At Kindred Bravely, we love to support moms in their health and entrepreneurship goals. Amy Jordan, Creator and CEO of WundaBar Pilates and inventor of the WundaFormer, is not only a fitness expert but also a successful entrepreneur and thriving mom of two. WundaBar Pilates has nine studios and a patented machine called WundaFormer, an all-in-one Pilates Reformer, Wunda Chair, jump board, and ballet barre.
Amy has firsthand knowledge of how hard it can be for busy and expectant moms to find time to work out. But she also knows the incredible physical and mental benefits of exercising. She graciously and candidly answered all of our pregnancy and postpartum fitness questions and provided easy and effective exercises to do at home.
What's your best fitness advice for pregnant women?
So often pregnant mamas get hung up on gaining weight. My best advice is to focus on the fact that you are making a human! Your body needs more support and size to do so. Make fuel-oriented food choices to gain weight steadily rather than spiking up in spurts, and you'll be just fine. I used to turn around at my OB appointments so I couldn’t see the scale. I didn't want it to make me feel bad when I was feeling great doing the work of a mama!
Can Pilates help women through pregnancy and delivery?
If you can go into pregnancy strong, that will help immensely, but even if you start Pilates (with your OB's okay) after you're pregnant, you and your baby will benefit! Not only is it good for your physical health, but it also decreases your stress levels, helping you stay present in the miracle you're creating. Pilates helps support your core structure, which will ease low back pain, improve your posture, and return you to a functioning pelvic floor postpartum.
Since Pilates is so much about the core, how should pregnant women practice?
I wasn't allowed to do much core work while pregnant. So many of our pregnant WundaMamas get freaked out about "losing" their core or abs. First, it’s important to know that going into pregnancy strong will help you bounce back to strength and function faster. While you definitely want to support your core function through pregnancy and labor, it’s not the time to focus on keeping abs toned or flat!
Here are some tips for pregnancy workouts if you have been cleared for exercise by your doctor:
- Exhale on the exertion of a move. This will lift the pelvic floor (bottom of your true core, which is a peanut shape). It will also help support the weight of the baby, uterus, amniotic fluid, placenta, etc.
- Keep lots of space for your baby. Planks, side planks, wide-leg squats, side-lying leg lifts, and flat-back triceps extensions can all work. Avoid anything that crowds your little angel. Skip the crunches and torso rotations until after you’ve delivered!
What is your favorite stretch for pregnant women?
Sit on a large Pilates ball with your legs and feet fully turned out. In a clockwise direction, roll through the four bones in contact with the ball - pubic bone, right Sitz bone, tailbone, and left Sitz bone. Your hips will rotate, allowing them, as well as your low back, to release. It will also create supple tone in the pelvic floor, which we want conditioned but not tight — gotta get that baby out one of these days!
For some how-to pictures for side lunges, which will stretch and strengthen your pelvic floor and inner thighs, click here.
How can an expectant mother with physical limitations and/or extreme morning sickness stay active?
It is tough to exercise when you are feeling crummy. Always listen to your body (and your doctor). In my own experience, if I could choke down something small to eat, I'd feel a little bit better and more willing to exercise. Any movement is better than no movement, so try some lunges down a hallway in your home. Go for a short walk, and you might end up going farther than you planned! Check in with your mind and spirit after you've gotten a little movement happening, and if it's helping you, that's great motivation for more.
How can you strengthen the pelvic floor and/or correct diastasis recti?
Safety first! Postpartum moms should always ask their OB to check for diastasis recti (separation of the top layer of your abs). If you begin doing crunches too soon, it can worsen the split and require surgery. Once cleared for movement, keep your postpartum core work long on the front body, rather than shortening and curling.
The video below shows three exercises to do at home, 12 reps each. These exercises will condition your core to help your body recover from carrying a little human inside it and to support your low back now that you’re carrying that little human on the outside.
A word on Kegels: Please skip them. Repetitive, quick squeezing of the urethral sphincter (what your doctor tells you to squeeze as if you were stopping your urine) can cause spasms and overwork your pelvic floor — not what we're after.
Instead, try this: The next time you sit down to pee, allow the urine to flow for 2 - 3 seconds. Then s-l-o-w-l-y stop the flow of urine entirely. Think of it more like elevator doors gliding closed rather than slamming shut. Then slowly release the muscles to finish urinating. Do this only once each time you go to the bathroom. It will help condition your pelvic floor so you can cough and laugh again without worrying about anything dripping!
How can you do Pilates when you’re at home with a baby or a young child?
Having two small kids at two different schools is crazy-making for me. It’s very easy to skip a workout…or two. But even 20 minutes of moving your body head to toe (think planks, lunges with dumbbells, squats with a Pilates ring) gets the heart rate going to blast calories and sculpt muscles. And all of this can be done at home while your baby plays or naps.
My go-to workout when the kids are home is Pilates Movement by WundaBar. This is my at-home streaming workout (I know, I know!), but I created it (selfishly) for me and people like me who need a workout to stay sane when life is nuts with kids, work, and travel!
For more WundaBar exercises you can do at home, check out my appearance on Home and Family.
What are some exercises moms can do with their kids?
My kids love to do plank contests with me! When I do our Pilates Movement workouts at home, they try to do all of the exercises with me. Easy exercises to do with kids are squats, lunges, and side planks.
How can you incorporate Pilates into your everyday routine?
I love incorporating Pilates movements while doing the dishes. Do you ever get those little holes at the bottom of your t-shirts? They’re from leaning on the sink. To tone your core and improve low back pain while doing dishes (washing bottles!), here's my advice:
- Stand with your feet four inches apart.
- Stack your head over shoulders, over hips, and over ankles.
- Check the position of your pelvis. If you’re postpartum, it's probably tipping forward when you stand. To level it out, think about your tailbone melting to the floor.
- Lastly, think about drawing your pubic bone up at a diagonal towards your low back. You'll immediately feel your deep abs engage and pressure lift off of your low back.
Try it now!
Thank you so much to Amy Jordan! With your doctor’s permission, exercise can be an incredible way to reduce stress and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health during and after pregnancy. We hope Amy’s tips will help you feel your best on this amazing journey.