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When I was younger, I used to pick apart my body. Too scrawny, too pale, too hairy, too imperfect in a variety of ways. Over time I was able to stop the barrage of attacks from my judgmental inner voice by catching myself in the act and swapping the thought for something I was grateful for. When looking in the mirror and noticing my “pooch” instead of six-pack abs I would thank my core for being strong. Putting on shorts and criticizing my pale or veiny legs, I would think of an activity that I love to do like hiking in nature and appreciate my legs instead of hating them. This practice was surprisingly difficult at first, but over time it became second nature. I began to love and respect my body and accept the less than perfect traits as part of the package.

That was before I had a baby.

As a pre- and postnatal personal trainer, I am aware of what a woman’s body looks like after pregnancy and the challenges she faces getting back in shape. In fact, I’ve written a book that includes a chapter on postpartum recovery and have offered many disheartened clients moral support — “do rehab exercises that include your baby,” “it took you nine months to gain the weight, don’t try to lose it overnight,” and “focus on self-care, not weight loss.”

But, knowing what a new mom looks like after having a baby or understanding the obstacles she’s facing, is not the same as feeling and experiencing it firsthand.

I want to apologize to my past clients for thinking that I grasped the depth of your experience. You were exhausted beyond what I knew was humanly possible. You were living in a body that did not feel like your own. Even if you were motivated to workout, you didn’t know where to start or if your body could even handle it. You wanted to eat better but knew you needed extra calories to maintain your milk supply, and most days barely remember to eat or drink at all because your only concern was if the baby has eaten enough.

I’m currently three months postpartum and have done little more than short walks around the neighborhood. My trainer-self would say that “something is better than nothing” and I should start small to develop the habit of exercise. My trainer-self would also have premade healthy snacks on hand instead of eating cereal and trail mix.

My trainer-self did not know what it was like to be a new mom.

I assumed that women who didn’t have enough time to eat, shower, exercise, cook, etc. must not be managing their time well. Don’t infants just sleep all day?!

Moms, I am truly sorry for my ignorance. I didn’t know. I get it now.

Although motherhood is an amazing journey, the sleep deprivation and preoccupation with caring for this new little human that has taken over my life has left little time or interest in taking care of my needs.

It is incredible how quickly after giving birth (maybe even a little before) I fell back into my old ways of looking in the mirror and immediately criticizing instead of appreciating. I’m once again having to practice changing my thoughts until they slowly, but surely become loving instead of critical.

The last ten pounds of pregnancy weight will not seem to budge, and on a small frame, it is enough to make none of my clothes fit. Breastfeeding and neighborhood walks are not enough. With winter weather just around the corner, I am dreading dusting off my pre-pregnancy jeans and confirming that they do not fit past my thighs. So, I’m delaying this as long as possible to avoid tormenting my psyche.

The idea of buying clothes in a bigger size hasn’t sounded very appealing, but putting on the pre-pregnancy spandex that accentuates my muffin top does not make me want to hit the gym. It makes me want to stay inside, hiding from the world and eating chocolate.

Recently some friends got me a gift card to Fabletics for my birthday. That was enough motivation to browse outfits online. Surprisingly, reading reviews about how great the women felt in their new clothes got me a little more excited about the idea of an interim wardrobe. Getting a package of new clothes for my bigger, softer, and albeit very accomplished body, made me want to get out of the house and get my groove back.

The time for hibernating in pajama pants is over. I may not look how I did a year ago, but I can feel better in my skin and take steps each day to get stronger.

Putting on my new clothes instead of the oversized, unflattering t-shirts that I’ve been wearing the past several months makes me stand a little taller and want to move my body. This week I went for a long walk (even added in a short jog!), made a couple of quick trips to the gym for some light weights, and felt more confident going out to the store and grabbing lunch with a friend. I still have a ways to go before I reach my fitness goals, but at least I now feel like I’m headed in the right direction.

