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Meet Claire Yanta-O’Mahoney, your pre and postnatal trainer
February 07, 2023
Welcome to the ARENA Prenatal Program, designed for women looking to maintain strength - and even become stronger - during their pregnancy. It is important to listen to your body while participating in this program. If you have any questions, we encourage you to speak to your healthcare provider.
This 16 workout series was developed by pre and postnatal certified trainer Claire Yanta-O'Mahoney. I sat down with Claire to hear her story and address some of pregnancy’s most frequently asked questions.
LW: Hi Claire! Thanks for sitting down with me to chat. You’ve done such a great job building the Prenatal program for the app and I want all of our ARENA members to know a little more about you. Tell us about your relationship with fitness while you were pregnant and how that influenced your decision to get prenatal certified.
C Y-O: So, I started researching prenatal fitness before I became pregnant, before we did fertility treatments, because I was very curious about how my fitness journey would be impacted by becoming hopefully pregnant at some point. And I knew I wanted to try to take care of myself, but I didn't yet know all of the benefits - not just for my own body and my mind during pregnancy, but also, how it would affect my baby. So I did an additional certification course with Pronatal Fitness when I was pregnant and I applied those methodologies and the principles to my own journey, which allowed me to have a very active, strong, positive, and safe pregnancy. Being so connected to my body helped me have more appreciation for how it was changing in a way that it never had before and that I didn’t have control over.
I was just in awe of how being strong, building muscle, training my core, training my pelvic floor, my cardiovascular system and my mind made what can be a very challenging time, a much more enjoyable time. I also experienced fewer aches and pains as a result of it. So I am extremely grateful for the massive role that fitness played in my physical, and mental health for myself and how it positively impacted our baby.
LW: Yeah I get that. Our mental, and our physical states are so connected. And for me when I got pregnant, all of my energy went to that baby and then when you remind yourself how connected your mind and body are, it changes the whole game. So at what point in my pregnancy should I start adjusting my workouts?
C Y-O: I would suggest, in the first trimester, as soon as you learn you are pregnant, to incorporate a few minor modifications because the more you practice them, the more they will become second nature. In the first trimester, I would suggest getting into the habit of using the bedroll to get down to the ground and trying to keep your shoulders and your hips aligned in movement. If you're not doing strength training, add it in! That's super important, plus proper 360 breathing and the pelvic floor engagement.
Second trimester onwards, I would really be mindful of regressing your planks and considering a modified plank against any stable surface. You’ll want to avoid doing any double leg extensions and remove any type of crunch movement from the repertoire or any movement that causes coning or tenting within your belly.
Other than that, you can really let your body be the one that guides you. Some people can still do high impact. I was even jumping towards the end not long before I delivered. It felt good for me. People can still run. People can still absolutely lift weights. You can still strengthen your core. You can get stronger, you can actually set some personal records. It's really incredible what the body does. Overall in pregnancy, women can actually do a lot - it's really not as restrictive as one would think.
LW: One thing you said there that really stood out to me is to listen to your body. It’s important to remember that what and how you’re feeling is what’s most important. Pregnancy is not black and white.
C Y-O: Absolutely. And if you are ever in any doubt, check in with your healthcare provider. It's still a pretty incredibly common thought to restrict much more than truly necessary. So it's good to find a trusted source, trainer or program to guide you through a safe and effective pregnancy.
I also want to put the disclaimer out there, that it is false that you should not elevate your heart rate above 140 beats per minute. That has been debunked for almost 30 years. Feel free to let that heart rate rise. Just let your body be your guide - if you need to slow down, you slow down. But think about it . You need to have a strong cardiovascular system to be able to withstand the demands of contractions of labor and to deliver a baby. And I'm pretty sure that no pregnant person has ever said when they're delivering a baby, “Hold on my apple watch is telling me my heart rate's getting above 140. We need to stop.” No, that has never happened. So, let's just set the record straight. You need to have a strong cardiovascular system and your heart rate needs to climb. Period.
LW: That's so good to know. And it's also a shame that people thought that for so long. What about after I've had my baby? How soon can I resume working out?
C Y-O: You can actually start doing some exercises the day the baby is born. And what I mean is breathing exercises that activate your core and your pelvic floor. Regardless of delivery, it is fabulous to start doing that. Even while you're holding your baby. That is one of the most effective things that you can do, that is strangely challenging when done correctly. It will help you to slowly regain your core and pelvic floor strength. When it comes to resuming exercises that you did prior to becoming pregnant, wait for your six week or eight week checkup based on how you delivered. Remember though that just because you get the green light from your provider, does not mean it's time to hit it hard. You still need to remember that your body is recovering from a very major long-term event so slowly resuming impact and adding weights is going to be your best friend. It’s a very humbling experience. With time and consistency and love and dedication, you can return to the activities that you love and that fill you up.
LW: Yeah, that was something that I also had a hard time with. After my 6 week checkup, I tried to do one crunch and I kid you not I could not do a single crunch. I was shocked and confused and I thought something was broken, but It wasn't. It just took some time.
C Y-O: Really it takes about a year for the body to heal internally. So though, on the outside we may start to look a bit more or feel like ourselves, there are still internal changes that are occurring. That breathing and that core activation of the pelvic floor is really going to help so much in your recovery as you start to add load.
LW: So next question, and this is one that I feel like is another heavily debated topic. Can exercise make delivery easier?
C Y-O: Absolutely a hundred percent. Yes. If you think about it, delivering a baby is an athletic event. It's life's marathon. There are going to be periods of work to rest, which is just like the ratios of what we do in Arena’s prenatal program, and that's what is happening when you're feeling contractions. When you are delivering the baby, however, your body and the baby are doing so much. But rather than the work periods getting shorter as things are getting harder and progressing, those work periods get longer as contraction durations increase.
LW: Yeah, I found that in my experience too. I had a really tough time and my birthing team said that my core muscle strength is what helped in my delivery.
So, before we sat down today I asked several women who are pregnant or have just had babies what's one thing they need help with. And the main question that came up was “How do I get started?”
C Y-O: It's really important to think about What is the reason? What is your motivation for doing this? The motivation is beyond just us, it's actually setting your baby up for success, and by focusing on your wellness, it is going to improve every part of your experience. You will sleep better, you will move better. You will have a more successful labor and delivery, however that goes. You will have a better postpartum. Your baby will have a better experience in utero. This is not just about our aesthetics, it's for the greater good of you and your little family.
LW: And one last question, Tell us about your son and what you love about being a mom?
C Y-O: He Is almost 19 months old and he is just the light of our lives. I've just been so grateful for the purpose he's given me and my husband in our lives and the joy that he’s brought us. He loves to join Mommy for workouts. He stood up on a bosu ball the other day and I was like, “Oh, are you okay?” He had great balance. He was awesome. I was like, “you are totally my son!” It's just been so fun to see him blossom and develop. I think the best thing is just having a very unique connection with someone that is unlike any other person in your entire life and I think that's a beautiful thing.
LW: I agree. It's pretty awesome.
C Y-O: It's, it's hard. It's crazy, it's unpredictable, but it's awesome.