First Trimester Changes That Might Surprise You!

There are many changes you are told to expect during pregnancy that include morning sickness and swollen feet.  BUT…there are a few changes that might catch you off guard.

Being a first-time mom myself and spending years as a birth doula, I know these sudden and unusual changes can cause stress and anxiety.  To help better prepare you for what’s to come, here are a few changes that you might experience during your first trimester.


While most women are told swelling doesn’t occur until the later stages of pregnancy, full-body or partial swelling in the first few weeks can happen.  It is usually an early indication of pregnancy and occur prior to a positive pregnancy test.  I was swollen from my face to my feet, feeling stiff and confused because I didn’t know what was happening to my body.  After I found out I was pregnant, I finally understood what I was experiencing.  The early swelling indicates your body increasing its amount of blood (you will have 50% more blood by week 35) and softening the tissue for the big stretch! Take some lukewarm baths with Epsom salt, lower your sodium levels and invest in some compression socks to help get you through this stage.


Spotting is another first trimester change that I wasn’t ready for. I knew to expect a little here and there, but to have some larger amounts really made me nervous. After calling my Midwife in a panic, I learned that many women can have spotting (described as some light bleeding, not as much as during your period) in their first trimester.  Early on it’s most likely implantation bleeding from the fertilized egg implanting into the uterine lining. Because light bleeding can continue throughout your entire pregnancy, I recommend touching base with your health care provide for reassurance.


Digestive issues can also plague your first trimester. Even though your baby is tiny, the slightest shift of your internal organs can cause heartburn, constipation, gas cramps and more. In your first trimester, this is usually caused by relaxin which is a hormone that is released during pregnancy to help your body soften and stretch. If your body is quick to produce hormones, you can see early digestive changes. Incorporating the relaxed belly breathing exercises from your Prenatal + Core Rehab Membership can help keep your insides happy. Also, drinking tons of water and eating iron rich foods such as spinach, grass-fed beef and legumes can make a huge difference!


We all know that mood swings are part of pregnancy, right? BUT…. knowing it and feeling it are two different things. I was not prepared for the early pregnancy mood swings.  I thought for sure I would have a few months before I started crying over spilled milk.  Nope.  While I didn’t get super weepy until my third trimester, I did start noticing that things would easily set me off and calming down was much harder than it was pre-pregnancy. I would also get worn out quickly and then frustrated at how tired I was. All of this were my good ‘ol hormones at work! Give yourself a break and communicate with your partner and family.  Teach them about pregnancy hormones and tell them what they can do to help you.

A few other changes many women experience in their first trimester are:

  • Your breasts will grow before your belly does
  • Your vagina can become sensitive
  • You can experience fatigue and drowsiness
  • Your skin can breakout or start developing melasma

All of this may seem overwhelming because pregnancy is not a cake walk.  But the good thing is that most of this can disappear postpartum and once you hold your new bundle of joy, you will see that it is all worth it!

Have any unusual changes to share? We would love to hear about them, post them in our comment section.

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Roll Up, Roll Up: Here’s Why Everyone Should Be Foam Rolling, Starting Right Now

Foam rolling is everywhere. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts don’t leave the gym without it.

But why? It hurts.

Well, let’s see:

  • It’s claimed to stop your muscles from feeling sore
  • It increases the range of movement in your joints
  • It helps your flexibility
  • It’s a good warm up
  • It loosens you up
  • It can even get that niggling crack in your back

Is it just another fad? Does it even work? If it does work, why? The explanations for why foam rolling works can range from squeezing the lactic acid out of your muscles to lazy PTs proclaiming, “it just works”.

So, what is really happening when I foam roll?

One of the leading ideas is ‘myofascial release’, or the release of muscle ‘fascia’. This is also the leading theory on what massages are do too.

Fascia is a thin, almost see-through, layer of connective tissue made of collagen and elastin. It surrounds every muscle fibre, organ, nerve fibre, and bone in your body. A bit like a spider web.

In your muscles, fascia is wrapped around every cell and fibre. Fascia helps to give your muscles shape, it attaches tendons to bones and keeps them together. Without fascia you couldn’t run, jump, climb, swim, cycle, or even breathe.

The purpose of fascia is much more than just for structural support. It’s a vital part of your body for all kinds of metabolic functions. Fascia itself is actually quite firm and inflexible – which contributes toward making your muscles feel stiff and tight.

Fascia is believed to sometimes become a bit tangled, forming “adhesions”. Ideally, your muscle fibres would all slide beside each other, silkily smooth. But if they’re getting tangled, that will definitely make you feel stiff, tight, and sore.

Adhesions can form for all kinds of reasons:

You can get them from working out too much or in the wrong way or, sometimes, even not at all. You can get them from injuries, illnesses, and trauma.

What’s important is how you get rid of these fascia-tangles. And that’s why you foam roll.

Fascial release

Foam rolling is believed to untangle fascia and loosen up adhesions, when the fascia moves again your muscles become limber and malleable. At least, that’s the theory.

The jury has been out, as far as the science goes for the past decade or so, over whether foam rolling itself really does loosen up fascia. Or even really help in any way at all.

While sports professionals and athletes have been raving about how great foam rolling is, science has had to catch-up on whether foam rolling truly does bring any benefits. If it does, why? No-one really knew.

The fascia thing was a good guess – and it could have all just been an elaborate rouse to get people to buy some foam cylinders. But, today, science is catching up.

There is now a wealth of scientific literature investigating foam rolling.

What the science says about foam rolling

A study by Allison N Schroeder et. al., at the University of Ohio, conducted a fantastic literature review on “Self Myofasical Release”.

It looked into the effectiveness of foam rolling as a pre-exercise and recovery strategy. In most of the literature they reviewed, evidence pointed toward foam rolling before exercise as bringing an increased range of movement. Great news.

This makes sense. Only one article out of nine found no change in range of movement. This gives strong evidence that foam rolling relieves adhesions between fascia layers to give that greater range of motion.

