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Self Care for New Moms

Being a mom is a full time job. We are juggling taking care of our little ones and the million tasks that come along with it. From changing diapers to feeding and preparing food, cleaning up toys and the never ending baby dishes, it’s a lot of work! It’s also a very physical job, especially in the first few months when you are potentially pacing the hallways with a fussy baby or rocking them to sleep.

It is all more than worth the effort when you see those heart melting smiles and hear those contagious giggles. Parenthood is the most rewarding job in the world. However, it’s easy to feel drained especially when there’s a good chance your sleeping habits are probably the worst they’ve ever been. Lack of sleep takes a toll on our immune systems and increases cortisol levels. So the last thing you want to do is throw in high intensity exercise which will only increase cortisol levels even more (the bodies stress hormone). Increased cortisol puts our bodies in a catabolic state which eats away at muscle mass and causes the body to store fat. This is why I recommend doing LESS if you want to look and most importantly FEEL better, especially in the first couple of months postpartum. You want to slowly build your intensity back up. Check out my blog post on How to Ease Back Into Exercise Postpartum for more information on that topic.

My goal here is to help women understand that our bodies need rest and recovery above all else after childbirth and we need a slow and steady progression (back) into exercising. As a personal trainer with a dozen of years of experience in the fitness industry, I see women in general under eating and over exercising all of the time which only makes things worse! Add in crazy postpartum hormones, lack of sleep, a very physically and emotionally demanding job as a new mother and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!

So, here are a few things you can focus on postpartum for a faster recovery and to help you towards a healthy and happy mind, body and soul.

EAT: That’s right, eat as much as you need to. I’m not saying to go and stuff your face with pizza and junk food all day but it is soooo important to be eating ENOUGH food to fuel your body properly. If you are breastfeeding, you need to take into consideration that you need to consume an extra 500 calories per day on average. As a new mom, it can be easy to forget to eat a meal because you’re too busy putting the needs of your baby before your own. However, if you’re not fuelling your body properly and getting in enough calories, you’re going to feel even more drained, increase cortisol levels even higher which could potentially make it even harder to lose baby weight and cause you to store additional fat. I recommend a balanced diet of carbs, fats and proteins, 3 meals/day and 1-3 snacks throughout the day in between meals. Eat clean, whole foods as much as possible and avoid packaged and processed foods. Meal prep and plan all 7 days of the week (don’t forget weekends)! This is a great way to set yourself up for success. If you find you’re too busy to do the whole meal prep thing at this time in your life, consider a meal prep service such as www.vittle.ca I’ve been enjoying their services for the last few years during everything from competition preps, throughout my pregnancy and now postpartum. It’s a sure way to ensure you are eating enough and eating properly. Their meals are nutritious, balanced and always varied! They deliver meals fresh to your door from Sunday to Thursday (or based on your specific request) and can accommodate any dietary restrictions. If you’re thinking of trying this service out, I have great news! Get 10% off your first week at www.vittle.ca with my promo code JESS10 – I also do monthly giveaways on my personal Instagram page instagram.com/jessichiarello

DRINK: I’m not talking coffee or wine although those are highly recommend if needed as well haha but H20! and lots of it. The more hydrated you are, the better you will feel. I could go on and list all of the benefits that proper hydration has for your body composition, energy levels, skin/hair/nails etc.. but I’m sure you’ve heard them by now. I like to use the analogy of the fresh plum and a shrivelled up prune, which one would you like to be? I recommend 2.5-3 litres minimum/day and at least 4-5 litres + for breastfeeding mamas!

MAKE YOU TIME:

This can be anything from getting your hair or nails done, a massage, walk around the block, some time out with the girls sans bébé or a nice warm bath. You deserve time to yourself and it’s not only good for you but for the babes too!

LESS SWEATING, MORE STRETCHING.

I like to stretch when my baby is down on the mat playing or doing tummy time. Be sure to choose stretches that target the major muscles of the lower body: glutes, hips and hamstrings as well as those tight upper traps.

Rolling muscles with a foam roller or yoga tune up or lacrosse ball is also a very effective way to address knots and tight muscles.

You could try some light yoga. Postnatal yoga is always a good start or try some yin yoga which focuses on holding postures for 3-5 minutes and is much less intense. Avoid power yoga and core focused classes which may be too much for your body especially if you have any diastasis recti (abdominal separation caused by pregnancy – about 60% of women suffer from this postpartum). Focus on strengthening your core, specifically the deep core muscles (TVA) and pelvic floor during and after pregnancy to avoid this! As for hitting the gym, I would take your time lifting anything too heavy until everything is fully recovered which is typically anywhere from 4-8 weeks. High impact exercises such as running are not usually not recommended until about 6 months postpartum but you can get assessed by a pelvic floor therapist to confirm this based on your personal situation downstairs.

