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To carry a child is one of the most rewarding experiences in a woman’s life, but it also comes with a fair share of challenges. Your body goes through a wealth of changes to accommodate your baby – from shifting bones and stretched muscles to swollen appendages and surging hormones, there is a lot of discomfort to endure before that magical delivery day. When you’re feeling so achy and drained, the last thing you probably are thinking of is working out.

But if you’re not at least getting in some yoga every week, you’re doing yourself – and your baby – a great disservice. Yoga’s concentration on stretching, deep breathing and mindfulness not only relieve some of the more bothersome physical symptoms of pregnancy but also contribute to a healthier baby and safer delivery. Find out more details on these benefits and more below!

prenatal fitnessSymptom Relief

While everyone experiences pregnancy symptoms differently, negative side effects often worsen in the second trimester; fatigue, poor circulation, lower back pain, and morning sickness are just a few of the issues that can make even the most physically fit woman want to crawl back to bed. But even with some simple yoga stretches and breathing exercises, you’re promoting greater oxygen intake and increased circulation throughout your body.

R & R

If the physical problems weren’t enough, heightened hormone levels also lead to emotional distress, with many moms-to- be falling victim to depression, anxiety, and paranoid thoughts. Fortunately, yoga is a meditative practice that forces you to be more in tune with your body and baby and less focused on racing thoughts and irrational fears. Soon, you’ll notice decreased stress levels, uplifted mood, and, yes, fewer crying spells. Not only does yoga calm the mind, but it also lends some peace to your overtired body. After activating parasympathetic mode through deep breathing, a person can attain more quality sleep and therefore reduce overall fatigue throughout the day.

Workout Replacement

Making time for the gym or even at-home workouts is almost like a part-time job in itself despite the health benefits. But then pregnancy comes in to throw a curveball for even the biggest fitness junkies. The answer to these gym woes is yoga’s beneficial but low- impact nature. Practicing yoga – whether in a class or at home – will help you to continue building muscle strength and burning calories. Not all yoga is just quietly sitting around and stretching – if you’re looking for something a little more intense, there are classes that will get you to break out in a sweat; just be sure you sign up for a prenatal class or inform your teacher of your condition so they can give you modified instructions since certain activities could be dangerous for the pregnant woman and her growing baby.

Muscle Strengthening and Belly Support

Yoga is not only important for maintaining overall physical health, but it can prevent some complications that come with pregnancy, such as diastasis recti, a condition where the walls of the abdomen separate and don’t return to their former structure. Yoga can help to strengthen the muscle groups that endure the most tension from a growing baby, including your core, legs, and back.

Labor Preparation

One of the most annoying things you can hear before delivery is “stay calm!” Similar to the Lamaze technique, yoga teaches pregnant women the proper ways to breathe and relax the body so that labor pains aren’t as intense and delivery goes more smoothly. Some yoga moves can be difficult to hold in the absence of careful breathing, so dealing with this discomfort teaches expectant mothers how to channel pain through breathing.

Connect with Your Unborn Child

The excitement before childbirth mounts steadily with each passing week, so you’ll likely want to bond with your baby in any way you can before the big day. Singing lullabies to your baby bump, feeling its kicks and wiggles, and debating on baby names are just a few ways that mothers grow closer to their baby. But did you ever consider yoga for the same reasons? Not only is meditation calming, but it allows a woman to hone in on the inner goings-on of a baby’s nestled place within your womb. When it comes time to have your baby, you’ll already feel like you know them so well from all the times you
spent concentrating on their fulfilling presence within you.

Being able to rely on a calming activity like yoga for healthy, stress-relieving, pain-reducing benefits allows you to let go of the negative side effects and embrace your role as the beautiful life-creator that you truly are, while at the same time, promoting the health of the fetus and, in the end, a safe delivery.

Author:
Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Orangetheory Fitness. She writes for a variety of health blogs, and in her spare time, takes special interest in researching methods for achieving optimal fitness goals.

Photo by Marcos Moraes on Unsplash

Each year the onset of the holiday season is a mixed bag with feelings of excitement, anticipation, sorrow, and a tinge of dread. I love the holidays — the music, the food, the lights, the chilly weather and dark evenings. But, I am also flooded with a longing for loved ones no longer with us and memories of a home that no longer exists. Many people talk about going “home” for the holidays, but for me, that has been gone since my mom died 15 years ago.

In a home that was often full of turmoil, Halloween through New Year’s Day we got to feel like a “normal,” happy, loving, festive family.

My mom came to life during the holidays and filled our house with joy. Since she’s been gone, I tend to feel like a fish out of water not knowing what to do, where to go, who to buy gifts for, or how to feel. There have been amazing years spent traveling or spending time with friends and family, and years alone drinking too much wine and breaking down into more than one “ugly cry.”

This year I am beginning to feel those same conflicting emotions. They are perhaps a bit amplified with it also being our sweet baby’s first holiday season.

Kasey obviously has no idea what this time of year means, but I am excited to document her first holidays in pictures and memories of our new little family. I now get to do for her what my mom did for me – make this time of year joyous and full of love.

Although, my wish is that the holidays don’t feel all that special for her. I hope that she can look back and remember a home that was joyous and full of love throughout the entire year.

 

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.

It is amazing how doing something so small for myself helped boost my confidence and self-esteem. 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.

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. 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 long way 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

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