The researchers also found two studies indicating that foam rolling increased vertical jump height and maximum muscle force output. There was an indication that performance benefits are duration dependent. However, others showed no change in muscle performance.

Where there was evidence for increased muscle performance it was noted that there was no increase in muscle contraction. This indicated that the foam rolling is reducing neural inhibition giving better communication from receptors in the fascia to the muscle.

All of the researcher’s reviewed articles found that foam rolling decreased muscle soreness and fatigue after exercise. One of the articles even indicated that foam rolling could improve arterial function.

Lactic acid release in foam rolling is friendly

Some say foam rolling could be “ergogenic”, meaning the release of lactic acid could actually improve performance during exercise. A study by L. B. Gladden in The Journal of Physiology backs this up, stating that it’s an important part of many metabolic processes.

It also shows that it’s an “important intermediate in the process of wound repair and regeneration”.

For years, lactic acid (or lactate as it becomes) has been considered a criminal in our body’s processes. Recent scientific discussions have been defending lactic acid and lactate, attempting to encourage the scientific community to reconsider that it’s actually a friend and doesn’t cause us pain.

To really drive this home, lactic acid levels in muscles have been shown to return to pre-execise amounts within 60 minutes after exercise. Not much of a problem if it goes away within an hour.

Planking vs. foam rolling

A study carried out at the University of Rhode Island compared the effect of planking or foam rolling before exercise on post-exercise fatigue. Kellie found that fatigue after exercise was significantly less with foam rolling than when participants had planked.

Interestingly, this study also noted that neither planking or foam rolling brought about any significant difference in their performance during exercise. They were in agreement with Schroeder.

Better range of movement

This study also found evidence to support Schroeder. It found that, after foam rolling, the participants had significantly greater range of movement and no decrease in muscle performance.

Adding more fuel to the fire, this group of researchers found that using a “roller massager” on your quadriceps increases the range of motion of your knee-joint. The study looked at “roller massaging” for different lengths of time: 20 seconds and 60 seconds. As you might imagine, “roller massaging” for longer gives you an even better improvement in your range of movement.

It’s been shown to help medical conditions

A study carried out in Spain showed foam rolling significantly improved Fibromyalgia symptoms in participants, making for an excellent complimentary therapy. A study at Elon University found that myofascial release treatments helped improve an 18-year old female’s idiopathic scoliosis. She found she was in less pain, had more mobility, better posture, lung function, and quality of life.

Another study at the University of Miami found myofascial release alleviated symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritus and collagenous colitis. A 54-year old woman presented symptoms of both conditions and received myofascial release massages six times, over two weeks. Her symptoms improved.

She maintained her improvements for five weeks until her symptoms returned. After another two treatments, her symptoms improved again. Convinced?

The type of roller matters

The type of foam roller you choose is important too. Of course, I’ve found a study to back this up, where researchers compared the difference in pressure exerted on soft tissue by different foam rollers.

One had a rigid plastic pipe core and the other had a foam core. They found, as you might imagine, that the rigid pipe roller exerted the most pressure on soft tissues. As well as exerting less pressure, rollers with a foam core also have a tendency to warp and deform making them quite difficult to use.

So, it might hurt more, but better to invest in something more solid.

What does this all mean?

From the studies we’ve looked at, we can say this:

  • Lactic acid is not an issue. That problem is a myth.
  • There is strong evidence that foam rolling relives “adhesions” in fascia layers.
  • It’s unclear if foam rolling improves muscular function, but evidence points to foam rolling reducing inhibition in muscles.
  • If there are any performance improvements, they don’t seem to last very long.
  • It possibly improves arterial function.
  • It does improve range of movement in joints, improving your flexibility.
  • Foam rolling could improve symptoms of some medical conditions.
  • Taking more time to roll gives better results.
  • Rigid rollers are best.

The jury can come back in.

After years of science being unsure about foam rolling, we have our answers. The evidence is quite clear that there are plenty of benefits to foam rolling.

Whether foam rolling really does untangle fascia is still not definite. But as to why you should go buy yourself a roller right away?

Foam rolling will give you an increased range of motion in your joints, you won’t be as sore after a workout, you won’t feel as fatigued.

Foam rolling probably doesn’t improve your muscle performance, as such, but it does seem to decrease inhibition in your muscles, which makes it easier to perform. You might find that you’re generally just in better health if you foam roll regularly.

So – use a foam roller. Do it often. Take your time over it. And you’ll never look back.

Want to read more like this? Check out the rest of the blog or my site, Home Sweet Gym, where I talk about how to exercise from the comfort of your own home.

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3 Best Exercises for Early Pregnancy Health

According to The University of North Carolina’s study on pregnant women, fewer than 25% of moms-to-be are meeting healthy exercise recommendations– this means less than 1 in 4 women are exercising during every stage of pregnancy!



Prenatal exercise boasts tons of benefits, and not just for your muscles: regular exercise can help boost your energy, build strength and endurance for pregnancy & after baby, and now we know it can improve your health AND your baby’s health! Active moms who maintain a healthy body weight through good nutrition and exercise typically have:

  • fewer pregnancy complications
  • faster recovery
  • deliver healthy babies in the ideal weight range, with excellent brain function

For all these benefits and more, participating in an exercise program even before you start trying to conceive (since your eggs begin to mature about 3 months before conception) and in early pregnancy, can help promote a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby! To give you a head start, we’ve assembled the 3 best exercises for early pregnancy health.



1) Forward Rolls: These allow you to stretch your tight abdominals (belly and sides), while strengthening your deep core and your back muscles, both of which take on extra strain during pregnancy! To Perform Forward Rolls:

  1. Start on your knees with the ball positioned close to you. Exhale, tucking your chin towards your chest, and slowly roll the ball out in front of you.
  2. Inhale and hold, breathing into your belly, allowing a stretch.
  3. Exhale as you press your arms into the ball, engaging your core, then tucking your chin and hips to articulate your spine back to starting position.
  4. Repeat for 3 to 5 times





2) Squats:  An excellent overall lower body strengthening exercise, and great for targeting the pelvic floor & deep core! A strong lower body will help you carry your baby safely and reduce injury during pregnancy and postpartum.

