Fitness and Health pre and post-natal: An interview with Fitness Coach Jen Cnops

Fitness and Health pre and post-natal: An interview with Fitness Coach Jen Cnops


Hi, I’m Nicky, from “Little Ones.” And today I’m going to
be talking to Jen Cnops. Jen has a PhD in science, and she’s a sports nutrition coach,
and personal trainer, who specializes in perinatal fitness. She’s written two books, one on the science behind healthy food, and another one about nutrition and fitness during pregnancy
and the post-partum period. Her business, “Reset,”
offers health coaching, and nutrition and fitness, for women in every stage of motherhood,
starting in pregnancy. I’ll link all her details, and the names of her books, below. Today we’re going to be talking about fitness during
pregnancy and post-natal. We’ll be focusing on why it’s important to exercise when you’re pregnant, what kind of exercise you can do, how to strengthen your pelvic floor, how to help with diastasis recti, and then, looking at what
you can do after you’ve had the baby, to get back into some exercise, which is really good for
your physical health, but also your mental health. So, welcome Jen, it’s so good
to have you with us today. Can you tell me about your
own journey into motherhood? What was easy? What did you find challenging? Jen: Yeah. So… I got pregnant when I was 30, I’m 31 now, so my daughter is six months. It was a pretty easy pregnancy. Fast and furious birth. Motherhood, I always say it’s magical, but it’s not easy. It is not easy. One of the things that I found,
it came really easy to me, and I was a little bit scared about this, because some of my friends had said, “Well, in the beginning
when you have this baby, people expect you to be smitten by it and in love with it from day one.” And so, I was a bit scared
I wouldn’t have that, but that actually came really easy. I was so in love, from day one, with this little bundle of joy. But, that’s equally one of the things that I find really hard, because that love is so
big, it’s really difficult to let go, and to let other
people take care of her, or, that’s something that I
find really, really difficult. And something that I find
really cool about motherhood is that you just have to
learn to trust yourself and your gut-feel and your gut-instinct, and forget about what society says, or what your family thinks you should do, but just listen to yourself
and give into that feeling and then you’ll be the best mom. Nicky: I agree. I completely agree. Talking about that big love, I think, yeah, we’re all, obviously,
familiar with, that you’ll almost love them too much. You just, yeah, you’re
right, you can’t let go. Do you find that that leads to you sort of sacrificing, I mean
obviously we all sacrifice as mothers, but sacrificing you time, or you find yourself, you’re
not prioritizing yourself as much as you probably should be? Jen: Yeah, definitely. I think, especially those first weeks, those first weeks I didn’t really think about it consciously, and so, for example, it’s maybe a weird example, but I had to pee, but then the baby is there. So, two hours later, you’re like, “Right, I had to go to the toilet.” So, maybe, yeah, anyway. So, after a while, I
think food and exercise are really, for me, critical
parts of self-care and me time, that I have to, even
when the baby’s there, I just, I need to take care of myself. And those two things are really important for me in that aspect. And I had to learn,
after a couple of weeks, to really make time for that. Nicky: So, let’s, then,
talk about the importance of exercise during pregnancy, but then, I suppose, also, ’cause during pregnancy will be, sort of, different reasons for exercise to be important, to then, that post-natal
period, and how important is it to get in some kind
of exercise then as well? Jen: Yeah. So, there are so many benefits to exercising during pregnancy. It’s my favorite subject to talk about. I really wish all moms would know this. But, when you exercise during pregnancy, first of all, it’s really
good for your physical health. You diminish the risk of
pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia, or pregnancy diabetes. And you also minimize the
risk of the common ailments, like back pain, leg cramps,
those type of things. It also really helps
you take control, more, of your weight gain, because,
obviously you gain weight, but the amount that you gain, it doesn’t all depend on you, obviously, but it helps you take some
sort of control over it. It’s also the ideal preparation for labor. I often tell my clients,
“Labor is like a marathon, or, even like a number of marathons, that you run in a day.” And you don’t prepare for
a marathon by just sitting on the couch and eating crisps, you train. And so, when you exercise
during pregnancy, you improve your endurance, your stamina, and it helps you for the labor. And, studies even show that
if you exercise up until the end of the pregnancy, that
your labor goes much quicker. So, that’s really, a very good advantage. Nicky: Yeah, that’s a big incentive. And for first time parents,
you want it to go quick. Jen: Yeah, exactly. And it also improves your mental health. So, during pregnancy,
moms are often tired, and actually the endorphins
that get released when you exercise, they give you energy, they lift your mood, it counters stress, which is really important
for the effect on the baby. And you sleep better. And so, all of these benefits for a mom, actually, also translate
into benefits for your child, because studies have shown that when you exercise during pregnancy, often the babies are happier