As I tell my clients, it took nine months to get here, be patient when trying to get back. As it turns out, that it is easier said than done.

family bikingFamilies with young children are looking for unique, fun and manageable ways to spend their holidays or weekends. Bike tours are one of the ways that families with young children can spend their time together. Families can go on a tour to explore scenic routes while the children have an opportunity to practice their riding skills. The key is to carefully plan for such a tour in regards to dates, locations, and routes, length, other activities and budget. Bike tour ideas for families include:

  1. Bike lesson and tours

For such a tour, you identify a cycling specialist who you work with to plan the routes and activities for the tour.  The tour incorporates bike lessons for children as well as exploring the various scenic routes. This kind of tours takes away the pressure from the parents as the instructor’s primary concern the safety of the children and coordinating activities. Parents can tag along and leisurely enjoy the tour.

  1. Self-guided vs. guided bike tours for families

Self-guided tours offer your family the freedom and flexibility to ride at your own pace, make stops whenever you want and the activities to incorporate.  Self-guided tours are generally cheaper than the guided ones. Self-guided tours are most appropriate when bike touring locations that you are familiar while guided tours are best for unfamiliar routes and destinations.

family bikingOn the other hand, guided bike tours for families are structured to meet the needs of a group. Therefore, it is inevitable that you will have to make a compromise over your own preference and schedule.  They are more expensive than self-guided tours due to the extra cost of paying the guide.

If your family prefers the support that comes with touring as a group, then guided bike tours will be the most ideal for you. Besides, the tour guide company usually provides a van to accompany the group for the tour to carry riders who get exhausted. There are also private guided tours where you hire a guide only for your family.

  1. Dedicated bike paths tours

 In some countries in Europe, there are dedicated bike paths that are well marked and paved to offer kids-friendly cycling routes. These dedicated paths are safe and often located away from the road traffic.  Such routes are so peaceful that you will be able to let the kids ride on their own as you follow leisurely from behind. The paths offer both short routes and longer routes.

  1. Hotel based tours 

These are biking tours planned by hotels. While some families prefer tours where every night they are in a different location so they spend each night at a different hotel, others prefer the hotel based tour. The hotel based tour is one where every day your family explores a different route and comes back to the same hotel to spend the night. You work with the hotel management to plan your routes and activities.

Some hotels have a provision where you can take some days off to engage in non-cycling activities. The advantage of hotel based tours is that they are guided and you do not have the pressure to get to the next town by dusk to get a place to sleep. Also, you will not have to bring your own bikes, you can rent bikes and biking gears at the hotel.

When deciding the best bike tour option is best for your family, there are various factors you should consider. These include:

  • Safety of the routes. Dedicated bike paths or quiet side roads would be the best.
  • Route terrain. Choose a kid-friendly route such as a flat route or even if it is hilly it is for the most part flat.
  • Distance to be covered daily. Consider whether you want to cover longer or shorter distances.
  • Biking equipment and gear. Consider whether you will bring along your own or to rent.
  • Guided vs. self-guided bike tours.
  • Whether or not to incorporate other non-cycling activities.

Some tips for bike touring with young children:

  • Make safety a priority. Choose safe routes that are away from traffic noise and congestion. Ensure you and the kids wear the necessary safety gear such as helmet, bright clothes, safety triangles, and flashlights.
  • Start small. Take your first family bike tour within your neighborhood before venturing into longer tours far away from your neighborhood.
  • Keep in mind that the children will not be able to ride for too long. Schedule breaks and non-cycling activities within your trip.
  • Consult with a local cyclist or a bike tours service company when planning tours in new or unfamiliar locations.
  • Have an emergency contact. At times, family tours do not go as planned. Have contacts to a nearby guide company to contact in case of emergencies.

Whatever your choice of bike tour with family, safety is paramount.  Take all the measures possible to ensure safety. Other than that, enjoy your tour and spending some time together as a family.