Remember: “A proper squat burns more calories because it engages more muscles than almost any other exercise, especially when you add arm movements too!”

To Perform A Squat:

  1. Stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width and slightly turned out for wide squats, or stand with legs shoulder-width apart for narrow squats.
  2. Inhale as you lower into a comfortable deep squat, keeping your weight in your hips and heels.
  3. Exhale to stand up.
  4. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps




3) Walking is a safe option to keep up with cardio, especially when you’re feeling too tired for a high-intensity workout.  It’s also a great way to get some fresh air! There are many safe variations of cardiovascular exercise– whether you’re pre-pregnancy, currently pregnant, or postpartum.  Remember to listen to your body, and perform the Talk Test to ensure you aren’t over-exerting yourself.

“During pregnancy your blood volume increases around 50%! Due to this change, it’s easy to become lightheaded during position changes, so be cautious about moving to rapidly.”


If you are new to exercise, be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, and remember to start slow, gradually increasing duration and intensity based on your health and how you feel. There is no better time to add these safe exercises to your day than now– whether you’re pregnant, trying to conceive, or have baby(ies) at home! These exercises will help keep you fit, healthy, and happy at any stage.

Reference: WebMD

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Can You Repair Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy? {Video}

Can you repair diastasis recti during pregnancy? I get asked this question A LOT so it’s time to talk about it…While I’d love to say “yes” – actually repairing diastasis recti during pregnancy is not something to strive for. However, there are several awesome things you can do during pregnancy to help in minimizing abdominal separation and setting your body up to be strong, improve posture, decrease aches and pains and more! Watch my video below for the full discussion and see my 11 tips below that.

  1. Strengthening your deep core muscles properly during pregnancy could help in minimizing diastasis recti during pregnancy, plus help in healing after baby!
  2. Learning to relax your core {and belly} more throughout pregnancy can help allow for your muscles to stretch with your growing baby. I talk more about this in my Book “The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy”
  3. Improving the fascial connection {connective tissue} in your abdomen can help in creating a stronger core. Did you know you have 3 fascial layers in your abdomen?
  4. Learn to properly activate your deep core muscles {pelvic floor, transverse abdominals, multifidous, intercostals and diaphragm} all play a key roll in functioning together to help improve core function and fascial connection.
  5. Focus on lengthening through your body – posture plays a key role.
  6. Improving deep core connection not only can help in minimizing diastasis recti but can help improve back pain and other body aches and pains.
  7. Finding your deep core muscles during pregnancy is one of the easiest times in life to find your deep core muscle connection – incredible!
  8. To kegel or not to kegel? great question, I talk more about Kegels here.
  9. Strengthening your deep core during pregnancy can greatly impact your recovery after baby in a very positive way.
  10. Muscle memory plays a key role in improving recovery after baby when you’ve spent time learning how to properly engage your deep core during pregnancy.
  11. Taking a little time for yourself now can positively impact your life as a busy mama!

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Postpartum Weight Loss Tips

Congratulations on your new little bundle of joy! Now comes the challenging part of losing the baby weight – but wait it doesn’t have to be that challenging! Let me share with you some of my expert and personal mama suggestions for postpartum weight loss tips the healthy way – the way weight loss should be.

  1. Give your body time to heal and bond with your baby – don’t rush to lose the weight right away, it’ll happen in time.
  2. Be kind and patient with your body when working to lose the baby weight.
  3. Breastfeeding is a great way to help naturally lose the baby weight AND amazing bonding time for you and baby – note that you may actually hang onto those last 5 to 10 pounds until you stop nursing. Why? Because your body needs the extra fat stores to produce milk.
  4. Eat healthy including a lot of good quality fats  {yes I said FAT!} and proteins, plus lots of veggies, some fruit and the occasional treat can be perfectly ok, especially when nursing as your body may need the extra carbohydrates to for milk production. Find over 50 family-friendly recipes here plus additional recorded coaching calls and 21-days of creating a healthier lifestyle for you and your family.
  5. Drink plenty of water! Hydration is key for adequate milk production but it can also help you determine if you are actually hungry or just thirsty. Once you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated and that for many can be confused with feeling hungry, so drink up! {water that is}.
  6. Move your body as often as you can! If you already have an older child or two then you are already rocking this one. If this is your first little one then strap your baby too you and get moving mama!
  7. Aim for even just 10 minutes of strength exercise every day! My Prenatal + Postnatal Membership includes lots of workouts that are 10 to 30 minutes because as a busy mama myself I know how crazy life can get.
  8. Once you stop breastfeeding it’s a good idea to keep a food log to see how much food you are actually eating. I find many mamas need to be very conscious of the amount of food you eat once you quit nursing and are no longer burning those extra calories, so pay close attention to your healthy eating.
  9. Cut the sugar after you strop nursing, while nursing it’s a good idea to keep your sugar intake to a minimum but like I mentioned above you may find you actually need more carbs too keep your milk supply up. However, once you stop nursing I highly recommend cutting out the extra sugar and getting your carbohydrates from veggies and fruit. I talk much more about this in my Prenatal + Postnatal Membership plus includes lots of family-friendly recipes that are gluten-free and full of nutrition!
  10. Keep healthy snacks out at your house and with you on-the-go.
  11. Sleep! Easier said then done with a newborn {I know, none of mine are great sleepers and it’s hard} but do your best to add naps in and grab sleep when you can, as there is a direct connection with having a hard time losing weight and lack of sleep.
  12. Continue taking your prenatal multi-vitamin to help fill in the gaps of nutrition.
  13. Continue to or add in a DHA {Omega-3} supplement, which could help with weight loss and more importantly brain function. There have been studies that show a decrease in postpartum depression among mom’s who take a DHA supplement.

