOT. Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me. Upon the advice of lactation support and his pediatrician I was stuck in the grueling cycle of feed, pump and supplement every 2-3 hours for months.

Instead of looking forward to these special times with my newborn I began dreading them. I would cry right along with him when it was time to breastfeed again. And I felt so incredibly guilty. I felt like an inadequate mother.

No one ever talked to me about this part of breastfeeding. I never heard stories about how challenging it can be. And that’s one reason why I’m sharing my story with you. To let you know that if your experience was anything like mine that you’re not alone.

Luckily, I had a lot of great support in how to turn the situation around. I saw a lactation specialist and got all kinds of great ideas for how to boost supply like drinking Mother’s Milk Tea, using fenugreek, making sure that I’m plenty hydrated and eating lactation cookies! Let me tell you, any plan that involves eating cookies, I am so on board with.

Because I’m on the Paleo train, finding a grain-free recipe for lactation cookies was a bit of a challenge (oatmeal and brewer’s yeast are two ingredients famously known for increasing milk supply). Fortunately, I was able to put together a recipe that not only boosts my supply, but doesn’t wreak havoc on my system.

Paleo Lactation “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookie Recipe

128934f0-7b0d-4c7e-a4ff-00179b519e24Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon ground anise seed
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed or flaxseed meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup of Enjoy Life Semi Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks
  • Optional: 2 tsp ground fenugreek seed*

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together honey and coconut oil. Add eggs, one at a time. Add in anise, vanilla and fenugreek (if using).

In a separate bowl combine almond flour, flaxseed and baking soda.

Using a mixer, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, a little at a time until well combined.

Fold in pecans, raisins, dates and chocolate.

Scoop one tablespoon of batter at a time onto a lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

23c2aee2-aeeb-4184-8ecf-9663559d9f81

*Fenugreek is a plant from the Fabaceae (legume) family, which means that were it to be used in the recipe, is not actually Paleo, since the Paleo diet excludes legumes. Fenugreek is a commonly used herb to increase milk supply, and it really seemed to help me, so that’s why I included it. However, almonds, oils and fats are other foods that can improve milk supply as well, so if you need to exclude the fenugreek, this recipe can still help!

Aside from the benefit of the boost to milk supply, these cookies are just flat out delicious. And as a breastfeeding mama, this is a great one handed snack that can help soothe your raging appetite.

If you’re like me and struggle with milk supply, please know that you’re not alone. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. You are not any less of a mother than one with milk overflowing. Do what you think is best for you and your baby, and don’t worry about anything else.

If you’re willing to give this recipe a try, I’d love to hear how you liked them. Now go brew yourself a tea, grab a few cookies and relax!

Jill

P.S. If you want more recipe ideas, workout tips, mindset advice and someone to bond over the adventures of motherhood with, make sure to get on our weekly newsletter list. This is where we give out all of our best information. Not on the list yet? Join the tribe here.