MEDITATE:

Mediation is the art of being present. It seems pretty simple but it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds (for me anyway). To shut the brain off and just BE can be quite challenging. You have to tune out the outside world, turn off your inner voice that is constantly worrying about every little thing and try to notice all of your five senses for the ultimate sense of relaxation. It can be as simple as sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing or laying down, closing your eyes and noticing every part of your body starting from your toes and slowly making your way up to the crown of your head. I recently went to a class at thepeaceroom.com for the first time and it was so wonderful. If you have trouble sitting in silence, try journaling and writing down your thoughts as another form of meditation.

The Peace Room 183 Sparks St.

Instead of rushing to get back to the gym and hit the weights or treadmill, try practicing some of these simple self care techniques. Give yourself the well deserved rest and relaxation your body needs postpartum. Many women feel a lot of pressure to lose the baby weight and just bounce right back to their pre baby bods. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple in most cases. There are many factors that affect this such as where you started from before you became pregnant, if you were able to exercise during pregnancy, genetics, hormones, whether or not you’re breastfeeding and of course your nutritional habits above all else. One thing I know for sure is if you are following the above mentioned tips, it’ more than likely going to help you lose weight faster and more naturally than extreme measures that could be more detrimental to your overall health than anything. Slow down and take care of yourself mamas!

Thanks for reading!

J

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7 Reasons Why You Should Exercise During Pregnancy.

The benefits of physical activity are countless but today I’m going to touch on why it’s so beneficial during pregnancy. Even if you’re not exercising consistently before getting pregnant, you can still integrate it carefully and reap the benefits. The general recommendation is 30 minutes per day and that can be anything from walking, swimming, weight lifting, yoga or whatever you love doing!

1. Move more, feel better. We all know that pregnancy can take a toll on your energy levels, especially during the first and third trimester. The body is busy making magic and working overtime to create a human so it’s understandable. However, exercise has been shown to help increase stamina and give you more energy. Making time to do some light cardio or stretching when you feel up for it can help combat that fatigue and give you more energy throughout the day.

2. Digestion. With pregnancy comes all sorts of fun symptoms such as constipation and bloating. Exercise gets your blood flowing and can help with these issues. Going for a walk after a meal has been shown to aid with digestion and is a great way to spend quality time with your significant other or catch up on the phone with your mom or a friend! Be sure to stay well hydrated too which will also help with digestion and can help prevent the above mentioned symptoms.

3. Better sleep. Sleeping is so important when it comes to your overall well being. Unfortunately, your sleep can be affected when you have to pee three times per night and you have a growing belly that eventually prevents you from sleeping your stomach and back (it’s ideal to sleep on your left side for best circulation as your pregnancy progresses). The excitement of becoming a parent alone can keep you up at night or if you have other small children they may be disrupting a good nights sleep. Many factors can affect your sleep during pregnancy. However, exercise can help you fall asleep more easily, stay asleep and get better quality of sleep. From one mother to the next, I recommend you try to sneak in some cat naps when you can .. while you still can!!

4.Improved mood. With all the changes happening in your body, your emotions see hormones can become all out of whack. Physical activity releases a happy hormone called endorphins which help improve your mood and reduce pain. Make sure to avoid getting hangry and keep that belly full too! I found this to be especially important during pregnancy to feel my best and to help with nausea.

5. Avoid back pain and improve posture. A very common issue during pregnancy is lower back pain. The extra weight you carry can affect your posture and it’s important to address it before the issue causes long term damage. Stretching tight muscles especially in the hips, glutes, back and hamstrings can help prevent these aches and pains. I loved yoga during pregnancy. Find a prenatal yoga class or let your usual yoga instructor know you are pregnant before starting a class.

6. Prevent gestational diabeties. This is also very common during pregnancy and you will be tested for it sometime between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Regular exercise can help prevent this so all the more reason to get moving!

7. Easier labour and delivery. Exercise will help your body cope with labour can even help you bounce back much more quickly after pregnancy. I like to compare labour to running a marathon. If your physically fit, it will absolutely work in your benefit. Although lifting weights will help build muscle and strength, any physical activity is beneficial. By the last trimester, your exercise intensity will really slow down so a simple walk is more than enough. Working on strengthening your pelvic floor will also help with labour and recovery. I suggest everyone meet with a pelvic floor therapist before and after pregnancy. In some countries, that is actually the standard. Hopefully it will be in Canada one day too!

Always talk to your doctor or midwife about your exercise routine during pregnancy, especially if you’re having high risk pregnancy. As a rule of thumb, you can continue anything that you were doing before pregnancy. It’s not the best time to start something new or pick up a sport you’ve never done before. Although, if you are just starting up, light cardio and stretching is totally safe and good place to begin. If you want to start weight lifting and have never done it before, I suggest working with a trainer who specializes in pre/post natal or try a prenatal yoga class. Otherwise, stick to what your body is used to and avoid exercises that put you at risk for falling or injury. Most importantly listen to your body and do what makes you feel good!

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How to Motivate Yourself to Get in the Best Shape of Your Life.