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Diastasis Recti – Why You Should Care {Live Video}

Diastasis recti – what it is, why you should care and your questions answered {a couple anyways}. I get LOTs of questions related around diastasis recti, both from pregnant mama’s, postpartum mama’s and that’s right even moms that had their babies over 20 years ago! Most women I’m finding don’t even know, let alone understand what diastasis recti is – IF they’ve even heard of it!

With your help I know we can help spread the word because you can do something about it – no matter how long it’s been. Watch my live video below where I address the mentioned above:

Diastasis recti is the separation of your abdominals, specifically when there is separation between your rectus abdominals down your midline. There are varying degrees of separation.

Click here for how to test if you have diastasis recti {be sure you are 10 weeks postpartum or beyond}.

Why you should care? Like I mention in the live broadcast above, I’ve talked with different doctors about this and they flat out tell me it’s all for vanity sake – I beg to differ!!! If you have abdominal separation, then most likely you have poor pelvic floor and transverse abdominal connection and probably suffer from back pain! That’s right! I find a big correlation between back pain {among other body aches and pains} that for many greatly improve as their diastasis recti improves.

Because when your diastasis recti improves, that means your pelvic floor and transverse abdominal connection and the fascial connection through your abdominals had become much stronger! And when that happens your back now has more support and that means your back feels better!

Mamas, when you are pregnant back pain does NOT have to be a part of pregnancy. For many, it can be greatly minimized. That’s why I stress the importance of understanding and learning how to properly strengthen your deep core. A big reason why I’ve created everything I have. If you are pregnant I highly recommend my Prenatal + Postnatal Membership which also includes a nutrition section because nutrition plays a big role in how your body feels!

Then there’s the topic of hernia’s in the abdominal area. When you have weakened connective tissue and have diastasis recti that could greatly increase the risk for hernias in your abdominal area. In order to truly repair a hernia you do need surgery and I’m finding a lot of mamas being led to do surgery to repair their abdominal separation {regardless of hernia{s} or not} but don’t understand that there is a lot of repairing they could be doing instead. More to come on the hernia topic…

It is never too late to heal!! And I’m extremely serious when I say 20-30+ years beyond babies! The sooner you begin to rehab your core after baby the easier it can be to heal, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever too late to start! That is why I have created my Prenatal + Postnatal Membership. It’s designed to be a one-stop shop for women who are thinking about getting pregnant, are currently pregnant or are postpartum and beyond.

And when you are able to start creating a good foundation of strengthening your deep core during pregnancy that could help you tremendously after baby when it comes to diastasis recti and core rehab! My eBook “The Knocked Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy” is a must read as I break down how to properly strengthen your deep core along with tons more info!

Things you can do to help to minimize diastasis recti and helping to repair:

  1. Avoid crunches
  2. Watch for and avoid “coning of your belly”
  3. Do appropriate exercises that don’t stress your core but actually help in strengthening
  4. If you experience “leaking down there” I suggest avoiding those exercise for now and refocus your attention on your deep core connection.
  5. Be mindful of your exercise, focus on the connections you are making through your body and what you are actually feeling working.
  6. Give your body time to heal, very very important after baby and I know it’s hard but it really can make a huge and positive effect in the long run.
  7. Focus on good fascial connection through your body {more to come on this because I do realize most don’t even know what fascia is…}
  8. Posture! Stand tall, sit tall, walk tall, carry babies and children with good posture.

Use your core to hold your body upright – a crazy idea I know! It’s amazing what just improving your posture can do. 

Click here for 3 exercises that I LOVE for helping to strengthen your deep core and help in repairing postpartum and beyond.

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6 Overlooked Early Pregnancy Signs & Symptoms

Nausea. Heightened sense of smell. A missed period. There are dozens of early pregnancy symptoms we are familiar with. Many of the traditional pregnancy indicators are not unique to pregnancy, and often present the week of a missed period or in the weeks following.

For many women, the time spent waiting for delayed menstruation (weeks after trying to conceive or when you think you may have become pregnant) can seem like a lifetime. Start your Knocked-Up Fitness membership today to stay confident and feeling sexy as those pregnancy hormones set in!

Women who are in tune with their bodies might be in luck! Earlier than any pregnancy test on the market, your body could be showing several signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Here are 6 often over-looked pregnancy symptoms that could appear before a positive.

1) Spotting

Was that my period? If it was a little light and a little early, you could be confusing early menstruation with implantation bleeding. Usually occurring between 6-12 days post conception, the embryo implants itself and can cause light spotting.

2) Fatigue and Tiredness

If you’re almost falling asleep at the dinner table, or sneaking to your car at work for ten minutes of shut eye, your body could be telling you baby is on board. In the 1st week after conception, progesterone levels rise, blood sugar can lower, and blood pressure can drop to provide greater blood flow to baby. That afternoon energy drop might be telling you something.


3) Dizziness

Along with feeling fatigued, you may experience dizziness or light-headedness, which can also begin to occur in the first week after conception. As blood vessels dilate and blood pressure drops you can be at risk for dizziness and even fainting, so be sure to take a seat and a drink of water if you’re not feeling yourself.

4) Shortness of Breath

When did the stairs to my office triple in height? Baby needs oxygen and blood to develop and grow, so even though a pregnancy test won’t tell you for sure, in the first few weeks after conception sharing your oxygen and blood with baby can cause shortness of breath. While not usually dangerous, this uncomfortable and sometimes exhausting pregnancy symptom can be reduced by maintaining an exercise routine and listening to your body (aim to get to work a few minutes early to slow down on the stairs and take a short break before beginning your day).

5) Swollen/Tender Breasts

Your hormones begin to shift as soon as conception occurs, and within 1-2 weeks of pregnancy, many symptoms can present. Some breast changes, including darkening or leaking, are more often associated with later pregnancy, but swollen and tender breasts can begin 1-2 weeks after conception. Often confused with tenderness associated with PMS, many women note that breast swelling as a pregnancy symptom is much more intense than PMS tenderness.