Guest Post by David Bender

Staying physically active during pregnancy relieves stress, improves mood and sleep, boosts confidence and increases body awareness. Research has indicated that women who exercise throughout their pregnancy tend to have shorter, less difficult labors with fewer complications. They also have a decreased need for medical intervention with quicker, easier recoveries once the baby is born. Other benefits include better posture, decreased back pain, less swelling and constipation, as well as a reduced risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and other pregnancy related ailments.

Research has shown that physically active pregnant women even tend to have healthier, smarter babies!

pregnancy exerciseA study released by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation concluded, “There is a direct link between healthy mothers and healthy infants. Exercise and appropriate nutrition are important contributors to maternal physical and psychological health,” (1). Another recent study explained, “While early studies on the effects of physical activity during pregnancy were concerned about possible harm to the mother or fetus, these fears have not been substantiated. Instead, a growing body of literature has documented several health benefits related to pregnancy physical activity.” (2)

Fascinating science has also shown that an unborn child benefits from the struggle for nutrients when a mother is increasing her oxygen intake and blood flow during physical activity. Researchers said, “As the site of nutrient transfer, the placenta is pivotal in the tug-of-war between mother and fetus over resource allocation. It responds to both fetal signals of nutrient demand and maternal signals of nutrient availability and adapts to regulate the distribution of available resources. These adaptations involve changes in placental size, morphology, transport characteristics, metabolism, and hormone bioavailability…,” (3). In other words, just like a muscle is made stronger through the workload of strength training, a woman’s placenta and fetus are made stronger by exercise. The increased demand for nutrients, blood flow, and oxygen that exercise creates is like its own little workout for baby!

Staying active after giving birth has many benefits, too, including better sleep, increased energy, improved mood, and faster recovery. A randomized controlled trial study evaluating the effects of rehabilitation exercise on the well-being of new moms found that “Exercise and health education programs are effective in improving postnatal well-being. Consistent use of the program may reduce longer-term problems such as postpartum depression,” (4). Yet, even with all of these proven benefits, there are still many myths and misinformation circulating about the “dangers” of staying active during pregnancy. Please, do not believe them!

Myth #1 “Exercise will overheat the baby.”

Reality: A healthy woman can exercise without overheating, though it is best to wear loose-fitting clothing and stay hydrated to allow the body to stay cool. It is also wise to avoid hot baths or saunas, which raise the body’s core temperature. There is some risk to the fetus from overheating during pregnancy. However, just because the mother is feeling hot, that does not mean the baby is at risk. There is an increase in thermoregulation that occurs during pregnancy, which allows excess heat to be pulled away from the fetus as a protection.

Myth #2 “Exercise will tangle the umbilical cord.”

Reality: This myth started before it was ever researched, and the science has shown no evidence that exercise increases the risk of a tangled umbilical cord.

Myth #3 “The heart rate can’t rise above 140 beats per minute.”

Reality: When the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released recommendations in the 1980’s there had been little research done on prenatal fitness. Once more research was conducted, observing humans instead of rodents, ACOG revised their heart rate (HR) recommendation in the mid-90’s to the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. Since HR naturally increases and fluctuates during pregnancy, relying on HR as a measurement of exertion is ineffective. Women are encouraged to listen to their bodies’ and avoid getting too high on the RPE scale. For example, on a scale of 1-10 (“1” being easy and “10” being exhausting), it is safe to exercise at a 6-7 but may become dangerous if sustained at a 9-10. As long as the expectant mother can talk without becoming breathless or faint her HR, is likely in a safe zone.

Myth #4 “Working out will cause a miscarriage.”

Reality: There is no evidence suggesting that exercise leads to miscarriage, while there are many proven benefits. The first trimester of pregnancy has a higher risk of miscarriage, in general, which is unrelated to exercise.

Myth #5 “Don’t lift more than 25lbs.”

Reality: This is a conservative recommendation commonly given to pregnant women. However, there is a drastic difference in pressing 25lb dumbbells overhead compared to pushing 25lbs on a leg press machine. Therefore, this recommendation is too vague. Listen to your body, use proper form, and stay within a 6-7 on the RPE scale to determine how much to lift.