What does getting into shape mean to you? Perhaps it’s feeling confident in a bathing suit or fitting into your favourite pair of jeans.. or maybe it’s simply feeling healthy and being able to keep up with your kids or go up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath! Whatever that definition is to you, there’s nothing stopping you from making it a reality other than your own limitations you create for yourself. Here’s how you can turn that vision into reality.

Step 1: Set some goals. Write them down and keep the S.M.A.R.T acronym in mind.

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

Step 2: Find something that motivates you and gives you a purpose to work towards. Maybe it’s a special event such as a birthday, a wedding or a vacation. Set a (realistic) date based on your goal. Having a timeframe or date to work towards and creating that urgency will light a fire under your ass.

Another great way to motivate yourself into getting in the best shape of your life is booking a photoshoot. Some fun ideas for shoots are boudoir (a fun gift for your significant other or just for yourself), a glamour or fitness shoot, or a fun family shoot. A great local photographer I loved working with several times here in Ottawa is Martin Dupuis, who specializes in fitness, boudoir and glamour. He’s amazing and will give you some great pictures at a very reasonable price.

www.martindphoto.com

instagram.com/martin_d_photo

What truly motivated me to get into the best shape of my life was signing up for a fitness competition. Since I set that goal for myself back in 2014, I’ve competed a total of 9 times with SAF and Physique Canada.

www.seriousaboutfitness.com

www.physiquecanada.ca

My first ever fitness comp with SAF where I took home 1st place in the open fitness model category.
Competing on the Physique Canada Stage in 2015 and winning 1st place in the Tier 1 Athletic Pro Category shot by Dave Paul.
Landing the cover of Serious About Muscle magazine.

As a result of competing, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with world renowned fitness photographer Paul Buceta, whose work speaks for itself. He’s the chief photographer for Strong Fitness Magazine and he produces some unbelievable photographs. I’m so grateful to have these photos to look back at for the rest of my life.

A shot from my first shoot with Paul Buceta that I was invited to after winning my very first fitness competition with SAF.
My most recent shoot with Paul Buceta for SAF.

paulbuceta.com

instagram.com/paulbuceta

Stepping on stage in a bikini might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe you want to learn to run or sign up for a power lifting competition, or simply just get started! Either way, you want to find what fuels you and let that lead the way. If your goal is to learn how to do a pull-up, you have to envision yourself doing it and keep practicing until you get there. Start with a realistic goal like doing an assisted pull-up with a band or a jumping pull-up. Then once you’ve mastered that assisted pull-up, make it your goal to do a real pull-up. You may have to work on your mobility or decreasing body fat % before crushing that pull-up but you will get there if you keep working for it. Whatever your motivation is, it will be so fulfilling once you reach that goal. That’s why you want to have something to work towards. Same goes for wanting to lose 50lbs. You have to imagine yourself there and believe in your goal before taking action. Which bring me to my next point.

Step 3: Have a game plan. Working with a coach was the best decision I made towards my fitness goals. When I set the goal to get into the best shape of my life when I was 25 years old, I decided to compete and knew I had to find a great coach to help lead me there. I found my current coach Emilie Provencher after my first year of competing. She has not only helped me get into the best shape of my life but she has also been an amazing mentor for me as a coach and she’s a real boss mom I look up to.

My amazing coach Emilie Provencher and I competing side by side for SAF in 2015.

instagram.com/emilie.provencher

Since I became a personal trainer, when I was 18 years old, I’ve invested in personal trainers and coaches. Not only to have a structured plan based on my goals at that time and to gain more knowledge but most importantly for accountability. As a fitness professional, it wasn’t about knowing what to do or how to do it but more so having someone to keep me on track and report back to. Having that second set of eyes and someone to guide you and help you stay focused really makes all the difference.

Perhaps you have a goal that you are determined to reach on your own without the guidance of a coach or trainer. If that’s the case, you still want to have a structured program and nutrition plan. You can use tools like a workout and food/macro logging app such My Fitness Pal or you could join a support group. I’ve always said that the next best thing to having a trainer is having a solid workout partner. You just want to be sure that person is just as committed as you are so they don’t bail on you.

If your goal is to build muscle, decrease your body fat percentage or any body transformation, I suggest taking pictures and measurements with a measuring tape or callipers when you first start and document your progress. Don’t fixate on a number on the scale. Women typically tend to think the lower the number on the scale, the better. However, I can tell you from years of experience as a coach and from my own personal fitness journey, that the number on the scale is really just a number. Sure, along with the above mentioned stats it can be a way to measure fat loss but keep in mind that your weight will fluctuate quite a bit based on hydration, what you ate the day before etc.. You may also be gaining muscle over time which means the scale can go up which is not a bad thing! So, don’t let it be the only thing you rely on to measure your success. I suggest checking your weight no more than once/week on the same day of the week, first thing in the morning.

If you’re looking to get in great shape and feel your best, set some specific goals. Find that something that will motivate you to push you to be the best version of yourself and just go for it! Have a game plan and support system wether that be a good coach, a support group or a friend or family member that will be your cheerleader. Remember, the mind is very powerful and if you have self doubt, that will most definitely get in your way. So, believe in your goal and crush it!