6) Food Aversions

If you find yourself nauseated by the thought of a meal you used to love, it might not be the flu or changing tastes. Although cravings get the bulk of the pregnancy cliche attention, food aversions can have a stronger effect on women. Food aversions can present within two weeks of conception, and are attributed to hormonal changes. Many experts agree that aversions to some foods are a biological response to pregnancy so women avoid foods that are dangerous to baby, including alcohol, and processed or spoiled foods. Strong food aversions, coupled with a heightened sense of smell can be a strong contributor to pregnancy-related nausea.


So if you’re staring at your calendar, waiting for the day you can successfully take a pregnancy test, ease your mind by paying close attention to the signs your body might be giving you. Find peace of mind with Erica Ziel to give you guidance, workouts, recipes and more for feeling sexy and confident throughout your pregnancy!


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Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation can be an enlightening and extremely effective addition to your health plan, and can have profound effects on your pregnancy, labor, and life beyond birth!

Meditation often conjures a picture of sitting cross-legged in Lotus pose (Sukhasana or Padmasana, often called ‘Easy Pose’)– which evidently isn’t as easy for many moms-to-be!  In reality, meditation can look infinitely different for each individual person, and those differences help illustrate why practicing meditation has been instrumental to so many people for generations.

If Lotus pose isn’t your thing, or if you are experiencing joint pain or other physical limitations during your pregnancy and after baby, don’t fret! Pregnancy is responsible for an increase in the hormones that loosen your joints to help open your hips to prepare for birth, but this process can also cause discomfort, which may make you feel a little intimidated by certain poses. This is why so many moms find great success in meditation– you control the intensity of your experience.  There are no expectations, and the only real goal in mindfulness meditation is to finish your session feeling better than when you started.

Pregnancy brings both physical and emotional strains, and there are many channels by which moms try to balance their regular lives, plus the additional excitement and challenges faced during pregnancy and motherhood.  We know that there are countless physical and emotional benefits to exercise and eating healthfully, which provide immense immediate and long-term benefits, but often moms ignore the need for reflection and relaxation within their health plans, that’s why Erica includes it in her 21-day program which is part of her Digital Programs {available for pregnancy and after baby}.  Moms forget that they are first and foremost people, and therefore must care for themselves in order to set the right example and to feel fantastic while doing so.

Moms have found additional benefits of mindfulness meditation in labor, noting that the frame of mind, peace, and relaxation practiced in meditation throughout pregnancy empowered them to labor with intention. Many yogis include meditation in their classes, styles such as Vinassana meditation, mantra meditation, and deep breath awareness meditation provide different benefits and focuses. To get the most from your meditation, talk to your yoga instructor about your goals for your practice.

Meditation can be done in almost any position, if you’re cleared for exercise, you can work your way up to some poses that provide a gentle stretch. If you aren’t cleared for exercise, you can still reap the benefits but taking a quiet moment for yourself.

To get yourself started:

  1. Sit or stand with good, straight posture
  2. Slowly and quietly count a deep breath in for 5 seconds
  3. Then slowly and quietly count an exhale for 8 seconds
  4. Repeat for 1-5 minutes, relaxing your mind and clearing your thoughts.

This most simple form of mindfulness meditation for relaxation can provide a great sense of calmness and strength.

Regardless of your level of fitness– from beginner to advanced, you can benefit from taking even just five minutes in a comfortable position to reflect on your feelings, your personal goals, and your intentions in your daily activities.  Being mindful and acting with intention gives purpose to everything you do, keeps you accountable, and keeps you on track with your goals. When we experience the importance of reflection, we become aware of who we are– and this has an especially profoundly calming effect for moms who spend such a great deal of time trying to keep so many other people on track, that their own needs and purpose can get lost in the mix.

Parents often say, “The most important thing in the world to me, is my children.” We hear this so often that we forget, that the most important thing to our children, is their parents!  Being emotionally and physically healthy go hand-in-hand, and by taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect on your feelings can help you become a well-rounded, happier, healthier mama!

*This post contains affiliate links, we may be compensated for a purchase made.

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Learn How To Do Squats Properly {Video}

How to do squats PROPERLY! Okay, mamas, you are going to love these tips! They will help you make your squats more effective, lift your booty and give your pelvis, hips, and knees more support – plus help strengthen your deep core. Watch my short video below:

Squats are a very functional movement and one I highly recommend learning how to do properly asap!

Here are some of my top tips:

  • Think of spiraling around your thighs
  • Exhale to connect then stand up out of your squat
  • Lightly zip up your deep core muscles
  • Lengthen tall through the top of your head
  • Keep your connection the entire ‘set’ and avoid releasing the ‘connection’
  • Strive to feel the back of your legs working as much or more than your thighs {quads}
  • Your low back should be working to stabilize but never feel stressed
  • Think of your ‘sitz bone’ the boney underside of your butt {pelvis} pressing back them up as you stand out of a squat to help you activate those muscles on the underside of your pelvis

Lastly, avoid overusing your ‘upper glutes’. Sometimes those are mistaken for ‘low back’, and it can feel like you have pain in your low back. When really, you need to work on strengthening the underside of your glutes and hamstrings to give your pelvis better support. This will also help you ‘untuck’ your butt!

That’s right! Stop tucking your bum as it’s not helping you get your booty lifted again and actually ‘shuts off’ your deep core muscles! {there’s much more on that I’ll be posting about later}.

Pregnant and postpartum mamas, stay strong with my workouts and deep core strengthening videos while improving your posture when you join my Prenatal + Postnatal Membership! Plus you get to join me for monthly group coaching calls! And YES it is safe to do squats during pregnancy and one of my favorite movements that I recommend to my clients, but you must do them correctly.

Always be sure to discuss with your doctor.

The post Learn How To Do Squats Properly {Video} appeared first on Knocked-Up Fitness.