Myth #6 “Avoid exercises like squats and lunges because of the increased pressure on the pelvic floor.”

Reality: If squats and lunges feel comfortable, and there are no other contraindications, they are safe for pregnancy. They are effective exercises to burn calories, strengthen lower body and core muscles, improve balance, and prepare for labor. As a precaution, it may be wise to squat with a sturdy chair placed behind the hips to prevent falling.

Myth #7 “Do not do pushups, plank or other core exercises because of the strain on the abdominals which can cause them to separate.”

Reality: Abdominal exercises are safe when performed correctly. Diastasis recti (separation of the abdominals) is common in pregnancy from weakening and overstretching of the abs. Many women mistakenly avoid core exercises as a precaution while pregnant. However, abstaining from abdominal exercises will not prevent diastasis recti. In fact, performing safe, modified core exercises, such as the plank and pushup, will decrease the risk of diastasis recti by keeping the core strong and intact.

Myth #8 “Pregnant women should not lie on their back.”

Reality: After the first trimester, lying flat on a hard surface for an extended period can cause symptoms like dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, increased pulse and decreased blood pressure. This is because of pressure on an enlarged vein called the vena cava, which returns blood to the heart. Simply sitting up or rolling onto the left side can ease symptoms. Lying slightly inclined or on a stability ball are also comfortable alternatives.

Myth #9 “Prenatal Exercise will cause low birth weight.”

Reality: Exercise will not only make mothers leaner and healthier, but it will also make babies leaner and healthier! This means that babies born to exercising mothers will often have less body fat. This is not something to worry about. In fact, there are lasting benefits for the baby, and it can also mean fewer complications during labor. This could even mean that the child will be MUCH less likely to struggle with their weight for decades and generations to come.

Each statement is based on current, credible scientific studies. If you have any questions or concerns, please comment below.

To learn more about how to safely exercise during pregnancy and postpartum sign up to receive a free 50-page pre and postnatal workout plan. No strings attached.




References:

1) Benefits of exercise during pregnancy.

2) Health benefits of physical activity during pregnancy: an international perspective.

3) Maternal-fetal resource allocation: co-operation and conflict.

4) Obesity, pregnancy, inflammation, and vascular function.

When I learned about Jay Pryor from a friend, I heard that he was a great guy who worked as a life coach and business coach for women. He seemed like someone that I would love to chat with. When I learned he was also a transgender man, I was even more intrigued and knew I had to talk with him. Our mutual friend put us in touch, and honestly, I could have talked with Jay all day. His story is captivating, and his personality is warm, funny, charming and honest. He is someone who has overcome so much and has remained a loving and positive person through it all.jay pryor

Your story is fascinating. I have never had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a trans person, so I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to chat and share your story. I have a million questions for you, but I will try to narrow it down. Can you tell me a little about what it was like for you growing up in Kansas as a little girl? 

It was fantastic or tragic depending on which story I tell. I am blessed to have been raised in a family that loved me, and that was a powerful contribution to our community. My dad was the mayor of our city, and my parents were both very involved in church and civic leadership. I loved being a little kid in Kansas. I never wore a shirt or shoes unless I was in school until I was probably in Jr. High. Life got difficult personally when puberty hit. I was embarrassed by what was happening to my body while my other friends started enjoying becoming women by wearing makeup and shaving and carrying purses… I felt awkward at best. I recognize the feeling now as feeling like I was in drag when in a dress. I didn’t have language for it at the time, but now I realize it is a pretty common experience for Trans guys.

You mentioned that you lived as a lesbian before your transition. When did you know that you were a lesbian, and then when did you realize that you were transgender? What was your experience of coming out as gay when you were young, and then trans later in life?