when they are actually born. So, they cry less, they sleep better. They have a healthier birth weight. They can withstand the stress of labor, which, I mean, it’s
pretty stressful for us, but definitely for them. They can withstand the stress better, they recover more quickly. And, actually, the development
of the first few months goes better when moms are
active during pregnancy. So, so many benefits,
I can only recommend, like if you’re in good health,
to exercise during pregnancy. Nicky: Is that something
to do with, you know, exercise creates endorphins and all of those different hormones,
is that because your baby is being positively affected
by those hormones as well? Jen: Yeah, and it’s due to that. So, scientists, they’re
really, this is a field that’s really being
investigated constantly, because it’s really
difficult to investigate, as you can imagine. How do you measure Those types of things? So, things are constantly
being discovered in that field, but that could definitely be one of the reasons for the effect on the baby. Also, the exposure to the
heart rate of the mom, the oxygen levels in the blood, the lower amount of
cortisol, the stress hormone. All of those things have an
immediate effect on the baby. Nicky: That’s really fascinating. So, if mothers are working
out, while they’re pregnant, what do they need to watch out for, or should, if I’m eight months pregnant, can I just go for like a 10K run? Jen: Well… Nicky: Not that I’ve ever
gone for a 10K run in my life. Jen: Well, so I think, you can
definitely start exercising when you’re pregnant, but safe exercises to start when you’re pregnant,
are walking, and swimming. Those are low impact exercise
that are gentle for your body. And you can definitely
start, always consult your healthcare provider
before you start exercise. Like, if you want to pick something up in month six of pregnancy. Always talk to your
doctor about these things, because, sometimes you have complications that will inhibit you
from doing those things. Other than that, you need to,
as soon as you’re pregnant, avoid any type of exercise where there’s a risk of impact with your stomach. Like, horseback riding,
skiing, those types of things, just, avoid them. Another big thing to watch out for is, during pregnancy, a hormone
gets produced, relaxin, and the effect of relaxin is
that it loosens your joints, and, this is because,
actually, the pelvis needs to become a little bit loose so that the baby can actually pass
through the birthing canal. But, relaxin has effects on
all the joints in your body, and that’s why sports that
involve a lot of running, jumping, changing directions quickly, like, for example, Zumba,
or things like that, you need to watch out for, because you can get injured more easily. And, during yoga and pilates,
watch out for overstretching, because your joints are so flexible, you can sometimes do
a little bit too much. Nicky: You’ll be like, “Wow,
look what I can suddenly do.” Jen: Yeah, exactly. Wow, this downward dog is going amazing today. And then, two other big things are during pregnancy your
heart rate increases, and your breath, your
frequency of breath, increases, and you can get a little
bit more dizzy quicker. So watch out for that. And then, after week 23,
avoid lying on your back. Because that will restrict
the blood flow back to your heart and to your uterus. So, that can also cause dizziness. So, in general, it’s
really, listen to your body. Pregnancy is not the time for claims like, “no pain, no gain.” No. During pregnancy, it’s
listen to your body, take it easy, be gentle, and
just get some exercise in. Nicky: And so, if we’re
talking, let’s talk about, I never know how to say this, diastasis recti. Yeah. Yeah, I kind of know what that is. But, what is it? And is there anything you
can do to sort of prevent it? I don’t think you can prevent,
or make sure you don’t get it as bad after you have the baby. Jen: Yep. So, diastasis recti is a condition where your abdominal muscles, your vertical abdominal
muscles, that are in the front of your belly, they get
separated a little bit because of the pressure of your growing baby. And, actually, by the
end of the pregnancy, like 70-100% of all women
have this condition. So, it’s definitely normal to
have it in some shape or form. Like, some separation
between those muscles is definitely normal. But you have to minimize that
gap from getting too big. And, how you can do that, is,
as soon as you’re pregnant, you avoid any classic abdominal exercises, like crunches, or sit-ups, those are really, really bad, it can make the condition worse. So, for example, when
you’re laying in your bed, and you wanna get out of bed normally, you just pull yourself up on your muscles, but when you’re pregnant, what’s best is to roll to the side
and press yourself up using your arms, rather than
using your stomach muscles. Nicky: Why is it that… To me it sounds like, if
you’ve got stronger muscles, like if you’re doing sit-ups and things, it’s worse if your muscles are stronger? Jen: Well, if you have a good core, and the core is not only
your abdominal muscles, but also your back, your
pelvis, your diaphragm. If you have a strong
core before pregnancy, it will definitely help
not to get it as much. And, even during pregnancy,
you can exercise your core, and you can still maintain
the strength in those muscles, but you just must avoid those exercises that put pressure only on the abdominis, on the rectus abdominis,
on this one muscle group where the separation occurs. That’s really important. So, you can definitely do core exercise, but I advise people to
do it under supervision of somebody who is specialized
in prenatal fitness, so that it’s definitely done
in a correct and safe way.