5 Tips for Back Pain Relief

Did you know that back pain affects sixty to eighty percent of Americans at some point in their life! Life as a mom has back pain written all over it – pregnancy, breastfeeding, carrying wiggly kids and lots of stuff, picking up toys, limited time to workout, etc.

It can be lessened by strengthening your deep core muscles, improving posture and staying active throughout your day! Here are 5 tips that could help you prevent and aid in getting rid of that annoying lower back pain:


1. Move!  Overall strengthening can promote improvements in functional movements. If work requires you to be seated for the majority of the day, plan small breaks to go for a brief walk. Stretch out those stiff muscles and keep moving! Try this back extension exercise to strengthen your low back muscles.

 Back Extension Exercise:

{this is NOT a pregnancy exercise, if you are currently pregnant try this exercise instead}

Step One: Lay on your stomach on a stability ball with your elbows bent and hands placed gently behind your ears.

Step Two: While drawing your abdominals in and upward, engaging your core muscles, contract your low back muscles and glutes to extend your spine, lifting your torso off the ball.

Step Three: Hold for 3 seconds and gently return to start. Repeat 12-20 repetitions.


2. Foam Rolling – Try this wiggle stretch {a favorite among my clients pregnant and not} to help release tension around your sacrum and low back. If you don’t have a foam roller handy be sure to read tip #3!


3. Gluteal Release with Tennis Ball  – Grab a tennis ball and place it in your upper glute area and slowly roll around on the ball. This is a form of self-myofascial release that you can do on your own to target specific trigger points that are holding tension in the muscle. When released can help relieve back pain.{as long as this feels good for you, you can do this release exercise during pregnancy}




4. Epsom Salt Bath  {I recommend to AVOID warm/hot baths during pregnancy} However when you aren’t preggers enjoy an epsom salt bath at the end of the day. They help the body feel calm, allow the muscles to relax and will get you ready to go straight to bed! {Add about 1 cup of epsom salts to a warm bath}


5. Improve Posture! Improving your posture is a tiny tweak that can lead to big changes – say bye-bye low back pain. Correct posture is very important in order to have a healthy spine and an absolute MUST during pregnancy too! Remind yourself throughout the day to stand up tall lifting through the top of your head with your core engaged, relax your shoulders, and breathe deeply- remember to “show your heart”!



Thanks Kim for her wonderful testimonial:

BIG thank you to Erica for all of her tips and tricks on back pain relief. I pinched a nerve in my back and while my own home remedy’s were making my situation worse, I finally turned to her Healthy Lifestyle for the Busy Mom Program and her foam rolling videos and INSTANTLY started to feel relief from all of her recommendations. I could even stand up straight without pain the very next morning! Thanks Erica!”

~Kim F. {busy working mom}

Give these powerful tips a try if you are experiencing that annoying low back pain. Be sure to discuss with your physician prior to beginning any exercise program or new exercises. And always listen to your body!


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To Plank or Not To Plank?

I get asked this question all the time, are planks safe during pregnancy? Can I do planks with diastasis recti? So to plank or not to plank, is a very big question especially if we are discussing diastasis recti.

First, I LOVE planks!

Second, you must know when your body is ready to do planks, during pregnancy, postpartum or anytime really…


Here are some easy guidelines to follow:

  1. Do you have diastasis recti? (if you aren’t sure read this) Having diastasis recti isn’t an automatic “no” (unless you’re pregnant and have diastasis), it’s a “maybe”.  It really depends on your answers to the next 3 questions and be sure to read this entire post too.
  2. Can you connect your deep core muscles? (not sure what they are check out this post) You must be able to have at least a light deep core connection.
  3. Do you see any “coning” of your belly? You must avoid this or you may be causing more damage to your abdominals and even low back. I talk much more about coning of your belly and specifically ‘how to’ strengthen your deep core in my Knocked-Up Fitness Membership.
  4. Can you feel your abdominals connect near your ribcage and your lower abdominal area? If all you feel is pain in your low back then you need to do other simpler exercises for now and give your body more time.

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Yes you can feel confident and sexy during pregnancy and again postpartum!

Absolutely, don’t let anyone {or yourself} tell you otherwise! Mama you got this and I’m here to accompany you on your amazing incredible journey through pregnancy! Join me today in my Knocked-Up Fitness Membership!


Here is my favorite plank exercise “Plank Slides”. I do love these and teach these to a lot of clients, even my clients with diastasis recti (you just gasped – I know!) but let me tell you why. For starters I would never recommend doing these plank slides in those first sessions postpartum (diastasis or not), you really do need to allow your body time to heal and regain some pelvic floor and deep core strength. However I love, love, love these for strengthening those deep core muscles once your body is ready.

That is the KEY to planks, your body must be ready… and I recommend starting with plank slides over holding a static plank. I find moving in the plank position to be a very effective deep core exercise and great for getting those abs back, but you must be ready. There are so many great exercises you can be doing until then…

*Always be sure your physician has cleared you to exercise before beginning any exercise programs*


  1. Begin in a full plank position on forearms and toes. Press legs together to help engage your pelvic floor (do a kegel), transverse abdominals (think lower belly) and intercostals (think “ribs) while also pulling up on the quads (your thighs).
  2. Exhale while moving your body forward staying in a plank position.
  3. Inhale while moving your body back. (Focus on stretching the calves in the backward movement).
  4. Modify: Switch out any plank exercises for a modified plank on forearms and knees or stick with those easier exercises mentioned above until your body is ready.


Watch for any bulging of your abdominals while in a plank position, note the difference in extra lose skin hanging vs. a good flat fascial/muscle connection across your lower belly. The extra skin is inevitable and will decrease will time, just be sure that if you notice any of your abdominal area hanging towards that ground that it is in deed skin and not your abdominals bulging towards the ground.

Ready to learn more? Begin your Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist Course + Certification.