I was 13 when I had my first intimate (kissing) encounter with another girl, and it was like an immediate knowing of what had been wrong or missing my whole life. So I came out to myself as woman loving at 13. I knew that about me like I knew nothing else. I deepened that knowledge at 18 when I actually started coming out to other people. From the age of 13 to 18 I only told one other person. At the age of 16 I told a friend that I was gay, and she stopped speaking to me. After two days, I told her I was just kidding. I just couldn’t take it. I never told another person until I was in the psychiatric unit at age 18.

My experience coming out as a lesbian or gay person was terrible. All the hiding was pretty hard on my soul. I was suicidal and ended up in a psychiatric ward for six weeks. That’s how I finally came out. It became do or die for me.

I have always identified as a butch dyke more than a lesbian, and I believe that butch is part of the transgender spectrum. In that sense have always been trans. However, I actually started coming out as trans around the age of 28 when a friend of mine sent me the book, “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg. That book changed my life forever. I started coming out as trans then. I didn’t begin taking hormones to alter my physical appearance until I was almost 35.

Coming out as trans wasn’t that hard. It took time and me giving up how it should look but overall I am blessed to have a family that, for the most part, gets over it and loves me for who I am.

Can you please tell me a little bit about your experience having a family as a trans person? Did you have your children before or after you transitioned?

I didn’t have children before. My wife and I adopted our kids not that long ago. Actually, Jessica adopted our kids. According to Kansas law, I am still female and, therefore, a lesbian and lesbian couples aren’t allowed to adopt children in Kansas. We are in the process of doing a second parent adoption though. Jessica and I were foster parents and adopted both of our kids out of foster care.

I am not sure what to say about the family part. I have some funny stories about my kids figuring out what it means that Daddy is part girl and part boy. They have been very funny about it as kids are. My daughter, in particular, went through a phase of really enjoying pointing out that I used to be a girl. I have shared with my kids that I was born a girl, and they know that I am part man and part women. They don’t know any different so to them it’s just me.

jay pryorHow has becoming a father changed you? Is there anything unique about being a trans dad?

Being a father changed me but it doesn’t have anything to do with being trans. Being a father rearranged my molecules. I tell people all the time that having kids is the most transformational experience a person can have, and I have had a sex change, so I think that’s saying a lot.

Seriously, though, having kids is what has me face myself and my own humanity on an intense level. I had to deal with my perfectionism and my control issues. I had to deal with my deepest feelings of unworthiness and get to a new level of forgiveness and love for myself.

It was the catalyst for all my work since. I thought I had it together until I had kids. I’m a better coach and better person because I have kids.

Here’s a great story about my daughter and me being trans. I have a doll that my grandmother made me for when I was a little girl. I loved this doll. My grandmother hand made the doll and made me a lot of clothes for the doll. I loved dressing her so much that my grandmother would make me new clothes for her all the time. Needless to say, I have a lot of clothes for this handmade cloth doll.

All my life I have thought that someday I would have a little girl to pass this doll on to. So on my daughter’s adoption day I gave her the doll.

I told her how my grandmother had made it for me, and how I had waited all this time to have a little girl to pass it on to. She was very touched and loves the doll. For a few weeks after she got it, she would take it with her to church. And every opportunity she could get, she would tell people, “my daddy had this doll when he was a little girl.”

How did you end up becoming a life coach for professional women? What is it that draws you to coaching women specifically?

jay pryorI have been coaching execs, entrepreneurs, and small business owners for a long time. First of all, I liked coaching women better. Second, I started noticing cultural conversations that women are in that has them putting their own wants and needs below just about everything else. Because I used to be a woman, I get it, but I also get and can see the men’s perspective. I have experienced how differently I am treated when perceived as male than when I looked female. I think it gives me a unique insight for women, and they appreciate it.

The majority of women I work with come at business as a way to contribute to the world, a way to be of service and as a way of personal fulfillment. Making money happens as a result of all this, but, for the most part, they don’t focus on that. I find that refreshing and fun. I love women, and I love to create with them. Seeing a woman get out of her own way and really harness her true power inspires me to no end. As a coach, I am a co-creator of what my clients are up to. It’s a blast for me.

What about living as a man has surprised you?

The first thing I noticed was the lack of people staring at me and whispering about me. I had gotten pretty used to people wondering loudly about my gender and “what” I was. Once I started passing as a man 100% that stopped completely. The next thing I noticed was that people looked to me to know things and or be in charge. At work, I was automatically assumed to be an expert. I had grown accustomed to having to prove myself as a woman. I started noticing that service people would address me if I was with a woman friend and often not look at her at all even though she may be the one making the request.

Men started saying things about women’s bodies in front of me. That hadn’t happened in that way before. Men would joke with me before, but never before had random men on elevators and in the street assumed I would find it appropriate for them to point out women’s anatomy to me. I was shocked at how common this is.

In business, once I was a man there was a level of immediate credibility I had NEVER had before.  It shocked me so much at first that people noticed the shock on my face. In the beginning I used to mantra to myself when I would go into meetings, “I’m a man, I’m a man, I’m a man, I’m a man.” Just so I wouldn’t be shocked when they didn’t question me. I had to remind myself.

transgenderI read a quote by you that said you consider yourself both man and woman. If you are a genderfluid person and identify as both, why was it important for you to transition from female to male physically?

I have always wanted the male body, and I always hated the breasts. I love being stronger in my upper body and being able to grow a beard. I like that look and style of it more than I did my female looking body. I am still happy I did it. One downside to appearing male I’ve noted is that when I approach women they stop talking, and I don’t get to be “in” on all the girl talk.

Also, I wasn’t sure when I started taking the shots of testosterone how I would feel. It wasn’t until I had the male body that I realized that for me shooting testosterone didn’t make me a man. I became very conscious that much of gender expression is training. I was trained as a woman. Changing my body didn’t change that for me.

Ok, I have to ask, how in the world did you end up on a recent episode of Dance Moms? What was that experience like?

This is a long story so I will do my best to give you the cliffsnotes version. A few years back the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) brought a troop to our town of Lawrence Kansas to present their live touring show that is a part of the It Get’s Better Project. When they come to town they do a lot of grassroots organizing and education on LGBT Bullying and suicide prevention. They also invite community members to be a part of their last scene and sing the final song of the show.

My wife Jessica and I are both singers, so we were asked to participate in the community choir. Being an out trans family we also participated in their World Café event they had for the community to educate around bullying. Jessica and I met the cast and director for the show and they heard our story of adopting our kids and me being an “out” trans guy. They asked us at the time to come on stage during the performance. We did. They left town, and we thought that was the end of that.

A year or so later just a few months after one of my very best friends committed suicide, Leisel Rhinehart, the director of the GMCLA It Get’s Better Tour contacted me. She said that they were rewriting the show and wanted to use stories of real people and how they had struggled and it got better. They had remembered meeting me and wanted to know if I would be willing to be interviewed and have my story be a part of the new show. I was honored and happy to do it. I did a few Skype interviews with Liesel, and again that was that. 

dance momsI knew that they had been touring and that my story was a part of their show, but I had never seen the show.

Then last spring another friend of mine that was trans killed herself. That day I fired off an email to Liesel Rhinehart to say, “I have to do more.” I was really sad and frustrated that so many trans people had taken their own lives. Being someone who had been suicidal and was a survivor, it was even more real for me what these people were dealing with.

Literally one week after I sent that email to Liesel she got in touch with me to say that the TV show Dance Mom’s had reached out to the GMCLA about the “It Get’s Better Tour.” They wanted the girls to do a dance to one of the songs from the show and it just so happened that the song they chose was the one from my story. GMCLA thought it would be powerful for the girls to meet the actual person that the song was about. That is how I ended up on Dance Mom’s.

jay pryorVisit jaypryorcoaching.com to learn more, and get Jay’s book, Lean Inside: 7 Steps to Personal Power. A practical guide to transformation for the successful business woman.

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