Be sure to follow those guidelines above to determine if planks are right for you right now. And if your body isn’t ready today it’s not a forever “no” it’s just a “not ready yet” but “someday”. So hang in there and keep strengthening those deep core muscles with more appropriate pregnancy and after baby and busy mom exercises, workouts and programs.

One lasting thing: Please share this article with your girlfriends. I’ve talked with so many mom’s after pregnancy who had been doing exercises they later learned they should have skipped. While some women can safely do planks their entire pregnancy some should skip those and do easier core exercises as listed above. Exercise during pregnancy has so many wonderful benefits but being educated on what exercises are best, specifically core exercises can make a big impact on women during their years of having babies and beyond.

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Should You Be Running During Pregnancy and Postpartum?

Should you continue running while pregnant. What about postpartum and beyond?

Even if you have been running, and are postpartum or beyond, if you experience any incontinence or pelvic floor pressure it’s extremely important to take a step back and really rehab your core the safe and correct way.

This specific corrective activity can help you avoid additional pelvic floor dysfunctional issues later on in life too! It is NOT normal to pee  your pants (even just a little) when you exercise – I can’t stress that enough. That is a major sign that your pelvic floor is not yet ready for that form of exercise. It’s not a ‘never’, it’s just a ‘not yet ready’.

Especially during pregnancy – it’s extremely important to minimize exercises that are putting extra stress on your pelvic floor.

Be kind and loving to your body! A workout should be more than just to burn calories or lose the baby weight. Done correctly, a workout should leave you feeling amazing after each session. You’ll feel stronger and more connected through your body while saying goodbye to those aches and pains. You’ll even stop leaking down there too!

picture of pre post natal membership from knocked-up fitness

Pregnancy & Running Recommendations

It is definitely something we look at on an individual basis. When you’re pregnant, your baby is pushing down on your pelvic floor. Putting pressure on your pelvic floor can cause over-stress if we aren’t practicing to strengthen the deep core. Although you may want to continue to run, if you’re experiencing pelvic pain or incontinence, it may not be the best way for you to exercise right now.

Working out through pregnancy is so beneficial, but it’s important to learn the concepts behind strengthening and conditioning the body for the prenatal body. So many women experience pelvic floor issues and suffer silently! There is ABSOLUTELY something we can do to correct and improve pelvic function, and you can come out of pregnancy even stronger!

If you’re a die-hard runner, and you’re not experiencing any complications or concerns from your doctor, it can be safe to continue to run. By incorporating pelvic floor strengthening, and becoming more aware of your deep core, you can improve your pelvic floor function AND feed your love for running without additional strain. My Knocked-Up Fitness program will teach you how to train your body to stand up to the common (and avoidable!) discomforts associated with a weak deep core. So you can run free!

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Pregnancy Hormones – Avoid Over Stretching

Pregnancy Hormones: Relaxin for today’s topic can greatly affect your body both during pregnancy and for those first weeks postpartum too!

Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone that allows your ligaments to become lax, specifically your pelvis, so they can open up and your baby can birth out of your birth canal. However, it doesn’t only affect ligaments around your pelvis and hips.

It affects the ligaments throughout your entire body, so you have to be cautious when it comes to stretching when you’re pregnant.

  • Avoid exercises that also require you to change direction quickly.
  • Active stretching that connects your muscles if far more effective {and safe!} then just holding a stretch.
  • While yoga can be very beneficial during pregnancy, we need to be cautious about going too deep into a pose.
  • Foam rolling is a great way to achieve balance, connectivity and healthy stretching {access to many foam rolling release videos in my Prenatal + Postnatal Membership}
  • Give yourself time to heal after delivery, mama. Your body has been through so much, now is not the time to risk injury. Relaxin stays in your body for 10-12 weeks+ after delivery.
  • Core strength is central to all of my pregnancy and postpartum exercises. You will feel stronger, more fluid in your movements and more flexible when you have an activated core.

My top tip to help avoid over-stretching:

Work through a range of motion that feels good for your body!

With flexibility, there is always the potential that you will push your limits. Everyone has that threshold, right? When you’re pregnant, I recommend staying away from that, “Oh, that feels really tight” feeling.

It’s important to never force a stretch. This goes for whether you’re pregnant or not, it doesn’t matter! I’m a big believer in active stretching so you can really feel your muscles connect.

Again, this can apply to any form of working out, but if you follow any of my workouts, you’ll notice I talk a lot about connections and lengthening while moving very fluidly through your body.

The more connection you can have, the more support you have around your joints and your ligaments, instead of stressing them.

Relaxin can stay in your body for a good 10 weeks postpartum and most women don’t realize that. I made that mistake after my first was born. I knew about relaxin, but I didn’t know the depths of it. If you’re a Pilates guru like me, don’t get back on that reformer and do legs in the straps until everything is completely healed and you are well into 12+ weeks postpartum. Avoid any sort of exercises that resemble a split-type position.

For my recommended exercises and stretches during pregnancy start your Prenatal + Postnatal Membership today!

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Avoiding “Coning” During Pregnancy Can Help Prevent Diastasis Recti

Coning during pregnancy or coning of the belly during pregnancy. is when you see a ridge or bulge popping out down the midline of your belly. This typically occurs when doing an exercise incorrectly or an exercise that puts too much stress on the abdominals and should be avoided (see the image below for a visual). You can also see coning after baby if there is any abdominal separation (diastasis recti). Don’t fret!! I have some great tips for you below so keep reading… and join my Prenatal + Postnatal Membership for more!

NOTE: This is why you do NOT do traditional crunches during pregnancy. Once in your second trimester, you will always see coning during pregnancy doing crunches.

A pregnant belly should stay as round and smooth across your entire belly. If you see any coning of your belly that is a good indication of a couple of things:

  • 1) You need to be sure your deep core muscles are activated properly.
  • 2) You should avoid any exercise that causes coning during pregnancy and after pregnancy.
  • 3) You have diastasis recti and need to follow #2 rule very strictly until you can heal your diastasis after baby.
  • 4) And YES you can heal your diastasis after baby and even prevent further separation and possibly even decrease the separation during pregnancy – crazy concept but I’ve done it with many clients and you can too! Join me in my pregnancy membership here!
  • 5) Always roll to your side to lay down and to get up instead of laying straight back which typically always creates coning towards the end of pregnancy. I do recommend to continue this after baby until your core strength is back and/or diastasis recti is healed.


In my Knocked Up Fitness® Guide to Pregnancy, I explain in detail how to activate your deep core muscles along with my Push Prep Method™ and Push Prep Method™ Video. When you truly understand how to engage your deep core muscles you can more easily minimize diastsis recti during pregnancy and repair after baby.

Another question that comes up around Diastasis Recti:  “Does the gap have to close?”

Ideally, I like to see the gap close to 1 finger-width, which is the normal spacing between the rectus abdominals. However, when it comes to true diastsis recti you can actually push down into your abdominal cavity because there isn’t much fascial connection between your abdominal muscles. This is why learning how to activate your deep core muscles can help train your body to create good facial connection.

Even if you aren’t able to fully get the separation back together, it’s more important that you can create good facial tension. This means you may still have some abdominal separation of your rectus abdominals but you can no longer push down into your abdominal cavity because you have created this new facial tissue connection across your abdominals. Also meaning you have now created support for your organs and have a flatter belly because you have good abdominal facial connection.

One last benefit to mention when avoiding coning during + after pregnancy while learning how to activate your deep core muscles properly is it also helps in prevention of incontinence.

My Prenatal + Postnatal Membership is designed with diastasis recti in mind. That said, if an exercise creates any coning try to first connect your deep core and if you still see coning of your belly then skip that exercise and move on to the next or replace that core exercise with a simpler one such as cat-cows, pelvic tilts, and hip rolls.


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Diastasis Recti Test

How to Check for Diastasis Recti

{Diastasis Recti Test instructions below}

When checking for diastasis recti be sure of these three things:

  1. I recommend waiting until at least 6-10 weeks postpartum {the closer to week 10 postpartum the better because you can start including more full body and deep core exercises in those first workouts regardless of whether you have diastasis recti or not}
  2. You have already started to re-active or learn how to properly activate your deep core {not sure how to do that be sure to read the Knocked Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy Once you start to properly engage your deep core muscles you can almost overnight start to decrease separation.
  3. I also recommend having someone else do the diastasis recti test on you {if possible} because it can be challenging to keep a good deep core connection while trying to test yourself {but you can do it just do your best to keep your abdominals engaged}

Personal Trainers and Pilates Instructors: learn in-depth training about prevention and recovery of diastasis recti for your clients by with completion of my Prenatal + Postnatal Exercise Specialist Course.

Diastasis Recti 

Diastasis Recti {image on left} vs. Normal Rectus Abdominal Spacing {image on right}

—>Instead of focusing on “core” exercises right away, focus on getting your deep core connection back while doing full body exercises, such as squats and my other recommended safe and effective exercises you can find here plus my all-time favorite mentioned below in this article. Then you or a friend or trainer can check for abdominal separation as you approach 10 weeks postpartum.

Always roll on your side, then to your back, and the same to get up, to avoid that “crunch” position until your diastasis recti is healed.

The Diastasis Recti Test

(this is the only time you are allowed to do a “crunch” because you must in order to be properly checked for separation):

  1. Start on your back and neutral position {so the front of your hip bones are parallel to the floor avoid jamming your low back into the floor} with knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Exhale and contract as much of your core muscles as possible {this includes pelvic floor engagement} think “zipping up your belly”.
  3. Flex up doing a small neutral crunch while keeping your abdominals as contracted as possible (lax abdominal muscles can show bigger diastasis recti then you may actually have).
  4. Gently palpate down your linea alba {the middle space between your rectus abdominals} from just below your sternum to about 2 inches above your pubic bone measuring with your fingers at 4 points where and how much separation you may have:

Point 1: just below the sternum

Point 2: just above the belly button (typically this is where you may find the most severe separation)

Point 3: just below the belly button

Point 4: lower abdominal area 2 inches above her pubic bone.

  1. Then take note of how much fascial connection you may or may not feel, that also gives you an indication of how severe the diastasis recti may be:
    1. If you can press down into your abdominal cavity that is an indication of more severe diastasis recti and very little to no fascial tension {something that you can create – increasing the fascial connection of your abdominals takes time but it can be done and can help you close the separation and also give your abdominals more support and strength}.
    2. If you feel a slight tightness between your rectus abdominis {those 6-pack muscles} that indicates you do have some fascial connection even though you may have separation {meaning your repair time could be less}.

I’m including my all-time favorite postpartum exercise {if you have diastasis recti or not, it’s a favorite among my clients and I LOVE what it can do for your body}

My Pilates Infused Functional Workouts “for the busy mom” include over 2 hours of workouts and are designed for after baby and beyond!

Hip Rolls

A simple, yet very effective exercise that can help activate your deep core muscles {pelvic floor muscles along with transverse abdominals, intercostals and multifidous}. This may not be a super strong connective exercise, but that’s why it’s a great exercise to do at any stage postpartum or beyond to activate your deep core muscles. It’s important to do this exercise with the correct breath as that helps to create proper deep core activation. I recommend doing them daily. Do in sets of 10 slow reps.


  1. Lay on your back with your spine in a neutral position, knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Optional: place a small ball or pillow between your knees, this can help you find your deep core muscles more easily. (Neutral spine is when the pelvis is balanced between the exaggerated posterior and anterior positions, the PSIS and ASIS points)
  2. Exhale to gently lift up on your pelvic floor muscles, squeezing the ball or pillow or knees together while simultaneously articulating your spine up into a bridge position. Avoid your ribs “popping.”
  3. Inhale to hold the position.
  4. Exhale to slowly articulate rolling your spine back down one vertebra at a time initiating the movement by gently drawing your ribcage down.
  5. Finish in a neutral spine position.

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